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Robert Fergusson’s 12 Favourite Biographies

May 19 2017

Perhaps the most enjoyable and fruitful genres of book I read are biographies. They are clearly not theoretical books but relate how ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, people grapple with faith, overcome challenges, forge relationships and live with the normal routines of life.

As Peter Ackroyd writes in Shakespeare: The Biography, “The apparent ordinariness of extraordinary men and women is one of the last great taboos of biographical writing. It would not do to admit that nineteen-twentieths of a life, however great or enchanted, is plain and unexciting and not to be distinguished from the life of anyone else.

It is this combination of the miraculous and the mundane that is fascinating. These are a few that I have found helpful. In some cases I have been instructed and inspired by the whole book. In other cases it has just been a chapter or even one thought. Some are written by Christians, others are not. They are not listed in any particular order.

All is Grace by Brennan Manning

A ruthlessly honest book on grace and the life of the priest and author Brennan Manning.

The Great Reformer by Austen Ivereigh

A brilliant and inspiring account of the preparation, faith and life of Pope Francis.

James Hudson Taylor by Dr and Mrs Howard Taylor

A classic story about a 19th Century missionary who changed China for the good.

Nelson Mandela – A Biography by Martin Meredith

A well-written biography of a great leader who changed his nation and the world.

 I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish

An important book about a Palestinian doctor and the pain and conflict in Israel.

The Happiest Refugee by Ahn Do

A poignant and funny book about a Vietnamese refugee who becomes a comedian.

Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi

A revealing book about conformity, eating disorders and the life of an actress.

Or I’ll Dress You In Mourning by Larry Collins & Dominique LaPierre

A beautiful and inspiring story of the life of a bullfighter in Franco’s Spain.

Shackleton by Roland Huntford

An award winning biography about the life and leadership of an Antarctic explorer.

Bruchko by Bruce Olson

A compelling story of the fruit and sacrifice of mission work among the Motilone Indians.

John Newton by Jonathan Aitken

A moving account of grace revealed in the life of a slave-trader and song writer.

Living a Life of Fire by Reinhard Bonnke

A great autobiography about the life and ministry of one of the world’s great evangelists.


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