Monday, November 17, 2008

Helpful Biographies and Autobiographies

It is not unusual to find top executives who enjoy reading biographies of extraordinary people. Much can be gleaned from them if the author isn't a sycophant. Decent autobiographies are equally helpful.

Some (auto)biographies that I believe have hidden gems for execs are:

The LBJ biographies by Robert Caro. I'm partial to the first volume. An extraordinary story of a young man on the make who became a professional "son" in order to advance. LBJ was at once repugnant and compelling.

Chronicles of Wasted Time by Malcolm Muggeridge. Muggeridge's career as a journalist in the thirties and forties brought him into contact with some of the ugliest regimes and most fascinating people on earth. Very witty stuff.

Churchill by Piers Brendon. This can be hard to find. A quick and insightful look at the greatest leader of the 20th century.

Six Crises by Richard Nixon. Nixon wrote beautifully and never better than in this review of his experiences in the years before he became president.

The Kennedy Promise by Henry Fairlie. A British journalist looks at the magic - and limitations - of JFK's charisma.

These are just a few and I'm sure that major ones are missing. Submit others and I'll post a master list.


DarkoV said...

With you on Caro's LBJ bio's. He was one of most interesting SOB's around. Anytime I saw "The Last Picture Show" (n.b.: A Great film to be sequestered with when recovering), in some weird way, LBJ's ghost would always walk through.

pawnking said...

I'm no expert on this subject, but I thought "Team of Rivals" was pretty good, and had much about how Lincoln was able to use his political opponents and allies strengths and weaknesses to accomplish his goals.

By the way, it's good to have you back, Michael. Glad you made it.

Cultural Offering said...

I offer three:
Revolution, Martin Anderson's account of Reagan in his first term. Anderson places Reagan inside the superb system built to manage his mission.
My Early Life, Winston Churchill's autobiography covering the first third of his life. Great lessons on how to operate under pressure and tell stories.
Boswell's London Journal, written to cover the author's first year in London. Every sales person should read how the genial Boswell parlays a few Scottish contacts in to a large and productive network through cold calls and simple requests for introduction - all at the ripe old age of 22.
Wonderful idea, this post.