What I’m Reading
In the last few weeks I read biographies or memoirs of: Fidel Castro, Toussaint Louverture, PT Barnum, Martin Luther, Langston Hughes, Arnold Rothstein, Wyatt Earp , George Washington, Seneca, Sammy Davis Jr, Jesus, Saul Alinsky, Richard Feynman, the Stoics, Da Vinci, Samuel Bronfman, Cato the Younger, Olaudah Equiano, and Joe Biden.
Those are just the ones I can remember. For most, I used two or three different books. I do know that I have to buy more bookshelves because I’ve resorted to piling them on the floor and in the trunk of my car. If anyone can think of people like these, iconic figures that might have a side to them that has gone unnoticed, it’d be amazing if you could email me your ideas.
Check out Richard Francis Burton, not the actor, but the 19th century British explorer, also Al Capone.
Check out Christopher Hibberts biography of Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli was Prime Minister of Britain in the for half of the 1870s. He started out as a pretty successful novelist, and made his political name based on his truly astounding mastery of language in his parliamentary speeches. He was the first (and only?) Jew to become PM; and this was in the 1870s, no less. He was also pretty clearly bisexual; everyone called him a “fop” (a great archaic word for effeminate people). He dressed flamboyantly (green pants, long curly locks, etc) and traveled all over Europe. He battled a severe, crippling depression as a young novelist. His father Isaac was a semi well known author who wrote books that greatly influenced Lord Byron. Disraeli met Byron a number of times and patterned himself after him.
For my money, Disraeli’s the most interesting politician of all time. Dig in!
Nikolai Tesla – Serbian genius erased from history books because he lost a PR war to Edison.
Chuck Berry – first Black rock star to lead a successful business life.
Thurgood Marshall – hard drinking, womanizing African American lawyer who fought for change within the system. It would be very easy to link to Rules for Radicals.
Paul Farmer – from his biography Mountains Beyond Mountains. I think this book is responsible for a lot of young Americans who want to volunteer abroad. Farmer’s philosophy is very similar to Meditations.
Rebel Without a Crew – Robert Rodriguez has consistently disagreed with the status quo of the Hollywood studio system.
Stephen King – On Writing. King is one of the most prolific and imaginative writers of our time.
The Google Story – They have have raised the bar for big business strategy.
Cecil Rhodes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cecil_Rhodes
Just about created a few nations, forged the British empire in Africa, ruthlessly lead Debeers to a diamond monopoly.
He was brilliant and without remorse. Right up 50’s alley.
Genghis Khan- he has a bloodthirsty image but was actually very tolerant and democratic.
I’ve just gone through a Richard Feynman phase. Seriously, I wish I could be half as smart as him. I highly suggest “Surely, You’re Joking Mr. Feynman” for a series of memoir type anecdotes about his life. “Genius” is also a good biography about him, and towards the end the author tries to define what a genius is through Feynman and other theoretical physicists. Pretty cool beans.
Hey, I’m the guy who recommended the Art of Learning to you. Did you ever get to that?
I’d be interested to know what your thoughts were about some of the people you mention, especially Washington, Castro, Luther and P.T. Barnum. Fascinating characters, all of them.
Jesus man, is there such a thing as too much reading? What is your input vs output like?
Simon Callow’s books on ORSON WELLES.
ARMARILLO SLIM–“Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat” people by Greg Dinkin. Not the best written book in the world, but eminently interesting.
“Thy Neighbor’s Wife” by Gay Talese has some great stories about Hugh Hefner’s early hustling days too.
Yeager, the autobiography of General Chuck Yeager
If you’re interested in the Gilded Age, you can read Alva and Consuelo Vanderbilt by [Elizabeth?] Mackenzie Stuart.
Entertaining reads and you can easily find real biographies of these guys.
I just found this blog from a reference, but the writings are interesting. Here is my suggestion:
King Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa’ud – The founder of Modern Sa’udi Arabia.
This man single handedly created the modern Kingdom of Sa’udi Arabia in the early 1900s by uniting the desert tribes with a combination of generosity and ferocity, and by playing the then world superpowers of the British Empire and Turkey off of one another to become the richest and most influential country in the Middle East. Abdul Aziz’s sons continue his legacy today.
I suggest reading “The Kingdom” by Roberty Lacey
Romo – Bill Romanowski
Ticht Naht Hahn is an interesting man. I’m not sure if he’s your style but I’d at least check him out.
“Dinner with Mugabe” by Heidi Holland. Probably only Western journalist to have in depth access to Robert Mugabe. Very interesting look into the mind of a tyrant.
I saw something similar to this on a different web site and didn’t really understand it, but this post helped me understand it better. Thanks!