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ThuMay 16

National Biographer's Day – May 16, 2024

National Biographer’s Day is celebrated every year on May 16 to commemorate a very special event. It was the first time Samuel Johnson — a famous poet, essayist, literary critic, editor, and lexicographer, and his biographer James Boswell met. A biography is essentially a type of genre that features a written account of another person’s life. Did you know that biographies have been around since the Roman empire?

History of National Biographer's Day

In the mid-1700s, Samuel Johnson, a biographer himself, met with his biographer James Boswell in London, England on May 16. According to Johnson, the best biographers ate, drank, and maintained social relations with the person they were writing about.

The meeting between Johnson and Boswell eventually led to the publishing of one of the most celebrated biographies in English literature. James Boswell’s research and narrative style set the standard for biographers since his biography of Johnson was considered to be one of the best in the English language.

However, it’s said that biographies have been around for long before that meeting. They were written historically and it’s believed that one of the first biographies was written during the Roman Empire. The genre of biography began to emerge in the 1800s and reached its contemporary form at the turn of the 1900s. While biographies went through a period of stagnation following this, autobiographies became more popular and, even until today, they have stayed relevant in the form of memoirs.

Nonetheless, biographies remain a relevant source of information for students, academicians, and readers alike. Biographies are extremely popular as they provide a deep insight into a person’s life. Moreover, in recent times, biographies have evolved and found a footing in the form of multimedia. This includes documentary biographical films, commercial films, etc.

It’s only right that there is a day dedicated to celebrating biographers who put the painstaking effort into penning down someone’s life in such a way that it is able to strike a chord with its readers.

National Biographer's Day timeline

44 B.C.
The First Biography

The first record of a biography written by Cornelius Nepos is found.

2nd century A.D.
Longer Biography

Biographies of multiple famous men are written in Greek by Plutarch and compiled in a book called, “Parallel Lives.”

Samuel Johnson and James Boswell Meet

Samuel Johnson and James Boswell meet at a bookshop in Covent Garden, London, which lays the foundation for the latter’s biography of the former.

Samuel Johnson’s Biography

The biography of the writer Samuel Johnson is published by his biographer James Boswell.

National Biographer's Day FAQs

Which are some of the best biographies of all time?

Some of the best biographies include “A Beautiful Mind” by Sylvia Nasar, “Churchill: A Life” by Martin Gilbert, “Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo” by Hayden Herrera, “Napoleon: A Life” by Andrew Roberts, and “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson to name a few. Of course, there are millions of other biographies out there, so choose the one that best suits your interests.

Where did National Biographer’s Day originate?

National Biographer’s Day originated in England, however, anyone across the globe can celebrate this day.

Who was Samuel Johnson?

Samuel Johnson had many roles, including that of an English critic, biographer, essayist, poet, and lexicographer. He is even regarded as one of the greatest figures in life and letters of the 1700s. His greatest achievement was conceiving the dictionary as a type of literary work.

How To Celebrate National Biographer’s Day

  1. Read a biography

    National Biographer’s Day is a fitting time to pick up a biography and read it. Or, finally, resume that biography that you haven’t been able to finish. Think of a person that you would love to know more about and find out if there is a biography written on them.

  2. Write a biography

    Why not take a shot at writing your own biography? You can refer to other biographies to get an idea of the style, structure, nuances, etc. Think of a person that inspires you and someone whose story people should know. You don’t have to get it published, this is something you can just do for yourself.

  3. Participate in a non-fiction book club

    There are so many book clubs out there. You can join a non-fiction book club on National Biographer’s Day and indulge in reading a biography with them. Book clubs discuss the books at the end of the reading session and it’s a great way to not only put your thoughts out there but also get a whole range of different perspectives on a biography.

5 Facts About Authors That Will Surprise You

  1. John Milton’s influence on America

    John Milton’s pamphlet “Areopagitica” was a key influence on the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and the author himself influenced America’s founding fathers.

  2. Louisa May Alcott’s occupation

    Louisa May Alcott worked as a Civil War nurse before she wrote “Little Women.”

  3. Agatha Christie’s inspiration

    Agathe Christie once mentioned that she liked to think up her stories while relaxing in a bath and eating apples.

  4. Washington Irving and Gotham City

    It was Washington Irving who came up with the name ‘Gotham City’ to describe New York in an 1807 periodical.

  5. Haruki Murakami’s inspiration to write fiction

    Having never written a novel before, Haruki Murakami said that he got the inspiration to write fiction after attending a baseball game at Jingu Stadium.

Why We Love National Biographer’s Day

  1. Biographers get credit

    Biographers don’t get enough credit for the work they do and that should change. National Biographer’s Day not only commemorates a significant event in the history of this genre but also helps to honor the work that biographers do to bring real stories to their readers.

  2. Biographies make history come alive

    A well-written biography is more than just a reading delight. It can really help us get a good insight into people’s lives and cement their ideas and experiences.

  3. It encourages the reading of biographies

    Biographies are a fundamental genre of literature. While reading fiction can help us unwind and unlock our imagination, biographies, on the other hand, can expose us to a whole new world. Reading a biography can help you see how another person lived and worked, and maybe you can pick up a few good habits from them. Biographies should be on the reading list of every reader.

National Biographer's Day dates

2024May 16Thursday
2025May 16Friday
2026May 16Saturday
2027May 16Sunday
2028May 16Tuesday

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