Breaking away from the boring bio

In the past, biographies have been labeled as boring, not exactly the choice of those who read for pleasure. However, in the past few years, many authors have sprung out of the woodwork, sharing the stories of legends who were regular people looking for a better way to live. Here are three books that are not only entertaining but also give readers a glimpse into the lives of a few of the most creative men in history.

Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare by Bertram Fields

This book attempts to answer the question that historians have been pondering for so many years: Did Shakespeare actually write the 37 plays and 154 sonnets he is credited with? And if not, who wrote such famous words as, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” and “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Author Bertram Fields, a Harvard graduate and lawyer, gives supporting evidence for each side. He suggests many possible contenders – Shakespeare himself, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe (both writers) and Queen Elizabeth I. The book does not give a definite answer to the question, but allows readers to come up with their own verdicts.

John by Cynthia Lennon

Before the hits, the fame and the controversy, there was Cynthia, the unknown first wife of John Lennon. Cynthia tells the tale of the man behind the glasses and shaggy hair, from his days as an art student in Liverpool to their bitter divorce and his constant disregard of their son Julian.What makes John such a great biography is that Cynthia reveals a side of him that one rarely hears about. Many know him as an outspoken, brash Brit, but few have heard about his vulnerable side, particularly in his early years. His father was never around and he was sent to live with his stern Aunt Mimi, who seemed to repress anything that brought John joy – notably music, one of the few things that linked him to his fun-loving mother.

John also clears up the Yoko Ono drama concerning how she came into John’s life. She may have broken up The Beatles, but she also broke up the Lennons by worming her way into John’s life through letters as a crazed hippie fan.

The most important message in John is that this man was not perfect. He may be portrayed as flawless, with the world in his hands – but the truth is that he could be rude, unforgiving, abusive and just plain ignorant. But through it all, Cynthia claims she will always love him, even after four marriages.

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

This extremely well-written book recounts the life story of Walt Disney, the man who gave the world Mickey Mouse and so many other memorable characters. The book begins with the history of Disney’s family and ends with his death in December 1966. It is a wonderful narrative that documents every detail of Disney’s life, including the process of creating Mickey Mouse and such films as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio.

It also explains how Disneyland came to be known as the happiest place on Earth. Gabler does an amazing job collecting information, using interviews from Disney and family members as the first biographer to have access to the complete Disney archives. It clears up some legends, such as Disney being frozen alive (he was cremated and his ashes are at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, Calif. near his studio).

Don’t let the size of this epic book intimidate (the appendix, notes, bibliography and index make up more than 200 pages alone). The book shows that this larger-than-life person, who changed Hollywood and the world, was just a person, with faults and embarrassing childhood stories like everyone else.