Biographies – Lessons In Life

I have been a voracious reader ever since I can remember. I had the blessing of growing up in a household that had several thousand Science Fiction & Fantasy books and a father who introduced me to the love of reading.

I have read literally a ton of books in my life that cover pretty much every genre/category you can think of from fantasy to mystery to self-improvement to romance. In all that time there has only been one category of book that I have shied away from…biographies.

For whatever reason I had this impression in my mind that biographies were dull and boring and what could I really learn from somebody’s life that was long since dead and grew up in another country and in another time?

Thankfully, I finally gave a biography a shot based on a recommendation in a self-improvement book actually. The first biography I read just recently is called “George Washington Carver: the man who overcame” by Lawrence Elliott and I have to say I am completely hooked!

Just like basically every other American child, I learned about George Washington Carver in school but couldn’t recall a single thing about his life when thinking about him.
To say he was truly amazing is not doing justice to what he did with his life. Inventor, agriculturalist, botanist, activist (reluctantly), teacher, mentor, friend to farmers, friend to the poor, friend to presidents are just a few of the “hats” he wore during his long and illustrious stay on this planet.

Just in agriculture he contributed more than three hundred different products derived from the peanut, some one hundred from sweet potatoes, about seventy-five from pecans, and many more including crop rotation.

He was born in Missouri in 1864 to a slave and was sick from the very beginning. He survived the death of his father before he was even born, the death of his mother when he was just an infant, his adoptive family didn’t know if he would survive his first winter. he wasn’t strong enough to work outside in the fields so he was put to work “doing women’s work” such as cooking, cleaning and sewing.

He didn’t start his formal education until he was 12, was turned away from many schools due to the color of his skin and many times had to move from place to place so he could work to gather enough money to continue his schooling. He finally started his college career at 26 years old!

Through the years he was blessed by many loving and caring people who kept him going when things got tough, they helped him to keep the fire burning in his heart and wouldn’t let him even think about quitting. These kind hearted souls, not one of which was related to him, helped him become the person he ultimately was to become.

He was invited to become part of the faculty of Tuskegee Institute by Booker T. Washington in 1897 and stayed there until he passed away in 1943. It was at Tuskegee that he worked with students, faculty, local farmers and whoever would listen to him to create all the applications of peanuts, pecans and sweet potatoes.

So needless to say I really enjoyed the biography on George Washington Carver and highly recommend it to anybody that doesn’t know much about the major and significant contributions he gave us.

More importantly, I am now hooked on biographies and am currently devouring the biography of Will Rogers. It is incredible what you can learn from reading a good biography. I found a blog post that talks about this very thing…here is the quick synopsis of the reasons why Rick over at ricklibrarian enjoys a good biography:

Reason 1: To discover fascinating people.
Reason 2: To rediscover people we think we know well.
Reason 3: To reassess infamous characters.
Reason 4: To get the story behind legendary characters.
Reason 5: To get the dirt. (A nod to David)
Reason 6: To find a hero, warts and all. (A nod to Kaite)
Reason 7: To learn history through the life of an individual.
Reason 8: To experience adventure from the safety of one’s armchair.
Reason 9: To celebrate one’s culture.
Reason 10: To enjoy a good book.

Here is a link to the full post with lots of great comments for each reason as well as biographies to read: http://ricklibrarian.blogspot.com/2009/06/reasons-to-read-biography.html

Until next time…
Eric

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