Shelf Conscious [#2]: Biographies

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For a time, I was consumed with the need to get my hands on books about other people – powerful, influential people. Some people find answers in self-help books. But depending on whose life I chose to read about at any given time, I found biographies to be a more effective motivation than most of what’s in those shelves. Moreover, and as much as we use our imagination when we read fiction novels, Biographies allowed me to imagine a life through theirs.

Admittedly, reading Diana’s biography had to do more with curiosity over living a fantasy. The release of Diana in 1992 earned Andrew Morton a reputation for sensationalism. At the time, he was accused of bearing falsehoods for a woman that had held the entire world in awe. She was royalty in all the sense of the world. And because her life was far from perfect, she was well liked by all. So I was wholly intrigued.

The book was a very personal account of her life in the palace; the love for her children, her numerous charity work, her problems with bulimia, Charle’s infidelity; her life as a child, and ultimately, what had shaped the woman that she was. Later, Andrew Morton would make a case that Diana herself wrote the book with very little help from him. Not as in a ghostwriter’s capacity, but through recordings that she did herself. Diana was the very essence of grace under pressure. And that’s what I learned about her. Her personal struggles were a beacon of inspiration for my younger self.

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Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate politics a bit more. Mostly, American politics. I’m ashamed to admit that I follow the goings on South of the border more than I do Canadian politics. It’s sad, really. The truth is, American politics tend to incite a more passionate response from me. Our government is not perfect, but rarely do we have controversial contention in our Parliament. And as the whole world watches the developing political gong show that is the election in the States, I’ve become more appreciative of how “boring” Canadian politics is.

I read All the President’s Men because I was curious about the infamous Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon. I don’t quite know how to describe how meticulous this book was. It was very in-depth, and because I was a floundering political reader at the time, it was way out of my league. Thankfully, there was a film of the same title that helped facilitate this curiosity. It took me at least a month to read the entire thing but it was well worth it. I’ve never read anything with a more satisfying ending as All the President’s Men. As in, the bad guys got what they deserved.

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And then there’s this monster of a book. I think I’m still in the middle of it after all these years. Now that Hillary formally accepted her nomination, I’m even more interested in finishing it. This book weighs in at 956 pages – easily the biggest book I have on my bookshelves. This was a Christmas present from my husband when it came out in 2004. Sadly, I’ve yet to pick it back up again. I still remember how it was wrapped – comically awful, but he knew I wanted to read it so I was ecstatic. Nowadays, I’ve added more Democrats to my Biography shelf so if you haven’t caught on, I tend to lean left. Sincerely hoping I’ll get to these books before I die.

Thank you for reading. Join me next week as I venture into English Lit.