Autobiographies and Biographies

At a very young age, I remember my father telling me about books and genres he loved to read. He has a strong affinity for ancient history and archeology, the bible (old testament), and how it relates to the history of the Jewish people. He is also a doctor, and when he’d want to learn about a disease, he’d go read the contemporary writings of physicians and others at the time that disease was discovered. After all, what better way is there to learn to diagnose someone than by understanding what symptoms tipped physicians off way back when?

Basically, my dad likes going back in time and getting to the source of any account. As for history, his favorite way to learn it – whether historical events or the history of thoughts and ideas – was to read autobiographies and biographies. I couldn’t agree more.

Immersing yourself in the individual’s time, place, and culture truly solidifies your understanding of the event or philosophy so much better because you are exposed to the context in which ideas emerged and you get a real glimpse of how it shaped and influenced the course of events. You become captivated by the emotions and passions of the individuals involved, and you become engrossed in a story rather than trying to simply memorize sequences.

Books of Liberty has, at the time of writing, almost 60 biographies and autobiographies of an extremely wide variety of figures.

Some are luminaries who did a great deal to evolve a particular school of thought or ideology, like Frederic Bastiat, Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard or Benjamin Tucker – each to their own audience, of course.

Others, and in addition to the above, did a great deal to promote the cause of liberty through their writings or activism, like Julian Assange, Garet Garrett, Robert LeFevre, T. R. M. Howard, Albert Jay Nock, Ron Paul, Leonard Read, Sacco and Vanzetti, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, or Walter Williams, to name a few.

You don’t become as famous (or infamous?) as them without an interesting story to tell. And you can’t truly understand the ‘liberty movement’ or the various schools of anarchism without the backdrop of the lives and times of such figures.

Yet others are quite the opposite of the aforementioned individuals. Whatever your view is on anarcho-capitalism vs anarcho-communism, I think we all can agree that people such as Kim Jong IlMao, or Stalin should not have existed. Likewise Osama bin Laden – who knows whether 9/11 was an inside job or not, and we won’t get into who started what (terrorism or the war on terror), but it’s safe to say that bin Laden’s tactics are in stark contrast to those employed in a world of peaceful coexistence.

Understanding how such violent people rose to power is, in itself, a very compelling and enlightening read. It is cliché only because it’s true, but if you don’t learn from history, well… you know.

And then, of course, there are stories of politicians, businessmen, and academics. Whether you agree with them or not, they have affected our environment to a great degree.

The intersection of the two topics ‘Politicians’ and ‘Biographies’ will present you 13 books from Jefferson through to Obama. ‘Entrepreneurship’ and ‘Biographies’ will display books about Rockefeller and Carnegie, whereas ‘Entrepreneurship’ and ‘Autobiographies’ will display those written by Jim Rogers and Richard Branson, describing their lives, struggles and lessons to learn. Finally, ‘Economists’ and ‘Biographies’ will yield anything from Keynes to the great Austrian economists, very interesting if you’re that way inclined.

No doubt there are plenty more biographies out there, but I’m trying to collect the very best and those written with a perspective with which I can connect.

Books to pique your interest

Click on any individual’s name above and you will get a biographical account of their lives and times. This page is scattered with links to books that should pique your interests, as varied as those interests may be.

However, I’d be remiss if I don’t point out three important collections that compile within each book multiple biographical or autobiographical entries, focussed on a wide group of influential people within the libertarian space.

  • I Chose Liberty – compiled by Walter Block, contains 82 autobiographical entries, right from the horse’s mouth on who they are and how they came to an Austro-libertarian stance.
  • Liberty and the Great Libertarians – edited by Charles Sprading, contains biographies and bibliographies of over 30 influential thinkers that range the left-right spectrum.
  • The Libertarian Tradition – by Jeff Riggenbach, who describes what must be at least some 75 or more figures in this book. He takes you on a thoroughly fascinating journey from the very beginnings of the movement, covering a very wide variety of schools of thought, and the methods each individual chose to deliver the message of freedom.

Concluding thoughts

The beauty of reading a biography or autobiography is that you can really start to connect with real life contemporary or historical figures as you would to characters in a fictional tale. And when you connect, you understand. When you connect, you empathize. When you connect, you remember and learn. Please stay connected with us too, at Books of Liberty, for your fix of interesting books. And as always, thank you for reading!

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