If you are like me, you enjoy taking a break from reading novels now and then to enjoy a good biography. A good biographer or autobiographer can make a true-life story read like fiction. This summer has brought us several new and engaging biographies. Here are a few of the best:

A list of top new biographies

New Biographies – The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E. Hoffman (Doubleday)

David E. Hoffman, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book about the nuclear arms race called The Dead Hand, brings us this true story of a daring spy during the last years of the Cold War. The work of Soviet engineer Adolf Tolkachev helped American intelligence learn valuable technical information about the Soviet military. His work eventually enabled the U.S. to gain air superiority over the Soviets.

With breathtaking risks and stranger than fiction tactics, Tolachev used secret cameras, secret codes and clandestine meetings to allude Soviet detection until, ultimately, he was betrayed himself. This tense tale will keep you on the edge of your seat.

New Biographies – Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny by Holly Madison (Dey Street Books)

At the age of 21, Holly Sue Cullen, known professionally as Holly Madison, left her small town upbringing and her life as a student working her way through college, to enter the bizarre world of Hugh Hefner. Although her life as a star of the TV show The Girls Next Door may have seemed glamorous, Holly found out that things are not always as they seem.

In this autobiographical account, Holly relates how she lost her sense of self-worth and considered suicide before she was able to get her life back on track. Her book is a fascinating – and disturbing — insider’s look at the Playboy mystique and at the importance of finding a way out of pain and the controlling behavior of others.

New Biographies – Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance (Ecco)

With his exclusive access to Elon Musk and his family and friends, technology journalist Ashlee Vance is able to give us an unprecedented look at the man and the mind behind some of the world’s most innovative companies.

Through Tesla Motors, PayPal, SpaceX and SolarCity, Musk has proven himself to be an amazing inventor. Here, Vance not only tells us Musk’s story but also probes the idea of what being an innovative thinker means in today’s global marketplace.

New Biographies – Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide by Michael B. Oren (Random House)

American-born Israeli historian Michael B. Oren served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2013. In Ally, he shares his take on this period of upheaval in the Middle East and of political change in the U.S. Oren weaves his own personal experiences and values in with the headlines, and it makes for an exciting and provoking examination of America’s enduring alliance with Israel.

New Biographies – The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee (William Collins)

This is the incredible true story of one woman’s fight for freedom both for herself and for her family. At the age of 17, Hyeonseo Lee risked her life in order to escape from the poverty and repression she suffered in North Korea.

Relentlessly sought after by the North Koreans, Lee again risked everything by returning to her home country after 12 years in order to help her mother and brother escape to South Korea. Lee is a remarkable woman, and her story resonates with courage and passion.

Top New Biographies