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8 Gripping Biographical Tales to Gift Your Favorite Reader

Book covers from left to right: 'Shoe Dog', 'The Lost City of the Monkey God', and 'The Splendid and the Vile'
Scribner/Grand Central Publishing/Crown

There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a fictional tale, but true stories can be just as compelling. Here are a few popular nonfiction books that would make great presents.

Alone on the Wall

In Alone on the Wall, rock climber Alex Honnold shares how he became the first person to free solo (climb without hooks or harnesses) El Capitan at Yosemite National Park. It includes more insight and information that didn’t make it into the 2018 documentary, Free Solo. It’s a thrilling story that leaves readers thinking, I can’t believe he did that!

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

Anyone who enjoys Disney movies will appreciate Robert Iger’s biography. Even if you aren’t a huge Disney fan, there’s a lot anyone can learn from the chief executive officer of one of the world’s most successful companies. Iger shares what the company was like when he became CEO in 2005, and how it changed over the following 15 years. He also shares the principles he believes are crucial for leadership, including optimism, decisiveness, and courage.

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

This highly-rated book by Erik Larson is about Winston Churchill’s leadership during World War II. It begins on Churchill’s first day as Prime Minister—the same day Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Thrown right into the middle of a World War, Churchill showed remarkable leadership during his term. Larson obviously researched a vast amount of information to share this intimate look at Churchill leading his country through an incredibly difficult time.

Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

Retired Navy SEAL and one of the world’s top endurance athletes, David Goggins shares his remarkable life story in this biography. From his nightmarish childhood to being hailed as one of the toughest people in the world, Goggins learned how to push past all limitations. This is the edited version (meaning all the swear words have been removed), but the original version is also available.

Alexander Hamilton

Have a Hamilton fan in your family? This is the biography that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the record-breaking musical. Author Ron Chernow is a Pulitzer Prize winner and highly regarded writer. This is far from a dry textbook—the story is engaging, personal, and incredibly well-written.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

A book for athletes and couch lovers alike, this is the story of author Phil Knight, who started the Nike company with only $50 in his pocket. It’s been recommended by Bill Gates and provides an honest look at what it takes to grow a successful business from the ground up.

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

This book by Douglas Preston makes the reader feel like they’re in the middle of an Indiana Jones movie. It covers the 2012 expedition a journalist took deep into the rainforests of Honduras in search of the Lost City of the Monkey God. With breathtaking details about the dangerous elements, horrifying diseases, and the sprawling metropolis they eventually discovered, this story is full of mystery, intrigue, and fascinating historical information.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Unbroken became wildly popular when it was released in 2010 and even led to a movie deal. If someone on your gift list hasn’t yet read it, it’s time they do! It’s the story of Olympic athlete, Louis Zamperini, who became a prisoner of war during World War II. Author Laura Hillenbrand shares the heart-wrenching story of his incredible courage and humor in the face of trials. It’s a tale of true grit and survival.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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