Biographies and the April Reading Challenge

Try-It With-Me Tuesday, an interactive weekly time and place to foster connections that challenge and encourage the process to become a well-rounded person.

I completed the March Reading Challenge with a day to spare and have the April Reading Challenge to try. Want to try it with me? Details are at the end of this post.

I have to admit that the challenge to read a biography this month was a challenge. Biographies in general are not like reading a novel in which the story carries you through without concentrated effort. Let’s just say that this wasn’t something I could just read on the elliptical. But overall, I do love biography and understanding the lives of interesting and inspiring people, and I was glad for the challenge.

What is/was your experience reading a biography? Even if you did not complete what you are reading, I would love to receive a comment from you about it. Just tell me what biography you read (or are still reading), a few facts about the person in the biography, and something that person did or said that inspires you.

I will do a full review on Saturday of the biography I read and just give a short synopsis as part of the discussion on biographies here today.

I read A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation by Catherine Allgor. To be perfectly honest, I did not choose this book because I admire Dolley Madison. Rather, I was inspired by the idea that she was an integral part of a marriage “team” and that team of James and Dolley Madison established some important characteristic foundations for our country.

Dolley Madison was the wife of James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution and the fourth president of the United States (after Thomas Jefferson). He took office in March 1809. Although women could not vote at the time,

Dolley brought the feminine values of civility and emotion into government business. The presence of ladies in the audience at governmental proceedings shaped how the ruling men presented their arguments and chose their issues, with the effect of toning down the usual violent rhetoric.

Catherine Allgor
A Perfect Union:
Dolly Madison and the Creation of the American Nation

Her tempering influence was inspiring to me in that she “did her best to bring everyone in the capital—locals, officials, and visitors—together under her roof” in a way that provided a non-confrontational and hospitable forum for understanding and discussing many points of view. I think we cannot underestimate the influence of the tone a woman sets in her home. This biography revealed that Dolley’s tone helped establish national rituals which cemented the foundation of our nation’s capital and the symbolism of the White House.

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The theme of home is deep in my heart and my mind as I present the April Reading Challenge:

During the month of April memorize something you have read that inspires you.

Before you think this is too challenging, please consider that this does not have to be long unless you want it to be. For instance, it could be an important quotation, a meaningful scripture, or a short poem.

In the past year I have discovered the joy of memorization as a way to overcome discouragement, control my thoughts, and think positively. I had never memorized anything until I was inspired to memorize a written testimony of Jesus Christ. Now, I have been working toward memorizing a proclamation about home and family.

I need some help and encouragement to complete my memorization by the last Tuesday in April, which is April 29th. Will you offer your tips and Try-It-With-Me?

If you want to write a post on your blog about what happened when you took the challenge, I will publish your link. Just link to my website in your post and send me your link by Monday April 28 at 6 p.m. (Central Time).


  1. Camille
    Apr 1, 2008

    I realized with only a few days left in the month and just having read your challenge that I had already been working on reading a biography for the last few weeks, possibly even months. 🙂 So I picked up the book and the pace and tried to read as much as I could by yesterday. Still not finished, but here is a little report.

    C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
    This is C.S. Lewis’s autobiography about his conversion. I was struck by the title, and curious that one of the most prominent Christian writers possibly hadn’t been Christian his whole life. It’s been interesting to see what influenced him for the bad and good. I’m looking forward to the surprise of Joy coming back into his life. Right now where I am reading he isn’t quite there yet.
    I’ve enjoyed his insights. Here is one in particular that I really liked.
    “Life at a vile boarding school is in this way a good preparation for the Christian life, that it teaches one to live by hope. Even in a sense, by faith for at the begninng of each term, home and the holidays are so far off that it is as hard to realize them as to realize heaven. They have the same pitiful unreality when confronted with immediate horror. Tomorrow’s geometry blots out the distand end of term as tomorrow’s operation may blot out the hope of Paradise. …In all seriousness I think that the life of faith is easier to me because of these memories. To think, in sunny and confident times, that I shall die and rot, or to think that one day all this universe will slip away and become a memory, this is easier to us if we have seen just that sort of thing happening before. We have learned not to take present things at their face value. ”

    Just another reminder for me that whatever terrible thing is happening today in this moment, there is hope of a better day, a better place, a better world. That this mortal existence really is just a preparation for something far better than what we experience here.

  2. Carrie Jensen
    Apr 1, 2008

    Well, as Camille, I have not yet finnished my book but wanted to write a little summary of what I think so far. I am very interested in polotics and am planning on pursuing a career in energy policy when I complete my PhD in a few years.

    So, in interest in gaining more understanding about politics, and about conservatism in general, I decided that I wanted to read a little more about the political theories of Ronald Reagan. I bought a book called, “Reagan, In His Own Hand”. It is not a true biography, but rather a compilation of Reagan’s writings. These writings cover a long range of time mainly from the late 70s. Much of the book is actually his writings that were eventually used on his radio addresses given prior to his presidency. They cover his thoughts on a number of topics including foreign, domestic, and economic policies.

    I was most interested in the domestic and economic policies. Having listed to conservative talk radio for a number of years, I was able to see the large extent to which the current conservative movement is guided by the political philosophies of Reagan. I also was interested in how ahead of his time Reagan seemed to be. I was too young at the time of his presidency (and not alive during these particular writings) so it may very well be that the problems we are facing today are the similar to those at that time. But in any case, from my understanding of politics, I was impressed his vision and understanding of such a myriad of issues that are still incredibly pertinent today.

    One of my favorite quotes from the book is as follows. Talking about the advances made due to free enterprise he said, “all of this came about because of private individuals wanting to make a profit themselves kept thinking of better services to offer, condiment that we’d want that better service.”

    The writings can become a little heavy if you read too much at a time, and require a little mental processing time to really let the ideas sink in. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in conservative politics, or anyone who simply wants to understand the movement that has been driven by Reagan’s philosophies for the past 25 years.

  3. Minna Dyer
    Apr 2, 2008

    I have started John Adams but have yet to make a dent in it. I might be in over my head…

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