updated 09/26/2013 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 09/26/2013 AT 5:30 PM ET
From an unlikely Russian ruler to a real-life Musketeer to the last Shah of Iran, our staffers are exploring past lives in these vivid historical biographies.
Share your thoughts on their choices – and let us know what you’re reading.
Her Pick: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
Reiss tells the story of the real-life inspiration behind The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers: the father of famed French author Alexandre Dumas. Born in Haiti to a black slave and a French nobleman, Alex Dumas grew up to become the greatest general in Napoleon’s army and the most forgotten hero in history. A swashbuckling read that won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.
Liz Kelly, Sales, PEOPLE Chicago
Her Pick: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
If you didn’t know that it was a true story, you would not believe this fascinating book. Catherine the Great started life as an obscure German princess and ended up ruling Imperial Russia! Along the way, this progressive woman, who had an open marriage by 18th century standards as well as several other unusual liaisons, became one of Russia’s greatest rulers – all in a time when men ruled society.
Charlotte Triggs, Staff Editor
Her Pick: The Shah by Abbas Milani
After watching Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning Iran hostage crisis drama Argo on a plane ride, I yearned for more context about the historical events surrounding it. Milani’s definitive biography of Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlevi, the last Shah of Iran, goes far beyond the film to offer a riveting look at the complex titan who shaped Iran’s modern age.
Check back every Thursday for another round of staff picks, and see more book reviews each week in PEOPLE magazine, on newsstands now. Plus, check out last week’s mind expanders and more great book finds here.