The Importance of Reading Biographies and Autobiographies

To caress the words as they flow through your lips and interpret them as someone else’s treasure, perhaps their memoirs. To read and in fact listen intently to what one has to say regarding his or her own life, their own diverse experiences and definitely their own perception on a set of views. To sit in the passenger seat of a person’s life as an invisible entity and see for yourself what one has been through altogether and to cry with them, laugh along and learn a lesson or to. This is the charm of biographies and autobiographies.

As an individual and a growing human being, there is never a finite amount of knowledge to be acquired, in fact there is not any set limit. As each second in life passes you learn something new whether that is for a baby to take a step further, or for an adult to make another decision and/or even for an elder to go for a medical checkup. Each time we human beings do something, there is a very high chance of us learning something new and applying something learnt previously and thus this alteration makes us a better person altogether. This is where biographies and autobiographies come in.

man sitting on handrails
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Biographies are like hidden gems in a treasure and if you find even one, it is worthwhile. On the flip side, even autobiographies are like hidden jewels that can tell immensely about not only the writer or the author but also about the reader himself/herself. I was watching a TEDx Talks (The Muslim on the airplane ) in which this phenomenal speaker,  Amal Kassir said that, “The longest distance that two people can cover in the shortest time is by telling each other their names.” Thus if we are taken along on the journey of someone else’s past life, that would result in a deeper yet moral connection between the biographee or the subject and the reader.

What one can accomplish in the most and least of time and what one can learn about the best and worst of people does not only result in the enrichment of knowledge but in the formation of an unfathomable bond, invisible yet ever present.

What are Biographies and Autobiographies?

The definition of a biography is that it is the account of someone’s life written by someone else. In fact the person who writes the biography is the biographer and the one upon which it is written is the biographee or the subject.

Here’s a list of some famous biographies:

  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt

The definition of autobiography is that it is the account of someone’s life written by that person themselves.

Here are a few well-known autobiographies:

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X
  • I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai

The Importance of Reading Biographies and Autobiographies

Even though the art of reading biographies and autobiographies is not immensely different from reading altogether however it is the skill of the genre that interests me. The following might be gained throughout the course of reading biographies and/or autobiographies:

  1. It teaches you real and practical life lessons. Basically in reading a biography and/or an autobiography you get to learn about what an individual has been through and more often than not, since the human life and psychology is in similarity thus you can relate with those individuals. This also lets people formulate their own personal, silent mentors.
  2. It tells and/or shows you how to deal with certain situations. Reading an account of someone else’s life will aid you to gain knowledge regarding how to act in specific circumstances and deal with the difficult stages of life. Consequently you learn tips and tricks of how to deal with specific things, what are the reasons of XYZ happening, what should your reaction be and how will it impact in the longer and/or shorter run.
silhouette of person
Photo by Shukhrat Umarov on Pexels.com

3. It gives you incessant motivation. Biographical and autobiographical content is not just an account of someone’s life, in fact I often say that these are self-help books. By reading about others and their diverse perspectives and experiences gives you further inspiration in your own life. You learn about their struggles and how to incorporate their solutions and lessons in your life.

4. You get to hear other people’s stories. You gain knowledge about their art and life-force and thus you learn to feel empathetic towards others and respect their stories no matter how big or small they are. You develop this moral connection with the biographee which more often than not becomes your mentor and/or role model which widens your range of thought and makes you learn about real-life miracles. This is proven because when you are lost, you often find yourself in other people’s stories thus we are to listen, read and observe carefully.

Quotes Related to Biographies and Autobiographies

  • “How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.” ― Julian Barnes
  • “Every life is inexplicable, I kept telling myself. No matter how many facts are told, no matter how many details are given, the essential thing resists telling. To say that so and so was born here and went there, that he did this and did that, that he married this woman and had these children, that he lived, that he died, that he left behind these books or this battle or that bridge – none of that tells us very much.” ― Paul Auster
  • “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” ― Charles Dickens
  • “A biography is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may well have as many as a thousand.” – Virginia Woolf

“Autobiography is a wound where the blood of history does not dry.”

— Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

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