While we appreciate the fun-filled genres of fantasy and fiction, sometimes the desire to read non-fictional works takes over. Autobiographies come in here, providing us readers with real-life events presented from the perspective of the writer. It is almost as if you are experiencing the life and times of the author yourself, albeit through their eyes.
This wonderful branch of literature has gifted us with some of the most talented and distinguished writers of our time. Titles like The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank expose the harsh, brutal truths of life that we must come to terms with. Such accounts help us become better ourselves and highlight the struggles that under-represented groups had to undergo. Sometimes, authors like Trevor Noah tackle difficult topics with humor to make their stories easier to digest.
Whether it’s a comical narration about your favorite children’s author that you’re looking for or a heart-breaking account of history through a young girl’s eyes, this list has it all. Here are our top recommendations for the absolute best autobiographies you can read.
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic — a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. The Diary is many things at one and the same time. It is an amusing, enlightening, and often moving account of the process of adolescence, as Anne describes her thoughts and feelings about herself and the people around her, the world at large, and life in general. It is an accurate record of the way a young girl grows up and matures, in the very special circumstances in which Anne found herself throughout the two years during which she was in hiding. And it is also a vividly terrifying description of what it was like to be a Jew — and in hiding — at a time when the Nazis sought to kill all the Jews of Europe.
There is no better way to kick off this list than with this haunting memoir written by Anne Frank during a horrifying period in time. The fact that every chilling detail is an actual event that happened in the life of a little girl makes it even more compelling. You can buy the ebook from the Amazon Kindle store for $5 or the Kobo store for $5.
The Story of My Life, is Helen Keller’s autobiography detailing her early life, especially her experiences with Anne Sullivan. The book is dedicated to inventor Alexander Graham Bell. The dedication reads, “To ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL Who has taught the deaf to speak and enabled the listening ear to hear speech from the Atlantic to the Rockies, I dedicate this Story of My Life.”
Born deaf, dumb, and blind, Helen Keller defied all odds and learned to read and write. This was largely thanks to her amazing teacher, Anne Sullivan, as related by Keller in her autobiography. Grab this motivational piece of literature for $0.65 from the Amazon Kindle store or $1.99 from the Kobo store.
These memoirs from one of the great leaders of our time are ‘essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it’ Barack Obama
The riveting memoirs of the outstanding moral and political leader of our time, Long Walk to Freedom brilliantly re-creates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela’s destiny. Emotive, compelling and uplifting, Long Walk to Freedom is the exhilarating story of an epic life; a story of hardship, resilience and ultimate triumph told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader.
At a time when South Africa was still suffering under the cruel and bigoted apartheid, one man tirelessly worked to free the people. Regarded by many as one of the most important political reads of our time, Long Walk to Freedom embodies the immortal voice of Nelson Mandela most beautifully. Get it today from the Amazon Kindle store for $7.80 or the Kobo store for $15.59.
The memoir of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
Noah’s comic tone softens an otherwise heavy blow dealt in the form of a cold and harsh tale. Having been literally born illegally in the midst of an apartheid regime, Noah tells of his struggles in a hilarious, good-natured way. You can snag an ebook copy for $5.57 from the Amazon Kindle store or an audiobook version for $17.37 from the Kobo store.
In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father—a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man—has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional odyssey—first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migration of his mother’s family to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.
People the world over recognize Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States. This captivating memoir dives deeper into how he came to be the man that we all know today. Purchase a copy for $6.12 from the Amazon Kindle store or $10.89 from the Kobo store.
Roald Dahl wasn’t always a writer. Once he was just a schoolboy. Have you ever wondered what he was like growing up?
In BOY you’ll find out why he and his friends took revenge on the beastly Mrs Pratchett who ran the sweet shop. He remembers what it was like taste-testing chocolate for Cadbury’s and he even reveals how his nose was nearly sliced off.
Then in GOING SOLO you’ll read stories of whizzing through the air in a Tiger Moth Plane, encounters with hungry lions, and the terrible crash that led him to storytelling.
Roald Dahl tells his story in his own words – and it’s all TRUE.
Beloved children’s author Roald Dahl shares his boyhood adventures in this jovial collection of both his autobiographies rolled into one volume. Written in his distinct tone that has won him generations of youngsters, this is an unforgettable set of books. Get it in ebook format from the Amazon Kindle store for $9.99 or enjoy listening to the audiobook for $8.34 from the Kobo store.
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.
When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.
Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.
This heart-wrenching story will leave you in tatters by the end of the book. Concluded post-humously by Dr. Kalanithi’s wife, When Breath Becomes Air describes him coming to terms with his cancer and accepting death after having been trained to be a doctor all his life. You can get it at the Amazon Kindle store for $12.88 or grab the audiobook from the Kobo store for $12.52.
Once in a generation a woman comes along who changes everything. Tina Fey is not that woman, but she met that woman once and acted weird around her.
Before 30 Rock, Mean Girls and ‘Sarah Palin’, Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher.
She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon – from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.
Take a break from the heavy-duty titles recommended so far by picking up this light-hearted account of comedian Tina Fey’s life. You’ll find yourself breaking into fits of laughter at every other page. Snag this autobiography from the queen of comedy herself for $3.34 at the Amazon Kindle store or $11.49 at the Kobo store.
Through a life of passion and struggle, Malcolm X became one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century. In this riveting account, he tells of his journey from a prison cell to Mecca, describing his transition from hoodlum to Muslim minister. Here, the man who called himself “the angriest Black man in America” relates how his conversion to true Islam helped him confront his rage and recognize the brotherhood of all mankind.
Before Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, there was Malcolm X. Malcolm spoke up at a time when black people were faced heinous levels of oppression each day. His compelling life story shows how religion helped him cope with his anger and injustice. Ebook versions are hard to come by, but you can buy the audiobook for $32.99 from the Amazon Kindle store. As always, Audible subscribers can listen to the audiobook completely free of charge.
A fascinating and unconventionally educated man, Benjamin Franklin imparts—in his own words—wisdom and remarkable life lessons on the art of living with great personal integrity. Taken from John Bigelow’s carefully researched 1868 publication that was transcribed directly from the original manuscript, this copy is sure to be a treasured part of any home library. Franklin’s autobiography and significant papers are still in great demand globally, and describe the interesting, varied, and unusual life of one of the most amazing Founding Fathers of the United States.
History fans cannot miss this excellent self-portrait from the founding father of the United States. It delves into the heart and soul of “the wisest American”, as Franklin is sometimes called. The ebook is available on the Amazon Kindle store for $1.99 and the Kobo store for $0.99.
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era.
As First Lady of the United States of America – the first African-American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world. She dramatically changed the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and stood with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms.
Written in the captivating pen of the wonderful Michelle Obama, Becoming offers an in-depth glance into the life and times of a first lady. You get to hear Mrs. Obama’s side of the story, how she met her husband, and her journey into motherhood. Read the ebook by getting a copy for $9.96 at the Amazon Kindle store or listen to the audiobook, narrated by Michelle Obama herself, available for $19.47 at the Kobo store.
Namerah is a Technology Journalist with experience at leading online publications like Android Central. She has a passion for all things tech and gaming, and has been an honorary Goodreads librarian since 2011. When she isn’t writing, she can be found chasing stray cats and dogs in the streets of Dhaka or slaying dragons in the land of Skyrim.