Ask Sanityville: Biography Recommendations?


(Jeremy Vander Galien) #1

I’d like to get back to reading more biography and thought this would be a good forum to ask for recommendations.

Which biographies would you recommend? Any biographies of men that serve as good, or bad, examples of husbandry, fatherhood, and/or friendship?


(Joseph Bayly) #2

I just finished and truly enjoyed “Max Perkins, Editor of Genius”

Lots of good and lots of bad to learn from in terms of being an example. Will try to pull a couple of quotes in later.


(Zak Carter) #3

John Adams by David McCullough is a great one. Adams was a complex character, but there is a lot to learn from him (though maybe not in the specific areas you’re looking for).

Clouds of Glory by Michael Korda is a good biography of Robert E Lee. Whatever your thoughts on the Civil War (or War Between the States?) Lee was a man of exemplary character and discipline.


(Jeremy Vander Galien) #4

Looks interesting. I’ll give it a read. Thanks.

Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve read it and it was great.

I haven’t read this. I’ll add it to the list. Thanks.


(Kelly) #5

There are those short biographies in a series, I suppose really for young people, but I find them interesting and useful. George Grant wrote some of them (he’s one of my favorite biographers!), and Doug Wilson, and Stephen Mansfield… Biographies of Stonewall Jackson, Anne Bradstreet, Winston Churchill, etc.
https://www.goodreads.com/series/192000-leaders-in-action

I read Joseph Pearce’s biographies of Tolkien, Chesterton, and Belloc, and greatly enjoyed them. He is a devout Catholic, so there’s a strong focus on that aspect. GKC’s was my favorite:

There’s also the autobiography of George Muller, which is excellent.

Then there’s Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, and James Herriot’s books (for a fun, fictionalized take on autobiography), and for true hilarity + good stuff on marriage & parenting, try:


(Jeremy Vander Galien) #6

The Leaders in Action series looks excellent. Thanks for the recommendations.


(Kelly) #7

I was just browsing around and found this, which looks like a funny cover, but the reviews are good… Apparently has a bunch of mini-biographies. Maybe has potential?

Written by Mansfield, who wrote some of the Leaders in Action series, and also The Search for God and Guinness.


(Nathan Smith) #8

Personally I’ve liked Metaxis’s biographies of Luther, Wilberforce and Boenhoffer. Maybe not the most scholarly, but readable, engaging treatments. Good lengths.


(Alex Costa) #9

I haven’t read Metaxas’ biography on Bonhoeffer, but I know that Stephen Baker (Clearnote Pastor and member of this forum) thinks that Metaxas’ grossly misrepresents him to make him look like an Evangelical, which he wasn’t.

I’m also not a fan of his Thanksgiving children’s book on Squanto. I loved the story at first, but after I started reading some primary sources on the matter, I thought his portrait of Squanto was much too rosy.

Those two examples would make me cautious about reading his other materials.

I haven’t seen any mention of Iain Murray here yet. I’d recommend any of his books. He was very close to Martyn Lloyd-Jones, so I’m assuming that’s his best work although I unfortunately haven’t yet red it. His other book on MLJ that came out in the last decade was excellent. The book on Edwards was good. “Wesley and the Men Who Followed” was decent along with parts of “Heroes.”

Although they’re not specifically biographies, “Evangelicalism Divided” and “Revival and Revivalism” are two of my favorites. Evangelicalism Divided paints an honest portrait of Billy Graham that you’re not going to find in a whole lot of other places, although he’s not the sole focus of the book.


(Alex McNeilly) #10

I’d recommend just about anything by Iain Murray. His biographies of Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, A. W. Pink, and J. C. Ryle are all good.

J. C. Ryle has a great series of mini-biographies on English Reformers and Puritans called Light from Old Times. He wrote them in a time when the Anglican Church was swinging hard in the direction of Roman Catholicism.


(Nathan Smith) #11

Maybe a fair critique of Metaxis’s Bonhoeffer biography. I don’t know. Essentially all I know of Bonhoeffer comes from Metaxis and Wikipedia. I’m also not sure what an evangelical is… A western non-catholic Christian who thinks people should know the gospel which transforms lives? (As an aside, Keller says he used to use the term because it confused New Yorkers in a way he liked, now he doesn’t used it because it confuses New Yorkers in a different way.) Bonhoeffer seems like this type of guy to me from the book but maybe he wasn’t. I read the book. I liked it. I found it informative, convicting, and inspiring. I guess you have to ask what you want to get out of a biography. But if the information is wrong then maybe the conviction and inspiration are worthless? Or maybe not…postmodernism and all that.


(Matt Robison) #12

Washington by Chernow. Quite the page turner. It made we want to read everything else Chernow has written. It is very clear that Chernow has great respect for Washington, and while he offers criticisms, he doesn’t descend into post-modern reductionism.

He wrote Washington after Hamilton because he realized, as he was writing the latter, that while Hamilton was the protagonist, Washington was the hero.


(Stephen Baker ) #13

Here’s a decent, brief critique of Bonhoeffer’s neo-orthodox theology. He’s certainly helpful in some ways, but not doctrinally, and everything he said or wrote was colored by his view of Scripture. My beef with Metaxis is that (as far as I can remember) he whitewashed all of that to appeal to his American Evangelical readership.

https://www.equip.org/article/troubling-truth-bonhoeffers-theology/


(Sarah Hoover) #14

Yes, I would agree about the Metaxas book. I remember really enjoying it when I read it, but being shocked when I later learned more about Bonhoeffer.


(Nathan Smith) #15

Deviating some from the topic of biographies in general, but I think that Metaxis’s primary goal is evangelism. He wants to point people to Christ, so I guess it’s unsurprising that he would err in that direction.


(Jesse Tiersma) #16

Although I haven’t read all of them, Steve Lawson’s Long Line of Godly Men biographies are pretty good. Enjoyable reading, and he does a good job of drawing lessons we can learn from their lives.


(Michael Foster) #17

J. Hudson Taylor: A Man in Christ by Steer


(Valerie) #18

Although it’s about a wife and mother (Sarah Edwards), and therefore doesn’t exactly fit your request, Marriage to a Difficult Man is an edifying read.