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A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver Paperback – April 30, 2013
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In this intimate portrait of an extraordinary father–son relationship, Mark K. Shriver discovers the moral principles that guided his legendary father and applies them to his own life When Sargent "Sarge" Shriver―founder of the Peace Corps and architect of President Johnson's War on Poverty―died in 2011 after a valiant fight with Alzheimer's, thousands of tributes poured in from friends and strangers worldwide. These tributes, which extolled the daily kindness and humanity of "a good man," moved his son Mark far more than those who lauded Sarge for his big-stage, headline-making accomplishments. After a lifetime searching for the path to his father's success in the public arena, Mark instead turns to a search for the secret of his father's joy, his devotion to others, and his sense of purpose. Mark discovers notes and letters from Sarge; hears personal stories from friends and family that zero in on the three guiding principles of Sarge's life―faith, hope, and love―and recounts moments with Sarge that now take on new value and poignancy. In the process, Mark discovers much about himself, as a father, as a husband, and as a social justice advocate. A Good Man is an inspirational and deeply personal story about a son discovering the true meaning of his father's legacy.
- Print length 304 pages
- Language English
- Publication date April 30, 2013
- Dimensions 5.57 x 0.8 x 8.18 inches
- ISBN-10 9781250031440
- ISBN-13 978-1250031440
- See all details
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“Since most people are happiest doing what they are good at, it's no wonder that Sargent Shriver was always smiling. He was good in every role he filled--husband, father, friend, public servant, and visionary. And he was as inspiring as they come. Mark's poignant tribute captures the idealism and exuberance that made us all love Sarge, and reminds us to find pleasure in the simple act of living.” ― Former President Bill Clinton “This tender, endearing memoir is a moving portrait of a son's struggle to deal with the gradual disappearance of a beloved father through the progressive stages of Alzheimer's. It is a praiseworthy book.” ― Doris Kearns Goodwin “This is a deeply touching story of a famous family and the private joys and trials that came with it. Mark's love letter to his Dad is one we can all learn from.” ― Tom Brokaw “As founder of the Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver had the genius to change lives, mine included. With this powerful book, his son Mark shows a great man can also be a good man. What a joy to read about Sarge, the father. In a real way, he was father to everyone who ever served in the Peace Corps.” ― Chris Matthews “What a lovely book this is. It's funny and sad and inspiring without being insipid. Why was it, this loving son wanted to know, that everyone described his highly accomplished father, Sarge Shriver, as a ‘good man'? In the middle of the active and ambitious Kennedy and Shriver families, Mark Shriver comes to understand his father's faith in God's love anchored him and allowed him to do all that he did so well, including dealing with his own Alzheimer's. In getting to know his father better even after his death, Shriver learns some lessons useful to all of us.” ― Cokie Roberts, author of We Are Our Mothers' Daughters “In A Good Man , Mark Shriver gives a rich personal account of growing up with a father whose boundless optimism and life of public service made a profound difference for millions of people. Read it and come away, like Mark, reenergized and re-inspired to follow Sargent Shriver's extraordinary example.” ― Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund “Asking around, in order to write about Sarge Shriver, I could find no one with a bad word to say about him. This book tells why. The mystery of goodness is deeper than the mystery of evil.” ― Garry Wills
About the Author
Mark K. Shriver is the senior vice president of U.S. Programs at Save the Children in Washington, D.C., and a former Maryland state legislator. Shriver also started the Choice Program and served on the coalition to create the National Commission on Children and Disasters following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. He lives with his wife and three children in Maryland.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
I was anxious and my heart was pounding as Dad and I drove east on Route 50 toward the Chesapeake Bay. We were running late—not unheard of in my family but unacceptable to the hunting guides of Maryland's Eastern Shore, who always insisted on a predawn rendezvous. Dad was doing his best to make up for lost time by obliterating the speed limit, but we were still behind. As we slowed to pay the toll, I could feel the cool autumn air and already see the streaks of sunrise on the horizon—and we still had forty minutes to go.
These hunting trips were a ritual for us, but my postcollege life—a new job, new commitments, maybe even new priorities—was starting to disrupt the regularity of our father-son reunions. And as the hum from the tires changed pitch when we began to cross the giant steel bridge that traverses the Chesapeake, I grew more irritated with Dad.
He knew that I was working grueling hours at a nonprofit I'd started in Baltimore and that it was hard for me to get away from those responsibilities. And as a lifelong hunter and Marylander, he knew the birds started moving early, and was well aware of the guides' protocol. Nonetheless, he'd been close to a half hour late.
We ascended the bridge's incline in silence, I quietly stewing and Dad lost in his own thoughts. By the time we got to the midway point of the four-mile-long steel structure, the full expanse of the choppy bay below and the low-lying shore ahead were beginning to be illuminated by the morning sun.
The birds will already be flying, I thought to myself. I was growing more annoyed just as Dad, staring out at the same daybreak, suddenly broke the silence, his thoughts far from that day's hunt. "Look at that!" he cried, awestruck. "I can't wait to meet God. I can't wait to meet the Creator who made such a beautiful sunrise!"
Staring out the side window I mumbled a sarcastic response: "Yeah, it's beautiful, Dad. Thanks for pointing it out."
Moments later, as we reached the final expanse of the bridge, it felt as if we were driving straight into the rising sun, massive and reddish yellow over the Eastern Shore, waiting to swallow us up at the end of our crossing.
I looked over at Dad, his face awash in the bright light. He was staring straight into the sun in a state of awe, eyes wide and unblinking. I could tell he was repeating to himself over and over what he'd just exclaimed aloud: I can't wait to meet the Creator who made such a beautiful sunrise... I can't wait to meet God...
