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Best autobiography and memoirs of 2020

Best autobiography and memoirs of 2020

Comedy from Caitlin Moran, Raynor Winn’s rewilding tales and how pop music can make sense of the world

Motherwell: A Girlhood Hardcover – 23 Jan 2020 by Deborah Orr (Author) Hardback

In Motherwell: A Girlhood (W&N), the late author and columnist Deborah Orr reflects on her childhood in the eponymous Scottish steel town and her relationship with her formidable mother, Win. Alongside excoriating descriptions of Win’s controlling ways, Orr vividly evokes Scottish working-class life in the 1970s, and the shifting social and economic values that would ease her path to university and a career in the media. The author, who underwent treatment for cancer for the second time in 2019, died before the book was published, but her wish “to take charge, to take complete control, of my family, in my own words” was realised nonetheless.

Charlie Gilmour’s Featherhood (W& N) and Gavanndra Hodge’s The Consequences of Love (Michael Joseph) deal with themes of parental failure. In the former, Gilmour finds comfort in the company of an abandoned baby magpie while recalling how his father, the poet Heathcote Williams, left him and his mother when he was an infant, and subsequently rebuffed his son’s attempts to get to know him. Gilmour made headlines in 2010 when he was photographed swinging from the Cenotaph during a student protest. “It wasn’t the glorious dead I wanted to attack that day,” he writes, “but the glorious dad.” The Consequences of Love , meanwhile, is an elegant study of grief and memory that begins with the death of Hodge’s younger sister, Candy, aged nine. On becoming a mother of two girls, the author realised she had no recollections of Candy beyond the moment of her death. So she seeks to fill the “swirling, vertigo-induced void” by telling her family’s story, involving her drug-addicted father, who sold heroin to rich Chelsea layabouts, and her alcoholic mother who turned to religion to blot out her trauma.

A Dutiful Boy: A memoir of a gay Muslim’s journey to acceptance Paperback – 20 Aug. 2020

Mohsin Zaidi’s A Dutiful Boy (Square Peg) begins on the day its author brings his boyfriend home to meet the family. The story then jumps back in time to chronicle his parents’ move from Pakistan to east London and his upbringing in a conservative Muslim community. At 14, Zaidi realises he is gay and, fearful of his parents’ disapproval, resolves to keep his sexuality a secret. His book challenges Muslim homophobia as well as the racism of the London gay scene – some dating site profiles warn: “No Asians.” Yet Zaidi’s writing is underpinned by compassion and an understanding that acceptance can be a slow process, even for those who love you.

House of Glass (4th Estate) is a stunning family memoir by Hadley Freeman that examines themes of identity and belonging as it pieces together the histories of the Glass siblings, the youngest of whom was her grandmother, Sala. Their stories are varied, vivid and heartbreaking, each unfolding during one of the most traumatic periods in Jewish history.

Coming Undone- A Memoir

Terri White’s raw and remarkable Coming Undone: A Memoir (Canongate) describes her efforts to keep a lid on her childhood trauma while seeking comfort and escape in alcohol. Born in Derbyshire to a teenage mum, her early years were shaped by extreme poverty, violence and sexual abuse by two of her mother’s boyfriends. In adulthood, a job in New York sends her into freefall and White spares no detail as she recalls her unravelling.

In Hungry (Mudlark), the restaurant critic Grace Dent tells of her early life in Carlisle, and her relationship with her father, who would cook her “sketty” – his name for spag bol – when she was a child. Tender and witty, the book is both a love-letter to George, whose eventual decline from dementia she recounts, and the food that brought them together.

Broken Greek (Quercus) is Pete Paphides’s funny and evocative account of his Brummie childhood as the offspring of Greek-Cypriot parents, and his love affair with music. It starts in 1973 when the author, then aged four, stops speaking to anyone apart from close family. He never stops listening, however. Along with the sound of his parents’ bickering, he finds a new soundtrack: pop music. Paphides, a journalist and radio DJ, is brilliant on the formative impact of his favourite bands and the ways music can help us make sense of the world.

The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn

Notions of home are poignantly explored in Raynor Winn’s The Wild Silence (Michael Joseph), the sequel to the award-winning The Salt Path , as the author adjusts to living with a roof over her head after a period of financial hardship followed by homelessness. Winn moves to Cornwall, where she takes on a piece of farmland for rewilding. Her evocations of weather, landscape, the sea and her love for her partner, Moth, who has an incurable neurodegenerative condition, are wonderful.

For the author Sarah M Broom, home was once New Orleans East where her widowed mother, Ivory Mae, bought a house in 1961 with her late husband’s life insurance. Broom’s award-winning debut, The Yellow House (Corsair) , is a history of a house, a family and a neighbourhood brought low by neglect, racism and inequality. The youngest of 12 children, she had moved away from the city by the time Hurricane Katrina hit, but she paints a harrowing picture assembled from the memories of her family. Their heartbreak is compounded by the city’s treatment of its residents: Mae’s house was eventually demolished without her knowledge, the notification letter having been sent to the abandoned property.

A Ghost in the Throat

Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost in the Throat (Tramp Press) explores the author’s obsession with an 18th-century poem by an Irish noblewoman. A genre-defying blend of memoir and translation, flights of fancy and everyday domesticity, it draws out connections across the centuries for a captivatingly original meditation on creativity and motherhood.

In Inferno (Bloomsbury), Catherine Cho documents her experience of post-partum psychosis, which led her to see devils in her son’s eyes. Cho was eventually separated from her baby and institutionalised in a psychiatric hospital, where she took copious notes on her progress and the comings and goings on the ward. Her book veers away from being a heart-warming tale of triumph over trauma; it lays out, with frightening clarity, the spiralling pressures of new motherhood and the unvarnished reality of mental breakdown.

Parenting looms large in the columnist and writer Caitlin Moran’s More Than a Woman (Ebury), which examines being a woman and a feminist in middle age. Eye-wateringly candid and wildly entertaining, it reflects on looking after elderly parents, anal sex, smear tests, Botox, big bums and the daily to-do list. But it’s the chapters on raising teenagers that provide the book’s emotional heft as they tell of her daughter’s struggle with an eating disorder, and the parental fear, panic and disorientation that ensued.

Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood

Sophie Heawood’s riotously funny The Hungover Games (Cape) looks at unplanned parenthood, from pregnancy and childbirth to the chaotic infant years, and the withdrawal from her life of her child’s father, known here as the Musician. Heawood casts herself as the hapless goofball, careering from one calamity to the next, but there is wisdom and poignancy amid the self-mockery as she contemplates a new way of living and finding love where she never knew it existed.

Five best celebrity memoirs of 2020

Mariah Carey, pictured in 2019.

The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey (Macmillan)

“I have seen, I have been scared, I have been scarred, and I have survived,” writes Carey in this rags-to-riches tale that delves beneath the diamond-encrusted public persona to reveal a woman who has overcome childhood neglect, racism, mental illness and abuse. A twinkling humour underpins her account of her post-stardom years in which she acknowledges her “propensity for extraness”, and throws fabulous shade at J-Lo without once mentioning her name.

 Rupert Everett

To the End of the World by Rupert Everett (Little, Brown)

The actor’s third memoir is both a caustic reflection on the iniquities of show business and an account of his decade-long efforts to bring Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince to the screen. The writing is as sparkling as the anecdotes are riotous: he stands up Joan Collins for dinner and throws up on Colin Firth. All the while, he channels his hero, Wilde, whom he describes as “the patron saint of anyone who ever made a mess of their life”.

No Time Like the Future by Michael J Fox (Headline)

Life was already tough for the star of Back to the Future , who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 29. Then, in 2018, he had surgery to remove a tumour from his spine. In this moving, often funny memoir he reveals how he regained his sense of optimism, and reflects on age, family and living with a disability.

Just Ignore Him by Alan Davies

Just Ignore Him by Alan Davies (Little, Brown)

While the comedian’s first memoir was a larky look at his teens, this second one bravely tackles the parts its predecessor missed out. An intimate, open-hearted book, Just Ignore Him tells of the “quiet, librarial molestation” Davies endured by his father from the age of eight to 13, and the bullying and gaslighting that ensured his silence. Davies was 51 when he finally went to the police, by which time his father’s ill health meant he would never stand trial.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (Headline)

A gloriously bonkers effort from the Oscar-winning star of Dallas Buyers Club: it is not a memoir, he assures readers, but an “approach book”. In between anecdotes about warring parents, travelling, fame, films and debauchery, Greenlights bulges with lists, photos, poems and notes scrawled with fortune-cookie homilies, all part of his basic philosophy that he likes to call “livin’ – there’s no ‘g’ on the end of livin because life is a verb.”

  • Best books of the year
  • Best books of 2020
  • Autobiography and memoir
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100 Best Autobiography Books of All Time

We've researched and ranked the best autobiography books in the world, based on recommendations from world experts, sales data, and millions of reader ratings. Learn more

autobiography biography and informational books

Tara Westover | 5.00

autobiography biography and informational books

Bill Gates Tara never went to school or visited a doctor until she left home at 17. I never thought I’d relate to a story about growing up in a Mormon survivalist household, but she’s such a good writer that she got me to reflect on my own life while reading about her extreme childhood. Melinda and I loved this memoir of a young woman whose thirst for learning was so strong that she ended up getting a Ph.D.... (Source)

Barack Obama As 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018... (Source)

Alexander Stubb If you read or listen to only one book this summer, this is it. Bloody brilliant! Every word, every sentence. Rarely do I go through a book with such a rollecoaster of emotion, from love to hate. Thank you for sharing ⁦@tarawestover⁩ #Educated https://t.co/GqLaqlcWMp (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

autobiography biography and informational books

Michelle Obama | 5.00

autobiography biography and informational books

Barack Obama Of course, @MichelleObama’s my wife, so I’m a little biased here. But she also happens to be brilliant, funny, wise – one of a kind. This book tells her quintessentially American story. I love it because it faithfully reflects the woman I have loved for so long. (Source)

Piers Morgan Congrats to @MichelleObama on sensational sales of her new book #Becoming. I always take people as I find them & when I met her at the White House, she was a delightfully warm, friendly & genuine lady. A great First Lady & now a best-selling author. https://t.co/nlSUHI01SM (Source)

Randi Zuckerberg "I love the book Becoming by @MichelleObama and Creative Curve by Allen Gannett." @GoldieChan (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Born a Crime

Stories from a South African Childhood

Trevor Noah | 4.88

autobiography biography and informational books

Bill Gates As a longtime fan of The Daily Show, I loved reading this memoir about how its host honed his outsider approach to comedy over a lifetime of never quite fitting in. Born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father in apartheid South Africa, he entered the world as a biracial child in a country where mixed race relationships were forbidden. Much of Noah’s story of growing up in South... (Source)

Mark Suster Please don't read @Trevornoah's book "Born a Crime." It's such a remarkable story that you need to hear him narrate it on @audible_com. You'll laugh out loud, cry, get angry, be in disbelief. You'll have many "driveway moments" where you can't stop even though you're home (Source)

Heather Zynczak So excited for our latest speaker announcement for #PSLIVE19! Trevor Noah! I am a huge @TheDailyShow fan! And his book -Born a Crime -and life story are amazing. Can't wait! Join us! https://t.co/N6ykJq7TOy https://t.co/r0dIx5RFVI (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Man's Search for Meaning

Viktor E. Frankl, William J. Winslade, et al. | 4.83

autobiography biography and informational books

Tony Robbins Another book that I’ve read dozens of times. It taught me that if you change the meaning, you change everything. Meaning equals emotion, and emotion equals life. (Source)

Jimmy Fallon I read it while spending ten days in the ICU of Bellevue hospital trying to reattach my finger from a ring avulsion accident in my kitchen. It talks about the meaning of life, and I believe you come out a better person from reading it. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Dustin Moskovitz [Dustin Moskovitz recommended this book on Twitter.] (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank, B.M. Mooyaart, Eleanor Roosevelt | 4.83

autobiography biography and informational books

Tim Fargo @Quixoticnance Good point, Nancy. The museum is a powerful experience, esp. when you've read her book. (Source)

Catalina Penciu I'm a huge fan of personal stories and biographies like this one. (Source)

Alice Little I remember being a fourth grader and trying to check out [this book] and being told it was grossly inappropriate and going so far as to have my parents take it to the school board and petition for me to be allowed to read this book. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls | 4.72

autobiography biography and informational books

When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese | 4.71

autobiography biography and informational books

Bill Gates I don’t know how Kalanithi found the physical strength to write this book while he was so debilitated by the disease and then potent chemotherapy. But I’m so glad he did. He spent his whole brief life searching for meaning in one way or another -- through books, writing, medicine, surgery, and science. I’m grateful that, by reading this book, I got to witness a small part of that journey. I just... (Source)

Ryan Holiday Despite its popularity, When Breath Becomes Air is actually underrated. It’s make-you-cry good. (Source)

Bethany S. Mandel More Shabbat reading recommendations: This book was breathtaking and such a powerful advertisement for the joy of parenthood. https://t.co/V8BH97eiL9 (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

Phil Knight | 4.67

Bill Gates This memoir, by the co-founder of Nike, is a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like: messy, precarious, and riddled with mistakes. I’ve met Knight a few times over the years. He’s super nice, but he’s also quiet and difficult to get to know. Here Knight opens up in a way few CEOs are willing to do. I don’t think Knight sets out to teach the reader... (Source)

Warren Buffett The best book I read last year. Phil is... a gifted storyteller. (Source)

Andre Agassi I've known Phil Knight since I was a kid, but I didn't really know him until I opened this beautiful, startling, intimate book. And the same goes for Nike. I've worn the gear with pride, but I didn't realize the remarkable saga of innovation and survival and triumph that stood behind every swoosh. Candid, funny, suspenseful, literary - this is a memoir for people who love sport, but above all... (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel | 4.60

autobiography biography and informational books

Johanna Reiss Elie Wiesel wrote..that he was considering running into the barbed wire once, but he didn’t because his father needed him. (Source)

Steven Katz Probably the best known memoir that has been written about the experience of the death camps. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X, M. S. Handler, Ossie Davis, Attallah Shabazz, Alex Haley | 4.60

autobiography biography and informational books

Casey Neistat Aside from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Casey's favorite book is The Second World War by John Keegan. (Source)

Ryan Holiday I forget who said it but I heard someone say that Catcher in the Rye was to young white boys what the Autobiography of Malcolm X was to young black boys. Personally, I prefer that latter over the former. I would much rather read about and emulate a man who is born into adversity and pain, struggles with criminality, does prison time, teaches himself to read through the dictionary, finds religion... (Source)

Keith Ellison Malcolm X is somebody that everybody in America’s prisons today could look at and say, ‘You know what, I can emerge, I can evolve' (Source)

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autobiography biography and informational books

Tina Fey | 4.59

autobiography biography and informational books

Sheryl Sandberg I absolutely loved Tina Fey's "Bossypants" and didn't want it to end. It's hilarious as well as important. Not only was I laughing on every page, but I was nodding along, highlighting and dog-earing like crazy. [...] It is so, so good. As a young girl, I was labeled bossy, too, so as a former - O.K., current - bossypants, I am grateful to Tina for being outspoken, unapologetic and hysterically... (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey | 4.55

autobiography biography and informational books

Richard Branson Today is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime. (Source)

Bianca Belair For #BlackHistoryMonth I will be sharing some of my favorite books by Black Authors 5th Book: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings By: Maya Angelou Another autobiography classic that will be hard to not find on any must- read book list! https://t.co/mGRG76lLRn (Source)

Julia Enthoven I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is beautifully written, and I really enjoy the voice of the protagonist and think it’s sad and fascinating to read about her time in history. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Hillbilly Elegy

A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

J. D. Vance | 4.49

autobiography biography and informational books

Bill Gates The disadvantaged world of poor white Appalachia described in this terrific, heartbreaking book is one that I know only vicariously. Vance was raised largely by his loving but volatile grandparents, who stepped in after his father abandoned him and his mother showed little interest in parenting her son. Against all odds, he survived his chaotic, impoverished childhood only to land at Yale Law... (Source)

Ryan Holiday In terms of other surprising memoirs, I found JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy to be another well-written gem. (Source)

Ben Shapiro A very well-written book. [...] The whole thing is a critique of individual decisions. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

I Am Malala

The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb | 4.48

autobiography biography and informational books

Adrienne Kisner Malala’s story of triumph is a battle cry for girls (and boys) everywhere. Education can set you free. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Hiding Place

The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom, John Sherrill, et al. | 4.48

Alison Alvarez What I really took with me from the book were the descriptions of how she dealt with the stress of solitary confinement and eventually the Ravensbruck concentration camp. I adapted some of her techniques for keeping her mind occupied to deal with my own problems with anxiety and worry. Also, it’s a book with a surprising amount of joy in it for subject matter that is so dark. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

A Child Called "It" (Dave Pelzer, #1)

Dave Pelzer | 4.46

autobiography biography and informational books

Andre Agassi | 4.46

autobiography biography and informational books

Bill Gates [On Bill Gates's reading list in 2011.] (Source)

Yaro Starak I don’t just read business biographies. I’m a huge tennis fan, so I’ve read a lot of tennis biographies: John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Scott Draper, Rod Laver. There’s so many I’ve read over the years, Jimmy Connors, great, I love it because I love reading the “behind the scenes” stories, the more “soap opera” aspect of tennis, I guess it’s a little bit like my soap opera sometimes. (Source)

Ian Cassel Such an amazing book https://t.co/IbVT7G9LDY (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Cheryl Strayed | 4.44

autobiography biography and informational books

Nancy Goldstone I found the narrative honest and riveting. The author used the journey through the hiking trail to work out her problems. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"

Adventures of a Curious Character

Richard P. Feynman, Ralph Leighton, Edward Hutchings, Albert R. Hibbs | 4.43

autobiography biography and informational books

Sergey Brin Brin told the Academy of Achievement: "Aside from making really big contributions in his own field, he was pretty broad-minded. I remember he had an excerpt where he was explaining how he really wanted to be a Leonardo [da Vinci], an artist and a scientist. I found that pretty inspiring. I think that leads to having a fulfilling life." (Source)

Larry Page Google co-founder has listed this book as one of his favorites. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Peter Attia The book I’ve recommended most. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King | 4.42

autobiography biography and informational books

Mark Manson I read a bunch of books on writing before I wrote my first book and the two that stuck with me were Stephen King’s book and “On Writing Well” by Zinsser (which is a bit on the technical side). (Source)

Jennifer Rock If you are interested in writing and communication, start with reading and understanding the technical aspects of the craft: The Elements of Style. On Writing Well. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. (Source)

Benjamin Spall [Question: What five books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path?] On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King, [...] (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow, et al | 4.40

Gabriel Coarna I read "The Last Lecture" because I had seen Randy Pausch give this talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

A Family Tragicomic

Alison Bechdel | 4.39

autobiography biography and informational books

Hillary Chute Alison has a strip that’s been running for a long time called Dykes to Watch Out For, but this is an autobiographical book. ‘Fun Home’ is short for the funeral home Alison’s dad ran when she was a child. It’s a book that blew me away and continues to blow me away every time I read it – and I must have read it five or six times by now: probably the best book I’ve read in the past ten years in any... (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Amy Poehler | 4.39

autobiography biography and informational books

Long Walk To Freedom

Nelson Mandela | 4.37

Bianca Belair For #BHM I will be sharing some of my favorite books by Black Authors 21st Book: Long Walk to Freedom -Nelson Mandela Read about his journey from childhood to the struggles of living under apartheid to becoming a freedom fighter & leader of his country. He is inspirational! https://t.co/bdvZu0kbh0 (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt, #1)

FrankF McCourt | 4.37

autobiography biography and informational books

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Mindy Kaling | 4.35

autobiography biography and informational books

Angela Kinsey .@mindykaling I am rereading your book and cracking up. I appreciate your chapter on The Office so much more now. But all of it is fantastic. Thanks for starting my day with laughter. You know I loves ya. ❤️ https://t.co/EB99xnyt0p (Source)

Yashar Ali Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from @mindykaling's book (even though I'm an early riser): “There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it.” https://t.co/pS56bmyYjS (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Walter Isaacson | 4.34

autobiography biography and informational books

Elon Musk Quite interesting. (Source)

Bill Gates [On Bill Gates's reading list in 2012.] (Source)

Gary Vaynerchuk I've read 3 business books in my life. If you call [this book] a business book. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates | 4.32

autobiography biography and informational books

Barack Obama The president also released a list of his summer favorites back in 2015: All That Is, James Salter The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (Source)

Jack Dorsey Q: What are the books that had a major influence on you? Or simply the ones you like the most. : Tao te Ching, score takes care of itself, between the world and me, the four agreements, the old man and the sea...I love reading! (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Doug McMillon Here are some of my favorite reads from 2017. Lots of friends and colleagues send me book suggestions and it's impossible to squeeze them all in. I continue to be super curious about how digital and tech are enabling people to transform our lives but I try to read a good mix of books that apply to a variety of areas and stretch my thinking more broadly. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Brain on Fire

