Beth Reinker, MSLS, Manager, Collection Development Adult Materials
In many libraries, biographies are some of the most popular titles. Why? People love to read stories about others, and biographies and autobiographies are some of the most captivating stories out there. The fact that they are true only makes them more fascinating. Where else can you get an in-depth glimpse at the real lives of athletes, actors, politicians, musicians, well-known business people, supermodels, and everyday people who have experienced extraordinary situations? You can watch a movie or a documentary, but unless there is strong narrative to help you understand what the person is thinking and feeling, you miss a big part of the person’s story. Reading a biography is often equal parts surprising and reassuring—the stories inspire empathy, sadness, laughter, amazement, or disgust. But almost always, they remind us of the similar threads that bind all of us to the human experience.
Who doesn’t love to read a story where the truth is stranger than fiction? I always enjoy learning obscure facts about the lives of people we think we already know. Karen Blumenthal’s Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend brings teens a new look at this well-known duo. Based on extensive research, Blumenthal separates the facts from romanticized myths, giving readers a clear picture of Bonnie and Clyde’s crimes, as well as the reality of life in the Great Depression.
Who knew there was a seedy side (and maybe even a family curse) to the story of the family behind the Jell-O brand? Allie Rowbottom’s Jell-O Girls gives adult readers insight into how a company purchased by her great-great-great uncle for $450 in 1899 ended up selling for an astounding $67 million just two decades later. This unexpected tale takes us through the family’s misfortune, as well as how and why this dessert brand grew to be what it is today.
Still need more convincing about why the biography section is one of the most popular? Look no farther than this 2015 Fast Company article, which contends that successful people read biographies and autobiographies. The article explains how biographies can provide “guidance and inspiration” by sharing the successes and, more importantly, the failures of people we admire.
Adult readers hoping to learn more about the real person behind the fame won’t want to miss Michelle Obama’s Becoming. We’re told that the book focuses less on politics and more on the personal side of her story, giving readers a glimpse of her life from her childhood in Chicago to her experiences as a mother. Mrs. Obama will do an extensive media tour when the book releases following the midterm elections in November, so this is sure to capture patron interest.
Reading biographies also lets us see and learn about the world from different perspectives. That helps us empathize and better understand the experiences of others. Experiencing life from a worldview different from your own through a book can lead to better understanding of other cultures or experiences. Social justice advocate and CNBC contributor Julissa Arce shares her story as an undocumented immigrant in her new memoir for middle grade students. Someone Like Me: How One Undocumented Girl Fought for Her American Dream tells Arce’s story from arriving in Texas to becoming a vice president at Goldman Sachs. Arce’s story helps readers see that the undocumented immigrants discussed on the news are not nameless or faceless. In fact, they are often the people who we encounter in our everyday lives.
Chef José Andrés also shares a different view of the world with his new book about his experiences in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. In We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time, Chef Andrés shares what he saw and learned on the ground in Puerto Rico and how he approached helping the island’s people through the humanitarian crisis that they faced following the devastating hurricane.
Because many publishers are positioning their titles for the holiday buying season, many of the top biographies of the year are published in the Fall season. That makes September and October prime months for biography readers! The Fall publishing season is known for producing a strong list of celebrity memoirs. If that’s your favorite type of memoir, this year doesn’t disappoint. Patrons will want new titles by Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, William Shatner, Gary Busey, Justin Timberlake, and Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame).
For a glimpse into a well-known figure’s family life, try Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, daughter of Steve Jobs. This title is getting huge in-house buzz from Grove Press, and we agree that it’s one to watch. Brennan-Jobs has a unique story to tell, but it’s likely not the one that many would expect. The result is a compelling story told in Brennan-Jobs’ engaging voice.
No matter what your taste, there’s a biography that can suit your interests and mood. Our MLS-degreed librarians have gathered some of the top new biographies and autobiographies so that you won’t miss a thing! Here are some of our favorite new and forthcoming biographies for Adult and Youth collections: << Can't Miss Biographies >>
If you’re an Ingram Library Services customer and want to receive monthly lists, our hand-selected Forthcoming Popular Nonfiction standing order program has your Biography collection covered. Log in to ipage® and sign up to receive a monthly lists of nonfiction titles for all Deweys or just specific categories.
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