We finally made it to the ragged cornfield, a bit behind schedule but not so late as to cause any real problems. Dad was in a typically buoyant mood all morning. He chatted incessantly with our two guides in the goose blind, asking about their lives and families and cracking jokes and becoming fast friends in no time, as only he could. And when the geese finally came in close, he couldn't contain his excitement, and he whooped and cheered us on—causing the first gaggle we saw to reverse course and fly off to safety.
Our attempts to get him to shush fell on deaf ears. He kept talking and laughing, at one point breaking out a Snickers bar, taking a hearty bite, and sincerely reacting as if it were a rare delicacy. "This is absolutely terrific!" he half-whispered. "Who wants to try a bite?!" Our guides shook with laughter, which only made his smile broader.
Somehow we managed, despite Dad's antics, to get a few geese that morning. I don't think Dad pulled the trigger once, though, preferring instead to watch and congratulate everyone else with a slap on the back. "My God!" he'd shout. "What a fantastic shot! You are a magnificent waterfowl hunter!" His mood was contagious, and everyone—me included—had a wonderful time.
But I was still anxious. No longer because of his late arrival but because of a contradiction I'd never been able to figure out about my father, one that had been demonstrated to me so starkly in the span of a few hours. His infectious cheer that morning stood in glaring contrast to his startling comment on the bridge earlier: "I can't wait to meet God." I knew Dad's faith was unshakable, that he went to daily Mass without fail, and that his great loves in life were God and my mom. But how could someone so full of life be so ready for death? Not fearful of it but almost longing for it? How could he, quite literally, be excited to die?
He was seventy-three, but you'd never know it. He possessed the energy of a teenager, he looked half his age, and his remarkably full and active life had shown no sign of slowing down. As he had throughout so much of his life, he was getting important things done—still traveling the world, meeting prime ministers and presidents, working tirelessly and effectively to open the doors of freedom and opportunity for people who had historically been denied those things. He was constantly surrounded by his children and their growing families, he was more helplessly in love with his wife of thirty-five years than ever before, and everywhere he went he saw old friends and made new ones. He had his health, financial security, and, at this point in his life, the freedom and ability to do whatever he chose.
And yet he could stare into the sun and tell his fourth-born child that he couldn't wait to leave it all behind. I simply couldn't balance the two extremes: why was my dad, a guy so filled with vitality, looking forward to his own death?
Fast-forward twenty-two years. My mom, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, had died a year earlier, on August 11, 2009, and my dad was engaged in a heroic but losing battle with Alzheimer's. His doctor had told my siblings and me that, at ninety-four, Dad would probably not live more than another twelve to eighteen months. When we related this to Dad's lawyer, Bob Corcoran, he reminded us that, some thirty years earlier, Dad had written a letter that he'd asked Bob to hold until his death. We thought that, given all the decisions that had had to be made in a tight time frame after Mom's death, we should know whether Dad had left specific instructions about his wake, funeral, burial site, and so on.
So in August 2010, Bob sent us the letter, which landed at the family home in Hyannis Port like a stealth rocket amid the chaos of five children, four in-laws, nineteen grandchildren, and Dad himself. Everyone was running in different directions, playing tennis and baseball and sailing.
I noticed an open FedEx envelope on the counter and asked my brother Timmy whether the letter was in it. He said yes, that he'd opened it and read it, then left it for the others. I read it, quickly, and was moved by its beauty and thoughtfulness, but shortly after I finished, my kids pulled me away. I set the letter aside, determined to go back to it in more serene moments. That serenity never came.
Three months later, Dad celebrated his ninety-fifth birthday in style. We had a party for him at our house. Grandkids ran all around and took turns sitting on Dad's lap. We laughed and sang. Dad smiled and shouted out a few words of joy. He opened his presents and gobbled up his cake and ice cream. It was a great night, but he was clearly slipping. The letter crossed my mind—I have to find a quiet time to really read it, I thought.
The rest of November and December were jam-packed with Thanksgiving and Christmas and family visits. Work was as crazy as ever—I was running Save the Children's U.S. Programs and on the road at least two days a week, pitching prospective donors, lobbying state and federal elected officials, and seeing the kids in our programs. My own kids' sporting events consumed the weekend—we were busy doing everything we could to keep up with the Joneses.
Even though Dad lived less than three miles from us, I didn't see him as much as I wanted to, or should have, because, well, life with three kids and a wife, a job requiring lots of travel, and other commitments spread me too thin. And there was, of course, Alzheimer's. For almost ten years I'd been in charge of Dad's finances and medical care. Each small step in his decline became another devastation for me, from taking away his car keys to hiring an assistant and then full-time providers; from explaining Mom's death to him to moving him out of their home. Our visits together could still be enchanting, especially when my kids were with me, but it was painful to see the brightest, most inquisitive, most joyful person I knew struggle to piece together short sentences. When Dad smiled and told the kids or me that he loved us or that we were wonderful, it made me happy—but it also made me miss him even more.
So, in early January, as I packed for a flight to Los Angeles for a Save the Children event, I remembered to take the letter with me. Dad's doctor, on our last call, had made it pretty clear that Dad was not going to live to see ninety-six. He had just reentered the hospital for the second time in a month. I didn't think he was going to die in the next few days, but I wanted to read the letter again and jot down a few thoughts in case I had to give a eulogy.
I had a window seat, and as the plane took off from Dulles International Airport, we headed east, toward the Chesapeake Bay. I realized the pilot was following air traffic control's direction before banking south and then heading west. But he sure seemed to be taking his time doing it.
Then I looked out the window, and the memory smacked me in the face. There was the Bay Bridge, there was the hearty, glowing sun, and there were Dad and I driving that morning so many years ago.