My Month of Madness

Susannah Cahalan | 4.32

autobiography biography and informational books

Joann Corleyschwarzkopf Need a fun boost for your team? Want to jump-start great problem-solving? >Book a 1-hour #creativethinking, virtual experience & get a complimentary pdf copy - Brain on Fire: Unleashing Your Creative Superpowers! for each attendee #teambuilding Info here: https://t.co/j6hOxMJrNH https://t.co/b9hAxV90Mf (Source)

Jessica Flitter The readability for me is probably the key element for students—and maybe for teachers as well—because it’s a book that you really can’t put down. If that’s what we need to make students readers, then I’m all for it. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass | 4.30

Bianca Belair For #BlackHistoryMonth  I will be sharing some of my favorite books by Black Authors 6th Book: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass By: Frederick Douglass The 1st of many autobiographies that he wrote, and another classic you will find on almost every must-read A.A list. https://t.co/v5PgGpoqxQ (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Patti Smith | 4.29

autobiography biography and informational books

Malcolm Gladwell I finished it in one sitting, then wept. It's that good. (Source)

Seth Godin This is the single best audiobook ever recorded by Patti Smith. It is not going to change the way you do business, but it might change the way you live. It's about love and loss and art. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Academic Batgirl This book helped me to see how my life as an academic is artful and creative, and gave me renewed faith in embracing risks, innovation, and taking on art with love and strength even when it’s frustrating or “success” is not assured. Recommend! 8/end https://t.co/tkWtSVY6b9 (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Kitchen Confidential

Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Anthony Bourdain | 4.27

autobiography biography and informational books

Eric Ripert I love that Tony’s world in the kitchen was filled with pirate-like renegades when mine was peopled with regimented professionals. How eye-opening and entertaining to read about the other side! (Source)

Jon Favreau Great book. (Source)

Jason Kottke This book is 18 years old but aside from some details, it felt as immediate and vital as when it came out. What a unique spirit we lost this year. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Dreams from My Father

A Story of Race and Inheritance

out of 5 stars2,17 | 4.26

autobiography biography and informational books

Robert McCrum He is really is a globish president and a brilliant writer. He is of Kenyan origin, grew up in Kansas and Hawaii. His reference is Islam, America, Kenyan tribal customs, Indonesia. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis, #1-4)

Marjane Satrapi | 4.25

autobiography biography and informational books

Orange Is the New Black

My Year in a Women's Prison

Piper Kerman | 4.25

autobiography biography and informational books

The Story of a Childhood (Persepolis, #1)

autobiography biography and informational books

Pooneh Ghoddoosi I read the book and it was great, but more people saw the film because it was nominated for an Academy Award. And after seeing the movie, so many people I knew came up to me and told me that they thought it was exactly the story of my life. And not just me, but most of my Iranian friends had the same feeling of “Oh God, that could have been me, I could have written that book – it could have been... (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Eat, Pray, Love

Elizabeth Gilbert | 4.25

Chelsea Frank I read everything with an open mind, often challenging myself by choosing books with an odd perspective or religious/spiritual views. These books do not reflect my personal feelings but are books that helped shape my perspective on life, love, and happiness. (Source)

Gabriel Coarna I started reading "Eat, Pray, Love" as soon as I finished watching Elizabeth Gilbert give this talk. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Mahatma Gandhi's Autobiography with a Foreword by the Gandhi Research Foundation

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, D. Fog, Mahadev Desai | 4.22

autobiography biography and informational books

Barack Obama According to the president’s Facebook page and a 2008 interview with the New York Times, this title is among his most influential forever favorites. (Source)

Tim Cook I have two books going right now: One is the Bobby Kennedy book [“Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon,” by Larry Tye] that just came out. The other is quite an old book. It’s a Gandhi book [“Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth”] that I got interested in because we went to the Gandhi museum when we were in India recently. I tend to like nonfiction and... (Source)

Cory Booker A profound read. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The 5 Love Languages

The Secret to Love that Lasts

Gary Chapman and Oasis Audi | 4.21

Kaci Lambe Kai The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman impacted how I interpret and receive love. Not just romantically, but in my friendships and business relationships. I had several personal and professional relationships that improved when I could appreciate that their "love language" was different than mine. I could at least see their efforts as an attempt at showing me love and kindness, even if it wasn't... (Source)

Pedro Cortés The books that had the biggest impact are the ones that are controversial and challenge people's beliefs around work, relationships, life, and money most of them were things I already thought about (that's how I found them or decided to read them) but just by putting it in an actionable and structured way it made me think 100x more clearly about my goals and beliefs. Such examples could be the... (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Felicia Day, Joss Whedon | 4.20

autobiography biography and informational books

Simon Cocking A great book for millennials and beyond. Review of You're Never Weird On The Internet by @feliciaday https://t.co/f8zMiInP0Z @SimonCocking @Irish_TechNews @joss https://t.co/OdLSGIlbjD (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Born Standing Up

A Comic's Life

Steve Martin | 4.17

autobiography biography and informational books

Adam Savage On a big road trip, I read it out loud to my wife, she read it out loud to me. Then we got the audio book and we listened to Steve Martin read it. (Source)

James Altucher And while you are at it, throw in “Bounce” by Mathew Syed, who was the UK Ping Pong champion when he was younger. I love any book where someone took their passion, documented it, and shared it with us. That’s when you can see the subleties, the hard work, the luck, the talent, the skill, all come together to form a champion. Heck, throw in, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Earth” by Commander Chris... (Source)

Bill Nye This is the story of my hero. The guy who inspired me to do what I do now. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Story of My Life

Helen Keller | 4.17

autobiography biography and informational books

Craig Brown I only vaguely knew about her myself to begin with. I think she’s more famous in America, and deserves to be. Helen Keller, who died in 1968, was deaf, dumb and blind. She was struck deaf and blind by meningitis at the age of 18 months, which makes you “dumb” as you don’t know what other people are saying. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Hyperbole and a Half

Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

Allie Brosh | 4.17

Bill Gates While she self-deprecatingly depicts herself in words and art as an odd outsider, we can all relate to her struggles. Rather than laughing at her, you laugh with her. It is no hyperbole to say I love her approach -- looking, listening, and describing with the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of an artist, and the wit of a comedian. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Three Daughters of China

Jung Chang | 4.16

autobiography biography and informational books

Vishakha Desai To me Wild Swans is one of those iconic books for understanding the generations of Chinese women. She is from this amazing intellectual family and it’s about what happens to them. The book just has this tremendous power. It’s an amazing journey. It’s about what women do to survive and also how they suffer. (Source)

Harry Wu Wild Swans is talking about people who are living at the highest level of society but they are still suffering persecution and live in fear. And the peasants in the village became slaves, they became nothing. So what the book does brilliantly is give a real insight into what life was like for ordinary people against the backdrop of the ever-changing China. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Tales of Childhood (Roald Dahl's Autobiography, #1)

Roald Dahl | 4.16

autobiography biography and informational books

Twelve Years a Slave

Solomon Northup | 4.15

Ryan Holiday I read two important memoirs from slaves as well, and strongly recommend 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup and A Slave in the White House about Paul Jennings. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Keith Richards | 4.15

autobiography biography and informational books

Harry Khachatrian Binged Keith Richards’ autobiography, LIFE in about 3 days. Great book! Highly recommend it to anyone remotely interested in the Rolling Stones, blues, or music in general https://t.co/trzEHkvBgE (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Scrappy Little Nobody

Anna Kendrick | 4.14

autobiography biography and informational books

Talking as Fast as I Can

From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between)

Lauren Graham and Random House Audi | 4.14

autobiography biography and informational books

An Unquiet Mind

A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Kay Redfield Jamison | 4.14

autobiography biography and informational books

Jonathan Glover Kay Redfield Jamison is a psychologist who has co-authored the major psychiatric textbook on manic depression. It authoritatively covers every aspect of the science, from genetics to pharmacology, and also has chapters on the links with creativity and on what the illness feels like. The chapters on the subjective experience are enriched with vivid quotations from patients. In her autobiography,... (Source)

Tanya Byron This is a divine book. A patient of mine who suffers with a bipolar illness, an absolutely inspiring young genius, recommended it to me. So I read it, and then we discussed it in a lot of our sessions together. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Ayaan Hirsi Ali | 4.13

autobiography biography and informational books

A Long Way Gone

Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Ishmael Beah | 4.13

autobiography biography and informational books

American Sniper

The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History

Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim DeFelice | 4.13

autobiography biography and informational books

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

A Mostly True Memoir

Jenny Lawson | 4.12

autobiography biography and informational books

Why Not Me?

Mindy Kaling | 4.12

autobiography biography and informational books

Permanent Record

Edward Snowden | 4.12

autobiography biography and informational books

John Sargent Edward Snowden decided at the age of 29 to give up his entire future for the good of his country. He displayed enormous courage in doing so, and like him or not, his is an incredible American story. There is no doubt that the world is a better and more private place for his actions. Macmillan is enormously proud to publish Permanent Record. (Source)

Kara Swisher Btw @Snowden new book “Permanent Record” is quite good and surprisingly a love letter to the Internet as it was. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Me Talk Pretty One Day

David Sedaris | 4.12

autobiography biography and informational books

All Creatures Great and Small (All Creatures Great and Small, #1)

James Herriot | 4.11

autobiography biography and informational books

Stories I Only Tell My Friends

An Autobiography

Rob Lowe | 4.11

autobiography biography and informational books

Wishful Drinking

Carrie Fisher | 4.11

autobiography biography and informational books

Tuesdays with Morrie

Mitch Albom | 4.10

autobiography biography and informational books


Saint Augustine and Henry Chadwic | 4.10

autobiography biography and informational books

Susan Jacoby The Confessions is a book that everybody should read. It is seminal, if you can excuse the expression. (Source)

Carlos Eire St Augustine of Hippo was one of the first thinkers to struggle with the concepts of time, memory and eternity. (Source)

Richard Harries He was a wonderful, wonderful writer and a deeply passionate man. He was very sensual. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Into Thin Air

A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

Jon Krakauer | 4.09

autobiography biography and informational books

Katie Phang @AshaRangappa_ @yashar It’s an amazing book! (Source)

Holger Seim eval(ez_write_tag([[250,250],'theceolibrary_com-large-mobile-banner-2','ezslot_6',164,'0','1'])); When it comes to adventure stories, I love Into Thin Air. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Art of the Deal

Donald J. Trump, Tony Schwartz | 4.08

autobiography biography and informational books

Jim Hanson You already had Trump officials testifythey disagreed w/ @realDonaldTrump Interesting thing about executive power The executive has the power Not the advisers Here's a good book on it https://t.co/KGlUpucCNI Time for the acquittal https://t.co/xICCPPuvM5 (Source)

Marc M. Lalonde The easiest way to Clean Up my Friends List is to post this... I love this book! | Let's get to know each other a little. I'll start... Here's MY Story: https://t.co/o8gIl1TxR7 #AskLalonde #marcmlalonde #wealthy #inspiration https://t.co/6ULSKHiIj3 (Source)

Secret Agent Number Six The failing George W. Washington and his dad George H.W. Washington were fake Presidents. They did not think of The Constitution before I did.They stole all of my ideas for it from "The Art of the Deal" which you should read right now because its the best book ever. No collution! (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Girl, Interrupted

Susanna Kaysen | 4.08

autobiography biography and informational books

Rae Earl In this book and in her use of language she explores how the brain tumbles (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Autobiography of a Yogi

Paramahansa Yogananda | 4.08

autobiography biography and informational books

Steve Jobs One book in particular stayed with Jobs his entire life, and Isaacson noted that it was the only book Jobs had downloaded on his iPad 2: “Autobiography of a Yogi,” “the guide to meditation and spirituality that he had first read as a teenager,” Isaacson writes, “then re-read in India and had read once a year ever since.” (Source)

Marc Benioff If you haven't read it, and if you want to understand Steve Jobs, it's a goood idea to dip into [this book]. (Source)

Dominic Steil [One of the books that had the biggest impact on .] (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

Amy Schumer | 4.07

autobiography biography and informational books

A Story of Justice and Redemption

1, 160 | 4.07

autobiography biography and informational books

Chris Sacca Proud that @crystale and I could help fund the making of a film about one of our heroes, Bryan Stevenson. If you’ve read the book, then you know how powerful this film is. #JustMercy https://t.co/vNfXK4Imwr (Source)

Howard Schultz Perhaps one of the most powerful and important stories of our time. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Furiously Happy

A Funny Book About Horrible Things

Jenny Lawson | 4.06

autobiography biography and informational books

The Princess Diarist

Carrie Fisher | 4.06

autobiography biography and informational books

Running with Scissors

Augusten Burroughs | 4.05

autobiography biography and informational books

This is Going to Hurt

Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor

Adam Kay | 4.05

autobiography biography and informational books

Quinn Cummings @lorapenza You might love @amateuradam's book. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Bob Dylan | 4.05

autobiography biography and informational books

Greil Marcus Dylan has had a career of extraordinary richness and variety. Yet here he is writing a memoir that completely ignores everything which made him a world figure. It ignores all of his most famous songs, it ignores all the periods in which he was a great star. It’s all about times when he was trying to learn, when he was confused and lost but absolutely alive with the thrill of discovering new... (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books


Surviving Hollywood and Scientology

Leah Remini, Rebecca Paley | 4.05

autobiography biography and informational books

The Ride of a Lifetime

Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

Robert Iger | 4.05

autobiography biography and informational books

Brian Chesky Bob's book is great and he's an excellent CEO. (Source)

Brené Brown I expected a book written by the person who has led Disney for decades to be defined by both gripping storytelling and deep leadership wisdom. [The author] delivers, and then some! [This book] is leadership gold—you won’t forget the stories or the lessons. (Source)

Karlie Kloss [Karlie Kloss] says [this book] really inspired her to become a better boss. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Brown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson | 4.04

Barack Obama In November 2014, Obama took a trip to D.C. independent bookstore Politics and Prose to honor small businesses and add to his personal library. Accompanied by daughters Malia and Sasha, POTUS picked up novels from the Redwall fantasy series by Brian Jacques, as well as some from the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. He also added this title to his heavy bags. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Know My Name

Chanel Miller | 4.04

autobiography biography and informational books

Marian Keyes Oh! So GREAT! If you're able, PLEASE read her powerful book. https://t.co/3itlgrS7Mz (Source)

Laura I. Gómez Finished Chanel Miller's book. My eyes and soil are still raw from emotion. What a powerful memoir. (Source)

Charlie Brinkhurstcuff Chanel Miller's book is breathtaking and painful (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

Chris Hadfield | 4.03

autobiography biography and informational books

Chris Goward Here are some of the books that have been very impactful for me, or taught me a new way of thinking: [...] An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Simon Carley Also love the idea of being a zero. Totally agree that some of my finest colleagues are that. I’m fact the doc I want to look after me in resus is defo a zero. (Read the book to find out why). (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Ashlee Vance | 4.03

Richard Branson Elon Musk is a man after my own heart: a risk taker undaunted by setbacks and ever driven to ensure a bright future for humanity. Ashlee Vance's stellar biography captures Musk's remarkable life story and irrepressible spirit. (Source)

Casey Neistat I'm fascinated by Elon Musk, I own a Tesla, I read Ashlee Vance's biography on Elon Musk. I think he's a very interesting charachter. (Source)

Roxana Bitoleanu A business book I would definitely choose the biography of Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance, because of Elon's strong, even extreme ambition to radically change the world, which I find very inspiring. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Wings of Fire

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Arun Tiwari | 4.03

autobiography biography and informational books

Can't Hurt Me

Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

David Goggins | 4.03

autobiography biography and informational books

Joe Rogan David Goggins is a being of pure will and inspiration. Just listening to this guy talk makes you want to run up a mountain. I firmly believe people like him can change the course of the world just by inspiring us to push harder and dig deeper in everything we do. His goal to be 'uncommon amongst uncommon people' is something we can all use to propel ourselves to fulfill our true potential. I'm a... (Source)

Barbara Oakley This week’s astonishing book is Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, by David Goggins. David grew up in an unbelievably tough environment with a deeply abusive father. He experienced prejudice and poverty, and suffered learning difficulties that left him graduating from high school barely able to read or do math. He became a depressed, overweight young man with an attitude. But... (Source)

Wes Gray @davidgoggins , excited to hear you will be at @LTRaceSeries alongside the CAF team. Myself, @patrickcleary01 and @RyanPKirlin look forward to the challenge and we'll see you there. We all love your book and thanks for signing our copies! (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Upstairs at the White House

My Life with the First Ladies

J. B. West and Mary Lynn Kotz | 4.03

autobiography biography and informational books

A Stolen Life

Jaycee Dugard | 4.03

autobiography biography and informational books

Born to Run

Bruce Springsteen | 4.03

Andi Dumitrescu I am currently reading: Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run, Einstein's Puzzle Universe, Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe and I am Ozzy. (I’m going through a physics and biographies period) (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Audacity of Hope

Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

Barack Obama | 4.03

autobiography biography and informational books

Elton John | 4.02

autobiography biography and informational books

Danny Baker I can confirm: The Elton John Book is fantastic, captain. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Glennon Doyle, Glennon Doyle Melton | 4.02

autobiography biography and informational books

Laura Wright I am BEYOND excited to dive into UNTAMED by the incredible @glennondoyle. Her book Love Warrior changed my life Many of you message me and ask me how I found my happiness again - it truly started with this woman’s words !! Untamed is available in March https://t.co/uc7km6PC3X (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Haruki Murakami | 4.02

autobiography biography and informational books

Brian Koppelman The single best distillation of the kind of focus, commitment, and sense of mission it takes to become a great artist. (Source)

Anant Jain On the non-business side of things, “What I Talk about When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami is my recent favorite. I’m a long distance runner and I was extremely delighted to find out that one of the top fiction writers in the world draws a huge chunk of his inspiration from long distance running. In this book, Murakami beautifully connects running to writing, which are two skills close... (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

A Moveable Feast

Ernest Hemingway, James Naughton, et al | 4.02

autobiography biography and informational books

Mohsin Hamid We think of Hemingway as an American writer, but much of his writing is set outside of the United States, just as much of his life was set outside of the United States. (Source)

Janine di Giovanni The fact that Hemingway writes it as an old, rather bitter man trapped in his Idaho home with a bullying wife while he dreams of his youth in Paris with his first wife and child is so touching to me. (Source)

Wai Chee Dimock This is a memoir by Hemingway about his time in Paris, which includes sketches of people like F Scott Fitzgerald. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath, Maggie Gyllenhaal, et al | 4.02

autobiography biography and informational books

Bryony Gordon As a teenage girl, you have to read The Bell Jar. It’s a rite of passage. (Source)

The CEO Library Community (through anonymous form) One of the best 3 books I've read in 2019 (Source)

Tim Kendall Despite its subject matter, The Bell Jar is often a very funny novel. Perhaps we miss it because the pall of Plath’s biography descends across the whole work and reputation. But The Bell Jar is viciously funny. There are people still alive today who won’t talk about it because they were so badly hurt by Plath’s portrayal of them. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

Lori Gottlieb | 4.02

autobiography biography and informational books

Arianna Huffington This is a daring, delightful, and transformative book. Lori Gottlieb takes us inside the most intimate of encounters as both clinician and patient and leaves us with a surprisingly fresh understanding of ourselves, one another, and the human condition. Her willingness to expose her own blind spots along with her patients’ shows us firsthand that we aren’t alone in our struggles and that maybe we... (Source)

Oliver Burkeman Gottlieb is a journalist and a writer, but she’s a working psychotherapist, and this is the story of a crisis in her own life, intertwined with a whole cast of characters based on her patients. They ring so incredibly true. (Source)

Andrea Barber My new favorite book 😍😍 @LoriGottlieb1 https://t.co/7iQsEH7sDa (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

As You Wish

Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

Cary Elwes, Joe Layden, Rob Reiner | 4.01

autobiography biography and informational books

Five Presidents

My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford

Clint Hill | 4.01

autobiography biography and informational books

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Jean-Dominique Bauby, Jeremy Leggatt | 4.01

autobiography biography and informational books

Henry David Thoreau | 4.01

autobiography biography and informational books

Laura Dassow Walls The book that we love as Walden began in the journal entries that he wrote starting with his first day at the pond. (Source)

Roman Krznaric In 1845 the American naturalist went out to live in the woods of Western Massachusetts. Thoreau was one of the great masters of the art of simple living. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

John Kaag There’s this idea that philosophy can blend into memoir and that, ideally, philosophy, at its best, is to help us through the business of living with people, within communities. This is a point that Thoreau’s Walden gave to me, as a writer, and why I consider it so valuable for today. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

The Fry Chronicles (Memoir #2)

Stephen Fry | 4.01

autobiography biography and informational books

The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion | 4.00

Catalina Penciu I can't forget The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

My Family and Other Animals (Corfu Trilogy #1)

Gerald Durrell | 4.00

autobiography biography and informational books

M G Leonard It’s a real work of genius and needs to be kept on every child’s bedside table. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Scar Tissue

Anthony Kiedis and Larry Sloman | 4.00

Ella Botting Another book is Scar Tissue. I really resonate with those kind of stories, they stay with me and inspire me daily. (Source)

autobiography biography and informational books

Marley and Me

Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog

John Grogan | 4.00

Craig Pearce Prior to getting into books about business and startups, I read mostly fictional books, and mostly about dogs (think Marley and Me or The Art of Racing In The Rain). (Source)

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Bios & Memoirs

Explore bios & memoirs by topic, actors & filmmakers, business & tech giants, historical leaders, scientists & engineers, sports stars, true crime profiles, musicians & artists, religious & spiritual, popular biographies & memoirs discover the distinctive profiles and intimate perspectives that listeners are loving now..

