Calling all Biography Lovers.


Happy Tuesday, friends!

We are going to do a fun little giveaway today!

For the last several evenings I’ve been reading Eric Metaxas’ biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer until the wee hours of the night. I was going back and forth between reading Metaxas’ biography (Thomas Nelson, 2010) and Eberhard Bethge’s (Revised Ed. Augsburg Fortress Press, 2000). Bethge’s book obviously has the advantage insofar as he was Bonhoeffer’s close friend and he also married Bonhoeffer’s niece, Renate. In the end, I decided to go with Metaxas’ biography because I heard great things about it from a good friend, and, well, it is 591 pages and not 1049. Seemed like reason enough to me.

For those of you who are not familiar, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian theologian who was executed for his involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Among his writings are well-known books such as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.  He was murdered on April 9, 1945, evidently under Hitler’s direct command. I thought that I knew quite a bit about Bonhoeffer since I have studied some of his theology in the past, but now I realize that I knew so very little about this extraordinary man. Did you know that his older brother worked on splitting the atom with Albert Einstein? At age 23? Crazy, huh? Metaxas, in my opinion, is a particularly meaningful person to have written this Bonhoeffer biography as he is half-German. His grandfather was one of many unwilling soldiers who nevertheless lost his life in the war. Metaxas’ own background plays a poignant role in the intimacy with which he tells his subject’s story.

I’m not typically a biography reader, but this one may convert me. Since I am a little over halfway through with this book, I’m already thinking about the next one I may want to read. I asked my Mom, the biography enthusiast, what her favorite one is and she said one of her “many favorites” is A Chance to Die, Elisabeth Elliot’s biography about the life and legacy of Amy Carmichael.

So, what about you?!

Are you a biography reader?

Tell us what your favorite biography is, along with your first and last name and you will have a chance to win your choice of either Eric Metaxas’ book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor Martyr, Prophet, Spy:

OR,  Elisabeth Elliot’s book, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael:

We’ll do a random drawing and report *ten* winners on Thursday afternoon, along with further instructions.

Now, talk to me.

What is your favorite biography?


920 Responses to “Calling all Biography Lovers.”

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  1. 1
    Stephanie says:

    My favorite biography is “Truman” by David McCullough. “John Adams” was very good by the same author. I love reading biographies.

    Stephanie Cline

  2. 2
    carla says:

    It was an autobiography on Abraham Lincoln when I was in the 6th grade.

    Carla Lee

  3. 3
    Kat says:

    Gee. I don’t think I have read a biography in years. Perhaps I should. But of the Old (and I say that with much respect) Theologians I am fond of Bonhoeffer – first introduced to him by way of The Cost of Discipleship. And then there is Watchman Nee. Oh my goodness, is he great! And George Muller!! His story and his practice of prayer!! Can’t beat him.
    Thanks for sharing and thanks for encouraging me to start again with biographies.

    Kathie Thompson

  4. 4
    Beth says:

    Does the only biography I’ve read count? I recently finished Mockingbird, the biography of Harper Lee.

  5. 5
    Amy Ward says:

    My favorite biography is A Chance to Die (one of your options). : )

    I also recently read Patricia Cornwell’s biography of Ruth Bell Graham…also good.

    Amy Ward

  6. 6
    katie says:

    Hey Melissa,

    Not sure if this falls under biography, but, Fanklin Graham’s “Relbel with a Cause” is one of my top 10 favorite books of all time! It gives me such hope and inspiration. I am the mom of a very sprited, loving boy who is 6 going on 16…Lord have mercey on me! This book really opened my eyes to God’s timing, and as Franklin puts it, allowing God to work outside of the box!!! If you haven’t read it you must!!

  7. 7
    Laura says:

    ‘It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ by Paula Deen- its a really easy read filled with fascinating stories about her life and it includes some really good recipes.

  8. 8
    Gayle says:

    I have read “A Chance to Die” which is a great book. I love the biography of Gladys Aylward, missionary to China.

