Good recent biographies or autobiographies (books preferred)?
May 2, 2016 5:59 AM   Subscribe

For a friend's birthday, we are looking for good recent (last 5 - 10 years) biographies or autobiographies. Books are best (and available as paper rather than ebooks), though if there is an excellent movie available as a dvd that would work also.

He is an English teacher (his wife works in the museum field) and has wide ranging interests, including American and European and Asian literature, history, art .... He is on the Liberal/Democratic end of the political spectrum. Books on interesting religious figures are also possible. He was raised Catholic and is currently Episcopalian, but again he skews very liberal in his religious views as well.
posted by gudrun to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I recently read A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe it Or Not" Ripley. Ripley comes across as arrogant and annoying but also a somewhat sympathetic if deeply weird character.
posted by jessamyn at 6:42 AM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: One of the best I've read recently is The Girl with Seven Names, which is the autobiography/memoir of a North Korean defector.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:48 AM on May 2, 2016

Ta-Nehisi Coates' The Beautiful Struggle.
posted by neushoorn at 6:59 AM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: I really enjoyed Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space. It really shows wonderfully all of the changes in women's rights and attitudes towards women in the US just in the last 60 years.
posted by jillithd at 7:13 AM on May 2, 2016

is 11 years ago ok? one of the most interesting non-fiction books i have read was this biography of hayek. i wrote a review over on amazon (and i consider myself left wing with no real sympathy for hayek's followers).
posted by andrewcooke at 7:32 AM on May 2, 2016

Apparently Hamilton by Ron Chernow was from 2005, but there is also the Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording). I mean, since you mention DVD... #Hamiltunes is damn amazing. (MeFi agrees)
posted by jillithd at 7:42 AM on May 2, 2016

Back From the Dead by Bill Walton. Here is a recent NYTimes article about Bill and the book.

It was a great read. He is a very interesting person and very liberal if that is what you think he wants to read. I personally try to read stuff from both sides of the aisle.
posted by AugustWest at 8:20 AM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: Oh, definitely Hold Still, by Sally Mann.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:35 AM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: I haven't read this particular biography, But Simone Weil seems like a figure who lived at the intersection of a number of your friend's interests, and it looks like it would be a great read (I am going to put it on my own list).
posted by jamaal at 8:43 AM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: Can't believe no one has already nominated Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, but it's great. Isaacson is very good in general. His biography of Einstein, also within your time range, is indispensible.
posted by ubiquity at 8:44 AM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: Oliver Sacks' On The Move is the best autobiography I have read in a long time.
posted by 256 at 9:06 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

i don't know if you saw this thread, but some people there made very positive comments about the biographer (others were clearly unhappy, so you may want to read the whole thing - i added his previous book to my amazon wishlist).
posted by andrewcooke at 9:08 AM on May 2, 2016

Response by poster: Clarification - he does read a wide range of things, not just left leaning. I mentioned he is Liberal because while he would definitely read a bio. of someone like Reagan, or one of the popes for that matter, I'm not looking to gift him too much on the right/Republican side of things for one specific birthday (and he would think it odd if we did that).
posted by gudrun at 9:12 AM on May 2, 2016

Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison: A Biography
posted by praemunire at 9:42 AM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: Oliver Sacks' autobiography On The Move is a joy and a pleasure.

I quite liked Secret Historian but you should read the synopsis to see whether you think he would.

How about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks? It's a biography of a family and it's a page turner!
posted by janey47 at 10:48 AM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: M Train by Patti Smith
posted by little eiffel at 11:21 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would highly recommend the Richard Burton Diaries. Astonishingly well-written, and quite candid and revealing. Simply superb. Not at all dependent upon one being a fan.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:15 PM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: Oh, there's also The Hemingses of Monticello, which is a family biography, but concentrates on Sally. Should be an eye-opener for anyone educated under a more old-fashioned history rubric.

Sneaking back 12 years, there is the delightful The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, by Jacques Pepin.
posted by praemunire at 1:58 PM on May 2, 2016

Best answer: Sonia Sotomayor's autobiography was an incredible read. So was Madeline Albright's, but that's not recent.

Thanks for asking this - lots of great recommendations!
posted by metarkest at 4:58 AM on May 3, 2016

Best answer: Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching is a hefty 800 page tome that is truly eye-opening about the late 19th century and early 20th century in America.
posted by jillithd at 11:17 AM on May 5, 2016

Response by poster: Lots of good stuff, thanks! I marked the bests for what I thought he would enjoy the most.
posted by gudrun at 8:49 AM on June 7, 2016

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