Team of Rivals Audiobook By Doris Kearns Goodwin cover art

Team of Rivals

  • The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
  • By: Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Narrated by: Suzanne Toren
  • Length: 41 hrs and 32 mins
  • Overall 5 out of 5 stars 10,795
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 9,548
  • Story 5 out of 5 stars 9,556

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry. Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war.

  • 5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful, Heartbreaking, and Informative

  • By JJ on 09-10-12

Chasing Boaz Manor Audiobook By Leah McLaren cover art

Chasing Boaz Manor

  • By: Leah McLaren
  • Narrated by: Serinda Swan
  • Length: 3 hrs and 56 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall 0 out of 5 stars 0
  • Performance 0 out of 5 stars 0
  • Story 0 out of 5 stars 0

Boaz Manor was a finance wunderkind. He started a hedge-fund company in Canada and later burst onto Wall Street with a product that could transform the crypto market. By all accounts, he was incredibly hard-working. Possibly brilliant. And...a shameless con man who ended up wanted in multiple countries. Chasing Boaz Manor explores Boaz’s schemes through the perspective of those he left in his wake.

Exposed Audiobook By Sophie Elmhirst, Maria Luisa Tucker cover art

  • The Ashley Madison Hack
  • By: Sophie Elmhirst, Maria Luisa Tucker
  • Narrated by: Sophie Nélisse
  • Length: 3 hrs and 13 mins
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 744
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 724
  • Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 724

Millions of people–looking to cheat on their partners–signed up for Ashley Madison in the early 2000s, seeking a private space to share their public desires. The promise of discretion was shattered in the summer of 2015, when anonymous hackers stole the company’s cache of user information and published it worldwide. The result? One of the most shocking data breaches of the internet age. Overnight, millions of unfaithful spouses had their real names, addresses and sexual preferences published online in a searchable database that anyone could browse.

  • 4 out of 5 stars

No mind change

  • By Joshua on 02-13-24

Entre nous [Closer Together] Audiobook By Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau cover art

Entre nous [Closer Together]

  • Mieux se connaître, mieux s'aimer [Knowing Ourselves, Loving Each Other]
  • By: Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau
  • Narrated by: François Trudel, Marie Bernier, Annick Bergeron, and others
  • Length: 8 hrs and 54 mins

Dans Entre nous. Mieux se connaître, mieux s’aimer , Sophie Grégoire Trudeau nous invite à entreprendre un voyage à travers notre paysage émotionnel, de l’enfance à l’âge adulte, en s’appuyant sur l’intervention de spécialistes parmi les plus réputés dans les domaines de la santé mentale et du bien-être (psychologues, neuroscientifiques, experts en relations, enseignants de la pleine conscience).

Something Ain't Right Audiobook By Roger Stringer, Zachary Stringer cover art

Something Ain't Right

  • By: Roger Stringer, Zachary Stringer
  • Narrated by: Roger Stringer, Zachary Stringer
  • Length: 1 hr and 53 mins
  • Overall 5 out of 5 stars 1,625
  • Performance 5 out of 5 stars 1,565
  • Story 5 out of 5 stars 1,565

Roger Stringer grew up in rural Mississippi, hunting and eating everything from deer to rabbits. When he had two sons, Zac and Justin, he gave them guns and took them to the woods as well. Then one day when the boys were home alone, he got a call from Zac that Justin had been shot. What follows is an intimate and gripping memoir about the shooting’s aftermath. The story moves between the perspectives of Roger and Zac as they take us through their journey of betrayal, redemption, and ultimately confrontation with a company that had kept its corruption a secret for decades.

The Journey for Truth

  • By samsararose on 05-19-23

From the Streets to the Suites Audiobook By Snoop Dogg cover art

From the Streets to the Suites

  • Words + Music | Vol. 36
  • By: Snoop Dogg
  • Narrated by: Snoop Dogg
  • Length: 1 hr and 33 mins
  • Overall 5 out of 5 stars 884
  • Performance 5 out of 5 stars 792
  • Story 5 out of 5 stars 791

Launching during the 30th anniversary year of Doggystyle , Snoop Dogg’s installment of Words + Music reflects on his coming-of-age journey from the streets of Long Beach to around the world and his decision to pursue love and life over death and destruction.

Revisionist history

  • By R. MCRACKAN on 06-16-23

New Releases

autobiography biography and informational books

Notable New Releases

Naturally tan.

By: Tan France Narrated by: Tan France

More Than Enough

By: Elaine Welteroth Narrated by: Elaine Welteroth , Adenrele Ojo

Mr Five Per Cent

By: Jonathan Conlin Narrated by: Simon Vance

Listens in the Spotlight

All of the flavor, none of the calories.

Love, Loss, and What We Ate

Fashion + memoir = art

The Price of Illusion

Somebody's Gotta Do It

The Ravenmaster

Only From Audible Discover amazing personal stories, buzzy bios, and exclusive content you can’t find anywhere else.

The wild heart of stevie nicks.

By: Rob Sheffield Narrated by: Rob Sheffield

Born a Crime

By: Trevor Noah Narrated by: Trevor Noah

Chase Darkness with Me

By: Billy Jensen Narrated by: Karen Kilgariff , Billy Jensen

By: Jim DeRogatis Narrated by: Jim DeRogatis

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autobiography biography and informational books

Chopping It Up With Kwame Onwuachi About His New Memoir, Notes From A Young Black Chef

The lives you have to hear get immersed in the compelling stories and intimate accounts of the people who inspire us..

Nelson Mandela

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Their Stories, Their Voices

100 Author-Read Memoirs That Are Simply Unforgettable

100 Author-Read Memoirs That Are Simply Unforgettable

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Home » Writing » Autobiography vs. Biography vs. Memoir

autobiography biography and informational books

What is a Biography?

A biography, also called a bio, is a non-fiction piece of work giving an objective account of a person’s life. The main difference between a biography vs. an autobiography is that the author of a biography is not the subject. A biography could be someone still living today, or it could be the subject of a person who lived years ago.

Biographies include details of key events that shaped the subject’s life, and information about their birthplace, education, work, and relationships. Biographers use a number of research sources, including interviews, letters, diaries, photographs, essays, reference books, and newspapers. While a biography is usually in the written form, it can be produced in other formats such as music composition or film.

If the target person of the biography is not alive, then the storytelling requires an immense amount of research. Interviews might be required to collect information from historical experts, people who knew the person (e.g., friends and family), or reading other older accounts from other people who wrote about the person in previous years. In biographies where the person is still alive, the writer can conduct several interviews with the target person to gain insight on their life.

The goal of a biography is to take the reader through the life story of the person, including their childhood into adolescence and teenage years, and then their early adult life into the rest of their years. The biography tells a story of how the person learned life’s lessons and the ways the person navigated the world. It should give the reader a clear picture of the person’s personality, traits, and their interaction in the world.

Biographies can also be focused on groups of people and not just one person. For example, a biography can be a historical account of a group of people from hundreds of years ago. This group could have the main person who was a part of the group, and the author writes about the group to tell a story of how they shaped the world.

Fictional biographies mix some true historical accounts with events to help improve the story. Think of fictional biographies as movies that display a warning that the story is made of real characters, but some events are fictional to add to the storyline and entertainment value. A lot of research still goes into a fictional biography, but the author has more room to create a storyline instead of sticking to factual events.

Examples of famous biographies include:

  • His Excellency: George Washington  by Joseph J. Ellis
  • Einstein: The Life and Times  by Ronald William Clark
  • Princess Diana – A Biography of The Princess of Wales  by Drew L. Crichton

Include photos in your autobiography

What is an Autobiography?

An autobiography is the story of a person’s life written by that person. Because the author is also the main character of the story, autobiographies are written in the first person. Usually, an autobiography is written by the person who is the subject of the book, but sometimes the autobiography is written by another person. Because an autobiography is usually a life story for the author, the theme can be anything from religious to a personal account to pass on to children.

The purpose of an autobiography is to portray the life experiences and achievements of the author. Therefore, most autobiographies are typically written later in the subject’s life. It’s written from the point of view of the author, so it typically uses first person accounts to describe the story.

An autobiography often begins during early childhood and chronologically details key events throughout the author’s life. Autobiographies usually include information about where a person was born and brought up, their education, career, life experiences, the challenges they faced, and their key achievements.

On rare occasions, an autobiography is created from a person’s diary or memoirs. When diaries are used, the author must organize them to create a chronological and cohesive story. The story might have flashbacks or flashforwards to describe a specific event, but the main storyline should follow chronological order from the author’s early life to their current events.

One of the main differences between an autobiography vs. a biography is that autobiographies tend to be more subjective. That’s because they are written by the subject, and present the facts based on their own memories of a specific situation, which can be biased. The story covers the author’s opinions on specific subjects and provides an account of their feelings as they navigate certain situations. These stories are also very personal because it’s a personal account of the author’s life rather than a biography where a third party writes about a specific person.

Examples of famous autobiographies include:

  • The Story of My Life  by Helen Keller
  • The Diary of a Young Girl  by Anne Frank
  • Losing My Virginity  by Richard Branson

A collection of letters and postcards

What is a Memoir?

Memoir comes from the French word  mémoire , meaning memory or reminiscence. Similar to an autobiography, a memoir is the story of a person’s life written by that person. These life stories are often from diary entries either from a first-person account or from a close family member or friend with access to personal diaries.

The difference between a memoir vs. an autobiography is that a memoir focuses on reflection and establishing an emotional connection, rather than simply presenting the facts about their life. The author uses their personal knowledge to tell an intimate and emotional story about the private or public happenings in their life. The author could be the person in the story, or it can be written by a close family member or friend who knew the subject person intimately. The topic is intentionally focused and does not include biographical or chronological aspects of the author’s life unless they are meaningful and relevant to the story.

Memoirs come in several types, all of which are written as an emotional account of the target person. They usually tell a story of a person who went through great struggles or faced challenges in a unique way. They can also cover confessionals where the memoir tells the story of the author’s account that contradicts another’s account.

This genre of writing is often stories covering famous people’s lives, such as celebrities. In many memoir projects, the celebrity or person of interest needs help with organization, writing the story, and fleshing out ideas from the person’s diaries. It might take several interviews before the story can be fully outlined and written, so it’s not uncommon for a memoir project to last several months.

Memoirs do not usually require as much research as biographies and autobiographies, because you have the personal accounts in diary entries and documents with the person’s thoughts. It might require several interviews, however, before the diary entries can be organized to give an accurate account on the person’s thoughts and emotions. The story does not necessarily need to be in chronological order compared to an autobiography, but it might be to tell a better story.

Examples of famous memoirs include:

  • Angela’s Ashes  by Frank McCourt
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings  by Maya Angelou
  • Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S.  Grant by Ulysses S. Grant

Autobiography vs. Biography vs. Memoir Comparison Chart

Check out some of our blogs to learn more about memoirs:

  • What is a memoir?
  • 5 tips for writing a memoir
  • Your memoir is your legacy

Ready to get started on your own memoir, autobiography, or biography? Download our free desktop book-making software, BookWright .

Autobiographies , Biographies , memoirs

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Article contents

Life writing.

  • Craig Howes Craig Howes Department of English and Center for Biographical Research, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190201098.013.1146
  • Published online: 27 October 2020

Since 1990, “life writing” has become a frequently used covering term for the familiar genres of biography, autobiography, memoir, diaries, letters, and many other forms of life narrative. Initially adopted as a critical intervention informed by post-structuralist, postmodernist, postcolonial, and especially feminist theory of the 1970s and 1980s, the term also refers to the study of life representation beyond the traditional literary and historical focus on verbal texts, encompassing not only other media—film, graphic narratives, online technologies, performance—but also research in other disciplines—psychology, anthropology, ethnic and Indigenous studies, political science, sociology, education, medicine, and any other field that records, observes, or evaluates lives.

While many critics and theorists still place their work within the realms of autobiography or biography, and others find life writing as a discipline either too ideologically driven, or still too confining conceptually, there is no question that life representation, primarily through narrative, is an important consideration for scholars engaged in virtually any field dealing with the nature and actions of human beings, or anything that lives.

  • autobiography
  • autofiction
  • life narrative

As Julie Rak noted in 2018 , Marlene Kadar’s essay “Coming to Terms: Life Writing—from Genre to Critical Practice,” although written in 1992 , still offers a useful account of life writing’s history as a term, and is still a timely reminder to examine constantly the often-buried theoretical assumptions defining and confining it. After noting that because “life writing” was in use before “biography” or “autobiography,” it “has always been the more inclusive term,” Kadar supplies a taxonomy in the form of a progressive history. Until the 1970s, “life writing” referred to “a particular branch of textual criticism” that subjected some biographies and autobiographies, and a scattering of letters and diaries, to the same literary-critical scrutiny commonly focused upon poetry, drama, or fiction. Kadar cites Donald J. Winslow’s Life-Writing as a locus for this understanding. 1 The problem lurking here is what Kadar elsewhere refers to as “the New Critical wolf”: theoretical assumptions that are “androcentric” and privilege notions of “objective truth and narrative regularity.” Clearly wanting to label this as residual, she turns to the then-current “more broadened version” of life writing. Its champions are primarily, though not exclusively, feminist literary critics devoted to “the proliferation, authorization, and recuperation” of autobiographical texts written by “literary,” but also “ordinary,” men and women. While the “ordinary” allows “personal narratives, oral narratives and life testimonies” and even “anthropological life histories” to enter the realm of life writing, this now-dominant understanding is nevertheless problematic, because it still tends to uncritically draw such binary distinctions as fiction/autobiography, literary/non-literary non-fiction, and even male/female. Heavily influenced by postmoderism, Kadar proposes a third, emergent vision of life writing that moves beyond a desire for fixity and canonization—“with laws and law-making”—by embracing a dynamic, constantly questioning methodology: “From Genre to Critical Practice.” 2

This approach gestures toward a focus upon intersectionality in “unofficial” writing—Kadar’s example is Frederick Douglass—and toward an expansive yet politically engaged life-writing practice that can “appreciate the canon, revise it where it sees fit, and forget it where it also sees fit.” 3 The same approach should be adopted toward such terms as “the autobiographical” or “life writing itself.” After describing life writing “as a continuum that spreads unevenly and in combined forms from the so-called least fictive narration to the most fictive,” she offers her own “working definition.” Life-writing texts “are written by an author who does not continuously write about someone else”—note how biography has at best been relegated to the fringes of the realm—and “who also does not pretend to be absent from the [black, brown, or white] text himself/herself.” Neither an archive nor a taxonomy of texts, life writing employs “an imperfect and always evolving hermeneutic,” where “classical, traditional, or postmodern” approaches coexist, rather than always being set against each other. 4

Kadar’s early-1990s assessment and prophecy will serve here as loose organizational principles for describing how the move “from Genre to Critical Practice” in the ensuing years has proved to be an astonishing, though contested, unfolding of life writing as a term encompassing more initiatives by diverse communities in many locations and media that even the far-sighted Marlene Kadar could have anticipated. Even so, her insistence that life-writing critics and theorists must continue to “resist and reverse the literary and political consequences” produced by impulses toward “ʻdepersonalization’ and unrelenting ʻabstraction’” still stands. 5

From Biography to Autobiography to Life Writing

Kadar’s support for life writing as the umbrella term came in the wake of an energetic focus on autobiography as the most critically and theoretically stimulating life-narrative genre. The academic journal Biography had begun appearing in 1978 , but for all its claims to be An Interdisciplinary Quarterly , it was assumed to be largely devoted to traditional biography criticism and theory. In 1980 , James Olney noted the “shift of attention from bios to autos —from the life to the self,” which he credited with “opening things up and turning them in a philosophical, psychological and literary direction.” 6 Biography scholars would have begged to differ. Discussions of psychology, with an emphasis on psychoanalysis, and of the aesthetics of literary biography, with special attention paid to affinities with the novel, had been part of biography’s critical and theoretical environment for a century. 7 Olney however was not just arguing for autobiography’s legitimacy, but for the primacy of autos within literature itself—a key claim of his landmark monograph Metaphors of Self . 8 Olney was a convener as well as a critic and theorist. Ricia Chansky identifies the “International Symposium on Autobiography and Autobiography Studies” Olney held in 1985 as “the moment when contemporary auto/biography studies emerged as a formal discipline within the academy”—not least because it led to the creation of a newsletter that soon became the journal a/b: Auto/Biography Studies . Although the slashes in the title—credited to Timothy Dow Adams—suggested that a/b would not privilege “self-life writing over life writing,” the variety and sheer number of critical and theoretical works devoted to autobiography in the ensuing years made it clear that for many, it was the more interesting genre. 9

Institutionalization and professional assertion soon followed. Sidonie Smith recalls “those heady days” of creating archives and bibliographies, but also of “writing against the grain, writing counterhistories, writing beyond conventional plots and tropes.” 10 As Olney had predicted, autobiography became a flash point for critical and theoretical writing in women’s studies—a trend heavily influencing Kadar’s thoughts on life writing, and canonized in Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson’s Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader , whose introduction is still the most detailed account of how women critics and theorists from the 1970s to the late 1990s drew upon the most compelling feminist, post-structuralist, cultural, and political writing in their encounters with autobiographical texts. 11

This interest in autobiography—with or without the slash—produced an entire generation of influential writers. Because of their general eminence, Paul de Man’s and Roland Barthes’s comments on and experiments with autobiography were closely examined, but other theorists made autobiography their central attention. 12 Philippe Lejeune’s profoundly influential essay “The Autobiographical Pact” complemented Olney’s book on metaphors of self, and so did Paul John Eakin’s volumes Fictions of Autobiography and Touching the World as arguments for the genre’s legitimacy within literary studies. 13 A host of important books, collections, and anthologies soon followed, many with a strongly feminist approach. Sidonie Smith’s A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography was an important intervention into literary aesthetics, and Smith and Watson’s edited collection De/Colonizing the Subject forged important links between autobiography and feminist and postcolonial theory. 14 Many other feminist critics and theorists in Europe and North America in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s directed their attention as writers and editors to autobiography, among them collection editors Shari Benstock and Bella Brodsky and Celeste Schenk; monograph writers Elizabeth Bruss, Leigh Gilmore, Caroline Heilbrun, Françoise Lionnet, Nancy K. Miller, and Liz Stanley; and essayists Susan Stanford Friedman and Mary G. Mason. Following in the tradition of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own , other feminist literary and cultural historians sought out forgotten or yet-to-be-discovered women autobiographers—Patricia Meyer Spacks for the 18th century ; Mary Jean Corbett, Regenia Gagnier, Linda H. Peterson, and Valerie Sanders for the long 19th century ; Estelle C. Jelinek from the time of antiquity; and collection editor Domna C. Stanton from the medieval period to the 20th century . 15

Often viewed through the lens of literary and cultural theory, autobiography therefore became the most-discussed life-writing genre in the 1980s, and has largely remained so ever since. But from the time of Kadar’s Essays on Life Writing , the term “life writing” became increasingly employed as the umbrella term for representing the lives of others, or of one’s self. The key intervention here was Margaretta Jolly’s landmark two-volume Encyclopedia of Life Writing . Published in 2001 , the title term encompasses Autobiographical and Biographical Forms , and through her contributors, Jolly accounts in 1,090 large double-column pages not just for the genres that could be considered life writing, but for life-writing practices in a host of world regions and historical periods. She emphasizes her subject’s interdisciplinary nature. Although the “writing of lives is an ancient and ubiquitous practice,” and the term “life writing” can in England be traced back to the late 17th or early 18th century , it has only gained “wide academic acceptance since the 1980s.” While noting that “the study of autobiography is the most-long-standing and sophisticated branch of analysis in the field”—a claim that biography scholars would dispute, at least with regard to duration—Jolly grants Kadar’s wish to expand beyond the literary by including entries grounded in “anthropology, sociology, psychology, history, theology, cultural studies, and even the biological sciences,” and in forms of life narrative “outside of the written form, including testimony, artifacts, reminiscence, personal narrative, visual arts, photography, film, oral history, and so forth.” 16

The Encyclopedia also provides “international and historical perspective through accounts of life writing traditions and trends from around the world, from Classical times to the present,” and covers “popular and everyday genres and contexts—from celebrity and royal biography to working-class autobiography, letter writing, interviews, and gossip”—a continuation of work, epitomized by Smith and Watson’s Getting a Life , that pays close attention to how “ordinary” lives are produced in a variety of public and institutional settings. 17 Like Kadar, Jolly notes the “crucial influence” of “Women’s Studies, Cultural Studies, African-American, and Post-Colonial Studies” upon autobiography studies’ emergence in the 1980s, and she also observes that many contributors use the term “auto/biography” to point toward a more capacious sense of the field. But also like Kadar, in an “effort to balance the emphasis on autobiography,” Jolly chooses “life writing” as her preferred term, because it can more easily accommodate “many aspects of this wide-ranging field, not to mention regions of the world, where life-writing scholarship remains in its infancy, or has yet to emerge.” 18 This ambitious and expansive reference work anticipates most of the ensuing developments in life writing.

