(the above image is used courtesy of Thomas Baker, Thomas Baker Oil Painting)
The biography section contains twenty-six autobiographies, listed in chronological order:
1. Augustine - The Confessions
2. Margery Kempe - The Book of Margery Kempe
3. Michel De Montaigne - Essays
4. Teresa of Àvila - The Life of Saint Teresa of Àvila by Herself
5. René Descartes - Meditations
6. John Bunyan - Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
7. Mary Rowlandson - The Narrative of the Captivity and
8. Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Confessions
9. Benjamin Franklin - The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
10. Henry David Thoreau - Walden
11. Harriet Jacobs - Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written
12. Frederick Douglass - Life and times of Frederick Douglass
13. Booker T. Washington - Up from Slavery
14. Friedrich Nietzsche - Ecce Homo
15. Adolf Hitler - Mein Kampf
16. Mohandas Gandhi - An Autobiography: The Story of My
Experiments with Truth
17. Gertrude Stein - The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
18. Thomas Merton - The Seven Storey Mountain
19. C.S. Lewis - Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
20. Malcolm X - The Autobiography of Malcolm X
21. May Sarton - Journal of a Solitude
22. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn - The Gulag Archipelago
23. Charles W. Colson - Born Again
24. Richard Rodriguez - Hunger of Memory: The Education of
25. Jill Ker Conway - The Road from Coorain
26. Elie Wiesel - All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs
From the list I've already read, The Seven Storey Mountain, thanks to my Classics Club Spin, Augustine's Confessions, and from my C.S. Lewis Project, I will have read Surprised by Joy, when we get to it. As for what I'm looking forward to, probably Montaigne's Essays, the Gulag Archipelago and Mein Kampf top the list, yet I must admit autobiographies are not a genre with which I'm widely familiar, so I'm a little hesitant as well. Gertrude Stein and Malcolm X are perhaps the biographies I feel the most "meh" about, but with this list and my lack of exposure, I fully expect I will be pleasantly surprised with at least two books that I am less than enthusiastic about reading. We'll see when we complete the list.
Ruth has listed some questions on A Great Book Study that will help us as we read, and I am going to post them here for easy access:
During the first stage of reading (find out what happened):
What are the central events in the writer's life?
What historical events coincide-or merge-with these personal events?
Who is the most important person (or people) in the writer's life?
What events form the outline of the story?
In the second stage of reading:
What is the theme that ties the narrative together?
What is the life's turning point? Is there a conversation?
For what does the writer apologize? In apologizing, how does the writer justify?
What is the model-the ideal-for this person's life?
What is the end of the life: the place where the writer has arrived, found closure, discovered rest?
Now revisit your first question: What is the theme of this writer's life?
In the final stage of reading:
Is the writer writing for himself, or for a group?
What are the three moments, or time frames, of the autobiography?
Where does the writer's judgment lie?
Do you reach a different conclusion from the writer about the pattern of his life?
Do you agree with what the writer has done?
What have you brought away from this story?
I was a little surprised at the last question in the second stage of reading: "What is the theme of the writer's life." I've always been familiar with books having themes, but not lives. Has anyone ever asked themselves, "What is the theme of my life?" A fascinating question. I wonder if we viewed our lives as having themes, would we choose to live them differently or live them "better"? I wonder ……
In any case, I'm excited to start this project and I anticipate it will inspire me on to deeper and more thoughtful reading. Please join us for the project, or even a book or two, if you feel so inclined. We begin June 1st.