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Reflections

Reading a Biography

This year I am endeavouring to vary the genre of the books that I read. I think one of the most interesting genres can be reading a biography.

At the time of writing this posting, about 25% of the books that I have read in 2019 would be classified as a biography. The subject matters come from a different number of fields e.g. sport, Christian leaders, spies, writers, political leaders. No matter what field the person is in there are a number of recurring themes that interest me.

How did the person become well known?
Although it may not be true of every single person for the majority of them there was a time when they were not very well known. You could even call them a nobody. Then they became famous and well known. How did they make this transition from a nobody to a somebody? Was it years of hard work that eventually paid off or did they suddenly appear from absolutely nowhere? Maybe they were in the right place at the right time and things just worked out for them?

What were they like before they became famous?
It can be interesting and enlightening to read comments from their contemporaries before they became famous. That might be from their school teachers, school friends, people they grew up with, their coach at the local sports club etc. Did they display obvious talent at an early age or were others better then them?

What are they really like as a person?
Most of us have only seen the public face of the person in the biography we are reading. However what are they like in real life? We may be reading about a famous Christian leader but what is he / she like away from the pulpit? Are they a good family person? Do they always make time for their children? Are they known for their humilty or do they have a high opinion of themselves? What do the neighbours say about them?

What did it take for them to be successful in their field?
It’s likely that the majority of us do not appreciate the hard work and commitment it takes to be successful in a field. Whilst we need to have a talent in that field, hard work is also needed to make the most of that gifting. I may be the most naturally talented tennis player in the world but without a lot of training I will not reach my full potential. This will no doubt involve sacrifices which may include me not seeing my children for weeks on end because I am at an overseas training camp. Am I willingly to to make that commitment? Do I want success at any price? The person we are reading about has had to make these difficult decisions.

What about their failures?
Unless the person writing the book is very selective in the biography then at some stage in their life the subject matter will have encountered failures and setbacks. We all encounter these but the important question is how did they respond to them? Did they just give up or did they persevere? How did they cope with their failure? Did they learn from it or was it repeated constantly? This part of the biography has the potential to be a great source of encouragement to us. We often put people on a pedestal and don’t expect that they will fail. However, when you read that someone that is well known has made mistakes and come out of the other end you realise that you can too!

If you have never read a biography why not visit your local library and have a look at what they have available to borrow. You can always start with a short one to get you in the habit of reading a biography. Alternatively your local Christian bookshop should have some biographies, if you wish to discover more about well known church leaders. Whatever one you select they are an interesting genre to read,

 

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