4 Pop Culture Biographies To Read During Winter Hibernation

by Preetam Kaushik

When Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, it gave rise to some very polarized reactions.

On one side of the spectrum, condolence messages were being shared all over the world among people who respected the "Iron Lady."

On the other side, however, pockets of people who despised her beliefs against the working class celebrated her demise, singing "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead!"

(This song rose to the number two spot on the UK music charts in the days following her death).

Such varied reactions make you wonder if one group got it all wrong.

The best way to find out the truth? Biographies.

Here are the four best posthumous biographies of all time:

1. "Not For Turning Volume I" by Charles Moore

Needless to say, our list starts with the best biography on Thatcher herself.

Charles Moore, a well-known journalist, chronicled the first 57 years of Thatcher's life as the daughter of an alderman, her rise within the ranks of the Conservative Party and her initial years as prime minister.

Moore makes no apologies for Thatcher's rule, and he doesn't try to convince people to follow her.

In fact, he makes a strong point for her work in the 70s and early 80s without sounding like right-wing propaganda. I just wish it detailed more of her later years.

2. "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson

The co-founder of Apple was arguably one of the greatest entrepreneurs and innovators of our time.

But what makes this biography stand out from anything else written about him is the free rein the author, Walter Isaacson, was given by Jobs while writing this book.

Legend has it, Jobs surprised Isaacson by giving him the task of writing a "no-holds barred" chronicle. Jobs may well have done so because he had become aware he had cancer only a few days earlier.

Perhaps this is how the greatest innovator of our time chose to deal with his mortality.

The book, which is based on over 40 interviews with Jobs and several others with the people who knew him, does talk about his genius. However, it doesn't shy away from exploring the demons in his head.

It characterizes both his greatest successes and challenges.

3. "John Lennon: The Life" by Philip Norman

What drew many authors to write about Lennon (aside from the fact he's one of the biggest cultural icons of the 20th century) is how his short life was so layered.

However, some of the biographies about him, especially the one by Albert Goldman, were quite spiteful, and the rest (most notably the one by Ray Coleman) were kind of adulatory.

A work that tread the middle ground was needed, and thankfully, Norman's piece found the perfect blend.

Its strongest point is how it deals with Lennon's formative teenage years in Liverpool, thanks to access to Lennon's correspondence with his "Auny Mimi."

Norman also met Yoko Ono for extra material, and he had regular email correspondence with Paul McCartney, who added some precious input.

With all these sources at his disposal, Norman gave us the most comprehensive piece of literature on Lennon to exist.

4. "Somebody: The Reckless Life And Remarkable Career Of Marlon Brando" by Stefan Kanfer

When you're writing about a famous Hollywood icon (or any artist, for that matter), you either end up writing what feels like a gossip column or sinking into a Freudian analysis of the person's inner demons.

Kanfer's biography of Marlon Brando manages to steer clear of both these stereotypes, giving the reader a perfect mix of the details of the actor's professional and outward life, as well as noteworthy glimpses into the inner persona that defined who he really was.

Stressing Brando's many brilliant performances — between "On The Waterfront" (1954) and "The Godfather" (1972) — this book acts like a guide for many aspiring actors.

The best thing about this biography, in particular, is it doesn't shy away from describing what a troubled life Brando led.

These books all take readers deep into territories unexplored by mass media.

You need a great deal of patience and commitment to read about one person for such a long stretch. Yet, once you read the final lines, you will be forced to ponder what these people were really like, as compared to how the world saw them.

If that's the case, the work of the biographer is fulfilled. Now, get reading.