I pulled out the letter and started to read. Maybe it was because I knew his death was so imminent, or maybe it was sitting alone in an airplane away from my family; whatever it was, the letter overwhelmed me. He had written it in 1979, at the age of sixty-four. Why would a man so relatively young and vigorous be thinking about death—telling us the mechanics of his burial, his intended preparations in heaven for Mom and even for our eventual arrivals there, his eternal love for Mom and each of us? He was thinking about these things a decade before our Bay Bridge crossing. Why would he write such a note, drenched with mortality, to his wife and five children? He'd added a P.S. to the letter in 1987, at the age of seventy-two, and said that he was still in agreement with everything he had written earlier.
I pulled out a pad and started to write. I wanted to put some thoughts on paper about my father, his eventful life, and his commitment to public service. I wanted to somehow convey who I thought he was, not just as a public man but, more importantly, as a father, husband, and friend.
Four days later, I received the long-dreaded call from Timmy—Dad was slipping, and it was a matter of days. I had to return home from California immediately if I wanted to see him before he died.
The days leading up to his death were filled with Rosaries and Masses by his bedside, with final good-byes by all of the kids, grandkids, and in-laws. My siblings—the oldest, Bobby; my older sister and brother, Maria and Timmy; and my younger brother, Anthony—and I spent time together and started planning the wake and funeral.
The busyness of funeral planning, I hoped, would keep me from my grief for the time being. But the process itself became an education that would change my life. From encounters and discoveries over the next few days, I began to get the sense that Dad really wasn't who I thought he was—that he was far more complex and intriguing. I began to realize that the circumstances of the last ten years—including my congressional race and all the details of tending to Dad as he struggled with Alzheimer's—had kept me from exploring, let alone understanding, my father's insistent joy, powerful faith, generous spirit, and hopeful view of life.
I'd lost track of who he was, what he'd done, and what he'd said and written. He wrote me a letter almost every day of my adult life, many by hand, most typed. Some I read quickly; some I put in a file to be read later and never got back to. I had not mined all this material, which could have enriched my own outlook on life. His life was a treasure trove of moral examples and ethical inspiration, but in my hustle and bustle, I had failed to identify this spiritual guide living right before my eyes. Straying into the dark woods of ambition and self-involvement, I was losing track of the principles that defined his every day.
The letter had shaken me out of this ten-year fog—and other experiences were now following furiously.
I was tasked with picking the coffin. Dad had made this job easier for me per the directions in his final letter—he wanted to be buried in a sack, like the Trappist monks he so admired.
When I tried to satisfy this request, I learned that the government prohibited such interment for public health reasons, but I did find that Trappist monks in Iowa were building coffins. I studied the website and chose a walnut box, finely crafted but simple. I phoned the monks to go over the details; a little while later, the director called me back and told me that he had met Dad once and would do whatever I asked. He said that it would be an honor to help because Dad was such a "good man."
Over the coming days, I heard that phrase time and again. That old cliché—"a good man"—suddenly became confounding to me. I heard it so often during the days before the funeral that it passed from a cliché to an irritant to a haunting refrain.
The phrase had been used by the Bush administration to describe Michael Brown, the head of FEMA during Hurricane Katrina, and Russian president Vladimir Putin. It had grown stale, like an old cowboy line in a spaghetti western on insomniac television.
I had lost count of the people who had applied it to Dad when they'd reached out to me. At first, I thought that the cliché was just an easy out, words for people who didn't know what else to say.
But then I realized that they were taking the phrase back. Through their repetition, if not their realization, they were redeeming words that I thought had been put out to linguistic pasture.
Some of the more startling instances came back to me as I knelt in the dark beside Dad's coffin on the morning of the funeral. A prominent U.S. senator who knew Dad well, yet obviously didn't know him as well as he thought he had, told me, "I knew your dad had done a lot, but he did much more than I had known. He was a good, good man."
Ms. Wilson and Ms. Williams, both of whom waited in the wake line at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown for forty-five minutes told me that they were waitresses at Reeves Restaurant, Dad's regular lunch spot across from his office. And before that, Ms. Wilson had waited on him at the Hot Shoppes in Bethesda for thirty-five years. They wanted to tell me that they had never met a more polite, thoughtful man in their forty years of work. "He was such a good man," they said simultaneously.
I will never forget the rumble of the garbage truck outside my house on the day of the wake and seeing Calvin, the trash collector, standing in our driveway, trying to decide whether to walk up to the front door and knock. I made it easy for him; I was on the lawn and went toward him. He had tears in his eyes. He took off his dirty gloves, wiped his palms on his work clothes, and reached out his hands for mine.
"What a life," Calvin said. "I read about your dad in the paper and, man, I had to put the paper down. I had to take a step back—whoa! He helped so many people—what a good man!"
I also couldn't shake my conversation with Edwin at the wake. He worked for US Airways and had crossed paths with Dad many times during those years of travel. Not long ago, he'd seen Dad struggling and had spent half an hour helping him get through the security line. Edwin waited in that line at the wake, too, and told me that those thirty minutes were some of the most special ones in his life.
"I never met anyone in all my years like your father," he said. "He was such a good man."
Brad Blank, a childhood friend of mine from Cape Cod, called and told me that Dad had written him thoughtful letters a number of times over the years. He'd even discussed the Judaic Studies program at Brown with Brad, saying it surpassed courses in Christianity there.
Brad said, "Your father knew more about Judaism than I do. He was such a mensch. Do you know what that means?" Before I could respond, he blurted out, "It means your father was a good man."
Throughout the planning of the funeral, Jeannie Main, Dad's longtime assistant, was at every meeting. I asked her, finally, how long she had worked with him.
"Thirty-three years," she said. "I volunteered on the McGovern-Shriver campaign in '72 and went to work for him full-time afterward."
"That's a long time," I said.
"Yes, it is, but your dad was special," she said. "Not too many big-time lawyers would listen to their assistants. Your dad always did. He didn't always agree with me, but he always listened. He was a very good man."