In the same year appeared the first edition of Smith and Watson’s Reading Autobiography . Although retaining autobiography as the covering term—describing it as “a particular generic practice” that “became definitive for life writing in the West”—they share Jolly’s commitment to generic, historic, and geographical inclusivity, and take a highly detailed approach to clarifying terminology. 19 Echoing Kadar, they note that autobiography “has been vigorously challenged in the wake of postmodern and postcolonial critiques of the Enlightenment subject”—an entity whose “politics is one of exclusion.” In response, they grant that “life writing” is a more expansive term, because it can refer to “writing that takes a life, one’s own or another’s, as its subject,” whether “biographical, novelistic, historical, or explicitly self-referential.” But, always sensitive to new developments and dimensions, Smith and Watson suggest that “life narrative” is even more capacious, because it refers to “autobiographical [and presumably biographical] acts of any sort.” 20 With the added perspective of nine years, and then eighteen years for their second edition, Smith and Watson update Kadar’s 1992 account of the profound impact that feminist, postmodernist, and postcolonial theory have had upon life writing—although they still direct readers to their own Women, Autobiography, Theory for a more detailed “overview of representative theories and work up to the late 1990s.” 21 Their main point is that the theoretical work Kadar called for has been taking place: “the challenges posed by postmodernism’s deconstruction of any solid ground of selfhood and truth outside of discourse,” when coupled with “postcolonial theory’s troubling of established hierarchies of authority, tradition, and influence,” led life-writing critics and theorists to examine “generic instability, regimes of truth telling, referentiality, relationality, and embodiment,” which not only undermined “the earlier critical period’s understanding of canonical autobiography” but also “expanded the range of life writing and the kinds of stories critics may engage in rethinking the field of life narrative.” 22

An efficient two-page synopsis identifies the specific theoretical stimuli for this critical scrutiny. Lacanian psychoanalysis undercut the notion of the autonomous self, replacing it with a “split subject always constituted in language.” Derridean différance offers the insight that in life writing, as in all writing, “meaning is always in process, continuously put off, or deferred.” With Jean François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida also deconstructs the supposed boundaries between Truth and fiction, actually set by supposed “ʻmaster’” narratives. Louis Althusser’s linking of socioeconomic relations to subjectivity offers life-writing scholars interpolation as a concept for understanding life-narrative construction. Michel Foucault’s claim that discourse is an exercise of power tied to the construction of identity is also formative, and so is Bakhtinian heteroglossia as the counter to the fantasy of the unitary “I.” Feminist theory directs life-writing scholars’ attention to the relationship between the political and the personal, to the “cultural inscription and practices of embodiment,” and to the dangers inherent in universalized notions of “woman.” Frantz Fanon’s work on the colonial gaze foregrounds domination’s and subordination’s roles in the constitution of subjectivity, which postcolonial, ethnic, and feminist theorists all see as crucial for recognizing the minoritizing of subjectivity, and then decolonizing such constructions. Gay and queer studies reveal the performative nature of subjectivity, and undermine binary models of gender and sexuality. Cultural studies’ interest in “popular, public, and everyday forms of textuality, including everyday practices of self-narrating in verbal, visual, and mixed modes,” extends the range of life narratives that can be examined, and neurological studies offer insight into the brain’s material effects on memory, and into trauma’s impact on perceived identity. 23

In “Expanding Autobiography Studies,” the final chapter of their two-part critical history of the field, Smith and Watson list the important critical and theoretical initiatives of previous decades. Performativity, positionality, and relationality are presented as “Useful Theoretical Concepts.” Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter and Smith’s own Subjectivity, Identity, and the Body are cited as formative texts for recognizing that the self customarily thought of as “prior to the autobiographical expression or reflection is an effect of autobiographical storytelling.” 24 Paul John Eakin and Nancy K. Miller are credited with expanding the applicability of relationality beyond feminist theory and women’s autobiography and arriving at a virtually universal applicability for life writing. 25 The most important concept for contemporary life writing, however, is arguably positionality, because it helps critics and theorists evaluate how “culturally salient” subject positions, “always multiple and often contradictory,” find ways to tell their stories “at a particular historical moment.” Formed “at the intersections of multiple discursive trajectories,” certain life narratives insist on the significance of subjects who are dealing with “de/colonization, immigration, displacement, and exile.” Such narratives demand the critical use of such terms as “ hybrid, border, diasporic, mestiza, nomadic, migratory, minoritized ”; they also force theorists to consider the natures and purposes of Indigenous life writing. 26

Despite this emphasis on life writing as referential, registering changes in practice still tends to involve identifying and tracking what Smith and Watson call “Emergent Genres of Life Narrative.” 27 Their second edition ( 2010 ) foregrounds trauma narratives, disability life writing, and human rights narratives and testimonio ; life writing appearing from a much wider range of locations, organized under the title “Critical Geographies”; narratives that foreground developments in neuroscience, memory, and genetics; the myriad of life representations arising out of the turbulent realm of “Digitalized Forms and Identities”; the templates or familiar genres deployed for recording “Everyday Lives”; and, more generally, autocritical scholarship, which requires critics or theorists to position themselves in relation to the narratives they choose to record or study and, in some cases, to recognize the necessity of being a part or a member of the group or population whose life stories are at issue.

Smith and Watson end their anatomy and history of autobiography by noting that the many “contesting approaches” to life writing are also adding many formerly “marginal” forms to “the canon of autobiography.” In the 2010 edition, Appendix A offers definitions for “Sixty Genres of Life Narrative,” up from the fifty-two provided in the first edition. But Smith and Watson “conclude” that increases in the number of relevant texts and presenting media will lead to major shifts in critical and theoretical debates, even though at bottom, a life narrative is always “a rhetorical act embedded in the history of specific communities.” 28

Backlash, Boomlash, and Boom Echo

Raymond Williams and Marlene Kadar would both acknowledge that treating ideologies or forms of life writing as residual, dominant, or emergent, and therefore capable of being mapped onto a historical or progressive continuum, can neither assume the disappearance of earlier stages, nor prevent resurgences and unpredictable alliances. 29 Take for example the history of critical debates since the late 20th century about the relationship between biography and life writing. The focus on autobiography as the central concern for critics has often been explicit: Marlene Kadar’s 1992 provisional definition of life writing ruled out authors who “continuously write about someone else.” 30 In response, many biographers and some theorists have insisted on biography’s continuing significance, and even centrality. Everyone involved tends to agree that biography was once dominant, but is now either residual, or treated as such. But in the 21st century highly unlikely allies have been calling for a “Biographical Turn,” which for some means re-evaluating what it means to tell another’s life in different historical and cultural contexts, and for others actually means a “Return” to pre-eminence—emergent and residual, yet united in asserting biography’s value. 31

Insisting that biography’s strongest affinities lie with history, and not literature or cultural studies, Hans Renders has arguably been the most visible defender of biography against the onslaught of life writing, which he considers a “shift” into an “ideology” emerging from “comparative literature and gender and cultural studies.” According to Renders, life-writing critics and theorists present autobiographers, and sometimes themselves, as “victimized by social context” and therefore, in Michael Holroyd’s words, seeking “retrospective justice.” 32 The biographer or biography theorist respects the “scholarly imperative to analyze the world (including the past) as objectively as possible”—not “to correct injustice,” but to “understand it better.” Conversely, those who study life writing seem preoccupied with “battered and raped women,” “Mothering Narratives,” “ʻJewish Women and Comics,’” “homosexuals,” and self-proclaimed victims of “climate change” or “racism, and social exclusion.” 33 The emphasis on gender here can be read as a response to the profound impact of feminist theory on autobiography and life-writing studies, and the gestures to race and class as resistance to the tenor of emergent life-narrative scholarship.

What must also be accounted for is the sustained production of biography by trade and university publishers. Throughout the memoir boom that so many theorists, critics, and reviewers have declared, highly conventional single-volume biographies have appeared regularly, speaking to the continued public interest in what Hans Renders calls “the biographical tradition, based on individuals like Hitler or Einstein, but also less famous persons.” 34 The indisputable success of The Biographer’s Craft newsletter ( 2008 –) and the creation of the Biographers International Organization (BIO; 2010 –), with its hugely popular annual conferences, counter biography’s residual status in much life-writing criticism and theory with its continued prominence in the public sphere. And arguably, most BIO members prefer it that way. Like many poets, playwrights, and novelists, biographers are often wary of critics and theorists of literature, preferring at their conferences to discuss publishing possibilities, or to receive advice on research and writing, rather than engage in theoretical or critical analysis of biography as a genre. 35

But of course, life-writing scholars are also interested in production, with Julie Rak as the most prominent cultural historian and theorist who insists that publication and distribution are salient, and even essential, subjects of study. Although primarily concerned with autobiography, her 2013 book Boom! Manufacturing Memoir for the Popular Market focuses on books “written, published, sold in bookstores and circulated by public libraries for people like my grandmother.” Rak presents non-fiction “as part of a production cycle” of “commodities that are manufactured for a market by an industry,” paying close attention to the mechanics of publication, distribution, classification for purposes of sales, and advertising for books “produced by mainstream presses for large audiences”—a critical interest that she paved the way for by editing a special issue on popular auto/biography for the Canadian Review of American Studies . 36 The affordances and filters that particular models of production impose upon life narratives are technological correlatives to the ideologically informed reception that certain kinds of life writing and testimony encounter when they venture into the world. Most notably, in Tainted Witness , Leigh Gilmore evaluates how women’s life narratives arouse powerful, at times hysterical, and even violent constraints upon what they are allowed to say about life conditions, or about the actions of others—and especially powerful men. 37 Though genres and chosen media may range from published memoirs or testimonio , to congressional hearings, to court trials, to social media venues and campaigns, the dynamics are the same. Women’s life-writing narratives threaten to disrupt or damage a man’s supposed life script by adding to it details of abuse, or cruelty, or criminality. It would be hard to imagine a more vivid example of what Hans Renders objects to in life writing, but the social and political significance of such narratives also explains why they could never easily be relegated to a marginal subgenre of biography. In fact, the power dynamics in Renders’s paradigm between male-centered “objective” biography and female-produced “victim” life writing mirror those in the scenarios that Gilmore evaluates.

The rest of this article maps out the most notable developments in life-narrative scholarship since the late 20th century , drawing principally on the “Annual Bibliography of Works about Life Writing,” an annotated list of books, edited collections and special issues, individual articles, and dissertations that appears in Biography : An Interdisciplinary Quarterly . The sample contains roughly 21,000 entries; the discussion here will concentrate on books, edited collections, and special issues because they represent formidable and sustained studies of some aspect of the field, or point to a community of scholars engaged in similar work. While essentially tracing out Kadar’s three-stage progressive account of life writing, this article will also provide examples of critical and theoretical practice to elaborate on the expansions, revisions, departures, and interventions that the practice of life-writing and life-narrative scholarship has produced. The discussion concludes by identifying a few ideas that might offer new directions or understandings for those interested in how lives are represented.

Biography Studies Sustained—Residual as Dominant and Emergent

For a genre supposedly lapsing into subordinate status or irrelevance, biography continues to attract a great deal of critical and theoretical attention. Though usually retracing that familiar Western trajectory running from Rome through to contemporary trade publications, historical or thematic overviews, often written by well-known biographers, appear regularly. Some are reader-friendly primers, such as Nigel Hamilton’s Brief History , Hermione Lee’s Very Short Introduction , and Andrew Brown’s Brief History of Biography: From Plutarch to Celebs , all of which appeared in the early 21st century . More “weighty” accounts include Catherine N. Parke’s Biography: Writing Lives and Paula R. Backscheider’s Reflections , both published in the 1990s. 38 Before any of these histories, however, came Carl Rollyson’s Biography: An Annotated Bibliography ( 1992 ), which organized and annotated the critical literature in English. Arguably the most prolific writer on biography theory and criticism, Rollyson has published many biographies—political, literary, and cinematic—and several guides and essay collections about theory and practice. 39 Biography: A User’s Guide , for instance, discusses keywords alphabetically; Hans Renders and Nigel Hamilton adopt a similar format for The ABC of Modern Biography . 40 A popular sub-genre comprises books for would-be biographers written by famous practitioners. Extending back to Leon Edel, more recent examples include Michael Holroyd’s Works on Paper , Carl Rollyson’s Confessions of a Serial Biographer , and Nigel Hamilton’s How to Do Biography —a companion volume to his Brief History . 41

Literary lives appear prominently in all of these works, and many texts take them as their subject. John Batchelor’s The Art of Literary Biography and Warwick Gould and Thomas F. Staley’s Writing the Lives of Writers are edited collections arising out of conferences in the 1990s; more recently, Robert Dion and Frédéric Regard have edited Les nouvelles écritures biographiques , and Richard Bradford has overseen a substantial Companion to Literary Biography . 42 Individual monographs include Michael Benton’s Towards a Poetics of Literary Biography , and Rana Tekcan’s Too Far for Comfort . And even though she has reservations about focusing on female writers, Alison Booth’s How to Make It as a Woman is a detailed and insightful study of literary biography in the 19th and 20th centuries . 43

Despite literary biography’s apparently privileged status, historians have also explored biography’s significance to their field. Barbara Caine’s Biography and History was followed by two edited collections from the Netherlands: Hans Renders and Binne de Haan’s Theoretical Discussions of Biography ; and Renders, de Haan, and Jonne Harmsma’s The Biographical Turn . Both volumes argue for biography as a historical genre that does not share life writing’s preoccupations with race, class, and gender. That the distinction is significant is also suggested by the title of Tanya Evans and Robert Reynolds’s “Introduction to this Special Issue on Biography and Life-Writing” for disclosure . 44 German historians have also displayed a strong interest in biography, in edited clusters such as Atiba Pertilla’s and Uwe Spiekermann’s “The Challenge of Biography,” or Sarah Panter’s Mobility and Biography . 45

Monographs and collections have delineated specific periods and locations for study. Thomas Hägg’s The Art of Biography in Antiquity has some affinities with the Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography , edited by Stephanos Efthymiadis; with Sharpe and Zwicker’s edited collection on early modern England; and with Mombert and Rosellini’s edited volume Usages des vies . Juliette Atkinson’s Victorian Biography Reconsidered is an astute and suggestive study of England’s intense preoccupation with various forms of the genre. 46 And while such works tend to confine themselves to Western Europe—Great Britain, France, and Germany/Austria—or the United States, collections have focused on other regions, among them Eastern Europe and the Nordic countries. 47

Despite the longstanding suspicion of considering biography through the lens of contemporary theory, a substantial number of such works have appeared since c. 2005 , many from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the History and Theory of Biography in Vienna. Wilhelm Hemecker, its director, has edited or co-edited several volumes; among them is the remarkable Theorie der Biographie , co-edited with Bernhard Fetz, which contains excerpts from famous authors and theorists with special relevance for biography—Samuel Johnson, Thomas Carlyle, William Dilthey, Sigfried Kracauer, Michel Foucault, the Vienna psychoanalysts—paired with commentaries by contemporary biography scholars. Fetz also edited Die Biographie—Zur Grundlegung ihrer Theorie , which appeared in 2009 . 48 More than a decade earlier, a similar overview was provided by Biographical Creation / La création biographique , an English/French volume edited by Marta Dvorak. 49 Monographs taking a sustained theoretical approach to biography are relatively rare. Two of the most notable are Susan Tridgell’s Understanding Our Selves and Caitríona Ní Dhúill’s Metabiography , an impressive overview by a scholar formerly at the Boltzmann Institute. 50

The subtitle of the journal Biography promises interdisciplinary scholarship. Thanks largely to Freud, psychoanalytic and psychological approaches to life narrative have appeared for over a century, with psychobiography emerging as a clearly delineated discipline. Alan C. Elms’s Uncovering Lives led the way, with William Todd Schultz’s Handbook of Psychobiography offering a synthesis of scholarly activity by such researchers as psychologist Dan P. McAdams, author of The Redemptive Self and many other studies of personality. 51 Other social sciences at times have taken their own biographical turn, among them both archaeology and anthropology. 52

Indigenous studies scholarship represents a significant emerging engagement. A special issue of Biography entitled “Indigenous Conversations about Biography” explores the genre’s value and dangers for researchers recovering or creating archives, histories, and life records. In The Power of the Steel-Tipped Pen , Noenoe K. Silva refers to her method of establishing critical and publishing genealogies for Hawaiians writing in Hawaiian in the 19th and early 20th centuries as bio-bibliography. Fine arts scholars are also assessing what biography contributes to their disciplines. Melanie Unseld’s Biographie und Musikgeschichte examines the genre’s usefulness for those interested in musical culture and historiography, and a Biography special issue entitled “Verse Biography” should not be immediately conflated with literary biography. Though the lives discussed are in verse, the subjects are not necessarily writers. 53

In their introduction to “Indigenous Conversations about Biography,” Alice Te Punga Somerville and Daniel Heath Justice note that even though the term “life writing” is common in academic circles, and even though the plan for the seminar for contributors held in Honolulu was to “unpack, repack, and throw out terms once we’re at the table,” they chose to stay with biography because it “is well-known in Indigenous circles,” concluding that “there is still life in this old term ʻbiography’ yet.” 54 The same can be said for the publishing world; in fact, “biographies” are regularly appearing for non-human subjects. Noted biographer and novelist Peter Ackroyd published London: The Biography in 2000 ; the “concise” version followed in 2012 . In Britain, biographies of the Ordnance Survey and the English Breakfast have also appeared. 55 Resisting relegation, biography can still raise and fulfill expectations of a chronological, substantial, and interesting narrative that deals with real subjects, human or otherwise—a good story, with the added virtue of being true.

