I was very distressed after Pope John Paul II died that I hadn't made more of an effort while he was alive to get to know him. I suppose it almost makes sense, I was only in college when he died and only just coming to know myself as a Catholic.
But I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't make that mistake again. To that end, I have just finished reading "Milestones" by Pope Benedict XVI. As stern and aloof as he may seem in public, his memoirs were suprisingly warm and witty. They were interesting from a historical standpoint as an account of a child's life at the beginning of the Nazi regime in 1933, when young Joseph Ratzinger was 6 years old. He served a short term in the military and was put in a POW camp by the American liberators. After that his religious and seminary work began in earnest.
The theological sections of the work are a bit dense to wade through, but they also can be charming and surprising. If you want to know more about His Holiness, I recommend you read this book. The work of a life is often dictated in how a youth is spent