When I talk about Ayn Rand’s ideas, I often get questions about her life. Sometimes the questions are asked out of ill-will: the questioner wants to dismiss Rand’s ideas and so he raises various allegations about her life. But often the questions are genuine, asked either because the questioner can’t reconcile the claims about Rand’s life with his understanding of her ideas, or out of sheer curiosity.
This is not the forum for in-depth discussions of Rand’s life. However, I do think it’s worth pointing to some resources that are indispensable for forming a view of Ayn Rand the person.
Facets of Ayn Rand. This amazing resource is built around the memoirs of two of Ayn Rand’s friends, Charles and Mary Ann Sures. It also includes general biographical information about Rand and audio recordings by Mrs. Sures and some of Rand’s other friends and associates.
Letters of Ayn Rand (edited by Michael S. Berliner). I have spoken to a number of people who knew Ayn Rand, and many have said that nothing else better conveys what Rand was like in person. Includes letters to Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Lloyd Wright, H.L. Mencken, Barry Goldwater, and many others.
Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life. This Oscar-nominated documentary covers Rand’s entire life, and includes extensive interviews with people who knew her.
Ayn Rand: In Her Own Words. As its name suggests, this documentary consists entirely of Rand’s own recollections about her life.
Ayn Rand by Jeffrey Britting. A brief but delightful portrait of Rand’s life by the curator of her archives.
100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand (edited by Scott McConnell). This recently published collection includes over one hundred interviews with people who knew Ayn Rand. As the book’s description says, “From Ayn Rand’s youngest sister to the woman who inspired the character of Peter Keating in The Fountainhead, the subjects interviewed offer fresh, sometimes surprisingly candid, affectionate, and intriguing insights into a complex and remarkable writer, philosopher, and human being.” Includes interviews with Mike Wallace, Mickey Spillane, Patricia Neal, Robert Stack, Ayn Rand’s sister Nora, and many others.