Autobiography and Auto/Biography—Mapping Self-Representation

If autobiography studies began in the late 1970s, its institutionalization occurred in the mid- and late 1980s, and its later codification came with the journal a/b: Auto/Biography Studies and works such as Smith and Watson’s Reading Autobiography , the years since 1990 have also seen sustained efforts to define and further theorize the genre in ways that expand its range and history. Handbooks such as the two editions of Linda Anderson’s Autobiography and Laura Marcus’s Autobiography: A Very Short Introduction offer brief, engaging entries into the genre’s past and present. Other efforts to map out auto/biography as a generic marker and critical practice include The Routledge Auto/Biography Studies Reader , edited by Ricia Anne Chansky and Emily Hipchen. Much of the content first appeared in the pages of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies , which they co-edit. Ashley Barnwell and Kate Douglas’s co-edited Research Methodologies for Auto/Biography Studies provides an overview of work being conducted in the field as the 21st century enters its third decade, often with suggestions for future directions. 56

Volumes devoted to theory include Carole Allamand’s book about Philippe Lejeune’s great influence on “ l’autobiographie en théorie ” or Lia Nicole Brozgal’s Against Autobiography . Marlene Kadar’s emphasis on the postmodern is mirrored in edited collections by Ashley et al. and Couser and Fichtelberg, and in Gunnthórunn Gudmundsdóttir’s monograph Borderlines . 57 Other scholars turned their attention to the field’s historical and geographical reach. 58 In the United States, slave narratives have been a major subject for research. William L. Andrews’s To Tell a Free Story and Slavery and Class in the American South have been major contributions to this field. 59 If we add Rachel McLennan’s American Autobiography , the result is an emphatic rejection of Georges Gusdorf’s highly influential claim that autobiography was an 18th-century product of the Western European Enlightenment. 60

Over the course of his career, Paul John Eakin, one of the early champions of autobiographies as literary texts, has shifted his attention to autobiographies as foundational, even neurological, imperatives in all people. As the titles of How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves and Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative suggest, his close readings of published autobiographies are gestures toward identifying the structures and narratives of consciousness that constitute humans as humans. More philosophical in emphasis, Richard Freadman’s Threads of Life shares Eakin’s conviction that autobiography offers valuable information about human nature. 61 Autobiography has however attracted most critical and theoretical interest in the realm of the political, often with feminism as the starting point. Liz Stanley’s The Auto/Biographical I and Laura Marcus’s Auto/Biographical Discourses were influential British monographs; and Broughton and Anderson’s edited collection, Women’s Lives/Women’s Times , turned the tables by suggesting that autobiography could contribute to feminist theory, as well as the other way around. Many of these monographs and collections were powerfully shaped by work on the distinctiveness of women’s writing, most notably the autobiographical/theoretical texts of Hélène Cixous such as Rootprints , which emerged from her famous writings in the 1970s on l’écriture féminine . Noted memoirists such as Jill Ker Conway, in her When Memory Speaks , also evaluate how differently men and women understand and write about their lives. 62

Other scholars have worked to establish traditions of women’s self-representation, whether Florence S. Boos in Memoirs of Victorian Working-Class Women ; Laura Beard’s Acts of Narrative Resistance , which focuses on autobiographical writing in the Americas; or Marilyn Booth’s Journal of Women’s History special issue, “Women’s Autobiography in South Asia and the Middle East.” Some of the most visible theoretical works address the challenges of speaking out through autobiography against political or social repression. A 2008 special issue of Women’s Studies Quarterly was simply entitled “Witness.” Two of the best-known monographs are Gillian Whitlock’s Soft Weapons , which investigates the strategies Middle Eastern women employ to attract Western audiences in order to inform them about life during a time of forced globalization, emigration, and wars on terror; and Leigh Gilmore’s previously mentioned Tainted Witness , which looks at high-profile witnesses such as Anita Hill and Rigoberta Menchú to analyze the relationship between gender and credibility within patriarchal cultures. 63

Though strongly influenced by feminist theory, other critics and theorists extend their discussions of testimony out to a wide range of locations and chosen media. Cynthia Franklin and Laura E. Lyons co-edited “Personal Effects: The Testimonial Uses of Life Writing” as a special issue of Biography . The essays in Tracing the Autobiographical , edited by Marlene Kadar and colleagues, explore the interplay between genre, location, national politics, ethics, and life narrative. Although Leigh Gilmore entitled her 2000 monograph The Limits of Autobiography , subtitled Trauma, Testimony, Theory— and although a 2008 Southern Review special issue explores “The Limits of Testimony”—developments such as the Me Too movement suggest that personal witnessing by the abused or persecuted will continue to attract the attention of autobiography scholars. 64

A similar impulse accounts for the close attention being paid to autobiographical sub-genres. Prominent among these is memoir, which some would argue should become the covering term. G. Thomas Couser’s Memoir: An Introduction offers a concise yet rich overview of the form, with an emphasis on American memoir, while Ben Yagoda’s Memoir: A History provides a detailed account of the form’s fortunes over time. Both Couser and Yagoda move smoothly between “literary” examples and more commercial texts, acknowledging that popular publications of the 21st century are primarily responsible for many critics and reviewers declaring that we are living during a memoir “boom.” As with autobiography, however, some critics are hesitant to let this form of life writing refer to almost any mode of self-representation. A 2018 edited collection describes its task as Mediating Memory: Tracing the Limits of Memoir . 65

Autobiography scholars have also directed their attention to the less prestigious, and even unpublished sub-genres of written self-representation. Philippe Lejeune’s longstanding interest in personal journals has resulted in articles and books drawing their subjects from over four centuries and a variety of media—from manuscripts to computer screens. On Diary , a collection of English translations on the subject, is similar in its distillation of stimulating thought to On Autobiography , Lejeune’s landmark 1989 collection. The sheer number, variety, and importance of his publications confirm his status as a pre-eminent scholar of self-representation since the 1980s. In French, his work on diary is complemented by such works as Françoise Simonet-Tenant’s Le journal intime . In English, decades before On Diary appeared, Lejeune made an important contribution to Inscribing the Daily , edited by Suzanne L. Bunkers and Cynthia A. Huff. In that same collection, Helen Buss’s “A Feminist Revision of New Historicism to Give Fuller Readings of Women’s Private Writing” offers another example of how contemporary feminist theory engaged with other theoretical movements, and often did so by drawing upon autobiography as a source for hidden or “sub-literary” women’s texts. 66

Since c. 1990 , the auto- in auto/biography studies has largely set the agenda for theoretical and critical approaches to life writing; indeed, for many scholars, autobiography is all but synonymous with life narrative. But as Marlene Kadar noted in 1992 , the term “life writing” offers possibilities for study that autobiography cannot accommodate, or will even distort, as a survey of what has been pursued under the life banner makes all too clear. 67

Life Writing and Life Narrative—Emergence and Pervasion

In the years since Margaretta Jolly’s Encyclopedia of Life Writing appeared, many substantial works have addressed aspects and practices of life writing as an interdiscipline. Zachary Leader’s On Life-Writing is one of his many publications as a critic, theorist, and editor, and although literary biography is Richard Bradford’s primary interest, in his edited collection Life Writing: Essays on Autobiography, Biography and Literature , the term serves as a container for the more familiar designations. The title of Life Writing in the Long Run: A Smith & Watson Autobiography Studies Reader , a compendium of the most influential essays by two of autobiography’s most prolific and prominent critics, theorists, and editors, does something similar, and in fact many prominent a/b theorists have made the shift, at least in their titles, to a “life” designation. Liz Stanley’s 2013 edited collection is called Documents of Life Revisited , and the title of her 2010 guest-edited special issue of Life Writing is “In Dialogue: Life Writing and Narrative Inquiry.” Perhaps most significantly, almost twenty years after his landmark discussion of metaphors of self, James Olney, the acknowledged founder of autobiography studies, published Memory and Narrative: The Weave of Life-Writing . 68

The term increasingly appeared in publications about its fortunes in academia. When Miriam Fuchs and I edited a volume for the Modern Language Association’s Options for Teaching series, in the interests of full coverage, we entitled it Teaching Life Writing Texts . A decade later, Laurie McNeill and Kate Douglas’s a/b: Auto/Biography Studies special issue on pedagogy, and the resulting Routledge edited collection, were both called “Teaching Lives: Contemporary Pedagogies of Life Narratives.” For its two clusters on the subject, the European Journal of Life Writing took the same title as Fuchs and me, with the obvious addition “in Europe.” 69

As has been the case with both biography and autobiography, as part of its codification life writing has undergone a great deal of historical and regional analysis. Sometimes the results are interdisciplinary, such as Penny Summerfield’s Histories of the Self , but in the case of the multi-volume Oxford History of Life-Writing (Zachary Leader gen. ed.) the goal is to produce a comprehensive survey. The first two volumes, covering the Middle Ages and the early modern period respectively, appeared in 2018 . Other decidedly British, period-based publications include David Amigoni’s edited collection Life Writing and Victorian Culture , and Andrew Tate’s special issue of Nineteenth Century Contexts , “Victorian Life Writing.” 70 The historical focus extends to France and Germany in the Modern Language Studies special issue “Co-Constructed Selves: Nineteenth-Century Collaborative Life Writing.” Entirely European surveys include Écrire des vies: Espagne, France, Italie, XVIe–XVIIIe siècle, and German Life Writing in the Twentieth Century . 71

Continuing in the tradition of feminist critical interventions through autobiography, life writing has become a covering term for studies of women’s writing over the centuries and around the world. Some publications explicitly link theoretical positions to life writing; for instance, the Prose Studies special issue devoted to “Women’s Life Writing and Imagined Communities,” which puts Benedict Anderson’s brand of political science and cultural history into play. Other works employ life writing to map out genealogies of women authors and intellectuals. The edited collection Writing Medieval Women’s Lives reclaims a number of European subjects, and after writing Romancing the Self in Early Modern Englishwomen’s Life Writing , Julie Eckerle co-edited Women’s Life Writing and Early Modern Ireland with Naomi McAreavey. Reversing the pattern, Amy Culley followed up Women’s Life Writing, 1700–1850 , a collection co-edited with Daniel Cook, with a monograph entitled British Women’s Life Writing, 1760–1840 . 72 Susan Civale’s Romantic Women’s Life Writing covers much of the British nineteenth century , as does “Silence in the Archives: Censorship and Suppression in Women’s Life Writing,” a special issue of 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century . Another co-edited collection, Women’s Life Writing and the Practice of Reading , ranges from slave narratives to Virginia Woolf. Finally, in Love and Struggle: Letters in Contemporary Feminism , Margaretta Jolly argues for the enduring power of written correspondence, whether on paper or as e-mail. 73

Delineations of criticism and theory from specific regions have adopted life writing as an organizing principle. “African American Life Writing” is the title of an a/b: Auto/Biography Studies special issue; other volumes dealing with North American subjects include Viola Amato’s Shifts in the Representation of Intersex Lives in North American Literature and Popular Culture , and Katherine Adams’s monograph Owning Up . 74 Ongoing work on European life writing has resulted in several survey collections. Life Writing Matters in Europe , paradoxically published in the Winter-Verlag American Studies series, is one of the more expansive volumes, but the region examined can be more specific, as in Simona Mitroiu’s Life Writing and Politics of Memory in Eastern Europe , or the European Journal of Life Writing ’s cluster “Life Writing Trajectories in Post- 1989 Eastern Europe”—despite the fact that “Eastern Europe” is a highly contested term. 75 A life-narrative focus can also govern work on non-European and non-North American regions, whether Africa, Australia, the Pacific, or South East Asia. 76 As for India, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies has featured a cluster entitled “Narratives of Transformation: Religious Conversion and Indian Traditions of Life Writing,” and Biography ’s 2017 special issue, “Caste and Life Narratives,” has been republished in India as an edited collection. An especially ambitious effort at global reach is Locating Life Stories: Beyond East-West Binaries in (Auto)Biographical Studies , which features essays about Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, Great Britain, Hawaiʻi, Iraq, Australia, India, and China as part of its effort to interrogate the dominance of Euro-American theoretical paradigms. 77

A number of prominent scholars have devoted books to decolonial, postcolonial, and diasporic life writing. Bart Moore-Gilbert’s Postcolonial Life-Writing presented itself as “the first critical assessment” of such texts in English. Philip Holden’s Autobiography and Decolonization casts a wide net in its analysis of life writing by Asian and African leaders of countries emerging from imperial occupation, and Gillian Whitlock’s Postcolonial Life Narratives surveys 18th- to 21st-century works by Indigenous and settler life writers on at least four continents. Edited collections include the 2013 special issue of Life Writing entitled “Women’s Life Writing and Diaspora,” and the books Ethnic Life Writing and Histories and Transculturing Auto/Biography . 78

Life writing has become a common component across disciplinary fields. “The Work of Life Writing,” an a/b: Auto/Biography Studies special issue, features articles grounded in family dynamics, working-class autobiography, ethnography, ecological studies, philosophy, medicine, political and social commentary, and institutional investigations. Paul John Eakin’s edited collection The Ethics of Life Writing foregrounds the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, but also explores testimonio , race, disclosure, and life writing as an agent of harm. David Parker’s The Self in Moral Space examines life writing as a site for ethical analysis. Life Writing has published a special issue entitled “Philosophy and Life Writing,” and Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies one called “Life Writing as Empathy.” On a more discursive note, Joan Ramon Resina’s edited collection Inscribed Identities focuses on language as constitutive of the subject. 79

Vulnerability and precarity are central concerns for many life-writing sub-genres. Since the late 20th century , G. Thomas Couser has been the most prominent scholar exploring the relationship between life narrative and disability in his monographs and edited and co-edited collections. 80 Trauma in its various forms has been an important concern for life-writing scholars. Suzette A. Henke’s Shattered Subjects was one of the first publications to address profound physical and psychological upheavals, experienced personally or collectively. Susanna Egan’s Mirror Talk examines how crisis leads to cultural expression in media ranging from film to hybrid literary forms, and from quilting to comics. Miriam Fuchs’s The Text Is Myself explores the different forms life writing can take in response to historical, political, and personal assault. Gillian Whitlock and Kate Douglas’s co-edited Trauma Texts began as a special issue of Life Writing entitled “Trauma in the Twenty-First Century”; another edited collection in this field is Haunted Narratives: Life Writing in an Age of Trauma . 81 Meg Jensen’s The Art and Science of Trauma and the Autobiographical discusses prison poems, testimonio , war memorials, and other sites of commemoration as “complex interrogative negotiations of trauma and its aftermath.” Life writing and medicine has been attracting increasing attention. Mita Banerjee’s Medical Humanities in American Studies is a representative example. 82

Trauma can also be collective and global, and life writing often proves to be a crucial factor in judgment and restitution. Kay Schaffer and Sidonie Smith’s Human Rights and Narrated Lives explores how personal narratives often serve as the chosen response to national violence and deliberate crimes against humanity. Meg Jensen and Margaretta Jolly’s edited collection We Shall Bear Witness , and Katja Kurz’s monograph Narrating Contested Lives , both of which appeared in 2014 , also discuss life writing in the context of human rights. Testimony against institutional abuse is the subject of Melissa Dearey’s Radicalization , and social movements such as Me Too and Black Lives Matter foreground life narrative as a strategy for opposing oppression and violence carried out by state agents and those invested in economic, political, or cultural dominance. Brittney Cooper and Treva B. Lindsey’s co-edited special issue of Biography , “M4BL and the Critical Matter of Black Lives,” combines theory and personal testimony in an innovative manner. 83

Are Life Narratives always Life Writing?

Many critical and theoretical works of the 21st century seem to leave the writing behind—a major reason life narrative is increasingly chosen as the covering term. While Marianne Hirsch’s Family Frames is one of the most important books on life writing for many reasons, her attention to the power of images on the understanding of the past, extending even to Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir Maus , has been profoundly influential. By calling attention to the frequent disjunctions between text and photographs, Timothy Dow Adams’s Light Writing & Life Writing is also a transitional text of sorts, anticipating the emergence of comics and other visual and verbal hybrids as major sites for examining life representation. 84 “Autographics,” a Biography special issue co-edited by Gillian Whitlock and Anna Poletti, is one of many collections and monographs that explore how life narratives are embodied in comic and other graphic forms. Hillary Chute, a prolific editor, interviewer, archivist, critic, and theorist of comics, has published two monographs that document the intersections of comics, life writing, feminism, and history: Graphic Women and Disaster Drawn . 85 Michael A. Chaney’s Reading Lessons in Seeing , and his edited collection Graphic Subjects , are substantial contributions to theorizing the interplay between life writing and comics. Elisabeth El Refaie’s Autobiographical Comics is another extended study, and Candida Rifkind and Linda Warley’s co-edited collection Canadian Graphic is devoted to a single country’s comics life-writing production. 86

Critical and theoretical work on other hybrid genres includes Anna Poletti’s Intimate Ephemera , Ellen Gruber Garvey’s Writing with Scissors , and Hertha D. Sweet Wong’s Picturing Identity , which discusses forms ranging from book art to comics to sketch illustrations to geographic installations. Almost any life-writing analysis must now engage with the pervasiveness of visual representation, which can be recognized as having been an important component for many centuries as well. For instance, the texts examined in Leigh Gilmore and Elizabeth Marshall’s Witnessing Girlhood , a study of testimonial traditions that draws together gender, youth, and race, range from slave narratives and testimonio to comics and picture books. 87

Responding to the proliferation of critical and theoretical engagements across genres, media, and disciplines, in a special issue of Life Writing , and a subsequent book, co-editors David McCooey and Maria Takolander ask what “the limits of life writing,” if any, might be. Gillian Whitlock and G. Thomas Couser implicitly ask the same question in their co-edited Biography special issue entitled “(Post)Human Lives”; and in another Biography special issue, “Life Writing and Corporate Personhood,” co-editors Purnima Bose and Laura E. Lyons's examine how analogies to human life narratives pervade institutional and business self-promotion. Grounding lives in natural environments is the organizing principle for Alfred Hornung and Zhao Baisheng’s co-edited collection Ecology and Life Writing . 88 Just as trade publishers are labeling engaging narratives about anything from God to salt as biographies, so the critical concept of life writing is being stretched to contain virtually anything that presents or mimics a human story.

In terms of critical and theoretical attention, however, no medium for life narratives has been more immediately recognized in its emergence, or more closely examined, than what a pair of Biography special issues have identified as “Online Lives” and “Online Lives 2.0.” Anna Poletti and Julie Rak address the same phenomenon in their edited collection Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online . 89 The prevalence, and even dominance, of life narratives in online environments has caused critics and theorists to recalibrate their work to account for this migration and mediation. This is especially true for studies of young life writers. The title of Emma Maguire’s book Girls, Autobiography, Media: Gender and Self-Mediation in Digital Economies takes for granted that the narratives to be discussed will be online, and Kate Douglas and Anna Poletti’s Life Narratives and Youth Culture ranges from more traditional memoirs, letters, and diaries to social media. 90

Moving beyond the exclusively written has also revivified a longstanding awareness of biography as performance. Popular from film’s earliest days, the biopic has attracted substantial critical and theoretical attention. George Custen’s pathbreaking volume Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History was published in 1992 , and a Biography special issue entitled “The Biopic,” edited by Glenn Man, appeared in 2000 . Originally a special issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies , William H. Epstein and R. Barton Palmer’s co-edited Invented Lives, Imagined Communities dwells on the history and the cultural shaping force of film biographies. While providing a historical overview, Dennis Bingham’s massive Whose Lives Are They Anyway? focuses on post-World War II films, with a particular emphasis on biopics with women subjects. Tom Brown and Belén Vidal’s co-edited collection The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture takes on a similar subject. 91 Biopic critics’ interest in actors and impersonation links their work to life-writing studies of performance. Ryan Claycomb’s Lives in Play argues that since the 1970s, life narratives have been central to the construction and performance of feminist theater. A special issue of LiNQ: Connected Writing and Scholarship entitled “Performing Lives” focuses upon the literal and metaphorical aspects of performance resulting from life writing’s migration “into other media including film, television, online, theatre, and the gallery.” Other scholars are studying those figures whose performance of their public identities led to great and enduring notoriety or acclaim. Clara Tuite’s Lord Byron and Scandalous Celebrity subordinates the events of Byron’s life to a study of the fascination he aroused, and continued to arouse, in the public. Daniel Herwitz discusses celebrity in The Star as Icon , and Katja Lee and Lorraine York tackle a similar subject in their co-edited collection Celebrity Cultures in Canada , though they restrict their stargazing to a single country. 92 Fan studies are an integral part of popular-culture scholarship, employing a vocabulary awash in terms such as idols, icons, influencers, and “reality” stars.

The quotation marks around “reality” point to a critical commonplace about life writing—that as acts of representation, such texts necessarily employ fictional materials and constructs. The veracity claims of life-writing texts, captured in a term like non-fiction, are always under scrutiny, and sometimes considered subordinate to concerns with aesthetics or craft—a belief expressed in the term “creative non-fiction.” Efforts to blur or eliminate the borders between fiction and non-fiction are often motivated by a desire to absorb life narratives back into the domain of literature, and principally prose fiction, where the commitment to art may require writers to remake historical fact or the contents of memory in response to the demands of form and aesthetics. Although Serge Doubrovsky is credited with coining the term “autofiction” in the 1970s to describe his own work, many critical and theoretical monographs treat this process as their principal concern, among them Max Saunders’s Self-Impression , and Gunnthórunn Gudmundsdóttir’s Representations of Forgetting in Life Writing and Fiction . Edited collections also address the significance of these generic boundaries. Chief among these is Martina Wagner-Egelhaaf’s three-volume Handbook of Autobiogography/Autofiction . In Life Writing and Literary Métissage as an Ethos of Our Times, Erika Hasebe-Ludt, Cynthia M. Chambers, and Carl Leggo suggest that the interplay between personal histories and aesthetics has a profound moral component, while the title Experiments in Life-Writing: Intersections of Auto/Biography and Fiction suggests where that volume’s editors consider the most interesting of those experiments to occur. A related juxtaposition appears in the title of Jean-Louis Jeannelle and Catherine Viollet’s co-edited volume Genèse et autofiction , and the title of Helena Grice’s Asian American Fiction, History, and Life Writing lays out a continuum of sorts. 93

The greatest champion for biofiction as a sub-discipline is critic and theorist Michael Lackey, who has written, edited, or co-edited numerous books and collections. 94 It is fair to say that those interested in biofiction are primarily concerned with how the historical is drawn into the literary, and that the resulting sub-genre’s appeal is not its historical veracity, but its enlistment of history and biography in the cause of literary aesthetics. One parallel but distinctly different area of interest regards the hoax life narrative. Susanna Egan’s Burdens of Proof evaluates a number of texts produced through literary imposture, and Nancy K. Miller’s “The Entangled Self” is an astute and suggestive discussion of the issue. 95

The discussion has travelled full circle—from a virtual abandonment of the desire to see life writing as literature, or even necessarily verbal, with a corresponding emphasis on the cultural, political, visual, or virtual, to a reassertion of literature, and more specifically prose fiction, as setting the highest and most appropriate standards for writers of historically and biographically informed creative prose. The journey itself, however, suggests just how capacious the term “life writing” has become.

