AYN RAND and the World She Made

Whether you love her, hate her or don’t know who she is, Ayn Rand’s life story is a page-turner in Anne Heller’s 2009 book, AYN RAND and the World She Made. The New York Times reported, “A thoughtful, flesh-and-blood portrait of an extremely complicated and self-contradictory woman . . . plumbing the quirkier depths of Rand’s prodigious imagination.”

Before I read this gripping biography, I knew very little about Ayn Rand personally. I knew she was a great writer and I’ve always admired her ability to shoehorn ideas into the thoughts and speeches of the characters she created in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Those two books have also stirred the passions and engaged the minds of millions of readers for over fifty years.
Written in 1957 and 1943, they are still best sellers today. For her disciples, Rand’s written word is gospel. Her books have shaped the Libertarian movement, influenced White House economic policies during the Reagan years and inspired the Tea Party movement.

So when a friend told me that he was reading this superbly vivid and enlightening biography about Ayn Rand, I decided to give it a go. My problem was that I could not put the book down. Why?

The San Francisco Chronicle sums it up well with the following review:

“Heller has taken the forbidding author of [two great novels] and made her real, a person of greater complexity than Rand herself would admit . . . She crafts a narrative that gains force from its engagement with Rand’s writing. Yet this is very much the story of Rand’s life, underscoring the contradictions between her strident philosophy and her human, very messy existence . . . [A] fine work.”

Anne C. Heller is to be congratulated for her impeccable research skills and immensely readable portrait of Ayn Rand—one of the strangest, most controversial and widely read writers of the 20th century.

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