  9. 9
    Erin says:

    I’ve just started the journey of biography reading and have Fanny Crosby by Bernard Ruffin to read. I just finished an autobiography so I’m not sure if that counts! Its called, “Left to Tell; Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust” by Immculee Ilibagiza. What a heart tearing story, but with a God glorifying message. This story tells such current history and I’ve really not even been aware what has been happening.

  10. 10
    Twila Baker says:

    I don’t believe I have read any theologian biographies, but my all time favorite biography has been reading about Viven Leigh (Scarlett). Yes she was a celebrity,but her life was a great story on mental health and how all of that was handled in the middle part of the 20th century. My other all time favorite that I can remember from school was on Mary Todd Lincoln. She was fasinating as well.
    I just heard an interview with Metaxas on christian radio and was intriged with his story on Bonhoeffer. Sounds like a great book.
    Twila Baker

  11. 11

    My favorite biography is, by far, An Arrow Pointing to Heaven: A devotional biography of Rich Mullins. Like you, I thought I knew the person about whom I was reading, but I was blown away. I think the most amazing thing about this book is that while I learned about Rich I fell more in love with Christ. The story of his life does not glorify himself; even in his death, he points to Jesus.

  12. 12
    Sharoni says:

    Absolute hands down fav so far is the authorized biography on Mother Teresa by Kathryn Spink (1997, Harper San Francisco). Mother was a lifelong inspiration to me and the life I wanted to live. I love this quote:
    “‘Holiness’ she would insist when people acclaimed her as a living saint, ‘is not the luxury of the few. It is a simple duty for you and for me. If thee are poor in the world, it is because you and I don’t give enough.'”

    Words to live by…
    And yes, I would LOVE to get my hands on the Bonhoeffer bio! 🙂

    Sharoni Humphreys
    [email protected]

  13. 13
    Sarah says:

    Melissa, I am also reading “Bonhoeffer” by Eric Metaxas and am enjoying it very much. “A Chance to Die” is another good one. If you like autobiographies, Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place” and “Born Again” by Chuck Colson are classics.

    • 13.1
      Melissa says:


      A good friend of mine recently recommended the Metaxas biography to me but then I read your blog on Her.meneutics about Elizabeth Gilbert, etc., and it was your mentioning of the Bonhoeffer book along with the added note about the spiritual value of the biography genre that finally pushed me to actually buy the book. Good to hear from you and thanks for the recommendations here and on the Her.meneutics blog post a few weeks ago. If you win the random drawing, maybe I’ll send you the 1,000+ page Bethge biography 🙂

    • 13.2
      Redeemed says:

      Oooh, “Born Again” is wonderful!!!

  14. 14
    Heather says:

    The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
    Heather Marsten

  15. 15
    Sharoni says:

    Oops! “there, not thee”….great proofreading Sharoni!

  16. 16
    Leticia Pitts says:

    The Hiding Place, By Corrie Ten Boom, Is my favorite right now. I grew up in a very abusive enviroment, and when I meditate on how Corrie Ten Boom was able to forgive such evil done to her, and her loved ones, as well as her people;I think if His grace was sufficient for her then His grace is sufficient for me. I can also forgive, through and in Christ.

    • 16.1
      Warm in Alaska says:

      Loved what you wrote. Thanks for sharing…

    • 16.2
      Diana says:

      Blessings Siesta! Based on some very troubling experiences in life, I too find Corrie’s story, faith and life inspirational and motivating!
      Thank you for sharing with us!

  17. 17
    Melissa Ford says:

    Rebel w/ a Cause…by Franklin Graham.~ Melissa Ford

  18. 18
    lori says:

    Into The Wild
    by Jon Krakauer
    it always make me “think” I could be a nature lover

    lori behr

  19. 19
    Tara G. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot about her husband Jim. I’ve also enjoyed a couple of missionary biographies that have been included in my daughter’s Sonlight curriculum- Gladys Alyward and George Mueller- so fun to share those with her!