We got a call from Vice President Joe Biden a few hours after Dad died. The vice president told me that he never would have won his race for Senate in 1972 had Dad not shown up on the last night and rallied a crowd that worked through the night and all Election Day. Biden won by 3,162 votes, and he credited Dad with the difference.
"He didn't have to do that for me," he said. "I was an unknown kid who wasn't expected to win. Delaware is a small state, and it was the last night of a long campaign. There wasn't much, if anything, in it for him. But that was the least of what he did for our country—he was a good, good man."
Then I thought about our kids and how, just the day before, I had watched them eat breakfast with their usual gusto. When my eleven-year-old son Tommy got up and took his plates to the sink and started washing them, I almost lost it, remembering how, two years prior, Tommy had watched Dad, Alzheimer-stricken and hobbled, grab his own cake plate after the party for his ninety-third birthday, take it to the sink, and clean it. Tommy had looked at me, licked the icing off his last forkful, and followed Dad to the sink with his plate. Tommy had observed, at a very young age, what a good man Dad was, right down to the smallest detail of etiquette.
The great man is recognized for his civic achievements. The good man can be great in that arena, too, but even greater at home, on the sidewalk, at the diner, with his grandkids, at the supermarket, at church—wherever human interaction requires integrity and compassion. Dad was good because he was great in the smaller, unseen corners of life. He insisted on greatness in every facet of the daily grind. Nowhere was this clearer than in his role as our father.
During the weeks and months after the funeral, the same sort of condolences kept piling in. The "good man" phrase kept cropping up, and I realized how important it was becoming for my own life, and perhaps for all those who wanted to know how Dad lived so well, to understand him more completely. We all loved reflecting on his life together, yet most of us—family and friends and complete strangers who had admired him from afar—were looking to solve the riddle of "Sarge" for our own sakes. We wanted some of that; we wanted to bottle his mojo for ourselves.
I received thousands of letters and e-mails—many from people I didn't know at all and many from those I knew well who, after reading about Dad or attending his funeral, opened their hearts to me. So many were struggling to balance their love of family with their work, struggling with their faith, struggling with giving back to their communities. I realized that I, too, was struggling mightily with balancing it all. What's more, I had spent far too much time and energy chasing the illusory achievements that our culture associates with being a so-called great man.
One person who attended the funeral told me that he had never been in a church for two and a half hours but that at the end of Dad's funeral, he didn't want to leave. Most seemed to dearly want to be a good man or a good woman, and they kept asking me questions: How did your dad do it all? How could he have been happily married for fifty-six years and yet there'd never been even a rumor about his relationship with my mother? How could he have raised five children who all idolized him? Been a steadfast friend to so many men and women? How could he have created, out of nothing, the most enduring legacy of the Kennedy administration—the Peace Corps—and then, while still the head of the Peace Corps, created Lyndon Johnson's most important domestic initiative, the War on Poverty—Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA, and Legal Services, to name just a few programs? And every day he went to Mass!
This book is the story of the journey I immediately undertook—was driven to undertake—to discover how a ninety-five-year-old man who had been crushed in his two national election races (for vice president with George McGovern in 1972 and for president in 1976), who had not run for office in over thirty-five years, who had been battling Alzheimer's for ten years, nevertheless inspired countless others to live a good life.
Most of all, I wanted to understand the riddle of his joy. I knew that his uncanny, boundless joy had powered him every day of his life. Where did it come from? How did he sustain it, gracing so many of us along the way? For my family and friends, for his admirers, and for me, I wanted to discover the source of his joy so we could all try to live the same way, so I could use him as my guide as I strove to be a better man, to be as good a man as he.
- ASIN : 1250031443
- Publisher : St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (April 30, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781250031440
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250031440
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.57 x 0.8 x 8.18 inches
- #8,678 in Political Leader Biographies
- #9,322 in Religious Leader Biographies
- #35,543 in Personal Transformation Self-Help
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About the author
Mark k. shriver.
Mark Shriver is President of Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School & Corporate Work Study Program, a high school serving young people in the Washington DC-area. Hailing from 60 zip codes, 85% of students qualify for free and reduced meals. Every student participates in a rigorous college-prep curriculum while working at local businesses once a week. 100% of graduates since the school’s inception in 2007 have been accepted to college.
In addition, Mark is Senior Advisor at Save the Children. Shriver joined Save the Children in 2003 and developed the agency’s domestic early childhood and school-age education programs, which today reach children in more than 200 underserved rural communities. He also created Save the Children’s domestic emergencies programs to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children before, during and after disaster strikes.
An advocate for children throughout his career, Shriver led a national coalition that convinced Congress to create the National Commission on Children and Disasters. He was appointed to the Commission by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada; he was elected chairperson by his fellow commissioners and served in that role for the life of the Commission (2008-2011).
In 2013, Shriver created Save the Children’s political advocacy arm, Save the Children Action Network
(SCAN). SCAN seeks to build bipartisan solutions and generate voter support for policies that ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed. With a grassroots network of 375,000 supporters across all 50 states, SCAN is working to ensure that every child in the U.S. has access to high-quality early childhood education, to protect migrant children arriving at the southern U.S. border and to promote girls’ empowerment around the world.
Shriver was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1994 to 2002. He was the first Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Youth and Families, and was appointed Chair of the Children and Youth Subcommittee of Maryland's House Ways and Means Committee. He was repeatedly recognized as Outstanding Legislator of the Year by prominent advocacy and civic organizations.
In 1988, Shriver founded the innovative Choice Program, which serves delinquent and at-risk youth through intensive, community-based counseling. He subsequently created The Choice Jobs Program, Inc., which trains, places, and supports former Choice clients in jobs, as well as The Choice Middle Schools Program, a model for keeping at-risk middle school children in school.
Shriver received his B.A. from The College of the Holy Cross and a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University.
