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Reading has always been an important part of my life and learning, but while I used to read a ton of fiction, over the past few years I’ve switched to reading nonfiction almost exclusively. Novels hardly hold my attention anymore. I’ve come to really appreciate how biographies give you a picture of the lives of actual people throughout history. So, while it’s only been a few weeks since I’ve shared some recommended reading, I wanted to dedicate an entire post to some “must read” biographies. So here it goes:
1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
This is one of my favorite books from the past few years. It’s the incredible story of Louis Zamperini, a troubled young boy turned Olympian turned WWII POW. It’s very detailed but reads much more like a novel than a biography. I was also a fan of the movie, but the book goes into much more detail. The movie ends after the war, while the book covers Zamperini’s transition back into life after war. I think this section of the book is especially relevant to current military families. It gives a very realistic look at life after trauma and concludes the book on a redemptive note.
“I’d made it this far and refused to give up because all my life I had always finished the race.” ― Louis Zamperini
2. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Another biography that inspired a recent movie. Yes, I admit, I’m backward and often decide to read the book because I liked the movie, not the other way around. Hidden Figures is a fantastic story about the black women mathematicians behind the space race. It follows four women from their childhood, time in college, family life, and career. It gives a very honest and unique perspective on the space race, segregation, and some of America’s truly great “Hidden Figures.”
“What I could, I changed; what I couldn’t, I endured.” ― Dorothy Vaughn
3. Jesus Freaks: Martyrs: Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus: The Ultimate Jesus Freaks by D.C. Talk and Voice of the Martyrs
This book and its sequel are two of the most inspiring and heartbreaking books I’ve ever read. They are filled with hundreds of short accounts of Christian martyrs throughout history. Many of the stories are only a page long, so it is easy to read. Even if you’re not a big reader, you can just read one story a day and it will be well worth your time. I really believe that this is a book every Christian should read because it gives such an important account of Christian history that is hard to find elsewhere.
“Heroes. Brave men and women who lay down their lives for someone else… Our culture understands heroism. But we don’t understand martyrs.” ― D.C. Talk
4. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi
This autobiography goes into great detail about how and why Nabeel Quereshi converted from Islam to Christianity. It is filled with apologetics from both religions and gives insight into the faith of a devout Muslim. It really helped me to put myself in the shoes of someone outside of the Christian faith and gain a new perspective on Islam. Nabeel’s story is so inspiring and is a great resource, both for Christians and for those wanting to learn more about the distinct differences between Christianity and Islam.
“The gospel is not just an answer that works; it is the only answer that will work.” ― Nabeel Qureshi
5. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
This autobiography tells the story of a Christian Dutch family during World War II. The Ten Boom family goes to incredible lengths to provide safety for their Jewish friends. The book is filled with deep insights from Corrie Ten Boom about her upbringing and faith and how they played out together in her life during the war. The story if the Ten Booms is inspiring and convicting. I would highly recommend this book to all Christians.
“When He (God) tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command the love itself.” ― Corrie Ten Boom
6. Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows by Ravi Zacharias
I love listening to Ravi Zacharias speak, so I was very interested to read about his life. The ongoing theme of the book has to do with his transition from living in an Eastern culture to a Western one. Ravi Zacharias is a philosopher, so he never fails to provide deep meaning to ordinary observations. The book discusses how daily life is different between the two cultures. But more importantly, how they each provide totally different ways of thinking and understanding the world. This book really helped me to understand how our culture shapes our worldview and why this is important from a Christian standpoint.
“For the first time, I felt my mind being stretched — and I loved it. I realized that thinking could be fun, and with that simple realization I was sent headlong into the lifelong discipline of reading.” ― Ravi Zacharias
7. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxes
So I haven’t finished this one yet, but it’s been on my reading list for years so I’m excited to finally be reading it. It’s a pretty hefty book but it is very detailed and obviously well-researched. It follows the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and theologian in Germany during the Nazi’s ascent to power. He was outspokenly against the Nazi regime from the beginning and eventually became involved in an assassination plot against Hitler.
The book includes quotes, personal letters, and writings from Bonhoeffer, as well as some from his family and friends which helps to paint a holistic picture of his life.
Like I said, this has been on my reading list for a while, so I was familiar with the life of Deitrich Bonhoeffer, but that familiarity doesn’t begin to compare with the detailed information that the book contains. It is well worth the read for the history, theology, and philosophy that it provides.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
What biographies would you add to this list? I’d love to hear what you all are reading!
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