Sunday, April 21, 2013


If you are ever talking to someone who is super old, but you aren’t sure if they are super old, just ask them if they enjoy reading.  If they say “no, I only enjoy biographies,” then chances are very good that they are at least sixty years old.  If they reply that they only enjoy biographies about war generals, then they are at least ninety.  (And thank you for your service!) 

I enjoy reading the occasional biography.  There are basically two types: biographies about really good people, and biographies about really bad people. 
Examples of good people:
  • business leaders / CEOs
  • inventors
  • doctors
  • sports athletes (preferably really successful ones who then have a substance-abuse or drinking problem)
  • rock stars (preferably really successful ones who then have a substance abuse problem—which is pretty much every single one of them)
  • military leaders

We read these biographies because we want to know what it is like to shoot the winning basket, make a ton of money, or sleep with the supermodel. 

Examples of bad people:
  • murderers
  • multiple-murderers
  • some guy who kills ALOT of people
  • sports athletes—who kill people
  • military leaders (if their side lost the war)
Here is my major complaint about biographies: they are very formulaic.  You can pretty much just grab a biography template and fill in the blanks.   

Every biography opens with the exciting part that we actually want to read about.  The sports guy is sitting in the parking lot thinking about driving his car off a cliff, or the rock star is in the hospital on life support and the doctor is screaming for a needle—a needle containing life SAVING drugs?  What a twist!  And we are only on page two! 

Then, unfortunately, the next part is the really boring sixty pages of the book where we jump BACK in time and start with the potato famine of the 17th century or some European plague.  Amidst all of this medieval-time boring stuff, a great-grandfather emerges.  Then we have to sit through the great-grandfather courting the great-grandmother.  Did you know that Hans Blichtenzing sat outside the Belgium cheese factory all summer in 1856 in order to ask Mary Ann Vleoptara for her hand in marriage?  We don’t care!  We are begging the author at this point—please fast forward two centuries to get to the guitar player who is shooting heroin already.

The best biographies are the “unauthorized” biographies.  This is because it speaks to the real reason that we are reading the book in the first place—we want some dirt!  Autobiographies can be super boring, because the person writing the book isn’t going to admit to the uncool things that they have done in the past.  Sure, they will admit to shooting the drugs, bopping the girls and making the money, but they aren’t going to readily admit to one thing—being a dummy.  They won’t complain about some accountant ripping them off or worse, being lazy.  They will only do this if it makes them look cool.  Example of uncool lazy: Hans took the summer off to eat cake instead of bodybuilding, and as a result, he lost the big Mr. Wonderful championship.  Yeah... not going to happen.  Instead, it is written that Hans was screwed over because of corrupt judges.  Poor Hans! 

Example of cool laziness: rock star is too lazy to write a new album—because of all the naked ladies running around his mansion!  That lazy bum.  We can’t stay mad at lazy guy.  He’s only human, and he’s a great guy!  At least according to his autobiography.