Tag Archives: Biography

“The Last American Man”, By Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth  Gilbert became famous with her book “Eat, Pray, Love”. This book “The Last American Man” was written before that and it was not such a famous book. I also went to this book after reading Eat, Pray, Love. The idea of the story looked good to me and I was curious about what she was writing before her famous book. This book is a biography of Eustace Conway, who left his home at the age of 17 to live in the nature and more importantly to live off the nature.

When I first started reading the book, I did not realize that it was a real character but then I figured out that the story is real and Eustace Conway does exist and his Turtle Island is also a reality. Eustace had always been attracted to nature from childhood and moved out of his comfortable existence to live in the jungle or whatever existed in US at that time. He has done grueling hiking across Appalachian Trail, has travelled from coast to coast on horse and many other adventures. He has created a nature preserve of 1000 acres where he invites people to stay with him and learn to live with nature.

It is a fantastic story of a person who attracts so much attention and people want to be like him. At the same time, once people get in contact with him and start working with him, they find it extremely difficult to cope with him. The author has done an excellent job of bringing out different facets of his life, his relationships and has given a commentary on the lifestyle of americans in today’s time vis-a-vis hundred years ago when american man was still discovering the frontier.

It is so true that today’s generation has forgotten their connection with the nature and their own body. We know more about TV then the grass or plant in our backyard.

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Filed under Biography, Non-Fiction

“Those Who Love”, By Irving Stone

I am not sure whether it can be called as complete history or whether it had some fiction mixed with it. “Those Who Love” is the biography of second US president John Adams written from the perspective of his wife Abigail Adams. I have always liked Irving Stone’s work. His books are very well researched and pick on one particular personality and then goes deep into the life of that person as well as the era of that time. The book was lying with me for a long time but remained unread but eventually I picked it up and once I had gone past first few pages, it became very interesting. It is not a thriller but written in a style that you want to keep on reading it.

The story covers extensive details about US independence since John Adams was one of the founding fathers and had a great role to play before and after the declaration of independence. The story also covers the personal life of John and Abigail. I really liked the way their courtship and dating started and eventually resulted in their marriage. I was reading a biography after a long time and they have always amazed me. You start reading about the life from the time when the person is not so famous and then slowly you follow his trials and successes till he becomes the president of the US.

Since the book is written from the perspective of Abigail Adams, the author has tried to keep the language from those times. It brings a smile to your face when Abigail says that she is in the season again referring to her pregnancy. The book also covers their family life. How they pickle for the cold season and run the household, the mode of transport that is primarily horses and carts. Overall, a really great book and life.

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Filed under Biography, Fictional-History, History

Dale Carnegie’s “Little Known Facts About Well Known People”

This is probably Dale Carnegie’s least known book. He is so much more famous for his book “How to win friends and influence people” but I will write about that some other time. When I picked up this book, I had great hopes to learn interesting stuff about well-known people and to some extent it satisfied that curiosity as well. Also, the book is written in same easy-going flow as he has used in other more famous books. But “Little known facts about well-known people” is not in the same league as the other books.

He has picked up characters from all walks of life, some of them his contemporary and some from history and has tried to highlight their quirks and interesting habits. All these little stories are interesting but they fail to make a coherent thought across the characters and also in the story of same character. Sometimes, he has also digressed and while writing about one person, he has picked up a fact and then starts writing about other people with similar history. One specific case is of O. Henry. He tells that Henry started writing during his jail term and then starts telling about many other great authors who started their writing career during jail terms.

Also, his contemporary characters are more than 100 years old now and do not evoke as much interest in me. Some of these little known facts have become public knowledge through other forums like movies and Internet and have lost interest. Even with all these backdrops the book is a breezy simple reading and keeps you interested enough to take it to the end. But there is little that I have taken away from the book.

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Dominique Lapierre’s “A Rainbow In The Night”; Story Of South Africa And Apartheid

While growing up, Apartheid and Nelson Mandela were very common subjects that were part of TV news everyday. Though, I had some idea of what was happening in South Africa, I had no idea about the details till I finished reading this book “A Rainbow in the Night” by Dominique Lapierre recently. I vaguely remember a college debate amongst friends talking about South Africa pulling out of Cricket World Cup if the referendum on Apartheid was not successful in favor of abolishing it.

It is really surprising that just 20 years back there was a regime as racist as South Africa and there could be millions of people suffering from Apartheid which means “separation”. An idea that was planned as brutally and as comprehensively as Hitler had done for Nazi Germany against Jews. The idea was that Blacks and Whites will co-exist in the same country but will be separated from each other for rights, economy, socially and physically. Of course, everything was decided by the Whites all the time and it was meant to bring in the complete subjugation of worlds oldest race.

The author has really made reading of history interesting for many subjects and even in this book, he has traced the history through hundreds of years from the time when Dutch came first to South Africa to create a stopover for their ships going to Asia. But the focus of book remains Apartheid and how it evolved over the years and what kind of struggle people had to endure to finally abolish it.

As usual to his style, the author has also talked about some of the good work that was done by some white people during all these years and that only highlights that in any race there are always bad and good people and these good people act as rainbow in the dark and keep the hope alive.

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Irving Stone’s “The Agony And The Ecstasy”, Michelangelo’s Biography

I had read some of Irving Stone’s books earlier and I had picked up “The Agony and the Ecstasy” on a hunch without knowing what I am going to find inside. I was completely bowled over by this book. My only regret remains that I read this book after my travels to Rome and Paris. I am sure if I had gone after reading this book, I would have enjoyed looking at those pictures and sculptures much more and would have understood and appreciated them a little better.

This is a biographical novel of Michelangelo, a renaissance painter, sculptor, architect and engineer. He was the architect for Saint Peter’s Basilica, Painter for Sistine Chapel and sculptor for his most famous works David and Pieta (Depiction of body of Jesus in the lap of Mother Mary after crucifixion). Before this book, I had never read anything remotely related about painting and sculpting. I had heard of Michelangelo but I did not know much about him. This book really opened my eyes to the science and struggle behind these greatest works of art. I could understand what kind of work goes in making a statue or a painting lifelike.

Irving stone has used Michelangelo’s letters written during his lifetime and his own research on the field for this book and it really brings authenticity to the story. The book talks about how Michelangelo did autopsy on dead bodies in secrecy to learn about inner details of human shape even though it was banned at that time. This is the learning which helped him in creating true to the form of human sculptures. I was amazed by the kind of study that was required about the rocks, their formation, size, support and shapes before they could be used. A really good book to read even if you do not know anything about these “Art works” in advance.

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Filed under Biography, Fictional-History, History