Booking Through Thursdays: Biographies


btt button The Booking Through Thursday for today is:

Which do you prefer? Biographies written about someone? Or Autobiographies written by the actual person (and/or ghost-writer)?

Biographies and auto-biographies are a couple of my favorite genres. (Personally I’d say something written by a ghostwriter is not an autobiography but a biography.) I like seeing what makes a person tick, what influences shaped his or her life and how he or she responded to them.

I look at the BTT questions early in the morning and think about them while getting ready for the day. My first response would have been that I liked them equally, but after thinking about it a while, I think I’d say autobiographies. No one really know what happened or what the subject thought as well as the subject himself. Biographies can be helpful because they include other people’s observations, background information, historical setting, etc. But sometimes if you read three different biographies of a person, you’re might get three different impressions. The information and story can’t help but be filtered through the biographer’s impressions and frame of reference. That said, I do enjoy biographies in general.

There are two styles of biographies I don’t like, however. One is the “just the facts, Ma’am” encyclopedic type, which I find dry and usually uninteresting. The other is the opposite extreme where the person’s life is so enmeshed in the author’s story-telling that you have no idea what is fact and what is the author’s imagination.

I’d say if you really want to learn about a particular person, read both the autobiography (if available) and two or three different biographies. You’ll get a fuller picture plus you’ll be able to tell if one author’s “take” is a little off.

8 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursdays: Biographies

  1. Ahhhhh… but even autobiographies are biased — VERY biased – in favor of the person telling of their own life. Often times at the utter destruction of others involved in their life. I DO enjoy both biographies AND autobiographies — but other than “just the facts”, I take either with a spoon of salt – knowing that you are never getting the FULL story no matter who is telling it! 😉

  2. I like your last suggestion. That seems like a good way to get a full picture… I think any version of a person’s life is going to be incomplete, whether we write it ourselves or someone else does. But it seems like several “pictures” together can give as good an approximation as is possible.

  3. I don’t read about individuals just to find out the details — or the dirt, don’t want the dirt at all — of their daily lives. If I am to read about someone I want to know how living their faith impacted the world. I don’t want to know who they slept with or how many times they married or divorced. I want to see a positive, affirming life message.

  4. What a fun question! Biographies and autobiographies are both such great reads. But I have to agree with you, that first person, I-was-really-there view is unique and would probably get my vote, too.

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