‘The Life of Samuel Johnson’
Although it was published in 1791, this book, written by Scottish biographer James Boswell, remains the standard for modern biographies. In fact, some critics consider it to be the greatest biography ever written. Johnson, a poet, essayist, biographer, and lexicographer, is best known for publishing A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755—widely considered one of the best dictionaries every published. Although not much is known about Johnson’s early life, this biography showcases the rise of Johnson’s tremendous career, and details his ability to overcome adversity, including his struggles with anxiety, hearing loss, partial blindness, and behavioral tics, which were diagnosed posthumously as Tourette’s syndrome.
‘Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln’
This 2005 biography by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles the life of America’s 16th president, as well as four members of his cabinet who served with him from 1861 to 1865. Critics consider this book, which won the 2006 Lincoln Prize, one of the most insightful and readable portraits of Lincoln because it focuses on personalities, not politics—namely, how Lincoln managed to build relationships with some of his former rivals. Pick up one of these other 20 books you really should have read by now.