A bestselling author, his latest book, 10 Hidden Heroes, was published in March 2021. He is also the author of Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis and A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver.
Shriver lives with his wife, Jeanne, and their three children, Molly, Tommy and Emma, in Maryland.
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A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver
Mark k. shriver.
288 pages, Hardcover
First published January 1, 2012
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The 27+ Best Biographies for Men to Read that Will Inspire and Motivate You to Become Your Strongest Self
Biographies, unlike self-help books, offer an almost unrestricted look into the lives of our world’s most prolific men and women and give us the rare opportunity to see how they actually thought and behaved…not just their theories and “ideas” about living a good life.
In my own journey, I’ve found biographies to be one of the most invaluable sources of wisdom and inspiration and one of the most powerful weapons in my personal development arsenal.
And today, I’m going to share the 27+ best biographies for men to read.
These biographies will not only inspire and motivate you, but they will educate you and help you become a more well-rounded man. You’ll get an insiders look into the mind’s of our species most successful individuals and walk away with a plethora of ideas for improving and optimizing your own life.
Let’s dive in.
The 27+ Best Biographies for Men to Read that Will Help You Become a Grounded Man
1. Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Isaacson
But the intrigue of his life goes far beyond his accomplishments and inventions. In this excellent biography, easily one of the best biographies for men, Walter Isaacson gives a more complete view of DaVinci’s life, struggles, and accomplishments and with it, reveals powerful insights for living an exceptional life and rising to the top of your given field. A must-read for men of all ages.
2. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
In yet another best-selling biography from Walter Isaacson, the veil behind Jobs life and legacy is lifted and we are once more treated to a rare glimpse of the good, the bad, and the ugly responsible for one of our society’s most lauded men.
3. Sherman: Soldier, Realist, American by B. H. Lidell Hart
Providing an excellent character study in the value of humility and calm strategy, Hart–a man responsible for some of the greatest books on military theory–gives readers a gripping and paradigm-shifting account of one of the most underrated leaders in military history. And every man would be well served to study it.
4. Edison by Matthew Josephson
With an expertly crafted narrative and an uncanny blend of the personal, political, and scientific realities responsible for Edison’s legacy, Josephson’s biography stands out amidst the sea of dull recollections and over-enthused tomes that attempt to recount Edison’s life.
5. Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Smith
In Eisenhower in War and Peace, author Jean Smith superbly shares a narrative that is both compelling and comprehensive and offers one of the most complete accounts of Eisenhower for the 21st century.
6. Socrates a Man for Our Times by Paul Johnson
7. The Power Broker by Robert A. Carro
Providing a rare glimpse into the history of both Moses and his city, The Power Broker is one of the best biographies of all time and will keep you engaged from beginning to end.
8. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Whatever challenges you are facing in your life…however bad the hand life has dealt you…this excellent biography will challenge your assumptions about what’s possible and put into perspective even the grimmest of obstacles.
9. Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts
If you read carefully, you’ll walk away from this biography with invaluable insights into the greatest battle of all, the battle of your life, and discover uncommon strategies for winning the war on all fronts.
10. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
If you’ve ever felt the call of the wild and desired to eschew your materialistic lifestyle in pursuit of an authentic life, this incredible biography will both inform and inspire your journey (and likely leave you in tears).
11. Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert
In his remarkable biography of Churchill, Martin Gilbert offers us one of the most cogent and complete records of Churchill’s life and with it, reveals powerful life lessons and personal strategies for achieving the impossible. It’s one of the best biographies for men today and one of my personal favorites.
12. My Personal Best by John Wooden
An invaluable biography that is equal parts a personal memoir, self-help manifesto, and guide to high-performance leadership, My Personal Best is a must read for every man looking to take himself and his life to the next level.
13. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Truly an ineffable masterpiece, words simply cannot capture the gravity or importance of this biography. There’s a reason that the smartest and most accomplished men and women in the world count this book as one of the most important reads of their lives. And I’ll suffice it to say that every man, regardless of age, occupation, or ambition, must read this biography at some point in their life.
14. Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames
15. Titan by Ron Chernow
Driven by his desire to please his father, Rockefeller was a quintessential case study in obsession and ambition and Ron Chernow’s unprecedented recounting of his life (based on previously unreleased documents) offers readers one of the most gripping and insightful biographies of all time.
16. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Though he was known for his firebrand and often violent views on racism, integration, and religion, Malcolm was a far cry from the man the modern media portrays him to be. And his autobiography (finished by Alex Halley) offers one of the most important books about American history and a disturbingly timely discussion about the racial and political realities of our nation.
17. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
And in his autobiography, he offers an intriguing (if biased) look at both his story and his processes for performance. I believe this is one of the all-time best biographies for men and is something that should be read, re-read, and then re-read again.
18. Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
19. Washington by Ron Chernow
When you put this biography down, you’ll walk away with a greater understanding of our first President and invaluable life lessons in leadership, bravery, and ethics.
20. Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie
What’s most striking about this work, however, is the incisive and highly relevant views Carnegie held about capitalism, wealth, and the obligation of the wealthy to serve those less fortunate (a belief evidenced by the massive sums of money Carnegie donated in his later years). For any young man looking to make something of himself, this is one of the best biographies to read.
21. The Tycoons by Charles Morris
Few biographies offer a more comprehensive understanding of how the American super economy was created and, more importantly, the specific traits, habits, and thought processes that lead to such growth. For those of you looking to make your fortune and leave your own dent in this universe, this is a must-read biography.
22. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
And A Moveable Feast offers a rare glimpse into the man’s mind as he recounts his time in Paris and details many of the real-life stories responsible for his greatest works. This is a must-read biography for men of any age looking to inject more aliveness, adventure, and joy into their daily lives.
