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The Best Autobiographies of All Time

The Best Autobiographies of All Time

Autobiographies give us a sneak peek into famous people's lives, turning them into real people, with real feelings. By reading their stories, we learn powerful lessons, become inspired, and realize that every person has a unique story worth telling.

Discover the incredible power of personal stories with our picks below of some of the greatest autobiographies in history.

Now, you too can preserve your own unique journey with No Story Lost. We can transform your life stories into a beautiful coffee table book for your loved ones to cherish for generations.

The Diary of a Young Girl

"The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank provides an unflinching honesty into the life of a Jewish teen hiding during the unspeakable atrocities of World War II. It shows Anne's struggles with being a typical teenager while hiding from the Nazis and witnessing the horrors of that time.

What makes "The Diary of a Young Girl" special is not just its personal story, but also the lessons it teaches about understanding, freedom, and optimism. Throughout her toughest times, Anne Frank's diary shows her faith in humanity and optimism for her future.

Anne Frank statue

Angela's Ashes

"Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt gets our vote for one of the top autobiographies of all time. This book offers a glimpse into the real-life stories of growing up poor in Ireland during the 1930s and 1940s. By sharing the details of his own story, such as his childhood filled with hunger and family troubles, Frank shows us how how strong his mother, Angela, was. She stayed strong and held onto hope, despite the adversity that she was facing.

This remarkable book serves as a reminder that even in the darkest times, there is always a glimmer of hope.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

"The Autobiography of Malcolm X," written with Alex Haley, tells the story of civil rights leader Malcolm X.

This memoir goes through his life from being a troubled young man to becoming a powerful voice for equality. He experienced racism, which affected him deeply, leading him into crime, jail, and eventually out the other side, to the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm X shares openly about his past, how his beliefs changed over time, and his journey to Mecca. This changed how he viewed race and faith, and had a big impact on the civil rights movement in America.

Dreams from My Father

In "Dreams from My Father," Barack Obama talks about his early years, from growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia to navigating feelings of being out of place. He discusses his dad leaving the family when he was two, and how it affected him growing up.

A trip to Kenya in 1987 allowed him to connect with his African roots, and embrace his history. He also discusses his family life with his equally inspiring wife, Michelle Obama, and their two daughters.

His story is more than just personal; it's about race, identity, and what it means to be American. Obama encourages us to think about our own identities and what makes us more alike, rather than what separates us.

Becoming

Michelle Obama also wrote an autobiography, "Becoming". In her written word, she shares stories about her childhood, her family, and her time living in the White House with husband Barack Obama.

It's not just a story about being the First Lady, but also about her experiences, challenges, and the things she cares about. Michelle Obama is a passionate woman who writes in a relatable and heartfelt way.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is a powerful autobiography, written by Maya Angelou, highlighting the racism and trauma she faced during childhood and into her adult life.

Growing up in Arkansas, Maya Angelou dealt with poverty and deep racial prejudices. This story speaks to the societal issues of race and discrimination, but also offers hope and inspiration. It shows us that no matter what hardships we face, we can find the strength to overcome any challenge. Maya Angelou's book, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is a testament to human resilience and courage.

Long Walk to Freedom

"Long Walk to Freedom" is the life story of Nelson Mandela. From growing up as a child in South Africa, to leading the African National Congress party, to becoming its first black president, he shares the tough times he faced because of racism and how he fought against it.

Nelson Mandela was persecuted for much of his life. This autobiography shows the sacrifices he, along with others, made for the freedom of his people.

This autobiography is an inspiration for others to stand up against injustice and work towards a better future.

Nelson Mandela

The Glass Castle

"The Glass Castle" is Jeannette Walls' real-life love letter about growing up in a nomadic family. They experienced poverty and struggles, but also unique adventures in each place they lived. The book provides us with a better perspective of the ups and downs of their life, from dangerous situations to loving moments between her family, who stuck together through it all.

In 2017, this best-selling memoir was made into a movie, starring Brie Larson as Jeanette Walls.

Walden

The famous philosopher and poet, Henry David Thoreau, wrote "Walden" to chronicle his early life and magical thinking. His time spent living simply, in a cabin surrounded by nature, impacted his thoughts and perspective on the world. Thoreau shares his childhood growing up and intertwines it with thought-provoking reflections on society and the importance of being close to nature.

This New York Times bestseller is especially meaningful in our current commercialized world. It inspires us to cut out the clutter and live a more simple life, filled with deeper meaning.

The Story of My Experiments with Truth

In "The Story of My Experiments with Truth," Mahatma Gandhi opens up about his journey to discover meaning and truth.