Future Thoughts—Life, Biobits, and the Environment

Marlene Kadar argued in 1992 that life writing had to extend itself beyond genre to critical practice. 96 In the intervening years, the number of genres and sub-genres, the amount of critical and theoretical attention, and the variety of practices undertaken have increased at an accelerating rate. It seems appropriate to close with some observations about how rethinking certain components of life writing as understood, theorized, and practiced might lead to new directions and widened perspectives. Those components are the fundamental ones—“life” and “writing/narrative.” Lauren Berlant offers insights into the first, and Marlene Kadar the second. With Kadar again providing the enabling metaphor, the discussion will finally turn to what should be the next theoretical transition for life writing—from practice to environment.

After being invited to witness “Life Writing and Intimate Publics,” the 2010 International Auto/Biography Association conference held in Sussex, United Kingdom, Lauren Berlant was asked her opinion about how the participants had dealt not only with her famous term, but also with life writing, the organization’s reason for being. Berlant confessed she was “worried about the presumed self-evident value of bionarrative”:

I kept asking people to interrogate how the story of having a “life” itself coasts on a normative notion of human biocontinuity: what does it mean to have a life, is it always to add up to something? . . . To my ear, the genre of the “life” is a most destructive conventionalized form of normativity: when norms feel like laws, they constitute a sociology of the rules for belonging and intelligibility whose narrowness threatens people’s capacity to invent ways to attach to the world. 97

Berlant’s comment is very helpful, because it prompts us to look seriously at the “bio” of autobiography and biography, and at the “life” of life writing. She suggests locales where this interrogation is already underway:

Queer, socialist/anti-capitalist, and feminist work have all been about multiplying the ways we know that people have lived and can live, so that it would be possible to take up any number of positions during and in life in order to have “a life.” 98

Such work has expanded the range and value of life writing as a practice; an even stronger commitment to determining what is meant by “a life” can only lead to new possibilities for socially and politically engaged scholarship.

But Berlant is suspicious of “writing” as well, and not because the attention of so much scholarship has been redirected to graphic narratives, or online. Her concern about the “self-evident value of bionarrative” also suggests that replacing “life writing” with “life narrative” as the covering term might still set an uninterrogated limit on what we should be examining. Entertaining the possibility of “a biography of gesture, of interruption,” Berlant asks rhetorically “Shouldn’t life writing be a primary laboratory for theorizing ʻthe event’?” 99 Marlene Kadar argues that such theoretical practice is already happening. In her essay “The Devouring: Traces of Roma in the Holocaust,” she campaigns for including “the fragment and trace as member-genres in the taxonomy of auto/biographical practices” outlined in such theoretical works as her own “(flawed) 1992 definition of life-writing texts.” 100 Drawing upon Blanchot’s sense of the fragment as “an unfinished separation that is always reaching out for further interpretation,” Kadar suggests that when confronted with the near-erasure of all evidence that a life was ever lived, we can register affect even when lacking narrative. Any surviving evidence of a life can potentially express “more than what happened,” and anything that “helps us to understand what the particular event means to the subject, can be read as autobiographical.” Whether a song, a tattoo, an anecdote, or a name on a list, in its evocative yet resisting brevity, the fragment speaks of a life without providing even the outline of a realized narrative—“what it felt like, not exactly what it was like.” 101 Kadar therefore sets forth “the fragment and trace as genres that both contribute to our previous theorizations” of autobiography and life narrative, but “also as necessarily unfinished genres that call out to us to attempt to finish them”—often with important critical and political results. 102 One might add that, in discursive terms, the fragment or trace can be thought of as analogous to the morpheme—they are the smallest units recognizable as evidence of a life. With an embedded reference to virtual and online representation, these fragments and traces might be termed “biobits.”

The biobit would represent the micro limit of life writing theory; drawing upon but extending Kadar once more, one can suggest what the macro might be. In “Whose Life Is It Anyway? Out of the Bathtub and into the Narrative,” Kadar insists on the need to “theorize a new genre that still goes beyond and yet includes the old word [autobiography], the old gender, and the old style,” but will also “name what is now.” But this new genre must differ markedly from our common understanding, because “like water,” which “assumes the shape of the vessel” containing it, the nature of the contents of this new genre will not be determined or defined by the container. The “essence” of genre “can never really be captured.” 103 To elaborate on this thought, Kadar turns to a novel by Gail Scott. While most of the main character’s life takes place in a bathtub, we know that at some point she will have to leave it—a move that will carry her “Out of the Bathtub and into Narrative.” Life writing, then, is best thought of not as a container, a genre, or a practice, but to the greatest extent possible, as a component of uncontained water: an ocean, an environment in which micro biomass—biobits—coexists with the largest, most familiar, most coherent examples—the biographies and autobiographies, the autoethnographies and the biopics, the online presences and the comics. Though all are in some way engaged in and linked through bio-representation, only some are implicated in writing, or even in narrative.

If viewed in this way, all of life writing’s inherited genres and sub-genres remain useful and productive methods for describing, comparing, and acting. But it must always be remembered that neither genre nor practice is sufficient as a ground or container for theorizing what may still be called life writing or life narrative, but could perhaps be more accurately referred to as signs of life.

1. See Julie Rak, “Marlene Kadar’s Life Writing: Feminist Theory outside the Lines,” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 33, no. 3 (2018): 541–549 ; Marlene Kadar, “Coming to Terms: Life Writing—From Genre to Critical Practice,” in Essays on Life Writing , ed. Marlene Kadar (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992 ), 3–16, quotation at 4; and Donald J. Winslow, Life-Writing: A Glossary of Terms in Biography, Autobiography, and Related Forms , Biography Monographs (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1980 ). Winslow’s book first appeared as Donald J. Winslow, “Glossary of Terms in Life Writing,” pts. 1 and 2, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 1, no. 1 (1978): 61–78; and 1, no. 2 (1978): 61–85.

2. For the phrase “the New Critical wolf,” see Marlene Kadar, “Whose Life Is It Anyway? Out of the Bathtub and into the Narrative,” in Kadar, Essays on Life Writing , 152–161, at 154. For the other quotations, see Kadar, “Coming to Terms,” 4–6.

3. Kadar, “Coming to Terms,” 9.

4. Kadar, “Coming to Terms,” 10.

5. Kadar “Coming to Terms,” 12. Kadar notes that her argument here is informed by pp. 162–165 of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, “To Write My Self: The Autobiographies of Afro-American Women,” in Feminist Issues in Literature Scholarship , ed. Shari Benstock (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987 ), 161–180.

6. James Olney, “Autobiography and the Cultural Moment: A Thematic, Historical, and Bibliographical Introduction,” in Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical , ed. James Olney (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980 ), 3–27.

7. For a sampling of such texts, see Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians , reprinted ed. (London: Penguin, 1990 ; 1st ed. 1918); Harold Nicolson, The Development of English Biography (London: Hogarth Press, 1928 ); Leon Edel, Writing Lives: Principia Biographica (New York: Norton, 1987 ); and Ira Bruce Nadel, Biography: Fiction, Fact and Form (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984 ). For a post-structuralist approach to biography, see William H. Epstein, ed., Contesting the Subject: Essays in the Postmodern Theory and Practice of Biography and Biographical Criticism (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1991 ).

8. James Olney, Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972 ).

9. Ricia Anne Chansky, “General Introduction,” in The Routledge Auto/Biography Studies Reader , eds. Ricia Anne Chansky and Emily Hipchen (London and New York: Routledge, 2016 ), xx–xxii, quotations at xx and xxi.

10. Sidonie Smith, “Foreword,” in Chansky and Hipchen, The Routledge Auto/Biography Studies Reader , xvii–xix, at xviii.

11. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998 ).

12. See, for example, Paul de Man, “Autobiography as De-Facement,” Modern Language Notes 94, no. 5 (1979) : 919–930; and Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes , trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977 ).

13. Philippe Lejeune, “The Autobiographical Pact,” in On Autobiography , by Philippe Lejeune, trans. Katherine Leary, with a foreword by Paul John Eakin (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 3–30 (the essay was originally published in French in 1977); Paul John Eakin, Fictions of Autobiography: Studies in the Art of Self-Invention (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985) ; and Paul John Eakin, Touching the World: Reference in Autobiography (Ithaca, NY: Princeton University Press, 1992) .

14. Sidonie Smith, A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography: Marginality and the Fictions of Self-Representation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987) ; and Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, eds., De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in Women’s Autobiography (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992) .

15. For works by the authors and editors mentioned in this paragraph, see the “Further Reading” section.

16. Margaretta Jolly, ed., Encyclopedia of Life Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms , 2 vols. (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001) , quotations at ix and x.

17. Jolly, Encyclopedia , ix, x; and Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, eds., Getting a Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996) .

18. Jolly, Encyclopedia , ix, x.

19. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives , 2nd ed. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010) , 2. The first edition was published in 2001; for convenience this article quotes from the second edition.

20. Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography , 3, 4.

21. Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography , 211, citing Smith and Watson, Women, Autobiography, Theory .

22. Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography , 211.

23. Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography , 204–205.

24. Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography , 214. The works they mention are: Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London and New York: Routledge, 1990) ; Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (London and New York: Routledge, 1993) ; and Sidonie Smith, Subjectivity, Identity, and the Body: Women’s Autobiographical Practices in the Twentieth Century (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993) .

25. Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography , 216. They cite John Paul Eakin, How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999) ; and Nancy K. Miller, “Representing Others: Gender and the Subjects of Autobiography,” Differences 6, no. 1 (1994) : 1–27.

26. Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography , 215.

27. Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography , 218.

28. Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography , 234. Their Appendix A is at 253–286.

29. Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977) , pp. 121–126. There isn’t a citation for Kadar—that’s me saying she would agree with Williams on this. The Williams distinction is a commonplace by now.

30. Kadar, “Coming to Terms,” 10.

31. I have written at some length about this in relation to Renders and De Haan and the Biographers International Organization, with particular attention paid to Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly , which I co-edit; the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Center for Biographical Research, which I direct; and the International Auto/Biography Association-Listserv, which I manage. See Craig Howes, “What Are We Turning From? Research and Ideology in Biography and Life Writing,” in The Biographical Turn: Lives in History , eds. Hans Renders, Binne de Haan, and Jonne Harmsma (London and New York: Routledge, 2016) , 165–175.

32. Hans Renders, “Biography in Academia and the Critical Frontier in Life Writing,” in Theoretical Discussions of Biography: Approaches from History, Microhistory, and Life Writing , eds. Hans Renders and Binne de Haan (Leiden: Brill, 2013) , 169–176, at 169. Michael Holroyd, “Changing fashions in biography,” The Guardian , 6 November 2009 .

33. Renders, “Biography in Academia,” 172.

34. Renders, “Biography in Academia,” 172.

35. For a more detailed account of this suspicion, see Craig Howes, “Ethics and Literary Biography,” in A Companion to Literary Biography , ed. Richard Bradford (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2018) , 123–142. It should be noted that while they may share an aversion to criticism and theory, if anything, literary artists often have a greater contempt for biographers.

36. Julie Rak, Boom! Manufacturing Memoir for the Popular Market (Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2013) , quotations at 4 and 3; and Julie Rak, ed., “Pop Life,” special issue, Canadian Review of American Studies 38, no. 3 (2008) .

37. Leigh Gilmore, Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017) .

38. Nigel Hamilton, Biography: A Brief History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007) ; Hermione Lee, Biography: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) ; Andrew Brown, A Brief History of Biographies: From Plutarch to Celebs (London: Hesperus, 2011) ; Catherine N. Parke, Biography: Writing Lives; Themes and Genres . Twayne's Studies in Literary Themes and Genres (London and New York: Routledge, 1996) ; and Paula R. Backscheider, Reflections on Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) .

39. Carl Rollyson, Biography: An Annotated Bibliography (Pasadena, CA: Salem, 1992) . Among Rollyson’s many other works are: Carl Rollyson, Reading Biography (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2004) ; Carl Rollyson, A Higher Form of Cannibalism? Adventures in the Art and Politics of Biography (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005) ; and Carl Rollyson, Confessions of a Serial Biographer (Jefferson NC: McFarland, 2016) .

40. Carl Rollyson, Biography: A User’s Guide (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2008) ; and Nigel Hamilton and Hans Renders, The ABC of Modern Biography (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018) .

41. Edel, Writing Lives ; Michael Holroyd, Works on Paper: The Craft of Biography and Autobiography (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2002) ; Rollyson, Confessions ; Nigel Hamilton, How To Do Biography: A Primer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008) ; and Hamilton, Biography .

42. John Batchelor, ed., The Art of Literary Biography (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995) ; Warwick Gould and Thomas F. Staley, eds., Writing the Lives of Writers (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998) ; Robert Dion and Frédéric Regard, eds., Les nouvelles écritures biographiques (Lyon: ENS Éditions, 2013) ; and Richard Bradford, ed., A Companion to Literary Biography (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2019) . My essay “Ethics and Literary Biography” appears in Bradford’s collection.

43. Michael Benton, Towards a Poetics of Literary Biography (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) ; Rana Tekcan, Too Far for Comfort: A Study on Biographical Distance (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2015) ; and Alison Booth, How to Make It as a Woman: Collective Biographical History from Victoria to the Present (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004) . She mentions her reservations at 130.

44. Barbara Caine, Biography and History (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) ; Hans Renders and Binne de Haan, eds., Theoretical Discussions of Biography: Approaches from History, Microhistory, and Life Writing (Leiden: Brill, 2013) ; Renders, de Haan, and Harmsma, The Biographical Turn ; and Tanya Evans and Robert Reynolds, “Introduction to this Special Issue on Biography and Life-Writing,” disclosure 21 (2012) : 1–8.

45. Atiba Pertilla and Uwe Spiekermann, eds., “Forum: The Challenge of Biography,” special section, Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 55 (2014) ; and Sarah Panter, ed., Mobility and Biography , Jahrbuch für Europäische Geschichte / European History Yearbook 16 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015) .

46. Tomas Hägg, The Art of Biography in Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012) ; Stephanos Efthymiadis, ed., The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography , vol. 2, Genres and Contexts (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2014) ; Kevin Sharpe and Steven N. Zwicker, eds., Writing Lives: Biography and Textuality, Identity and Representation in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) ; Sarah Mombert and Michèle Rosellini, eds., Usages des vies: Le biographique hier et aujourd’hui (XVIIe–XXIe siècle) (Toulouse: Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2012) ; and Juliette Atkinson, Victorian Biography Reconsidered: A Study of Nineteenth-Century “Hidden” Lives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) .

47. Examples of such work include: Robin Humphrey, Robert Miller, and Elena Zdravomyslova, eds., Biographical Research in Eastern Europe: Altered Lives and Broken Biographies (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2003) ; Erla Hulda Halldórsdóttir et al., eds., Biography, Gender and History: Nordic Perspectives (Turku: K&H, 2017) ; and Maarit Leskelä-Kärki, Toisten elämät: Kirjoituksia elämäkerroista (Avain, 2017) .

48. Wilhelm Hemecker, ed., Die Biographie—Beiträge zu ihrer Geschichte (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2009) ; Wilhelm Hemecker and Edward Saunders, eds., with Gregor Schima, Biography in Theory: Key Texts with Commentaries (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018) ; Bernhard Fetz and Wilhelm Hemecker, eds., Theorie der Biographie: Grundlagentexte und Kommentar (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011) ; and Bernhard Fetz, ed., Die Biographie—Zur Grundlegung ihrer Theorie (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2009) . All these except the Hemecker and Saunders volume were published by De Gruyter on behalf of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute.

49. Marta Dvorak, ed., Biographical Creation / La création biographique (Rennes: Presses Universitaires Rennes, 1997) .

50. Susan Tridgell, Understanding Our Selves: The Dangerous Art of Biography (New York: Peter Lang, 2004) ; and Caitríona Ní Dhúill, Metabiography: Reflecting on Biography , Palgrave Studies in Life Writing (London: Palgrave, 2020) .

51. Alan C. Elms, Uncovering Lives: The Uneasy Alliance of Biography and Psychology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994) ; William Todd Schultz, ed., Handbook of Psychobiography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) ; and Dan P. McAdams, The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) .

52. See, for example, Carolyn L. White, ed., The Materiality of Individuality: Archaeological Studies of Individual Lives (New York: Springer, 2009) ; Ann L. W. Stodder and Ann M. Palkovich, eds., The Bioarchaeology of Individuals (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012) ; Michaela Köttig et al., eds., “Biography and Ethnicity,” special issue, Forum: Qualitative Social Research 10, no. 3 (2009) ; and Sophie Day Carsten and Charles Stafford, eds., “Reason and Passion: The Parallel Worlds of Ethnography and Biography,” special issue, Social Anthropology 26, no. 1 (2018) : 5–14.

53. Alice Te Punga Somerville, Daniel Heath Justice, and Noelani Arista, eds., “Indigenous Conversations about Biography,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 39, no. 3 (2016) : 239–247; Noenoe K. Silva, The Power of the Steel-Tipped Pen: Reconstructing Native Hawaiian Intellectual History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017) ; Melanie Unseld, Biographie und Musikgeschichte: Wandlungen biographischer Konzepte in Musikkultur und Musikhistoriographie (Cologne: Böhlau, 2014) ; and Anna Jackson, ed., “The Verse Biography,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 39, no. 1 (Winter 2016) .

54. Alice Te Punga Somerville and Daniel Heath Justice, “Introduction: Indigenous Conversations about Biography,” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 39, no. 3 (2016) : 239–247, at 243.

55. Peter Ackroyd, London: The Biography (London: Chatto and Windus, 2000) ; Peter Ackroyd, London: The Concise Biography (London: Vintage, 2012) ; Rachel Hewitt, Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (London: Granta, 2011) ; and Kaori O’Connor, The English Breakfast: The Biography of a National Meal, with Recipes , rev. ed. (London: Bloomsbury, 2013) .

56. Linda Anderson, Autobiography , 2nd ed. (London and New York: Routledge, 2010 ; 1st ed. 2001); Laura Marcus, Autobiography: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) ; Chansky and Hipchen, The Routledge Auto/Biography Studies Reader ; and Kate Douglas and Ashley Barnwell, eds., Research Methodologies for Auto/Biography Studies (London: Routledge, 2019) .

57. Carole Allamand, Le “Pacte” de Philippe Lejeune; ou, L’autobiographie en théorie (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2018) ; Lia Nicole Brozgal, Against Autobiography: Albert Memmi and the Production of Theory (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2018) ; Kathleen Ashley, et al., eds., Autobiography and Postmodernism (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995) ; G. Thomas Couser and Joseph Fichtelberg, eds., True Relations: Essays on Autobiography and the Postmodern (Westport, CN: Greenwood, 1998) ; and Gunnthórunn Gudmundsdóttir, Borderlines: Autobiography and Fiction in Postmodern Life Writing (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003) .

58. For examples of such historical and geographical investigations, see Carsten Heinze and Alfred Hornung, eds., Medialisierungsformen des (Auto-) Biografischen (Konstanz: UVK, 2013) ; Ronald Bedford, Lloyd Davis, and Philippa Kelly, eds., Early Modern Autobiography: Theories, Genres, Practices (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006) ; Ronald Bedford, Lloyd Davis, and Philippa Kelly, Early Modern English Lives: Autobiography and Self-Representation, 1500–1660 (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2007) ; and Arianne Baggerman, Rudolf Dekker, and Michael Mascuch, eds., Controlling Time and Shaping the Self: Developments in Autobiographical Writing since the Sixteenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 2011) .

59. William L. Andrews, To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of African-American Autobiography, 1760–1865 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); and William L. Andrews, Slavery and Class in the American South: A Generation of Slave Narrative Testimony , 1840–1865 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019) .

60. Rachel McLennan, American Autobiography (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012) . Georges Gusdorf “Conditions and Limits of Autobiography,” pp. 28–48.

61. Eakin, How Our Lives Become Stories ; Paul John Eakin, Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008) ; and Richard Freadman, Threads of Life: Autobiography and the Will (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001) .

62. Liz Stanley, The Auto/Biographical I: The Theory and Practice of Feminist Auto/Biography (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992) ; Laura Marcus, Auto/Biographical Discourses: Theory, Criticism, Practice (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994) ; Trev Broughton and Linda Anderson, eds., Women’s Lives/Women’s Times: New Essays on Auto/Biography (New York: SUNY Press, 1997) ; Hélène Cixous and Mireille Calle-Gruber, Rootprints: Memory and Life-Writing , trans. Eric Prenowitz (London and New York: Routledge, 1997) ; and Jill Ker Conway, When Memory Speaks: Reflections on Autobiography (New York: Knopf, 1998) .

