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Ayn Rand and the World She Made

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  1,180 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
Ayn Rand is best known as the author of the perennially bestselling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Altogether, more than 12 million copies of the two novels have been sold in the United States. The books have attracted three generations of readers, shaped the foundation of the Libertarian movement, and influenced White House economic policies throughout the Re ...more
Hardcover, 568 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Nan A. Talese
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Apr 02, 2012 B0nnie rated it really liked it
"Winning an Argument with Ayn Rand: the Grim Impossibility"
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

Heller has written a detailed account of Ayn Rand's life from her beginnings in Russia, to her death in America. The most striking thing is not the distance between these events, but the distance between Rand's prescription for man's happiness, and how miserable she actually was.

Yet Rand had an absolute conviction of her own rightness in all things -
Jan 06, 2010 Lynn rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. The reader is left to make their own conclusions about what made Ayn Rand tick, or what label could be put on her to explain her odd behavior. It was obvious to me she was a narcissist, but the author only used that term once and she also mentioned Albert Ellis made the same assessment. It is likely her narcissism ended up influencing her philosophy, but I don’t think every Objectivist should automatically be labeled a narcissist. The book would have been better if the autho ...more
Who was Ayn Rand?

Irregardless if you agree with her philosophy or not, you cannot deny Rand one fact: she was a phenomenon. Born in Russia, Rand emigrated to the U.S. in 1925, when she was just 21. Seeing the skyline of Manhattan for the very first time in her life, she cried. That skyline emphasized everything she believed in and dedicated her life to: the strenght of man's spirit and will of the gifted individual.

An incredibly driven woman, Rand decided that she will become famous - and did. A
May 13, 2010 Sheila rated it really liked it
What a marvelous horror was Ayn Rand.

A perfect storm of fearsome intelligence and narcissism in the form of a small, dark-eyed, russian/jewish emigree who arrived in America, alone, in 1926 and set out to conquer the dreams denied to her in Communist Russia.

She hammered out her philosophy of Objectivism and created heroes in books that gradually inspired a cult following (literally)that included, among others, former Chairman of The Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan; and then gathered that follow
Matt Howard
Nov 18, 2009 Matt Howard rated it really liked it
For me, Anthem, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are three of the best and most important books ever written. The political movement, Libertarianism, that arose under the prodding of Rand's views of politics and philosophy, has been my political home since 1973. This biography makes it clear that we must separate the work from the person. Just as Henry Ford was a half-mad bigot, but established mass production on a moving assembly line as an industrial norm, and Linus Pauling was a brilliant chem ...more
David Johnston
Aug 04, 2011 David Johnston rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
True Individualism v.s. Objectivism
(an incomplete review of Ayn Rand and the World She Made)

I just got through reading the new thought provoking and highly readable biography about Ayn Rand by Anne C. Heller, Ayn Rand and the World She Made. An excellent book and a fair one I think. It has cured me from wanting to read or reread Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead. (I vaguely remember reading Atlas Shrugged in my misspent youth). In her own idiosyncratic way Ayn Rand was deeply influenced by Niet
Jun 05, 2010 Bethany rated it really liked it
I love Ayn Rand's fiction. The first time I ever picked up Atlas Shrugged, I was head over heels in love. Growing up conservative, I had never read anyone who had apologetics for my political beliefs (more or less) without it being a religious thing. Here were these characters who were so black and white, so unquestionably certain of what they believed and it was made so clear why. I often seek out shades of gray, I think it's important for me to keep myself from being too extreme one way or ano ...more
Nov 01, 2011 Jhfrancis01 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The irony of Ayn Rand is that in espousing a rigid doctrine of selfishness she ended up re-creating the very thought system she railed against - namely -- all is black and white; the self-anointed and self-aggrandized are superior solely because they believe it so not because they possess any truly redemptive qualities; those without wealth or sanctioned creative talent are inferior and thus have no right to live; paranoia is synonymous with faith; manipulation is a substitute for love; the mand ...more
Elizabeth Cárdenas
Oct 07, 2013 Elizabeth Cárdenas rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
A hideous woman with a wide-reaching “philosophy” “Why do they always teach us that it's easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It's the hardest thing in the world--to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.” ― Ayn RandThere are people I dislike at a visceral level but after reading a biography or memoir I at least understand them. I may even discover redeeming qualities in them. Not so with Ayn Rand - ...more
Nov 23, 2012 Louise rated it it was amazing
Anne Heller's work, talent, insight and dedication have resulted in a book I could hardly put down. She has tackled a very complex subject. It's been three days since I finished it and realize that it may take months to digest it. The book is so huge I can only write impressions and thoughts.