Through his own experiences, he reveals how he found his path, faced struggles, and embraced principles that guided India's nonviolent struggle for freedom. Gandhi imparts wisdom on honesty, compassion, and courage in standing for justice.

His words encourage us to live with integrity, kindness, and a relentless quest for truth.

Mahatma Gandhi

The Hiding Place

"The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom, captures the horrific experiences of her family during the Nazi occupation of Holland in World War II.

Similar to Anne Frank, Corrie's family constructed a secret room within their home to provide refuge for persecuted Jews. It is another example of faith and resilience, despite the atrocities that her family experienced.

I Am Malala

Malala Yousafzai is a true inspiration to the younger generation. "I Am Malala" is her story of standing up to the Taliban for girls' education.

Growing up in a relatively peaceful and simple world, her life changed drastically when the Taliban took over and banned girls from going to school. She bravely spoke out about it, and at 15 years old, she was shot in the head. She survived and became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate at the age of 17.

This groundbreaking book is about courage, the importance of education, and standing up for what's right, no matter your age. It shows the young generation the impact that one person can have if they stay true to themselves.

My Beloved World

In "My Beloved World," Sonia Sotomayor, a Supreme Court Justice, candidly recounts her own words, sharing her experiences from a young age in the Bronx to her successful career on the highest court in the U.S.

Through her heartfelt narrative, she delves into the adversities she confronted while growing up poor, navigating family complexities, and being a Latina in a primarily white male-dominated profession. Undeterred by these formidable barriers, she triumphantly overcame them, earning admission to prestigious institutions such as Princeton and Yale, while underscoring the transformative power of education and unwavering self-belief.

US Supreme Court

Chronicles: Volume One

Bob Dylan is one of our favourite musicians, who has stood the test of time. "Chronicles: Volume One" is a memoir about his early years in Minnesota to New York's 1960s music scene.

In his book, Bob Dylan talks about growing up, finding music, and handling fame. He shares stories from his life, including meeting famous people from all walks of life.

This autobiography is a deep dive into a notable time of classic American music and culture. Bob Dylan takes us with him through the years, giving us a deep understanding of the man behind these iconic songs.

Born a Crime

Although known for his comedic skills, Trevor Noah has a lot to say about his experiences with racism. "Born a Crime" is his eye-opening memoir about growing up in South Africa during apartheid.

The son of a black mother and white father, Trevor's very birth, as suggested by the book's title, was against the law. Noah shares funny and heart-wrenching stories from his childhood, giving us a look into the crazy world of racial divides and his journey from a mischievous kid to a global comedy star.

It's an inspiring story about overcoming obstacles, racism's absurdities, and the power of humor in dark times.

A Moveable Feast

Published posthumously, "A Moveable Feast," by Ernest Hemingway tells the story of his early days as a struggling writer in 1920s Paris. It's a collection of memories of his time spent with famous friends like F. Scott Fitzgerald in the city's cafes and talks about the ups and downs of being a young writer.

Paris features prominently in the book and we get an idea of what it was like in this famous city during those years. It's not just about Hemingway's past but also gives advice on writing. Essentially, it's his tribute to Paris and his passion for writing.

Paris

Educated

"Educated" by Tara Westover, is an uplifting memories about the journey of a girl growing up in the isolated mountains of Idaho to becoming a PhD graduate at Cambridge University. She relives the intimate details of her challenging upbringing in a strict and isolated family.

However, her determination, much like that of the inspiring civil rights activist Grace Lee Boggs, propelled her forward, defying familial beliefs and societal expectations.

Throughout her autobiography, Westover highlights the transformative power of education and the resilience required to forge one's path amidst staunch opposition.

"Educated" stands alongside other groundbreaking autobiographies, inspiring readers to overcome adversity and embrace the pursuit of knowledge.

Open: Andre Agassi

In "Open," the deeply personal and candid autobiographical account of tennis star Andre Agassi, he fearlessly reveals the peaks and valleys of his life, both on and off the court.

In this book, Agassi talks about the pressure he was under from his own family, which led to his gradual loss of love for tennis. He also secretly struggled with drugs, which affected him both personally and professionally.

Despite his massive success, Agassi often found himself misunderstood, reminding us that with success and fame sometimes comes other challenges to overcome.

Tennis ball, racquet and net

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is a classic that tells his life story, from being the fifteenth kid in a simple Boston family to becoming a founding father of America.

He openly shares his journey, showing us life in colonial America and how it changed over time. The story of Benjamin Franklin is one of personal growth, the drive to learn, and making things better for the community.