63. Florence S. Boos, Memoirs of Victorian Working-Class Women: The Hard Way Up , Palgrave Studies in Life Writing (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) ; Laura J. Beard, Acts of Narrative Resistance: Women’s Autobiographical Writings in the Americas (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009) ; Marilyn Booth, ed., “Women’s Autobiography in South Asia and the Middle East,” special issue, Journal of Women’s History 25, no. 2 (2013) ; Kathryn Abrams and Irene Kacandes, eds., “Witness,” special issue, Women’s Studies Quarterly 36, nos. 1–2 (2008) : 13–27; Gillian Whitlock, Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007) ; and Gilmore, Tainted Witness .

64. Cynthia Franklin and Laura E. Lyons, eds., “Personal Effects: The Testimonial Uses of Life Writing,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 27, no. 1 (2004) ; Marlene Kadar et al., eds., Tracing the Autobiographical (Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005) ; Leigh Gilmore, The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma, Testimony, Theory (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000) ; and Paul Atkinson and Anna Poletti, eds., “The Limits of Testimony,” special issue, Southern Review: Communication, Politics & Culture 40, no. 3 (2008) .

65. G. Thomas Couser, Memoir: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) ; Ben Yagoda, Memoir: A History (New York: Riverhead Penguin, 2009) ; and Bunty Avieson, Fiona Giles, and Sue Joseph, eds., Mediating Memory: Tracing the Limits of Memoir (London and New York: Routledge, 2018) .

66. Philippe Lejeune, On Diary , trans. Kathy Durnin, ed. Jeremy D. Popkin and Julie Rak (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2009) ; Lejeune, On Autobiography ; Françoise Simonet-Tenant, Le journal intime: Genre littéraire et écriture ordinaire (Paris: Téraèdre, 2004) ; and Suzanne L. Bunkers and Cynthia A. Huff, eds., Inscribing the Daily: Critical Essays on Women’s Diaries (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996) .

67. Kadar, “Coming to Terms.”

68. Zachary Leader, ed., On Life-Writing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) ; Richard Bradford, ed., Life Writing: Essays on Autobiography, Biography and Literature (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) ; Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Life Writing in the Long Run: A Smith & Watson Autobiography Studies Reader (Ann Arbor: Maize Books, 2017) ; Liz Stanley, ed., Documents of Life Revisited: Narrative and Biographical Methodology for a 21st Century Critical Humanism (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013) ; Liz Stanley, ed., “In Dialogue: Life Writing and Narrative Inquiry,” special issue, Life Writing 7, no. 1 (2010) : 1–3; and James Olney, Memory and Narrative: The Weave of Life-Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999) .

69. Miriam Fuchs and Craig Howes, eds., Teaching Life Writing Texts , Options for Teaching (New York: Modern Language Association, 2008) ; Laurie McNeill and Kate Douglas, eds., “Teaching Lives: Contemporary Pedagogies of Life Narratives,” special issue, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 32, no. 1 (2016) ; Laurie McNeill and Kate Douglas, eds., Teaching Lives: Contemporary Pedagogies of Life Narratives (London and New York: Routledge, 2018 ); Dennis Kersten and Anne Marie Mreijen, eds., “Teaching Life Writing Texts in Europe,” special section, European Journal of Life Writing 4 (2015) ; and Dennis Kersten, Anne Marie Mreijen, and Yvonne Delhey, eds., “Teaching Life Writing Texts in Europe, Part II,” special section, European Journal of Life Writing 7 (2018) .

70. Penny Summerfield, Histories of the Self: Personal Narratives and Historical Practice (London and New York: Routledge, 2018) ; Karen A. Winstead, The Oxford History of Life-Writing , vol. 1, The Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) ; Alan Stewart, The Oxford History of Life-Writing , vol. 2, Early Modern (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) ; David Amigoni, ed., Life Writing and Victorian Culture (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2006) ; Andrew Tate, ed., “Victorian Life Writing,” special issue, Nineteenth-Century Contexts 28, no. 1 (2006) : 1–3; and Lynn M. Linder, ed., “Co-Constructed Selves: Nineteenth-Century Collaborative Life Writing,” special issue, Modern Language Studies 52, no. 2 (2016) : 121–129.

71. Danielle Boillet, Marie-Madeleine Fragonard, and Hélène Tropé, eds., Écrire des vies: Espagne, France, Italie, XVIe–XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2012) ; and Birgit Dahlke, Dennis Tate, and Roger Woods, eds., German Life Writing in the Twentieth Century (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2010) .

72. Cynthia Huff, ed., “Women’s Life Writing and Imagined Communities,” special issue, Prose Studies 26, nos. 1–2 (2003) ; Charlotte Newman Goldy and Amy Livingstone, eds., Writing Medieval Women’s Lives (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012 ); Julie A. Eckerle, Romancing the Self in Early Modern Englishwomen’s Life Writing (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013) ; Julie A. Eckerle and Naomi McAreavey, eds., Women’s Life Writing and Early Modern Ireland , Women and Gender in the Early Modern World (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2019) ; Daniel Cook and Amy Culley, eds., Women’s Life Writing , 1700–1850: Gender, Genre and Authorship (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) ; and Amy Culley, British Women’s Life Writing , 1760–1840: Friendship, Community, and Collaboration (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) .

73. Susan Civale, Romantic Women’s Life Writing: Reputation and Afterlife (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019) ; Alexis Wolf, “Introduction: Reading Silence in the Long Nineteenth-Century Women’s Life Writing Archive,” 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 27 (2018) : unpaginated; Valérie Baisnée-Keay et al., eds., Women’s Life Writing and the Practice of Reading: She Reads to Write Herself , Palgrave Studies in Life Writing (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) ; and Margaretta Jolly, In Love and Struggle: Letters in Contemporary Feminism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008) .

74. Eric D. Lamore, ed., “African American Life Writing,” special issue, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 27, no. 1 (2012) ; Viola Amato, Intersex Narratives: Shifts in the Representation of Intersex Lives in North American Literature and Popular Culture (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2016) ; and Katherine Adams, Owning Up: Privacy, Property, and Belonging in U.S. Women’s Life Writing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) .

75. Marijke Huisman et al., eds., Life Writing Matters in Europe , American Studies Monograph 217 (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2012) ; Simona Mitroiu, ed., Life Writing and Politics of Memory in Eastern Europe (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) ; and Iona Luca and Leena Kurvet-Käosaar, eds., “Life Writing Trajectories in Post-1989 Eastern Europe,” special section, European Journal of Life Writing 2 (2013) : T1–9.

76. Oliver Nyambi, Life-Writing from the Margins in Zimbabwe: Versions and Subversions of Crisis (London and New York: Routledge, 2019) ; David McCooey, Artful Histories: Modern Australian Autobiography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) ; Jack Bowers, Strangers at Home: Place, Belonging, and Australian Life Writing (Amherst, NY: Cambria, 2016) ; Brij V. Lal and Peter Hempenstall, eds., Pacific Lives, Pacific Places: Bursting Boundaries in Pacific History (Canberra: Journal of Pacific History, 2001) ; Jack Corbett and Brij V. Lal, eds., Political Life Writing in the Pacific: Reflections on Practice (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2015) ; and Roxanna Waterson, ed., Southeast Asian Lives: Personal Narratives and Historical Experience (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007) .

77. Hephzibah Israel and John Zavos, “Narratives of Transformation: Religious Conversion and Indian Traditions of ‘Life Writing,’” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 41, no. 2 (2018) : 352–365; S. Shankar and Charu Gupta, “Caste and Life Narratives,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 40, no. 1 (2017) ; and Maureen Perkins, ed., Locating Life Stories: Beyond East-West Binaries in (Auto)Biographical Studies (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2012) . My own essay on Martin Amis appears in this last collection.

78. Bart Moore-Gilbert, Postcolonial Life-Writing: Culture, Politics, and Self-Representation (London and New York: Routledge, 2009) ; Philip Holden, Autobiography and Decolonization: Modernity, Masculinity, and the Nation-State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008) ; Gillian Whitlock, Postcolonial Life Narratives: Testimonial Transactions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) ; Suzanne Scafe and Jenni Ramone, eds., “Women’s Life Writing and Diaspora,” special issue, Life Writing 10, no. 1 (2013) : 1–3; Rocío G. Davis, Jaume Aurell, and Ana Beatriz Delgado, eds., Ethnic Life Writing and Histories: Genres, Performance, and Culture (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2007) ; and Rosalia Baena, ed., Transculturing Auto/Biography: Forms of Life Writing (London and New York: Routledge, 2007) .

79. Clare Brant and Max Saunders, eds., “The Work of Life Writing,” special issue, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 25, no. 2 (2010) ; Paul John Eakin, ed., The Ethics of Life Writing (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004) ; David Parker, The Self in Moral Space: Life Narrative and the Good (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007) ; D. L. LeMahieu and Christopher Cowley, eds., “Philosophy and Life Writing,” special issue, Life Writing 15, no. 3 (2018) : 301–303; Rocío G. Davis, ed., “Life Writing as Empathy,” special issue, Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 42, no. 2 (2016) ; and Joan Ramon Resina, ed., Inscribed Identities: Life Writing as Self-Realization (London and New York: Routledge, 2019) .

80. G. Thomas Couser, Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life Writing (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997) ; G. Thomas Couser, Vulnerable Subjects: Ethics and Life Writing (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003) ; G. Thomas Couser, Signifying Bodies: Disability in Contemporary Life Writing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009) ; G. Thomas Couser, ed., “Disability and Life Writing,” special issue, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies 5, no. 3 (2011) ; G. Thomas Couser, ed., Body Language: Narrating Illness and Disability (London and New York: Routledge, 2019) ; and G. Thomas Couser and Susannah Mintz, eds., Disability Experiences: Memoirs, Autobiographies, and Other Personal Narratives , 2 vols. (Detroit: St. James Press, 2019) .

81. Suzette A. Henke, Shattered Subjects: Trauma and Testimony in Women’s Life-Writing (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998) ; Susanna Egan, Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999) ; Miriam Fuchs, The Text is Myself: Women’s Life Writing and Catastrophe (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004) ; Gilian Whitlock and Kate Douglas, eds., Trauma Texts (London and New York: Routledge, 2015) , first published as “Trauma in the Twenty-First Century,” Life Writing 5, no. 1 (2008); and Gabriele Rippl et al., eds., Haunted Narratives: Life Writing in an Age of Trauma (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013) .

82. Meg Jensen, The Art and Science of Trauma and the Autobiographical: Negotiated Truths , Palgrave Studies in Life Writing (London: Palgrave, 2019) , quotation at 8; and Mita Banerjee, Medical Humanities in American Studies: Life Writing, Narrative Medicine, and the Power of Autobiography , American Studies Series 292 (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2018) .

83. Kay Schaffer and Sidonie Smith, Human Rights and Narrated Lives: The Ethics of Recognition (London: Palgrave, 2004) ; Meg Jensen and Margaretta Jolly, eds., We Shall Bear Witness: Life Narratives and Human Rights (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014) ; Katja Kurz, Narrating Contested Lives: The Aesthetics of Life Writing in Human Rights Campaigns (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2014) ; Melissa Dearey, Radicalization: The Life Writings of Political Prisoners (London and New York: Routledge, 2010) ; and Brittney Cooper and Treva B. Lindsey, eds., “M4BL and the Critical Matter of Black Lives,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 41, no. 4 (2018) : 731–740.

84. Marianne Hirsch, Family Frames: Photography, and Postmemory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997) ; and Timonthy Dow Adams, Light Writing & Life Writing: Photography in Autobiography (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999) .

85. Gillian Whitlock and Anna Poletti, eds., “Autographics,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 31, no. 1 (2008) ; Hillary L. Chute, Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010) ; and Hillary L. Chute, Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form (Cambridge MA.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016) .

86. Michael A. Chaney, Reading Lessons in Seeing: Mirrors, Masks, and Mazes in the Autobiographical Graphic Novel (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2017) ; Michael A. Chaney, ed., Graphic Subjects: Critical Essays on Autobiography and Graphic Novels (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011) ; Elisabeth El Refaie, Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012) ; and Candida Rifkind and Linda Warley, eds., Canadian Graphic: Picturing Life Narratives (Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2016) .

87. Anna Poletti, Intimate Ephemera: Reading Young Lives in Australian Zine Culture (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2008) ; Ellen Gruber Garvey, Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) ; Hertha D. Sweet Wong, Picturing Identity: Contemporary American Autobiography in Image and Text (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018) ; and Leigh Gilmore and Elizabeth Marshall, Witnessing Girlhood: Toward an Intersectional Tradition of Life Writing (New York: Fordham University Press, 2019) .

88. David McCooey and Maria Takolander, eds., “The Limits of Life Writing,” special issue, Life Writing 14, no. 3 (2017) ; David McCooey and Maria Takolander, eds., The Limits of Life Writing (London and New York: Routledge, 2018) ; Gillian Whitlock and G. Thomas Couser, eds., “(Post)Human Lives,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 35, no. 1 (2012) ; Purnima Bose and Laura E. Lyons, eds., “Life Writing and Corporate Personhood,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 37, no. 1 (2014) ; and Alfred Hornung and Zhao Baisheng, eds., Ecology and Life Writing (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2013) .

89. John Zuern, ed., “Online Lives,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 26, no. 1 (2003) ; Laurie McNeill and John Zuern, eds., “Online Lives 2.0,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 38, no. 2 (2015) ; and Anna Poletti and Julie Rak, eds., Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online (Madison: University of Wisonsin Press, 2014) .

90. Emma Maguire, Girls, Autobiography, Media: Gender and Self-Mediation in Digital Economies , Palgrave Studies in Life Writing (London: Palgrave, 2018) ; and Kate Douglas and Anna Poletti, Life Narratives and Youth Culture: Representation, Agency and Participation (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) .

91. George F. Custen, Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992) ; Glenn Man, ed., “The Biopic,” special issue, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 23, no. 1 (2000) ; William H. Epstein and R. Barton Palmer, eds., Invented Lives, Imagined Communities: The Biopic and American National Identity (New York: SUNY Press, 2016) ; Dennis Bingham, Whose Lives Are They Anyway? The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010) ; and Tom Brown and Belén Vidal, eds., The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture , AFI Film Readers (London and New York: Routledge, 2014) .

92. Ryan Claycomb, Lives in Play: Autobiography and Biography on the Feminist Stage (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012) ; Victoria Kuttainen and Lindsay Simpson, eds., “Performing Lives,” special issue, LiNQ: Connected Writing and Scholarship 39, no. 1 (2012) , quotation from the editors’ “Introduction: Performing Lives,” 11–14, at 11; Clara Tuite, Lord Byron and Scandalous Celebrity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) ; Daniel Herwitz, The Star as Icon: Celebrity in the Age of Mass Consumption (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016) ; and Katja Lee and Lorraine York, eds., Celebrity Cultures in Canada (Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2016) .

93. Max Saunders, Self-Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) ; Gunnthórunn Gudmundsdóttir, Representations of Forgetting in Life Writing and Fiction (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) ; Martina Wagner-Egelhaaf, Handbook of Autobiography/Autofiction , 3 vols. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019) ; Erika Hasebe-Ludt, Cynthia M. Chambers, and Carl Leggo, Life Writing and Literary Métissage as an Ethos of Our Times (New York: Peter Lang, 2009) ; Lucia Boldrini and Julia Novak, eds., Experiments in Life-Writing: Intersections of Auto/Biography and Fiction , Palgrave Studies in Life Writing (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) ; Jean-Louis Jeannelle and Catherine Viollet, eds., Genèse et autofiction (Paris: Academia-Bruylant, 2007) ; and Helena Grice, Asian American Fiction, History, and Life Writing: International Encounters (London and New York: Routledge, 2009) .

94. Michael Lackey, The American Biographical Novel (London: Bloomsbury, 2016) ; Michael Lackey, Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists (London: Bloomsbury, 2015) ; Michael Lackey, Conversations with Biographical Novelists: Truthful Fictions across the Globe (London: Bloomsbury, 2018) ; Michael Lackey, Biographical Fiction: A Reader (London: Bloomsbury, 2017) ; Michael Lackey, Biofictional Histories, Mutations, and Forms (London and New York: Routledge, 2016) ; and Michael Lackey, ed., “Biofictions,” special issue, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 31, no. 1 (2016) .

95. Susanna Egan, Burdens of Proof: Faith, Doubt, and Identity (Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2011) ; and Nancy K. Miller, “The Entangled Self: Genre Bondage in the Age of the Memoir,” PMLA 122, no. 2 (2007) : 537–548.

96. Kadar, “Coming to Terms.”

97. Lauren Berlant and Jay Prosser, “Life Writing and Intimate Publics: A Conversation with Lauren Berlant,” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 34, no. 1 (2011) : 180–187, at 183.

98. Berlant and Prosser, “Life Writing and Intimate Publics,” 182.

99. Berlant and Prosser, “Life Writing and Intimate Publics,” 181.

100. Marlen Kadar, “The Devouring: Traces of Roma in the Holocaust; No Tattoo, Sterilized Body, Gypsy Girl,” in Kadar et al., Tracing the Autobiographical , 223–246, at 223–224.

101. Kadar, “The Devouring,” 243. On the fragment as “an unfinished separation” Kadar is citing Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster , trans. Ann Smock (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986) .

102. Kadar, “The Devouring,” 226.

103. Kadar, “Whose Life Is It Anyway?,” quotations at 153.

Related Articles

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The best sports books and autobiographies

From gritty sports autobiographies by olympic athletes and a multiple ballon d’or winner to explorations of marathon running and the cultural impact of football, here is a trophy cabinet of some of the best sports books jostling for position on the shelves..

autobiography biography and informational books

Determined, competitive and possessing an impressive capacity for mental endurance – the characteristics that make great athletes often lead them to live extraordinary lives. Sports autobiographies offer us the opportunity to get the full story behind the goals, records and medals, as well as help us understand the wider impact of the athletic world off the field.

Whether your favourite sport requires a ball, an engine or even a hoof, here is a compilation of the best sports books and autobiographies out there.

  • Running & athletics
  • Other sports

The best football books

By chris kamara.

Book cover for Kammy

One of the most well-known faces of the beautiful game, Chris ‘Kammy’ Kamara is a national treasure. Now, he’s sharing the story of his incredible life. From his days in the Royal Navy and a playing career that took him all over England to becoming one of the game’s best-loved commentators, Kammy lifts the lid on a career that he could never have dreamt of growing up in Middlesbrough. Told with unflinching honesty, but with his trademark humour and positivity, this is a must-read for any football fan.

The World's Biggest Cash Machine

By chris blackhurst.

Book cover for The World's Biggest Cash Machine

In The World's Biggest Cash Machine , Chris Blackhurst meticulously unravels the controversial reign of the Glazers over Manchester United. Purchasing the club in 2005, they ignited global discontent, driving it into record debts and marking the fiscal transformation of football. Despite on-field declines, they flourished financially. Blackhurst probes their secretive lives and business acumen, while mapping the club’s captivating journey amidst the Premier League’s metamorphosis into a billionaires' haven.

On Days Like These

By martin o'neill.

Book cover for On Days Like These

With a career spanning over fifty years, Martin tells of his exhilarating highs and painful lows; from the joys of winning trophies, promotion and fighting for World Cups to being harangued by fans, boardroom drama, relegation scraps and being fired. Written with his trademark honesty and humour,  On Days Like These  is one of the most insightful and captivating sports autobiographies and a must-read for any fans of the beautiful game.

Cheers, Geoff!

By geoff shreeves.

Book cover for Cheers, Geoff!

Packed full of hilarious stories on and off the pitch – including trying to teach Sir Michael Caine how to act, a frightening encounter with Mike Tyson, as well as getting a lift home from the World Cup with Mick Jagger –  Cheers, Geoff!  is a must-read autobiography for any football fan. A natural storyteller, Geoff brings an astonishing catalogue of tales to life with his unique brand of experience, insight and humour.

The Little Red Book of Klopp

By giles elliott.

Book cover for The Little Red Book of Klopp

It’s debatable whether Jürgen Klopp is better-known for his charisma off the pitch or his success on it. Having brought Liverpool back to winning ways in both the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League, Klopp is known for captivating press conferences and charming touch-line antics. The Little Red Book of Klopp is a collection of his most iconic sayings, from light-hearted witticisms to cutting insults.

The Age of Football

By david goldblatt.

Book cover for The Age of Football

For many people around the world, football is so much more than just a game. In The Age of Football , sport historian David Goldblatt widens the lens to trace how the game intersects politics, economics and wider culture. With focuses as diverse as prison football in Uganda, the presidency of Recep Erdogan and the importance of the beautiful game in the Arab Spring, David demonstrates the extent to which the sport impacts society today.

My Life in Football

By kevin keegan.

Book cover for My Life in Football

Whether it’s being the only Englishman to win the Ballon d’Or twice, achieving European glory with Liverpool or managing Newcastle from the bottom of the Second Division to the brink of winning the Premier League title, Kevin Keegan – known as ‘King Kev’ – has proven his pedigree both on the pitch and the touchline.  His autobiography details the highs and lows of an illustrious career, including clashes with Sir Alex Ferguson and his return to Newcastle during the controversial Mike Ashley era.

