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by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about th...

April 2, 2024

B is for Biographies and Biographical Fiction #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber

#AtoZChallenge 2024 badge B

For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the genre/category and an example or two. I would love to know your thoughts on the genre/category and if you have any reading suggestions. Be sure to check out all of my A to Z posts.

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Biographies and biographical fiction focus on an individual, usually a person of some significance. They are often about a historical figure but can also focus on person who is still alive. 


Biographies are nonfiction and mostly contain facts and figures. There may be some dialogue based on interviews or recordings (i.e. presidential tapes). I'm not really drawn to many biographies. I'm more likely to pick up a memoir which differs from biographies as they are written by the person who the book is about. Memoirs differ from autobiographies as they tend to focus more on emotions and may not cover the entire life history of the person. I read a biography about Benedict Arnold last year.

God Save Benedict Arnold by Jack Kelly

book cover of biography God Save Benedict Arnold by Jack Kelly

Benedict Arnold committed treason— for more than two centuries, that’s all that most Americans have known about him.

Yet Arnold was much more than a turncoat—his achievements during the early years of the Revolutionary War defined him as the most successful soldier of the era. God Save Benedict Arnold tells the gripping story of Arnold’s rush of audacious feats—his capture of Fort Ticonderoga, his Maine mountain expedition to attack Quebec, the famous artillery brawl at Valcour Island, the turning-point battle at Saratoga—that laid the groundwork for our independence.

Arnold was a superb leader, a brilliant tactician, a supremely courageous military officer. He was also imperfect, disloyal, villainous. One of the most paradoxical characters in American history, and one of the most interesting. God Save Benedict Arnold does not exonerate him for his treason—the stain on his character is permanent. But Kelly’s insightful exploration of Arnold’s career as a warrior shines a new light on this gutsy, fearless, and enigmatic figure. In the process, the book offers a fresh perspective on the reasons for Arnold’s momentous change of heart.

You can read my review. Susan and MK have both reviewed several biographies, including books about The Mamas and the Papas, Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman, Harriet the Spy author Louise Fitzhugh, and more. 

Biographical Fiction

I'm more inclined to read biographical fiction. It is a genre that became popular in the 1930s. The main character is a real person, but events and/or timeline may be manipulated to fit the novel's narrative. The feelings, thoughts, and conversations might be fictionalized but authors may also rely on biographies, memoirs, letters, and personal recollections. Secondary characters may be real, completely fictional, or compilations of real people. While the novel does inform the reader, the main purpose is to entertain.

I prefer biographical fiction that is well-rooted in the historical record, and I love when an author includes a note describing their research and any changes they needed to make to fit the story.

Susan and I read a good deal of biographical fiction - I have a long list I could recommend. Most recently we both reviewed a book about a WWII resistance fighter.

The Woman with No Name by Audrey Blake

book cover of biographical fiction novel The Woman with No Name by Audrey Blake

1942. Though she survived the bomb that destroyed her home, Yvonne Rudellat's life is over. She's estranged from her husband, her daughter is busy with war work, and Yvonne—older, diminutive, overlooked—has lost all purpose. Until she's offered a chance to remake herself entirely…

The war has taken a turn for the worse, and the men in charge are desperate. So, when Yvonne is recruited as Britain's first female sabotage agent, expectations are low. But her tenacity, ability to go unnoticed, and aptitude for explosives set her apart. Soon enough she arrives in occupied France with a new identity, ready to set the Nazi regime ablaze.

But there are adversaries on all sides. As Yvonne becomes infamous as the nameless, unstoppable woman who burns the enemy at every turn, she realizes she may lose herself to the urgent needs of the cause…

Buy The Woman with No Name at Amazon

Do you enjoy biographies and/or biographical fiction? What books would you recommend?

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. I've always wondered about the label "biographical fiction." Thanks for making it make sense. :-)

  2. Does Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter count as biographical fiction? It's the only thing i can think of that I've read based on a real person. I'm more likely to read a memoir before a biography, but probably biographical fiction before either of those. Idea-ist@GetLostInLit

    1. It's funny that you mention Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. It was listed in a Wikipedia article I read on biographical fiction as an example of being superficially biographical.

    2. that is funny. all the books in all the world and thats the one that stood out to wikipedia.