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Ayn Rand and the World She Made

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,399 ratings  ·  196 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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3.83  · 
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 ·  1,399 ratings  ·  196 reviews

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Mar 26, 2012 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 - i
Ok, so here I go.

I've been kind of dreading this. I'm not a fan of Ayn Rand or her philosophy, but she's relevant and this biography is said to be reasonably objective. It's hard to be objective about objectivism.

By the way, Rand didn't invent the commonsense understanding that reality is what it is despite what we believe or wish and her disciples don't own a monopoly on that idea, assuming they give it more than lip service in the first place. It's harder to live by that maxim than most peopl
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
Dec 04, 2009 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
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very good biography of Ayn Rand.

I have been interested in her ideas for a while and this book certainly provides a good overview of who she was - her childhood in Russia, her coming to america and becoming a famous writer. The most important question I learned to ask is whether a free society requires an autonomous individual to sustain itself. I am not quite sure whether its true or not but I am certain that those who succeed in business are certainly those who make rational decisions.

I hav
Oct 10, 2011 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
Jun 05, 2010 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
Elizabeth Cárdenas
Aug 10, 2011 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
Apr 23, 2010 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
Jun 29, 2013 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
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I had a Libertarian friend in high school. While I was firmly in camp Nader, she was a Bush supporter, and even went so far as to buy me a gloating ice cream sandwich when Bush won the presidency. In the course of that friendship, I was convinced to pick up a copy of The Fountainhead.

I tend to find passion infectious. While I found the book itself a tedious and poorly-written slog, the excitement it showed for architecture really spoke to me. I gave up on the book fairly early - I'm not even sur
Matt Howard
Nov 18, 2009 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 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
Nov 23, 2012 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
Jun 30, 2010 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 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.
“Oh Lu Lu?,” she asks herself, “did you really expect to get a clean flush from this particular upperdecker?”

In fairness to the author, my comment isn’t a reflection on her book, but on the subject of her book. Unfortunately, I learned years ago that Ayn Rand did herself an upperdecker. Philosophers should never shit in their own toilet tanks.
Alexandra Popoff
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent biography of Ayn Rand--informative, readable, and objective.
Kushal Srivastava
Jun 05, 2011 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
Kim  Scripture
Sep 06, 2011 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,
Sep 09, 2010 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
Jun 22, 2012 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 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
Carl Rollyson
Aug 05, 2012 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 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
Jul 11, 2010 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
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
Nov 11, 2009 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
Oct 31, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: ayn-rand

Its “Either / Or: If you love Ayn Rand, Anne C. Heller’s well written, well researched, excellent and very comprehensive biography, ‘Ayn Rand and the World She Made’ will leave you overwhelmingly sad. Or, on the other hand, if you hate Ayn Rand it will lend credence to your claim that the ‘empress has no clothes’.

“Metaphysics: objective reality. Epistemology: Reason. Ethics: Self-interest. Politics: Capitalism.” (Pg. 282)

(My copy is available for loan.)
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