There are so many terrific biographies and memoirs this month. Truly, there is a book for everyone: Stories of chefs, musicians, athletes, therapists, drug kingpins, lawyers, mothers, and educators fill our Best Biographies and Memoirs of September.
However, for this post, I’ve rounded up the biographies and memoirs of giants. Of legends. Of larger than life personalities. Of those who have captivated the world, changed the world, and will change the world. These are stories of human excellence but also destruction—the good and the bad.
His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham
Pulitzer Prize-winning Jon Meacham examines the voice, story and impact of John Lewis in His Truth Is Marching On and argues that John Lewis belongs in the pantheon next to George Washington because Lewis lived up to the ideals of our nation and the promise that we were all created equal. Throughout his life, Lewis revolted against segregation, and he believed that in loving your neighbor like yourself, America could truly be a free country. Time after time, he put his body on the line. Meacham’s biography is about a great man in American history and the hope that Lewis felt despite the grim reality he—and we—are sometimes faced with.
Admittedly, I’m more of a baseball fan than a basketball one, but there’s nothing like the drama, the excitement, the raw talent of a team that wins. In Three-Ring Circus, veteran and accomplished sports writer Jeff Pearlman gives us a front row seat to the locker room of the Los Angeles Lakers when they were at the top of their game from 1996 through 2004. And while Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were magic on the court, it was warfare everywhere else. Three-Ring Circus is a juicy look at two legends who won three championships together, yet despised the very sight of one another.
Wild Thing: The Short, Spellbinding Life of Jimi Hendrix by Philip Norman
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes Jimi Hendrix as “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music,” and he’s often celebrated as the greatest rock guitarist of all time. To read Wild Thing is to step back in time to when Hendrix was coming onto the music scene and when he was at the top of his game. Philip Norman, the acclaimed biographer of musicians such as John Lennon, Mick Jagger, and Eric Clapton, delivers an electric story of Hendrix’s sound—the beats he grew up with, the music he created, and the legacy he left after his tragic death in 1970.
El Jefe: The Stalking of Chapo Guzmán by Alan Feuer
Some people are legends for their goodness, others for the exceptional power they wield. One of the most fascinating outlaw stories of modern times is that of notorious Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. Known for his violence, his love of luxury, and, of course, his ability to escape, Guzman comes to vivid life in El Jefe, a page-turner of his rise and the decades-long quest to convict and arrest the world’s most powerful drug trafficker.
A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Brittany K. Barnett
While the others on this list are already household names (for better or for worse), legends must also start somewhere. And here’s the thing, Brittany K. Barnett is on her way to becoming one. She has already changed so many lives of those wrongly convicted, and she will continue to change lives with her powerful, brilliantly articulated memoir of her experience with the justice system. As a daughter of a mother who did jail time, and as a lawyer who represented people thrown in jail for life, Barnett knows intimately how the justice system works when it comes to drug crimes and Black people. Her actions and her memoir are a clarion cry of her determination to change the racist world of the feds, the courts, and the laws that throw away people’s lives—for life. A legend in the making.
These are stories of legends, of giants, of those who have changed the world (for better or for worse), and of those who will change the world.