23. American Sniper by Chris Kyle
In his widely acclaimed and criticized autobiography, Kyle recounts his war stories and offers readers a rare glimpse into the realities of the War on Terror and the true cost of our freedoms. Whatever your opinion on the man might be, this biography is well worth reading and will, if nothing else, keep you entertained and enthralled from beginning to end.
24. Chronicles by Bob Dylan
25. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
This autobiography will move you in a way that few works of literature can and will leave you reconsidering your personal values, your mission, and your very identity as a human being. A must-read biography for men.
26. The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King
A champion of compassion, equality, and education, Fred Rogers will go down in history as one of the greatest figures in American entertainment and The Good Neighbor provides an insightful and endearing look into the life of one of America’s most beloved characters.
27. John Adams by David McCullough
Serving as both a biography and a political, religious, and social expose, John Adams is one of the best biographies ever written about one of the most fascinating Americans who ever lived.
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25 Biographies Every Man Should Read
By The Editors of GQ
KING OF THE WORLD by David Remnick (1998)
The greatest boxer of all time got treatment from a narrative-journalism heavyweight. The Champ had been written about as much as any athlete ever. But David Remnick did more than tell a story narrowly focused on Ali's individual experiences with victory and vice. Rather, he crafted a broad social and political narrative, then placed the boxer within it. It's a biography of a man as much as it is a biography of a myth"an American myth," Remnick writes, "who has come to mean many things to many people: a symbol of faith, a symbol of conviction and defiance, a symbol of beauty and skill and courage, a symbol of racial pride, of wit and love."
OPEN by Andre Agassi (2009)
This is the psychologist-couch confessional (that's really how Agassi and his collaborator, J. R. Moehringer, worked through it) that all great sports books strive to be. The abuse of youth training; the depths of disappointment and heights of ecstasy, recounted with acuity; the comings-clean of celebrity dating and crystal meth. (It will put you at ease that you were never the star athlete you'd hoped you'd be.) This would be a crazy book from any athlete; that it's from one of the most talented and popular tennis players in history makes it all the more irresistible.
SANDY KOUFAX: A LEFTY'S LEGACY by Jane Leavy (2002)
It will make you fall back in love with baseball. In addition to being unflappable in demeanor, insurmountable in technical talent, and impenetrable in his personal privacy, Sandy Koufax pitched arguably the greatest game of all time. And it's the interplay of these braided narrativesthe life story of one of the best-ever lefties and the granular ticktock of his perfect outing in September 1965that gives Jane Leavy's bio cinematic lift. Koufax was a model of high-order talent and humility, and this book is a blueprint for living a life driven by both those virtues.
WHEN PRIDE STILL MATTERED by David Maraniss (1999)
He's the best-known football coach of all time. But his brand of leadership transcended his profession. At times he sounded like a general, a lawyer, a priest, and he might've been any of those, too. That universality lifted him to the status of deitythe most quoted and misquoted sports figure ever. This book roots him in his rightful place. Come for the football; stay for the nuanced "everything" that "winning isn't."
By Lori Keong
By Timothy Beck Werth
By Gerald Ortiz
I AM ZLATAN by Zlatan Ibrahimovi (2012)
No book serves as a more efficient gateway drug to soccer fandom than this one. If Andre's is the shrink-couch confessional, Zlatan's is the barstool confessional. Ibrahimovi is one of the world's best soccer playersand easily its most colorful. Born in a Swedish housing project, he's a brutish attacker with unmatched instincts for goal-scoring. As well, he loves fast cars, reggae, body tats, trash-talking, calling things "advanced bullshit," and speaking in the third person. Even more fantastic is the fact that he put out the book when he was mid-career. He divulged all his secrets and burned all his bridges, even though he'd have to cross back over them again. He'd be your favorite athlete if he lived in America (which really could be his next stop).
JOE DiMAGGIO by Richard Ben Cramer (2000)
Joe DiMaggio was the ultimate ballplayer during the two decadesthe '30s and '40swhen the national gravitation toward baseball and the wattage of its stars was greater than the current-day NFL, NBA, and Hollywood combined. (And then he went ahead and married Marilyn Monroe.) It doesn't take an extraordinary writer and researcher to make Joe DiMaggio's crazy mix of public-private come off, but Richard Ben Cramer happens to be one.
EVERY LOVE STORY IS A GHOST STORY by D. T. Max (2012)
More than any other recent writer, DFW will go down as having influenced writers of future generations. As intelligent and inventive as any practitioner of both fiction and non-, he was purposefully enigmatic, some combination of glowing and wounded, prone to both witheringly awkward interviews and fantastic retorts. Wallace wrote about himselfmore than he probably meant tobut he could only stare in the mirror so long before turning away, or worse. D. T. Max, his first of surely many biographers, picked up the pieces and turned the mirror into a window. We'll long be looking through it, seeking a glimpse.
DE KOONING by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan (2004)
De Kooning's toilsome life defies all the stereotypes of what it means to be a "modern master." Sure, aspects of the Abstract Expressionist's life fit the bill of an artist's biographyhe made the scene at the Cedar Tavern with Rothko, Kline, and Rauschenberg, kept up an intense rivalry with Pollock, drank himself into the gutter, and swapped out lovers like painting aprons. But everything else about his story will force you to revise the way you think genius works. Learn to be great, but mostly learn to be patient. He'd grunt and scrape at his canvases for months at a time, painstakingly inching his way toward immortality.
OUT OF SHEER RAGE by Geoff Dyer (1998)
This is the least conventional biography on the list. It's not really even a bio, is it? A book about the extraordinary English writer D. H. Lawrence, it's as much about Geoff Dyer's inability to write that book. We hear you; that sounds like an abysmal premise. But Dyer is in much greater and fantastically entertaining control than he lets on. What he finds in the gaps between his own life and his subject's yields writing on the kinds of human Q's & A's he (Lawrence) and he (Dyer) share with each other and any reader.
