A Book Genre That Has It All

A life story, well-told, entertains, instructs, teaches and inspires all at the same time.

A Book Genre That Has It All

The world of books abounds with different genres. Each one of them has something for us to learn from. Some people devour self-help or professional development books. Others just like to immerse themselves in a good story. Yet one genre of books often combines a page-turning life story with valuable life lessons: biographies.

Becoming intimately acquainted with the struggles and successes of remarkable historical figures and contemporary leaders allows us to discover the humanity behind extraordinary achievements and apply valuable life lessons to our own lives.

getAbstract has summarized a number of remarkable life stories. Here’s a selection:

Historical Biographies

Historical biographies are a great way to learn about a historical period or foreign culture through the lens of someone who lived through it. Although each life story is unique, historical biographies still have a lot to teach about what it was like navigating the challenges and events of a distinct historical period.

Find a selection of historical biographies – and autobiographies – of people who have left their mark on the course of history:

Related Summaries in getAbstract’s Library
Image of: Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass’s goals still hold: The US must fix the wrongs that created and feed black inequality.

David W. Blight Simon & Schuster
Image of: Mao


Chinese society made Mao possible. Mao indelibly marked Chinese society. You can`t know one without knowing the other.

Jung Chang and Jon Halliday Knopf Publishing Group
Image of: Long Walk to Freedom

Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela’s candid, heroic life story inspires, informs and instructs

Nelson Mandela Little, Brown & Company
Image of: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin’s classic Revolution-era autobiography is one of America’s first contributions to great literature

Benjamin Franklin Touchstone
Image of: My Life

My Life

Everyone has an opinion on revolutionary icon Fidel Castro. Learn what he thinks about himself and his place in history.

Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet Allen Lane

Ideas never occur in a vacuum. Learn about the life experiences of these intellectuals whose ideas made history:

Related Summaries in getAbstract’s Library
Image of: Goddess of the Market

Goddess of the Market

The political turmoil in the US, particularly on the right, may be rooted in the convictions of Ayn Rand.

Jennifer Burns Oxford University Press (USA)
Image of: Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

You can’t understand America without reading Tocqueville. You can’t understand Tocqueville without reading this book.

Hugh Brogan Profile Books
Image of: Keynes


“In the long run,” said Keynes, “we are all dead.” But can a new wave of Keynesian economics save capitalism, long term?

Robert Skidelsky Public Affairs
Image of: Turing


Alan Turing was a code-breaking genius, artificial intelligence theoretician and belatedly acknowledged father of the computer.

B. Jack Copeland Oxford University Press (USA)
Image of: John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes

The definitive biography of John Maynard Keynes, one of the 20th century’s most pivotal financial figures.

Robert Skidelsky Penguin

Their success in business is legendary – but as these biographies suggest, it was not a walk in the park:

Related Summaries in getAbstract’s Library
Image of: Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Creative genius, disinterested businessman, idealistic visionary, petty manipulator – Walt Disney embodied it all.

Neal Gabler Knopf Publishing Group
Image of: Carnegie


Andrew Carnegie was progressive and controlling, eager for money and philanthropic, a steel baron and an American icon.

Peter Krass Wiley
Image of: High Financier

High Financier

Siegmund Warburg helped rebuild Europe after World War II, changed the course of international finance and built one of the 20th century’s most powerful banking empires.

Niall Ferguson Penguin Group (USA)
Image of: Titan


Superb biography captures the life and psyche of mogul and philanthropist J.D. Rockefeller, a “saint and sinner.”

Ron Chernow Random House
Image of: Commodore


How Cornelius Vanderbilt made one of the world’s great fortunes with sail, steam and rail.

Edward J. Renehan Jr. Basic Books
Image of: Mellon


The secret lives of a famous capitalist, Secretary of the Treasury, philanthropist, art-collector and scandalized cuckold.

David Cannadine Knopf Publishing Group
Image of: Henry and Edsel

Henry and Edsel

Henry Ford was not only the father of Ford Motor Company, he was the father of Edsel. He did better by the company.

Richard Bak Wiley

Political Leaders

Presidential biographies offer a peak behind the public facade of our political leaders. Get to know the human side of past US presidents with these engaging reads:

Related Summaries in getAbstract’s Library
Image of: His Very Best

His Very Best

Jimmy Carter made the world safer, both during and after his underappreciated term as United States president.

Jonathan Alter Simon & Schuster
Image of: When the Center Held

When the Center Held

Gerald Ford gave the United States a center in difficult times.

Donald Rumsfeld Free Press
Image of: Team of Rivals

Team of Rivals

So, who were all those other guys in the movie Lincoln?

Doris Kearns Goodwin Simon & Schuster

Sacramento Bee journalist Dan Morain relates Kamala Harris’s meteoric rise to become the first woman, the first African American and the first Indian American ever to serve as vice-president in this remarkable new biography:

Related Summaries in getAbstract’s Library
Image of: Kamala’s Way

Kamala’s Way

Journalist Dan Morain covers the life and career of Kamala Harris, America’s first female vice president.

Dan Morain Simon & Schuster

The following reads offer a picture of other decisive figures in recent American politics:

Related Summaries in getAbstract’s Library
Image of: The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg

The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg

Journalist Eleanor Randolph explains the extraordinary energy behind Michael Bloomberg’s multifaceted success story.

Eleanor Randolph Simon & Schuster
Image of: The Restless Wave

The Restless Wave

Senator John McCain meditates on a life in politics and the core values that drive him.

John McCain and Mark Salter Simon & Schuster
Image of: Volcker


Paul Volcker’s integrity guided him during tempestuous times at the helm of the Federal Reserve.

William L. Silber Bloomsbury Press
Image of: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

She didn’t set out to be a feminist icon, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s outsized legal stature is undeniable.

Jane Sherron De Hart Knopf Publishing Group
Image of: Audacity


What is Barack Obama’s legacy – and will it endure?

Jonathan Chait Custom House

Remarkable First Ladies

Two recent additions to our library include the life stories of these two widely beloved First Ladies:

Related Summaries in getAbstract’s Library
Image of: Eleanor


Eleanor Roosevelt grew from orphaned girl to first lady to international champion of social justice.

David Michaelis Simon & Schuster
Image of: Becoming


Michelle Obama’s entrancing memoir takes readers from Chicago’s South Shore to the White House.

Michelle Obama Crown Publishing Group


Biographies have a lot to teach us:

  • Life lessons – People often say life is the best teacher. We don’t just learn from our own experiences. Living vicariously through the achievements and failures of people we read about can also be instructive.
  • Perspective – Knowing history helps us see the present with different eyes. We come to appreciate how far we’ve come and how much more work there is to do to create a just and inclusive society.
  • Self-discovery – Putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and contemplating how we would have dealt with the situations and constraints they faced in their lives is a gateway to greater self-awareness – a foundational soft skill.

We invite you to peruse our related summaries and channels.

Share this Story