March 22, 2023


Today's Top Five Wednesday topic is Biographies! Last month I did a post on biographies I want to read, so this time I'll do biographies I'd recommend.

Secret Radical

Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly - This book blew my mind. Kelly goes through all 6 of Austen's main novels and points out ways Austen was tackling social issues of her day without directly stating an opinion. For example, she would name a character with a name of someone who was known for being in some political party. If she liked that person's politics, she would have that character be a hero. If she didn't care for that person, the character would be not so great. That's simplifying it a lot, but readers in her time would be able to connect the dots and know that that house's name is the same of this guy who is pro-slavery.

Fiery Heart

Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman - I think this is the most recent Charlotte Bronte biography I've read that is just about her, not her siblings. This books was enlightening about Bronte's personal opinions and quest for fame. I knew she died while pregnant, but I didn't know she died FROM being pregnant. Basically she was so sick that she actually died. This is maddening, since we can treat this situation now.


Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman - I read this in 2000 when I was working full time with juvenile delinquents and my son was 3 months old. And I still remember loving it. Later, a movie was made starring Keira Knightley, but I still haven't seen it. I saw a picture of the library in Chatsworth (the Devonshire house) and it is fascinating. I don't remember which came first. This book or that picture. Either way I'm obsessed.

Huguette Clark

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon - This could also be called Life and Times of the Ridiculously Rich and Famous. This woman had everything. She was the only daughter of the second wife of a wealthy railroad magnate. She got married to another wealthy man, then divorced him 2 years later and went back home to live with her mom. She didn't appear to really be interested in romance and eventually just faded from view. The parties and lunches stopped, but she still had houses all over the country. One she never even saw in person. So very weird.

Dickens and Prince

Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius by Nick Hornby - Two people I would never in a million years have considered in the same sentence are Charles Dickens and Prince. I knew who Prince was and can name a few of his songs, but I had no idea how truly prolific he was. Through this book, the comparisons Hornby makes ring true and are also astounding.

There are obviously more biographies I've read that could go on this list, but I had to stop at five. I took some off to make room for others, but here we go.

What are some of your favorite biographies?