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Autobiographies & What We Can Learn From Them

My affair with autobiographies began at the age of 12 when my mom gifted me an old tethered copy of Diary of Anne Frank. I remember being very ecstatic on having received it and was completely hooked on to it. Over the years I’ve read it numerous times, and every time I read it, I feel the same joy. It transports me back to my childhood as well of Anne’s Germany of the 1940’s. Not only it’s a great read but is an important historical document on the Holocaust.

Recently I got hold of the autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most iconic first ladies in the US history. It came as a surprise to me that behind the garb of an exceptional political figure lay a woman like any other. Here was a woman who was an American aristocrat in every possible sense, placed on the high pedestal but still went through anxieties and apprehensions. Book narrates a tale of an extraordinary life marred by doubts and insecurities.

Learning From Someone’s Mistakes

I believe learning from somebody life is easier than going through long boring books of history or didactic pieces. There’s so much that one can learn through the lives of great historical figures.  An autobiography is not simply a book but a treasure house of experiences and wisdom. We can learn valuable lessons from it. It can also offer us glimpses of our lives merged in the author’s story. I realized that great personalities undergo all the normal emotions that the ordinary humans go through. What keeps them apart from the rest is their ability to pull themselves up in the time of adversity.

The Relatability Factor

I remember reading the biography of Gandhi in middle school and relating very well. Like the great Gandhi, I was often singled out for my illegible handwriting. As strange as it sounds now, but I actually took great pride in the fact that my handwriting is as bad as Gandhi’s. Similarly, as I was flipping through the pages of Eleanor Roosevelt’s biography, I could easily relate to her early marriage days. Like any young bride, she entered the Roosevelt house with feelings of awe and fear. That was the same feeling I felt when I married into my husband’s family. The funniest part of all, she had a mother-in-law just like mine. Need I say more about it?

Autobiographies Are Motivating

Autobiographies are not only great pleasure reads but also very inspiring. They offer you a first-hand experience of trials, sufferings, and ordeals of the author. You can witness the journey which went into making an ordinary person extraordinary.  When it comes to motivation, no other autography comes to my mind other than Nelson’s Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom.”  It’s a soul-stirring tale of one man’s struggle for the freedom of his nation. A lone man who dared to challenge the hegemony of brutal imperialists. How can one miss out the poignant story of Helen Keller in her autobiography, “The Story of My Life.” The exceptional story of courage and willpower.

Autobiographies are important historical documents as they provide a first-hand experience of important historical events. They can be a great source of inspiration without being preachy. I believe they are must on everyone’s bookshelf.

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