LIFE by Keith Richards (2010)
Keith. Because: the Stones. Because: Mick Charlie Ronnie Brian Bill & Bobby. Because: Smack Jack & Coke. Because: Ronnie Anita & Patti. Because: Altamont Hyde Park & Nellcte. Because: open G tuning & the blues. Because: Two bars of "Malaguea" and you're in. This is the best book ever written about sexdrugsrocknroll. Keith Richards is its Gabriel, because who else could it be?
I DREAMED I WAS A VERY CLEAN TRAMP by Richard Hell (2013
Punk rock was as much an attitude as a musical genre, and Hell was the man who first articulated the look, the sound, and the feel. He was also as good a writer as he was a musicianthe poet laureate of punk, as proven line by line here. If you're interested in the history of rock 'n' roll, or of downtown New York, or of American cool, you need to read this book as much as you need to hear any of his records.
LAST TRAIN TO MEMPHIS by Peter Guralnick (1994) & CARELESS LOVE by Peter Guralnick (1999)
Elvis is among the most American of all Americansup there with Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Henry Fordand after this two-volume masterpiece, nobody needs to write his biography ever again. Just be forewarned: It gets dark. Goddamn, does it get dark. But it's a journey worth taking, because you begin to understand that Elvis is basically American Jesusthe sacrificial lamb who lived our national fall from grace. From guffawing mama's boy to pop king, to an inglorious death facedown in vomit beside the crapper at Graceland.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Morrissey (2013)
That voicewarbling, wounded, or spitting acid, and often all three at oncetranslates pitch-perfectly to the page, as Moz, in full-throated lyrical melodrama, relives the afflictions that created him: the knuckle-rapping horrors of Dickensian school days in gray Manchester, the elusive sexual promises of '70s glam and punk, the never-good-enough success of the Smiths, and pinch-me solo fame. Around every mundane corner, misery lurks in the form of judges, suits, and so-called friends as life, it seems, conspires to stifle him. Of course, life didn't.
CHRONICLES: VOLUME ONE by Bob Dylan (2004)
The most written-about songwriter of all time put an end to others' attempts by writing the weirdest, most wonderful version himself. Dozens of writers had tried before, but it took Dylan doing Dylan to get to the heart of it: impressionistic line-writing, fractured chronologies, rivers of metaphor, elliptical anecdotes, andfor those looking for a little more grounding than the poetry providescameo-filled set pieces of the most satisfying sort. Rarely is there a moment when we learn how A led directly to B, but there's a concerted effort to relate not how something was but how something felt/seemed/appeared to have transpired. The sensation inside as a song began to blossom, the bite of winter slipping through his Village floorboards, the thinking made possible by a motorcycle ride along the bayouin the present or in the past or whenever, it's hard to tell. We're never quite fixed in one placeit's one man seeing and feeling kaleidoscopically, the clearest sense yet of the life of that man. Better still: Volume two is still on the slate.
DINO by Nick Tosches (1992)
Dino was the first tell-all about this inscrutable starit's also the best. Tosches pulls no punches in this unauthorized biography, which traces the Rat Packer from his early days as Dino Crocetti, a teenage gambler in Ohio, to Dean Martin, a marquee name with a $500 nose job, a cross-media sensation before "cross-media" was a thing. But Tosches is interested in more than fantastic celebrity; in unsparing detail, he traces Dino's sad, slow decline into a twilight of pills and booze. The result is a lesson in what not to do when you reach the end of your prime.
STORIES I ONLY TELL MY FRIENDS by Rob Lowe (2011)
Hardly any actors pull this off. It takes a lot of nerve to overhype your own celebrity memoir by calling it Stories I Only Tell My Friends. But Rob LoweRob Lowe! the Handsome Guy from DirecTV ads! he was in Tommy Boy !delivers on turning the inside way out. Lowe avoids the Chicken Soup sentimentalities that plague so many celeb memoirs and veers toward unflinching self-reflection and a tabloid reporter's eyehis own tabloid moments included. If every famous person told his tales the way Lowe does, the bookstore section with all the famous faces on the covers would be a much more appealing place to get lost.
ALFRED HITCHCOCK: A LIFE IN DARKNESS AND LIGHT by Patrick McGilligan (2003)
He's the most widely examined director of all time, and he's still wildly misunderstood. McGilligan's book is a master course for anyone interested in moviemaking, a boring-down into the relationships with Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and company, and a more suitably complex building-out of the 2-D perversions (and stalker accusations) that have come to cloud his legacy in recent decades. It's a hugely big book that never feels longthe definitive take on the master.
THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE by Robert Evans (1994)
Evans wrote the Great Hollywood Memoir. A "half-assed actor" in the '50s, he became the head of Paramount Pictures. _Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, The Godfather, Chinatown_that sort of rap sheet. He was the consummate Hollywood cadkisser-and-teller of Gardners and MacGraws (he's been married seven times), wheeler-dealer of Marlons and Jacks, and film inspiration for Dustin Hoffman in Wag the Dog. He strove to be an unapologetic original, a true north he followed to heights from which he had a singular view of the industry. Today's straight-shooting, publicity-choked middle ground will make you restless once you've tasted this.**
** Listen to This Life
The Kid Stays in the Picture is the perfect book off which to pivot to mention that many of these biographies and memoirs are also exceptional audiobooks. Especially since actors and musicians very often read their own. ( Life, for example, features Keith Richards, Johnny Depp, and musician Joe Hurley.) Still, Evans is the ultimate. For those who don't know, he's got a voice that sounds like eight-millimeter film, swimming-pool chlorine, starlet perfume, and melted-down Oscar gold rolling around together in a dryer. Reading it with the voice in your head seems criminal by comparison.
