Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reading Biographies

I do a lot of reading and I make sure I read some non-fiction, you know, to expand my mind.  But my favorite genres are novels and biographies/auto-biographies.  Biographical literature is almost as good as novels are.  Sometimes the stories are almost unbelievable and it's always inspiring to see what people overcome.  Christian biographies are especially good as they often show what can be done with a life completely obedient to Christ.  Many of the biographies I read are just about ordinary people who haven't done anything spectacular....at least not according to them.


One of the auto-biographies I read recently was called The Strength to Stand; My Cancer, My Blessing by David Adams.  David was just an ordinary guy working at a restaurant when he started having migraines that would last for days and that would end up making him pass out and he would have tingling down one side of his body.  He was diagnosed with brain cancer.  This is a simple story in a sense....he's just an ordinary guy and he didn't do anything spectacular....other than go through treatments for cancer, which is pretty rough.  He shares openly about how his family had problems relating with each other and how God used his cancer to bring some healing to the family.  Mostly he just shares honestly about his struggles and how God used him to bless so many hospital staff he met along the way.

The second auto-biography I read was Just One SIM-Air Story by Rich Schaffer.  When I was a kid in Nigeria we flew to and from boarding school on SIMAIR, so this book was very nostalgic for me.  Rich does a great job of describing the Nigerian landscape, the storms, some of the challenges of flying during the Biafran War, and his thoughts of life in Niger where he sometimes flew.  Anybody who had ever been in Nigeria and flew SIMAIR would probably enjoy this book.  The problem with it (and with many self-published books) is that it could have used more editing.  Parts of it are really long and maybe interesting to pilots, but a bit technical for the rest of us.  

The third book, which I'm currently reading, is probably not classified as a biography.  It is Ben Carson's book entitled America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made this Nation Great.  The parts of the book that I enjoy the most are the parts where Dr. Carson tells about his life.  He grew up in poverty in Detroit.  His dad had left when he was about five and his mom worked two to three jobs at a time to care for him and his brother.  They often only saw her on weekends.  By 5th grade he was failing school, was classified as the class dummy, and was well on his way to being a failure. As he began failing in school, his self-esteem plummeted, too. His mother was terrified that he and his brother would be stuck in poverty for the rest of their lives.    She prayed for wisdom and came up with the idea of turning off the television and making the boys read two books from the public library every week.  They then had to write book reports.  She had a third grade education and could barely read herself, but the boys didn't know that.

Dr. Carson says, "...in the beginning I sure hated reading those books.  After a while, however, I actually began to look forward to them, because they afforded me a fantastic escape from our everyday poverty and sense of hopelessness.  There in the city, books about nature captivated me.  First I read Chip, The Dam Builder, then other animal stories over the years up to Jack London's Call of the Wild as my reading ability increased.  I began to imagine myself as a great explorer or scientist or doctor.  I learned things no one else around me knew.  Every single day my knowledge of our world expanded, which excited me to no end.  And since I was constantly reading, I became a much better speller and started becoming competitive in the spelling bees.
     "Once I started believing I was smart, I really didn't care that much about what anybody else thought about me, and I became consumed with a desire to increase my learning far beyond that of my classmates.  The more I read biographies about those who had made significant accomplishments in life, the more I wanted to emulate them.  By the time I reached the seventh grade, I reveled in the fact that the same classmates who used to taunt me were now coming to me, asking how to solve problems or spell words.  Once the joy of learning filled my heart, there was no stopping me."

Isn't that awesome?  I'm sure we can all come up with examples of people who have made something of themselves who don't really read, but I'm guessing there are more examples that prove Dr. Carson's point that reading is important if you want to get ahead in life.

Have you read any good biographies lately?

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