"Did they tell you stories about the saints of old,
stories about their faith?
Stories like that make a boy grow bold,
stories like that make a man walk straight..."
—Rich Mullins, Boy Like Me, Man Like You
Stories about people have a way of affecting us in ways other stories can't. The Bible is primarily stories about people, and it is through these multiple biographies that we understand human nature, the history of redemption, and even to a great extent God Himself. The purpose behind any other biography is largely the same—to help us understand what it means to be human from the examples (sometimes even the bad examples) of those who have preceded us.
The biographies we have chosen for this section represent those of great leaders in history, social and military heroes, and Christian saints past and present who struggled to conform their lives to Christ's perfect example. We have avoided for the most part biographies of history's villains and chronic immoralists, not because they aren't interesting but because they don't represent lives worthy of imitation. We've also decided not to focus on athletes, actors, and celebrities, unless they've made important contributions outside their fields. That's not to say everyone found here was above reproach or even a Christian, but they all demonstrated real human virtues for which they are remembered.
Biographies are also useful for better understanding of a given historical period. While history books can provide good overviews of a period or events, the intimate detail of a good biography can better illustrate a time period and what it was like to be alive then. This also serves to demonstrate the universality of human nature, that people will behave basically the same during any given period and in any given place. Sometimes we get the impression that people of the past, especially people like missionaries and ministers, were somehow more pious than we are—the personal view offered by a good biography dispels this myth and offers encouragement that not even the best men and women are any closer to perfection than we are.