Biographies - for the B(ibl)iophile
“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island” – Walt Disney
They say books are a man’s best friend, and rightly so. And what better books to read than biographies, which tell the trials and tribulations of real-life people and their real-life problems!
Every life has a beginning, middle, and an end, and how one has lived one's life should be of great interest to those who are still at the beginning.
This is why we have compiled a list of 5 must read biographies, of people that broke the mould and thought differently, and tackled life in their own unique way. The greatest entrepreneurs and scientists of the last and current century, their biographies will enlighten you and allow you to see the world in new ways, and mentor you for life. So, let us get on with the list!
Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman! – Adventures of a Curious Character
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman is an autobiography of Nobel Laureate Richard Philips Feynman.
Richard Feynman, who won the Nobel Prize in physics, was one of the world’s greatest theoretical physicists and thrived on outrageous adventure. His eyebrow raising once shocked a Princeton dean’s wife to exclaim: “Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman!”
Feynman was surely the only person in history to solve the mystery of liquid helium, to be commissioned to paint a naked female toreador, and to crack the uncrackable safes guarding the atomic bomb’s most critical secrets. He traded ideas with Einstein and Bohr, discussed gambling with Nick the Greek, innocently asked a librarian for a map (read: a zoological chart) of a cat, and accompanied a ballet on the bongo drums!
His biography is woven with scintillating views on modern science and his astonishing life story; a combustible mixture of high intelligence, unlimited curiosity, eternal skepticism and raging chutzpah.
As rightly said in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, “This book is like a temptation; to give up reading and devote life to re-reading!”
Elon Musk: Inventing The Future
The founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, this enchanting biography of arguably one of the greatest names in technology of the 21st century is sure to make you spellbound.
Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur, who sold one of his internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’s life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his drama.
Mr Musk is about as close as we have, circa 2015, to early industrial titans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Along with his swagger, he totes surprise, style and wit. Tesla’s Model S sedan was not only Motor Trend’s car of the year in 2013 — the first non-internal-combustion engine vehicle to win that award — but it also has a sound system that, in homage to the film “Spinal Tap,” you can turn up to 11.
While Mark Zuckerberg wants to change the world by enabling you to see more baby photos, the man who glories in the sci-fi name of Elon Musk wants to change the world by solving transport and global warming, and establishing a colony on Mars.
Robert Downey Jr took inspiration from a visit to Musk’s rocket factory for his portrayal of Iron Man’s Tony Stark. “My mind is not easily blown,” Downey Jr reported, “but this place and this guy were amazing.”
My Life and Work: An Autobiography of Henry Ford
"The natural thing to do is to work - to recognize that prosperity and happiness can be obtained only through honest effort."
Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company will forever be identified with early 20th century American industrialism. The innovations to business and direct impact on the American economy of Henry Ford and his company are immeasurable. A major figure of the 20th century, Ford combined two traits often seen in the super-successful person: an original, far-reaching vision that carries with it the potential to change the world; and an obsessive attention to detail that can drive other people mad.
Described by his mother as a born mechanic, the greatest moment in Ford's childhood was seeing a 'road engine', a steam vehicle used to haul farm machinery. It was the first vehicle he had seen not being pulled by horses. The first in history to introduce mass production via assembly line, the flamboyant personality of Henry Ford is beautifully captured in this autobiography.
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson
There is perfectly no need to introduce Steve Jobs to any one; the name itself speaks volumes about one of the biggest pioneers in the software industry.
Steve Jobs was a fascinating person whose powerful personality and extraordinary life make for a very compelling read. He revolutionized many different technological and entertainment industries by successfully blending technology and the liberal arts, giving consumers products they didn't even know they wanted. He was able to defy reality by simply refusing to accept it (a phenomenon referred to as his "reality distortion field"), enabling him to do the impossible.
On a personal level, Jobs was a very sensitive and emotional man, yet he was unable to empathize with the feelings of others, which, along with his "reality distortion field," led to him act in unsavoury ways towards people in both his personal and professional life. After reading this book it was easy to understand why Jobs is such a polarizing figure. But whether you love or hate him, it's impossible to deny that he had a major impact on the world, or that he was an interesting person.
Einstein: His Life And Universe
No list of biographies of the most influential scientists/entrepreneurs would be complete without the mention of this man, who alone changed the whole face and figure of science by his well-known and famous theory of relativity.
Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk—a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn’t get a teaching job or a doctorate—became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom, and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marvelling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals.
One of the very few persons whose wisdom continues to astound each one of us even in the 21st century, there is only so much to be learned from this man’s biography.