The Keystone’s Summer Reading: Biographies

(Keystone Graphic/Morgaine Ford-Workman)

By Patrick Abdalla

July 23, 2021

If you’re looking for a biography about or by a famous Pennsylvanian, you’re in luck. The state has produced so many interesting people and great writers that you could fill a whole bookcase with good entries.

Editor’s note: The end of a Dean Koontz novel can shock and thrill you. Laura Wiesberger’s stories can draw you in. The grand scope of a James Michener tome can leave you in awe.

Our state has a rich literary history, from Louisa May Alcott to August Wilson, and it has also produced some of the biggest best-selling authors of fiction and nonfiction works, from Mark Bowden to Jennifer Weiner.

With that in mind, The Keystone has come up with a Summer Reading List of books by Pennsylvania authors or set in the Keystone State. Until the end of August, we will bring a different genre of books to you.


If you’re looking for a biography about or by a famous Pennsylvanian, you’re in luck. The state has produced so many interesting people and great writers that you could fill a whole bookcase with good entries. Here are a few:

Benjamin Franklin

This fun read shows you how Franklin, who lived in Philadelphia for most of his life, became one of the most famous people of his age and how he helped shape the nation. Walter Isaacson brings to life the Founding Father who “winks at us.”

Isaacson is a master of the in-depth biography, having written engrossing books about Albert Einstein and Leonardo Da Vinci, among others. 

Citizen Reporters

Stephanie Gorton takes readers on a tour of how S.S. McClure and Ida Tarbell helped reshape America through the trailblazing journalism of McClure’s, the muckraking magazine. 

Tarbell, an Erie native, was an influential journalist in her time and her “History of Standard Oil” is still studied in history and journalism classes.

The Sound of Freedom

Raymond Arsenault’s book gives readers a look at how Marian Anderson ended up giving an Easter morning concert before 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial.

The book shows how the Philadelphia native’s 1939 concert was a critical moment in the Civil Rights movement.

What Made Maddy Run

Former Philadelphia Inquirer sports writer Kate Fagan covers the life and suicide of Penn runner Madison Holleran.

The book has been a favorite of runners, young people, and sports fans because of its deft reporting of several issues.


The Keystone’s Summer Reading: Light Reads

The Keystone’s Summer Reading: The Classics

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