  20. 20
    Jeanie says:

    Definitely Ruth, A Portrait by Patricia Cornwell which is the biography of Ruth Bell Graham. I also thoroughly enjoyed Barbara Bush, A Memoir…the bio of obviously Barbara Bush and I like to read anything written about Billy Graham. I really like biographies because I think they give a glimpse into what MAKES a person tick. Always interesting to me. 🙂

  21. 21
    Haley says:

    One of my college professors wrote a biography on William Carey that included his letters and journal entries. It is such a wonderful book! I have always loved reading it b/c it feels almost like Scripture (obviously, I know it’s not). It’s called “The Life and Letters of William Carey”.

  22. 22

    So strange — A Chance to Die is currently on my list of books that I have to read! Now I’m even more motivated to check it out from the library.

    I love biographies; by far, it’s my favorite subject to read about. I’ve read a lot about the Kennedy family; I think their lives (and the generational curse that was on them) is stunning to read about from a spiritual perspective.

    In college, I did some directed studies courses and one of them was on Billy Graham. I read a LOT of books on him and was really impressed with what I read… you really can learn a lot by reading through other people’s stories.

    The biographies that I would MOST like to read are those from women in my family — my grandmothers, my mom, etc. About eight years ago, I gave each of them this “make-your-own-biography” kit for Christmas with a letter from me begging them to write down their history. No one has done it yet, but I’m holding onto hope. I’d like to know where I’ve come from. 🙂

  23. 23
    Gena says:

    I’m not much of a biography reader. In fact, the only one that comes to mind is the Biography of J. Hudson Taylor. I actually enjoyed it very much (and it was short!).

    Gena Roberts

  24. 24
    Leanne says:

    Earlier this summer I read “The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer That Changed the World” And, shockingly, I was totally inspired. The story of the Guinness family is a story of faith and a deep committment to missions. Did you know that Hudson Taylor asked members of the Guinness family to start a missionary training school and Dwight Moody used their school as a model when he started Moody Bible Institute? This book is full of surprises… I highly recommend it!

    • 24.1
      Leanne says:

      Forgot to add my name… Leanne Konrad

    • 24.2
      Warm in Alaska says:

      So glad for the heads up on this book! I worked with Os Guinees (of the Guiness family who went into missions) back in the 1980’s on Capitol Hill. He’s a prolific Christian writer and thinker – and very kind and humble, taboot! I always was curious about his family connections. Can’t wait to read this! Thanks ~

  25. 25
    sisterlynn says:

    Sister Lynn D’Souza

    1. Witness to Hope by George Wiegel -Its the biography of Pope John Paul II

    2. Autobiography – The Hiding Place – Corrie ten Boom

    I love Bonheoffer – thanks for the recommendations for his bio!

  26. 26
    fuzzytop says:

    Well, I read lots of books, but not many biographies…

    This may not be a biography per se, but I loved the book “The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the 20th Century” by David Salsburg. It covers the major advances in statistical thinking and methods, with biographical information about each of the people who made these advances, and how they got interested in their area of research. I know, it sounds absolutely riveting….!!! Not. But really, I love that kind of nerdy stuff, and as a statistics geek, it was fun to read this history.


    • 26.1
      mercy4Drew says:

      I knew Adrienne would comment on reading!! I can’t think of one biography I have read lately. I PLAN to read Drew Brees’ new book on adversity though. Go Saints!

      PS Adrienne works in our church’s library!

    • 26.2
      Warm in Alaska says:

      Howdy, Adrienne~ This sounds tres fascinating! I wonder if it’s like Malcolm Gladwell’s work?… Thanks for the heads up!

  27. 27

    passion and purity by elisabeth elliot. i’ve read her bio of amy carmichael and enjoyed it.

    although not strictly autobiography, p&p tells the story of elisabeth and jim elliot’s courtship at wheaton college and their time in ecuador. it’s powerful.

  28. 28
    Keeley says:

    Ooh pick me! pick me!

  29. 29
    HeleddNest says:

    I really enjoyed reading Isobel Kuhn’s autobiographies, such as ‘Nests Above the Abyss’ and ‘By Searching’, which talk about about her time with the Lisu tribe in China.

