Dovetailing with Linda Maxie’s previous offering, Library Lin’s Curated Collection of Superlative Nonfiction, this companion list curates compelling personal stories across a range of themes and time periods.
Unhappy that “there were so many great biographies that I couldn’t include for lack of space,” in her last book, Maxie offers a smorgasbord of titles here, gleaned from the “65 lists of recommended books dating back a century” that she used for her previous book. Titles also came from lists of book award winners, best books of the year, Goodreads, and even suggestions from friends and her followers on social media.
The work is divided into 40 thematic sections, including “Activists and Advocates,” “Athletes and Sports Figures,” “Foodies,” Spirituality and Faith,” and more. Each entry offers the title, date of publication and short summary.
Most recommendations deliver a broad if not deep slice of coverage. “Witnesses to History,” for example, ranges from the 17th century diary of Englishman Samuel Pepys to Megan Stack’s reflections on war in Every Man in this Village is a Liar. The section provides an intriguing overlap with “Invaders, Warriors, and Spies,” which ranges from Alexander the Great and Hannibal to Colin Powell and Josephine Baker. While the volume includes some indispensable classics like The Confessions of St. Augustine, it focuses mostly on 20th and 21st century publications. Collective biographies of multiple subjects append lists where relevant.
Book descriptions fall into two categories: either wildly compelling or so flat as to say little, although the former far outnumber the latter. Additionally, some groupings can seem odd: Explorers are differentiated from outdoor adventurers; children’s storytellers are grouped with legendary figures. Maxie explains the difficulties of categorizing titles in her Introduction, and despite such curiosities, the organization largely leads to charming surprises.
Overall, Maxie’s collection provides a reading list for learning about the world, its leaders, and the extraordinary challenges ordinary people face, providing both a valuable reference and an interesting read all on its own.