When you ask a friend what they're reading, do you ever watch embarrassment creep across their face? If that's a familiar scenario, you probably know what your friend is going to be embarrassed by: reading a novel or a book that's gotten wildly — and maybe undeservedly — popular, especially when more substantive titles are on their shelf. You know what your friend's not going to say she's embarrassed by? A long-ass biography.
You know the kind of book I'm talking about: it's too big to carry around with you because it would put a ridiculous strain on your tote. It's a book you need two hands to hold open, two bookmarks to help you forge your way through corresponding chapters and end notes. The sort of book where you have to brush off a few pieces of US or World History lest you've forgotten that the Battle of Normandy was waged in 1944. In other words, a long-ass biography is the sort of book that makes you feel like all kinds of a good human.
Fortunately, despite the heavy lifting involved in reading a long-ass biography, this is the sort of book that will leave you as satisfied as your favorite romance or fantasy series. A biography, after all, tells the story of a life, and what can be more satisfying than, in one book, arriving at total closure?
Looking to get learning about people from the past? Check out these six monoliths.
1'Georgiana: Duchess Of Devonshire' by Amanda Foreman
If you love celebrity gossip, bone up on its historical precedent. As Patricia T. O'Conner writes in the The New York Times, "Stardom comes cheap in the digital age, but in 18th-century England, when the ''media'' were mostly ink-stained broadsheets and fame really meant something, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806), was a bona fide celebrity, a force to be reckoned with in politics as well as society. Everything she did, said and wore became news, and the tattletale press claimed the only man in England not in love with her was the duke." In 456 pages, you'll fall in love with Georgiana, too.
2'John Adams' by David McCullough
This 751-page Pulitzer winner will convert you to an 18th-century history buff.
3'Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire' by Julia Baird
The Queen who changed England managed to escape eight assassination attempts. That's one every 94 pages in this 752 page companion to the PBS Masterpiece series.
4'The Last Lion (Volumes 1-3)' by William Manchester
At 3008 pages, The Last Lion may be one of the longest biographies in existence — but it's also as compelling as Game of Thrones.
5'The Diary Of Anaïs Nin' edited by Gunther Stuhlmann
So, diaries aren't really biographies, but too often Nin's work is neglected. There are least 1285 pages to read from this multitalented master, and if you love learning the inside story of literary culture, you'll devour her recollections, which feature such characters as Henry Miller and his wife, June.