BORN STANDING UP by Steve Martin (2007)
Steve Martin wrote it, and Steve Martin knows how to produce a flash bomb of comedy. Read it if you remember Martin's stand-up shtick in the '70s, but especially read it if you don't. Before he was a white-haired eminence who fathered brides and cheap dozens and novels about shopgirls, Martin was a hustler of the rarest qualitya showman who cut his teeth at Disneyland (!), who zagged in the face of every easier zig. Who struggled maniacally to perform with originality. That's always the best part of any movie, anyway, isn't it? The gritty hustle up the mountain. By the time sold-out arenas and Hollywood blockbusters roll around, Martin seems less to bask in his successes than be bored by them. It's a good lesson for a career and for a memoir: Get out while it's hot. Martin jams through his set and then drops the mike.
THEODORE REX by Edmund Morris (2001)
Teddy's life was so grandiose that this book, confined to merely his eight White House years, manages to amaze without even covering many of the hoary Roosevelt legends (cowboy days in the Dakotas, a heroic Rough Riders phase, that time he took a bullet to the chest but gave a speech anyway). America's youngest, most unusual president is 42 when he begins warring against Wall Street monopolies, creating national parks, and stretching a canal across Panama. "Don't fritter away your time" and "Get action," the president barks, heeding his own advice.
MALCOLM X: A LIFE OF REINVENTION by Manning Marable (2011)
America in 2015 looks a hell of a lot more like the dire 1964 that Malcolm described in his landmark "The Ballot or the Bullet" speech than the cuddly future Dr. King put forth in "I Have a Dream." Yet what's so striking about Marable's book is how the supposedly rigid beliefs of Dr. King's fiery militant foil were constantly evolving, and how he came to have no allies, just enemieswhich makes this book as suspenseful as a double-agent spy novel.
ANDREW CARNEGIE by David Nasaw (2006)
Of all the robber barons, Andrew Carnegie feels the most modern. The most likable, toothough that may sell him short (which, at five feet, he was as well). He was born a pauper and became, in the words of financier J. P. Morgan, "the richest man in the world." Sure, Carnegie was no saintin the laissez-faire Gilded Age, righteousness was rarely rewarded. He sold crap-ass securities and used an early railroad gig to ink insider deals that set him up in the steel business. He made his first million by 35 but vowed to die penniless and began funding libraries, museums, concert halls, and collegessetting an example that modern plutocrats like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett aspire to today.
A BEAUTIFUL MIND by Sylvia Nasar (1998)
It is terrifying to imagine the turns a life can take. One minute you're a rising stud of American mathematics, the brash young heir to Einstein, perhaps. The next, you're announcing that you've been appointed Emperor of Antarctica, that powers from outer space are speaking to you in coded messages. In the late 1950s, John Nash fell in a flash from genius to madness. Decades were lost. But the voices quieted; Nash re-emerged, began working again. Then they gave him the goddamn Nobel Prize. Sure, things can get pretty bleak. But they can turn around, too.
STEVE JOBS by Walter Isaacson (2011)
It's so very many things at oncea panoramic tribute to a singular American mind; the definitive portrait of the definitive American company; a playbook for engineers, designers, marketers, and managers in tech and in the wider world of anybody making products and selling them for money; an "Idiot's Guide to '70s Start-ups and '00s Revivals"; a manual for megalomania (and veganism); and a best-seller of such magnitude that it's dumb to opt out. We know it's the only book your less readerly bros have read since collegebut don't let that suggest anything other than the fact that Jobs offers up entry points for countless kinds of men.
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Goodman biography published.
A Thing of the Spirit, The Life of E. Urner Goodman is the biography of the founder , written by Nelson R. Block and published by the Boy Scouts of America.
This book is an excellent source of information on the life of Dr. Goodman, and preserves oral history about Dr. Goodman that might have otherwise been lost. In the book Dr. Goodman's life is described in seven chapters that encompass his life from his birth, travels through his early days as a Scoutmaster, details on his days founding the Order of the Arrow, chronicles his life as a professional Scouter, and closes in a description of his career. The book includes dozens of photographs of the founder.
Lancaster's Good Man, John Piersol McCaskey: A Biography
John Piersol McCaskey (1837-1935) was a beloved Lancaster, PA, public school teacher and principal, editor of The Pennsylvania School Journal , mayor of Lancaster, publisher, journalist, and compiler of some of America’s first songbooks and textbooks. This biography provides a glimpse into the beginnings of Pennsylvania’s public schools, with McCaskey as a pupil, and then the system’s evolution, with McCaskey influencing its curriculum and goals. Lancaster’s history is interwoven in the text, particularly the Civil War years and McCaskey’s mayoral years. A man of integrity who expected the same from his students, McCaskey held family and his Christian faith above all else. (282pp. color illus. index. Masthof Press, 2015.)
Click here to view the interview of author Dolores Parsil.
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Lancaster’s Good Man: John Piersol McCaskey, A Biography
John Piersol McCaskey (1837-1935) was a beloved Lancaster, PA, public school teacher and principal, editor of The Pennsylvania School Journal, mayor of Lancaster, publisher, journalist, and compiler of some of America’s first songbooks and textbooks. This biography provides a glimpse into the beginnings of Pennsylvania’s public schools, with McCaskey as a pupil, and then the system’s evolution, with McCaskey influencing its curriculum and goals. Lancaster’s history is interwoven in the text, particularly the Civil War years and McCaskey’s mayoral years. A man of integrity who expected the same from his students, McCaskey held family and his Christian faith above all else. (From Masthof Press)
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Soft cover book features 282 pages, color illustrations, and index. Written by Dolores Parsil. Published by Masthof Press, 2015.
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Sturgis Pretzel Bakery—America’s first commercial pretzel bakery—was founded by Julius Sturgis in 1861.
The biography of a great man
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