The first thing to pop out at me relates to Frank Lloyd Wright. Early on, Rand saw his outsider life and creativity which may have became the model for Howard Roark. After visiting Taliesin she commented tha
Jared Della Rocca
Oct 12, 2010 Jared Della Rocca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the best books I've read in the past year. It presents a fascinating look at an author whose works have been an inspiration to generations of readers. Heller isn't a Rand loyalist, and thus while that meant she was denied access to many primary sources located at the Rand Institute, it also allowed her to provide a clearer and truer view of Rand. This biography, stripped of legend, provides insights into not only Rand, but the worlds and characters she created. Reading this work ...more
Jan 07, 2010 Sara rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at the library, thinking I'd skim it, but ended up reading it cover to cover in just a few days. I found her entire story fascinating, particularly her childhood in Russia and her extremely limited communication with her family in Russia once she got to the US. Her world view and relationships with husband, friends and followers are all very interesting. Definitely recommend this for anyone the least bit interested in Ayn Rand.
Oct 23, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it
I have an absurd fantasy about Ayn Rand that involves Rabbi Hillel smacking her upside the head and shouting, "If I am ONLY for myself, then WHAT am I?" That fantasy should let people know what I think of her philosophy. However, despite finding her appalling I will admit to a degree of fascination and this biography has plenty to offer on both counts. I've certainly never read another book that had me stopping every 15 pages or so to say to my husband in outrage, "Do you KNOW what she did?" It ...more
Carl Rollyson
Aug 05, 2012 Carl Rollyson rated it it was amazing
Sensational popular novelist and cult philosopher for the American libertarian Right, the controversial Ayn Rand (1905-82) and her work have inspired an astounding volume of writing. When she died, she was both heralded and excoriated for her uncompromising belief in individualism and capitalism. An unabashed worshipper of male heroes who triumph over leveling, crippling influence creeds like socialism and communism, Rand inspired legions of readers to believe in what she deemed "the virtue of s ...more
One cannot fake reality-- this is a basic pillar of Objectivist thought. Despite this, I find it amazing how little objective study exists over Ayn Rand's life. Personal memoirs have certainly been published--some oozing spite and others thick with hero-worshiping loyalty. But here, with Anne C. Heller's "Ayn Rand and the World She Made," we have a balanced view of Rand as philosopher, novelist and woman-- an amazing feat considering the fact that the Ayn Rand Institute suspiciously denied Helle ...more
May 01, 2012 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs
Shelves: favorites, history, bio
My first experience with Rand's work was Atlas ShruggedAtlas Shrugged for a college level essay contest. I really enjoy her fiction/philosophy but was always curious about the person behind the words. She was a Russian immigrant took on, developed and espoused some of the most dearly held American beliefs concerning personal responsibility, finances and economy. This biography is a fantastic account of a smart, complicated and often unattractive acting person who worked diligently to have a huge ...more
Jun 22, 2012 Sandi rated it really liked it
When I was in college, I read Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. I loved all three but never really learned much about the author, Ayn Rand. I found this book on a bookstore sale table and was immediately drawn to it by the photographs -- on the cover and inside. The stark black and white photographs reflect a woman who often has a stern countenance and many famous people from various episodes throughout her life.

Rand's story begins with her childhood during the Russian Revolution. T
Mar 10, 2010 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Long text. Well written.

Saying that, it is difficult, at least personally. I had always admired Ayn Rand's books and the objectivist philosophy. I still do. This is a biography describing how Rand's life impacted her writing and her psychology.

As to her books, I want to go back and reread them.

As to her as a person, she is stubborn and mean spirited. She rants about the Soviets, loves America, and believes that all of her followers must abide by all her opinions without disent. That is very dis
Jun 29, 2013 Gina rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviews
This new Ayn Rand biography didn't have anything really new or surprising in it. I'm a big fan of biographies, particularly those of larger than life personalities- whether they are obnoxious or admirable (or both) - whether I ag ree with their ideas, politics, etc., or not. Ayn Rand has always fascinated me. I remember reading "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged"- two huge books, in only a few days. The books consciously repelled me, and yet strangely they drew me into their convoluted plots ...more
Sep 06, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it
Oh, where to start and where to end. I will say that to approach this book with some perspective, you should read one of her big ones first...Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged or both. It also would help if you took a few minutes to read through the basics of her philosophies.