    I read a biography about Amy Carmichael when I was younger and it had a profound effect on me.

    I love a book that gets you reading way into the night!! Enjoy!

    Heledd Smith

  30. 30
    Donna Benjamin says:

    Man, to be brutally honest, I haven’t read a biography in…I can’t remember how long! I could make something up here, but that would be so wrong! Can I still enter the drawing? Perhaps if I won the drawing though, I could read one the books you mentioned! 🙂

    Donna Benjamin

  31. 31
    Nina says:

    I love, love, love “A Chance to Die!”

    I also love Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place.” It’s more a biography of a certain time in her life and technically it is an autobiography because it she wrote it with another couple but it is definitely worth the read!

  32. 32
    Marjie Scheib says:

    I haven’t read many biographies,I think the last one I read was The Diary of Anne Frank. I read it in school and have read it a couple of more times. More than biographies, I do enjoy memoirs, especially travel memoirs. I did go online to check out A Chance to Die. After reading the description and the reviews it has entered my list of must reads. Got the chill bumps.
    Thanks for the recommendations.

  33. 33
    Jan says:

    Melissa: The biography of Dwight L. Moody, 19th century American evangelist. (I know you know who Moody was, but I wanted to provide that in case others didn’t.)

    By the way, my husband is a descendant of D.L. Moody (his mother’s maiden name is Moody). My mother-in-law has five brothers and four are Baptist pastors. Yes, one is named…Dwight L. Moody. 🙂

    I love anything by Elisabeth Elliot and as a very young bride and Mom, I heard her speak back in 1983 at First Baptist, Dallas, TX. I still remember her talk on bitterness. “A Chance to Die,” is already in my library.

    Blessings to you,
    Mrs. Jan

    • 33.1
      CJ says:

      Mrs. Jan, I have read some of these entries and they are quite interesting, but yours really caught my attention. WOW, in Moody’s family tree….and 4 Baptist preachers…now this is some interesting stuff here.

      I guess the reason this is fascinating is that there is only so much that can be written about anyone. You are “living the legacy”….that is interesting!! You will know stories that others will not because you are family.

      • Jan says:

        My husband’s first cousin, Dr. Ted Moody, a retired pastor here in Georgia that now raises sponsorship for an orphanage in Uganda, is the relative who did the reserach 30 years ago. It is very neat and he traced it all the way back. There are so many pastors in this family. Ted is the son of the oldest of the four pastor-brothers, Dr. Charles Moody. The other three are Hudson Moody, Johnny Moody, and Dwight Moody. Now there are 2nd and third generation pastors from those uncles. Both my husband and son are also pastors.

        I just married into this wonderful family, mind you… 🙂

        Have a good evening,

        • Kathy B says:

          Yeah, I think that qualifies you as a bonified Christian celebrity. In the Moody tree And you heard Mrs Elliot in person? Pretty sure I’m gonna need your autograph. “…to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep My commandments.”

    • 33.2
      Warm in Alaska says:

      Hey Jan! Just going to “amen” your D. L. Moody recommendation. What an astounding man of God he was! I loved, LOVED his story!

  34. 34
    Sandee says:

    I have to admit…as far as I can recollect, I have never read a biography. hmmmm. yep, can’t remember one. And I read ALOT! I read It’s not Okay with Me, by Janine Maxwell of her live changing experience with Uganda. Does that count?

  35. 35
    Susan says:

    I love Jim Elliott’s biography, Through Gates of Splendor.

    Susan Wyatt

  36. 36

    How sad is it that I don’t think I’ve ever read a biography??! As an adult anyway. I know I read a biography in elementary school because I remember dressing up as Laura Ingalls Wilder for a book report!

    Thanks for the motivation to pick up one, if not both, these books. You gals continue to grow me.

  37. 37
    Robin says:

    Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of WWII by Darlene Diebler Rose is my favorite! Not sure if it is fair to call it a biography, but it is about the part of her life where she is captured by the Japanese during WWII. LOVE IT!