Benjamin Franklin

The Color of Water

"The Color of Water" by James McBride is about his life with his mom, Ruth. She was a white Jewish woman who married a black man, and the family endured many struggles with race and identity as a result.

James shares life lessons from growing up mixed-race and his mom's challenging life, from her childhood in the South to moving to New York.

We love that it's a heartfelt tribute to his mom, as well as a deep look at race and identity.

When Breath Becomes Air

In "When Breath Becomes Air," Dr. Paul Kalanithi writes about his fight with stage IV metastatic lung cancer. It was posthumously published, approximately one year after his death.

As a neurosurgeon, Paul knew a lot about the body, but now he's facing his own death. He shares his deep perspective on life, death, and what it all means. He talks about the struggles doctors and patients go through when dealing with serious illness. It's a unique look from someone on both sides of the hospital bed.

This autobiography makes us think about how short life is and the importance of making it meaningful.

Out of Africa

"Out of Africa" is a memoir by Karen Blixen, where she shares her life as a coffee farm owner in early 20th-century Kenya. She talks about her adventures, her love for the land, and the people she meets – from local tribes to European settlers.

Karen discusses big topics like colonialism and cultural differences. Through her stories, readers get a feel for Africa's beauty and its challenges during that time.

Africa sunset with zebras

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

In "Kitchen Confidential," chef Anthony Bourdain gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the wild world of professional kitchens. He talks candidly about the intense pressures, unexpected tactics, and the chaotic life chefs lead.

Bourdain shares stories from his early days as a chef in New York, revealing both the highs and messy bits of the food industry.

Ultimately, although this book shows the less-than-glamorous side of restaurant life, it is a look into his deep love for cooking and the close bonds formed in the kitchen.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

It's hard to imagine being a young, innocent boy and having to fight in a civil war.

Ishmael Beah, a gifted storyteller, captivates readers with his heart-wrenching book, "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier," unveiling the painful transition from a regular kid to a relentless fighter, and subsequently, his difficult path towards healing and advocating for peace.

Beah reveals the brutal realities of war and its profound impact on innocent children, while also illuminating moments of love and hope amidst the chaos.

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country

Switching gears, this next book is about the light-hearted secrets to living an abundant and purposeful life.

In "The Year of Living Danishly," Helen Russell dives into why Denmark is often dubbed the world's happiest country. After deciding to live in Denmark for a year, this British journalist humorously chronicles her adventures and revelations about Danish culture. From their love for coziness (hygge) and great work-life balance to their strong societal bonds and trust, Russell helps us understand the secret behind Danish joy.

The book is not just a fun read but also challenges readers to rethink what truly makes life meaningful.

Coffee mug with 'Hygge' written on it

Bossypants

In "Bossypants," comedian Tina Fey shares a laugh-out-loud look into her life, from awkward childhood days to becoming a leading lady in comedy.

Popular with kids and adults alike, she gives readers a backstage pass to the ups and downs of working in the entertainment world, particularly as a woman. Fey tackles heavy topics with humor, sharing tales from her time on shows like Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.

It's a funny yet insightful peek into her world, blending personal stories with lessons on resilience and womanhood.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

In "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," Dave Eggers gives an honest look into his life after the devastating loss of his parents to cancer.

Mixing real-life with some fiction, he explores deep emotions, from grief to love, while caring for his younger brother. The book's unique and unconventional style mirrors life's ups and downs.

It's a touching, funny, and raw story about finding purpose amidst pain, showing how tragedy can lead to something truly extraordinary.

Running with Scissors

In "Running with Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs, you're taken into a wild and unconventional childhood.

The author opens up about growing up in the 1970s in a household filled with mental health challenges and odd characters. With honesty and humor, he shares his experiences navigating an unpredictable upbringing and forming unexpected bonds.

From a mom who hands him over to her eccentric psychiatrist to forging connections within a quirky and dysfunctional family, the book reveals the mix of hardships and surprising moments that shaped Burroughs' resilience.

The Road to Wigan Pier

Another classic, "The Road to Wigan Pier" gives us a close look into George Orwell's own life along with the lives of working-class people in northern England during the 1930s.

Orwell describes visits to places like Wigan, where he saw the tough lives of miners, factory workers, and the poor. He shows us the difficult conditions they lived and worked in, with low pay, lack of jobs, and unfair treatment.

By sharing these stories, Orwell exposes the problems in society and how we can make things better.

Write Your Own Autobiography

We all have our own memories that we need to share with our children and grandchildren. These stories make us both laugh and cry, and deserve to be remembered.

No Story Lost can help you collect and organize your memories, transforming them into a beautifully crafted keepsake that can be cherished for generations to come.

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