I can say that I have never encountered someone that I agree with in so many ways yet viscerally disagree with in so many others. Even if you think the author makes too many suppositions or unsupported statements, generally,
Kushal Srivastava
Jun 05, 2011 Kushal Srivastava rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography

Ayn Rand’s biography by Anne C. Heller is as neutral a book about Rand as it can get. The author has attempted to present the story of one of the most radical (and insane) authors of the 20th century in as simple terms as was humanly possible. Rand is a fascinating character even though her fiction is not. Either you’re with her or you don’t exist – that is Rand’s philosophy in a nutshell.

Rand lived till her teen years in pre-revolutionary Russia and the soviet Russia. That had a bearing on her
Jul 11, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it
I didn't really know much about Ayn Rand before I read this book. As a libertarian, I had been aware of her for quite some time. I abandoned my attempt through The Fountainhead 10 years ago, or so. When I received this book as a gift I thought it was a good chance to find out what she was all about.
Heller does a great job of painting a portrait of a remarkable, driven, smart, but ultimately frightening woman. To me liberal vs conservative or communist vs capitalist isn't the same as right vs wro
May 10, 2016 Athenenike rated it really liked it
An interesting and in depth look at Ayn Rand and her life. This book covers literary and political theory, as all Rand biographies must, but is accessible and well written. Definitely worth the read.
While I admire Ayn Rand's passion for ideas and her dedication to logic and fact in the face of any argument, I have huge problems with her philosophy. I am fundamentally opposed to the main tenet of Objectivism that dictates that altruism is immoral.

This book does a good job of explaining where exactly Ayn Rand's philosophy falters and falls to pieces, her history and background from the USSR, her arrival in the US and how she built a world for herself, first working as an unknown scriptwriter
Joshua McKee
Dec 06, 2009 Joshua McKee rated it it was amazing
Wow! Ayn Rand was a very interesting character. As a matter of fact I think they need to make a movie about her before they make one about Atlas Shrugged. The story of her unlikely rise to fame, the love triangles and the "cult" that was created by her loyal "objectivist" followers was gripping. Despite her idiosyncracies and borderline psychotic behavior in her later years, I admire her work ethic and the way she moralized the individual. Ultimately I think one should take from Rand what they c ...more
Jan 24, 2010 Cwelshhans rated it really liked it
I've read multiple essays on Rand that focus on either her life or her books to the exclusion of the other. This book excellently covers both Rand the person and the meaning and thoughts behind her works. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Rand, and this book would have been of incredible use to me. I would have liked to see more on the continuing impact of Rand after her death, as well as the use and misuse of her philosophy and works of fiction in the last 25+ years. Aside from that point, the ...more
Paul McAtee
Great bio on Rand. C

I enjoyed the highly emotional treatment of her reationship with her husband, which is often underplayed in favor of her polyamorous adventures.

"In spite of whatever tensions may have existed between them, she missed him terribly; for much of their marriage, she would feel safe only when he was by her side. They exchanged love letters, hers alternating between news—of an overnight houseguest named Marjorie Hiss (the wife of a cousin of Alger Hiss whom Rand had met at the Stud
Joseph D. Walch
Mar 26, 2014 Joseph D. Walch rated it really liked it
My personal opinion is that no man (as Rand would say--philosophically speaking--including women) is without vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Rand stubbornly ignored this. The foundation of every human relationship is based not in achievement (as the libertarian, Randian, Objectivist would assert), but in our responses to vulnerability and weaknesses in ourselves and in others. No man (again, speaking philosophically) sprung from the ground as a fully-formed autonomous, responsible adult human be ...more
Aug 01, 2015 Darius rated it it was ok
Heller falls prey to the biographer's temptation to tie events across Rand's life in ways that are very speculative. She's also given to exaggeration both in praise of Rand and the opposite.

She's clearly spent a lot of time gathering all sorts of tidbits about Rand that would only be of interest to a die hard fan. Most Objectivists will absolutely hate parts of this book. Yet, if those fans can manage not to put this book down in disgust, and if they can take the values offered while ignoring t
Bett Correa-Bollhoefer
Nov 16, 2015 Bett Correa-Bollhoefer rated it it was amazing
So many things I didn't know about Ayn Rand. Life is infinitely more complex than a novel.
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