  38. 38
    Gretchen says:

    I’m with you – – I’ve never been much of a biography reader, but once in awhile one will get my attention. When we were preparing to adopt from Ethiopia, I read a biography by Melissa Fay Greene called, There Is No Me Without You. It’s about a middle-class Ethiopian woman named Heregowoin Teferra, who took hundreds of AIDS orphans in off the streets at a time when no one else would.

  39. 39
    Tamara Scire says:

    I actually enjoy reading biographies, I think because I’m a bit “snoopy” and I like to know more about the person if I’ve read the books they’ve authored. I am currently reading one on Florence Nightingale by Cecil Woodham-Smith (I came across a copy in our little book store at our library and thought it might be interesting). I also trudged through one on Tolstoy by Henri Troyat. Just before summer I read “The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane” by William V. Holtz. I also recently read “Laura Bush: Spoken from the Heart”

    But, my favorite all time biography is “Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God” by David McCasland.

  40. 40
    Redeemed says:

    My absolute favorite???? I cannot choose……so I’ll submit two: Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot and The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Mmmm. Good reads and glorious testimonies….

  41. 41
    Crysta says:

    I love A Chance to Die — it is one of my favorite biographies — since I was a child, I have loved Amy Carmichael…another favorite: Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret; a thought-provoking read: a third testament by Malcolm Muggeridge (this is a compilation of short biographies: the spiritual wanderings of Augustine, Blake, Pascal, Tolstoy, Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky).

  42. 42
    Rebecca says:

    Hmmmm…favorite biography. I can’t remember who wrote it, but it’s one on Billy Graham.

    As far as biographies go, I have to really trust the author because I don’t want to possibly read mistruths. Know what I mean?

    You, Melissa, are an intellectual at heart! I love it!
    As an avid historian, I think the Bonhoeffer book is probably right up my alley.

    Prayers and blessings,
    [email protected]

  43. 43
    Karen Palen says:

    Hi! My favorite biography ever is “Things we Couldn’t Say,” by Diet Eman. She was an amazingly brave young Dutch woman in WWII who helped to rescue Jews in Holland. It is a very inspiring story, and made me think alot about what I would be willing to do in the same situation, but even more, how I would be changed by the experience, and what God wants me to do because of what I HAVE experienced.

  44. 44
    Lynn says:

    One of my favorite biography books was “The Hidding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom with Eizabet & John Sherrill.

  45. 45
    Terry says:

    Last year my husband read John Adams (McCullough) and we recently watched the mini-series together. Does that count?! 🙂

    The last biography I recall reading was Barbara Bush: A Memoir, back in 2003, when I remember telling a friend that I was going to read one biography a month. My first selection was Ronald Reagan (don’t recall the title) and my second and ultimately final selection was the Barbara Bush book. So much for setting goals!

    Thank you, Melissa, for naming all these wonderful and inspiring books. Your post today has rekindled my desire to read biographies!

    Louisa, VA

  46. 46
    Jeanie says:

    I just remembered one of my all time faves…it’s by Darlene Diebler Rose and is called Evidence Not Seen. YOU WOULD LOVE IT! I can’t recommend it enough. She was a missionary in Papua New Guinea in WWII and it is a quick but totally engaging read.

  47. 47
    Yolanda says:

    Not sure that I have a favorite, but I tend to be more on autobiogrpahys, such as The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

    Rebel with a Cause, Franklin Graham.

    Currently I am reading an autobiography, and it has me spell-bound.

    The Blood of the Lambs, by Kamal Saleem.

    Blessings Melissa,

  48. 48
    Martha says:

    Amy Carmichael has always been a hero of mine…so I also enjoyed A Chance to Die.

  49. 49
    Katherine says:

    George & Laura by Christopher P. Anderson
    A great biography of George & Laura Bush.

  50. 50
    Tashi Sonnenberg says:

    I can’t say I’ve read too many biographies, but ‘Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret’ pretty much changed my life. I would certainly call it my favorite 🙂