The best rugby books

By rassie erasmus.

Book cover for Rassie

Rassie Erasmus, a rugby maverick, unfolds his unconventional journey from player to coach in the pinnacle of the sport. This candid account delves into his pivotal roles in iconic Springbok teams, grappling with injuries, and pioneering coaching methods. Most crucially, Rassie talks about his greatest contribution to South African rugby: appointing its first black captain, Siya Kolisi, without much fanfare or controversy. As his bold plans for effective racial transformation of the national team achieved immediate success, they culminated in glory at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. 

Too Many Reasons to Live

By rob burrow.

Book cover for Too Many Reasons to Live

The inspirational memoir from rugby league legend Rob Burrow on his extraordinary career and his battle with motor neurone disease.

This is the story of a tiny kid who adored rugby league but never should have made it  –  and ended up in the Leeds hall of fame. It's the story of a man who resolved to turn a terrible predicament into something positive  –  when he could have thrown the towel in. It's about the power of love, between Rob and his childhood sweetheart Lindsey; and of friendship, between Rob and his faithful team mates. Far more than a sports memoir,  Too Many Reasons to Live  is a story of boundless courage and infinite kindness.

‘ He is one in a million and his story is truly inspirational ’ Clare Balding on Rob Burrows

Belonging: The Autobiography

By alun wyn jones.

Book cover for Belonging: The Autobiography

Belonging  is the story about how as a boy, Alun Wyn Jones left Mumbles and returned as the most capped rugby player of all time. It is the story of what it takes to become a player who is seen by many as one of the greatest Welsh players there has ever been. What it takes to go from sitting, crossed legged on the hall floor at school, watching the 1997 Lions Tour of South Africa to being named the 2021 Lions Captain.

But is it also about  perthyn  - belonging, playing for Wales, what it takes to earn the right to be there, and what it feels like to make the sacrifices along the way. 

‘ Unbelievable player. Magnificent captain. One of the game’s greatest icons. ’ James Haskell on Alun Wyn Jones

by Eddie Jones

Book cover for Leadership

One of the most successful sports coaches ever, Eddie Jones took three separate nations to Rugby World Cup Finals, and enjoyed a success rate with the England team of almost eighty per cent. An expert in guiding and managing high-performing teams, Jones believes that his methods can be applied to many walks of life. From fostering ambition to following your curiosity, Jones shares his methodology, much of it learned through conversations with other successful managers and leaders, including Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola. Leadership  is the ultimate guide to being your best, in rugby and in life.

My Life and Rugby

Book cover for My Life and Rugby

With a career spanning four World Cups, Eddie Jones is one of the most seasoned figures in Rugby Union. Possessing an unparalleled ability to transform teams, he built the Japan national team into the side that defeated South Africa in 2015, and turned a struggling England team into finalists at the 2019 World Cup. The England coach is never afraid to speak his mind, and his autobiography is told true to unflinching form.

The best running & athletics books

The running book, by john connell.

Book cover for The Running Book

John Connell, award-winning author of The Cow Book, takes the reader on a marathon run of 42.2 kilometres through Ireland. Over 42 chapters and 42,000 words, John reflects on his life, Irish history and the stories of his greatest running heroes. Whether you’re a keen runner or you’d just like to read what it’s like to undertake a marathon, The Running Book is the perfect endorphin-filled sports book about the nature of happiness and how it can be found on foot.

Unbelievable - From My Childhood Dreams To Winning Olympic Gold

By jessica ennis.

Book cover for Unbelievable - From My Childhood Dreams To Winning Olympic Gold

Jessica Ennis-Hill has been one of the poster girls for women in sport for years. Indeed, arguably the greatest moment of the London 2012 games came when Jessica secured her heptathlon gold medal. But her rise was beset with challenges. From being bullied as a child for being small to her career-threatening injury on the eve of the 2008 Olympics, Jessica has had to show plenty of perseverance to prove her doubters wrong. This sports autobiography tells the full story behind the world’s greatest female all-rounder athlete.

The best tennis books

My life: queen of the court, by serena williams.

Book cover for My Life: Queen of the Court

Serena Williams needs little introduction, having won every major title going in tennis. From growing up playing on courts covered in broken glass in Compton to reaching the top of world tennis, all while being criticised for her unorthodox playing style and dealing with the tragic shooting of her older sister, Serena has proven herself an inspiration to her multitudes of fans. In My Life , she reflects on her extraordinary journey.

The Inner Game of Tennis

Book cover for The Inner Game of Tennis

Recently named by Bill Gates as one of his 'all-time favourite books', and described by Billie Jean King as her 'tennis bible', this bestseller has been a must-read for tennis players of all abilities for nearly fifty years. Rather than concentrating on how to improve technique, Gallwey deals with the 'inner game' within ourselves as we try to overcome doubt and maintain clarity of mind when playing. 'It’s the best book on tennis that I have ever read,' says Gates, 'and its profound advice applies to many other parts of life.'

‘ Groundbreaking . . . It’s the best book on tennis that I have ever read, and its profound advice applies to many other parts of life. I still give it to friends today. ’ Bill Gates

The best boxing books

When fury takes over, by john fury.

Book cover for When Fury Takes Over

Born into a family of Irish traveller heritage, Big John Fury descends from a long line of bare-knuckle fighters. So it’s no surprise that he too found himself fighting outside the ring at a young age. From his early years in Manchester, John learned to box by practising fighting within the travelling community, before graduating into the sport professionally. The ring has never been far from his sights, and John has played a crucial role in coaching and being a cornerman for his two-time British heavyweight champion son, Tyson Fury. From Netflix's  At Home With The Furys  this is the Gypsy Warrior, Big John Fury, totally unfiltered and in his own words.

Believe: Boxing, Olympics and my life outside the ring

By nicola adams.

Book cover for Believe: Boxing, Olympics and my life outside the ring

Nicola Adams famously changed the face of sport at London 2012 when she became the first woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal for boxing. Repeating her medal haul at Rio 2016 further cemented her place in the nation’s hearts, while she has also gone on to become a champion for  LGBTQ+ rights and a contestant on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Believe documents the grit and determination that got her to gold.

The best swimming books

By yusra mardini.

Book cover for Butterfly

While Yusra Mardini was fleeing her native Syria for the Turkish coast in 2015, the small dingy she and many other refugees were on began to sink. Yusra, her sister and two others took to the water, pushing the boat for three and a half hours in open water until they arrived safely at Lesbos. Remarkably, Yusra went on to compete as a swimmer for the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and also became a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Her autobiography is for anyone who loves true-life stories of outstanding resilience.

Book cover for Find a Way

In the 1970s, Diana Nyad was widely regarded as the greatest long-distance swimmer in the world but one record continually eluded her: becoming the first woman to swim between Cuba and the Florida Keys. Finally, after four failed attempts and at the age of sixty-four, Diana completed the crossing. This memoir shows her unwavering belief in the face of overwhelming odds. Winner of the Cross Sports International Autobiography of the Year, this is a story of perseverance, tenacity and commitment on an epic scale.

The best books about other sports

Jan ullrich: the best there never was, by daniel friebe.

Book cover for Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was

In 1997, Jan Ullrich obliterated his rivals in the first mountain stage of the Tour de France. So awesome was his display that it sent shockwaves throughout the world of cycling. Everyone agreed: Jan Ullrich was the future of cycling. He was also voted Germany’s most popular sportsperson of all time, and his rivalry with Lance Armstrong defined the most controversial years of the Tour de France. But just what did happen to the best who never was? This is an account of how unbearable expectation, mental and physical fragility, a complicated childhood, a morally corrupt sport and one individual – Lance Armstrong – can conspire to reroute destiny.

by Poorna Bell

Book cover for Stronger

Have you ever worried that you're not enough, or that, if you were stronger or more confident you would achieve more? In Stronger , award-winning journalist and competitive amateur powerlifter Poorna Bell investigates and unveils the potential that women can unlock when they realise their strength – both physical, and mental. Through examining her own experiences, as well as those of dozens of women, Bell shows how finding strength can work for you, regardless of your age, ability or background, and offers actionable ways for your to harness it in your life. 

Lights Out, Full Throttle

By damon hill.

Book cover for Lights Out, Full Throttle

Amassing 261 Grand Prix appearances between them, Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill have experienced all the highs, lows and injury records associated with the greatest names in motorsport. In Lights Out, Full Throttle , Johnny and Damon take the reader on a tour around the high-octane world of F1 racing, from Silverstone and safety to Monaco and money, as well as looking at the future of racing in the light of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter.

Alone on the Wall

By alex honnold.

Book cover for Alone on the Wall

Anyone who has seen the Oscar and BAFTA-winning documentary Free Solo will be familiar with Alex Honnold’s vertigo-inducing work. As one of the world’s best ‘free solo’ climbers, Alex tackles perilous rock faces without the use of any climbing gear. Free soloists undertake one of the deadliest sports on the planet – many have died in pursuit of their sport. Alone on the Wall is a pulse-raising account of some of Alex’s greatest climbs, told with Alex ‘No Big Deal’ Honnold’s trademark calm and collected humour in the face of mortal danger. A sports autobiography for adrenaline junkies.

Dream Horse

By janet vokes.

Book cover for Dream Horse

Janet Vokes dreamed of breeding a working-class horse to take on the wealthy high-flyers. To pursue this idea she bought a mare for £350, bred it with a pedigree stallion and encouraged her Welsh mining village to band together to raise the resulting foal, Dream Alliance. Despite being raised on an allotment, Dream went on to defy the odds at Ascot, Aintree and even Cheltenham Festival. Heart-warming reading for anyone who loves a true underhorse sports book.

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  • Key Differences

Know the Differences & Comparisons

Difference between Biography and Autobiography

biography vs autobiography

Both of these two presents the view of, what happened in the past where the author lived. These are non-fiction books, written in chronological order, tells a story about the person who made a significant contribution in a specific field. Many think that the two writing forms are one and the same thing, but there are noticeable difference between the two, that are presented in the given article.

Content: Biography Vs Autobiography

Comparison chart, definition of biography.

A biography also referred as ‘bio’ is a detailed account of a person’s life written or produced by another person. It gives an elaborate information regarding the birthplace, educational background, work, relationships and demise of the person concerned. It presents the subject’s intimate details about life, focusing on the highs and lows and analysing their whole personality.

A biography is usually in the written form but can also be made in other forms of a music composition or literature to film interpretation.

It is the recreation of the life of an individual composed of words by another person. The author collects every single detail about the subject and presents those facts in the biography, which are relevant and interesting, to engross the readers in the story.

Definition of Autobiography

An autobiography is the life sketch of a person written by that person himself or herself. The word auto means ‘self.’ Therefore, autobiography contains all the elements of a biography but composed or narrated by the author himself. He/She may write on their own or may hire ghostwriters to write for them.

An autobiography presents the narrator’s character sketch, the place where he is born and brought up, his education, work, life experiences, challenges, and achievements. This may include events and stories of his childhood, teenage, and adulthood.

Key Differences Between Biography and Autobiography

The difference between biography and autobiography are discussed in detail in the following points:

  • Biography is a detailed account of a person’s life written by someone else, while an autobiography is written by the subject themselves.
  • Biography can be written with (authorised) or without permission (unauthorised) from the person/heir’s concerned. Therefore, there are chances of factual mistakes in the information. On the other hand, autobiographies are self-written and therefore doesn’t require any authorization.
  • Biographies contain information that is collected over a period of time from different sources and thus, it projects a different outlook to the readers. On the other hand, autobiographies are written by the subject themselves, therefore, the writer presents the facts and his thinking in his own way, thus providing an overall narrow and biased perspective to the readers.
  • In an Autobiography, the author uses the first narrative like I, me, we, he, she, etc. This, in turn, makes an intimate connection between the author and the reader since the reader experience various aspects as if he/she is in that time period. As opposed a biography is from a third person’s view and is much less intimate.
  • The purpose of writing a biography is to introduce and inform the readers about the person and his life whereas an autobiography is written in order to express, the life experiences and achievements of the narrator.

Video: Biography Vs Autobiography

There are several autobiographies which are worth mentioning like ‘The Story of My Life’ by Helen Keller, ‘An Autobiography’ by Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank, ‘Memoirs of the Second World War’ by Winston Churchill, ‘Wings of Fire’ by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and much more.

Examples of some famous biographies are- Tolstoy: A Russian Life by Rosamund Bartlett, His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis, Einstein: The Life and Times by Ronald William Clark, Biography of Walt Disney: The Inspirational Life Story of Walt Disney – The Man Behind “Disneyland” by Steve Walters, Princess Diana- A Biography Of The Princess Of Wales by Drew L. Crichton.

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autoiography vs memoir

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The Best biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs to get 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students interested and reading

Best Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs for Upper Elementary

Best biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs to get 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students interested and engaged

3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students don't often automatically grab biographies and autobiographies off the classroom library shelf.  But the inspiring biographies below will have your upper elementary students begging for more!

Written by guest blogger Cindy Koopmans

In my classroom I’ve often found that biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs are a bit of a hard sell.  Besides selecting only the best nonfiction books for my classroom shelves to begin with, this is how I’ve made it work...

Tips for Encouraging Students to Read Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs

When students are looking for a new book to read, I go to the shelves and hand pick a stack of books for them to peruse.  I’ll start the process by asking them what they’ve read lately and what they liked about those books.  This strategy works because it is built on choice and trust.  I’m enthusiastic about books and I never force a book on a kid.  They get to choose what to read.

autobiography biography and informational books

And when that happens, the conversation I have with one of my lovies goes something like this: “Mrs. K.  This really happened?  This story is like, for real?” 

Me, “Yup.”   

This is the truth:  no matter who we are or how old we are, we are always looking for someone to light the way forward on this dark road called life.  

Even the most jaded of students have the propensity to be inspired by the stories of people who have survived and thrived.  

And that’s why it is so critical to give our students the gift of great nonfiction and allow them a glimpse into other people’s worlds.  When we see how other people navigate the not insubstantial bumps in their personal roads it gives us hope.  

So here you will find a nicely balanced list of great nonfiction books that are tried and true winners for upper elementary students.  There is great variety in this role call.  I’ve included books written about or by creatives, trailblazers, and a few so-called “ordinary” people, who when called upon by fate, did not back down.  They met the challenges they faced head on and triumphed.  

These people found themselves in extraordinarily difficult and, in some cases, harrowing life situations.  The stories are unique, multi-faceted and...well...true!  

As an added bonus, you can trust that these nonfiction books are incredibly well-written.  

Sometimes, just to hook some of my more reluctant student readers, I take a minute out of our precious instructional time.  I’m not doing anything too fancy, I simply introduce a new book and read the first page or two enthusiastically.

If I’m with a particularly apathetic class I’ve been known to climb up on a chair and use lots of over the top hand gestures.  Hey! Whatever it takes, right?  

Anyway, I’m never sorry about taking the time because there is absolutely nothing more exciting than hearing numerous kids blurt out an enthusiastic, “I want to read that one!” 

What just happened here? A waiting list?  Awesome.

These are good books.  Many of these books are showing the wear and tear of being well-loved in my fifth grade classroom.  Others have gotten a thorough vetting before they made this list and are now on an Amazon wish list until I get two nickels to rub together.  You and your students will find them to be deeply satisfying reads.  Get ready for a cupcake shop moment, because you are not going to know which one to pick! 

12 Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade Students

Anne frank: the diary of a young girl by anne frank, b.m. mooyaart (translator), eleanor roosevelt (introduction).

It is July 6, 1942, the setting is Amsterdam, and Anne Frank has just received a diary for her birthday.  The rest is history. 

Every year I have at least one student who loves Laurie Halse Anderson's historical fiction books.  If you have students like that in your class, then Anne Frank will absolutely blow their minds.  Introduce them to this classic read, then share the link to the full length movie.   

Some books introduced to students are gifts that they will remember the rest of their lives.  Be that teacher that gives that gift.  Here I just want to say thank you to Mrs. Barclay.  I still have my original copy.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Unbroken: An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive  by Laura Hillenbrand

This book begins with an excruciating description of three men who are floating on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Suffice it to say that sharks are predominant in the narrative of the first chapter.  Fifth grade boys?  Gotcha.  Add to the sharks stuff the fact that the main character, Louis Zabarelli, is a former Olympian and you just set the hook.

This recommendation of the young adult adaptation of Louis Zabarelli’s story, but that shouldn’t be a cause for hesitation.  This book graces the shelf of my classroom library, but it isn’t on the shelf very often.  That and it’s worn condition testifies that Louis Zabarelli’s story does hold appeal for upper elementary aged students.  I’ve included the movie trailer for you in case you want more evidence.


Hidden Figures  by Margot Lee Shetterly

autobiography biography and informational books

This is another worn book in my classroom library.  In fact, I have three copies because it has been that popular. 

You can find some extra resources here if you’re that smart teacher that seeks to intertwine some science lessons into your literature.  If you haven’t seen the movie that was released a few years ago, you can watch the trailer here.

Hidden Figures

Save time and stress this school year with these   Nonfiction Reading Response Activities that can be used over and over throughout the school year with ANY nonfiction text.   

3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students will respond through reading, writing, poetry, speaking, listening, drawing, interviewing, and more.    This is a must have   for any upper elementary teacher that does not want to have to constantly recreate the wheel.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind  by William Kamkwamba

autobiography biography and informational books

You may want to watch the movie on Netflix, but don’t tell your students it is there until after they read the book.  (And you could use some of these questions and activity ideas for comparing movies to books.)   Another recommendation from my classroom shelves.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

I Am Malala  by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

Look up the word inspiring in the dictionary and you may find Malala Yousafzai’s picture there.  Malala Yousafzai is internationally famous because she and her family stood up to the Taliban’s edict that girls were not allowed to receive an education.  Malala’s father taught her not to back down from what she believed in, even though she knew she was in danger, Malala continued to attend school.  As a result, Malala almost lost her life when she was shot riding the bus home from school. 

Here’s a short video about how Malala, the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17, continues her mission to make a difference in the lives of young women around the world.

A biography of Malala also made this list of books about overcoming obstacles.

I Am Malala

Ugly  by Robert Hoge

Do we have a choice in what we allow to define us?  Robert Hoge’s memoir answers this question with a resounding, “Yes!” 

Bullied and misunderstood because of a facial tumor and other disabilities he was born with, Robert Hoge teaches us how to live wholeheartedly and fearlessly despite how we might be judged and treated by the world.  This is the very best kind of story, honestly and simply told by the person who lived through it all. 

Robert was born with disfigurements that made him a baby only a mother could love, except his own mother didn’t want him and still, he made it.  I know I have students who need to hear his story and I’m sure you do too.


Mountains Beyond Mountains  by Tracey Kidder

I was beyond excited when I learned that Tracey Kidder’s book about Dr. Paul Farmer and his work with Partners in Health had been adapted for young readers. 

Tracey Kidder shadows Dr. Paul Farmer whose mission is to provide quality healthcare to the most economically disadvantaged people in the world’s most impoverished populations.  Dr. Farmer’s father exemplified altruism and expected his children to participate in his passion. 

Even though the family didn’t have money, Dr. Farmer made a decision to attend college and pursue medicine.  It was a high school guidance counselor that helped him take the first steps. 

This is a book that I challenge students to read, because it’s...well...challenging!  But a student who  choses to tackle it has not been disappointed.  

Mountains Beyond Mountains

My Thirteenth Winter  by Samantha Abel

Samantha Abel was a straight A student with a secret.  She couldn’t remember her locker combination or tell time.  The disconnect caused her to suffer from anxiety attacks.  In her thirteenth winter, Samantha found the strength and the courage to confront her problems.  Consequently, Samantha learned that she had a learning disability called dyscalculia.   Once the disability is discovered and addressed, Samantha’s life begins to change. 

autobiography biography and informational books

As teachers know, learning disabilities are a discrepancy between intelligence and academic struggle.  It is in that often agonizing struggle that a learning disability is  forced to the surface.  We know what they are, but we don’t really know what causes them. 

My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir

A Long Walk to Water  by Linda Sue Park

autobiography biography and informational books

Linda Sue Park lays out the story in two distinct sections, intermingling fiction and nonfiction.  The book tells the story from the point of view of a young girl, Nya, as she walks all day long to procure water for her family’s needs:  hence the title.  But it is Salva’s point of view story that is truly central to the book.  Salva is one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan who is walking to escape the violence and constant threat of being conscripted into the Sudanese army.  Spoiler...the two stories come together at the end of the book. 

I spend a lot of time convincing those kiddos who read ahead not to give away the ending and wreck the book for their classmates.  This link will take you to a short video about Salva.

A Long Walk to Water

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland is the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history.  Adapted for young readers, the adult version of this book made the New York Times best-seller list.  This is another excellent autobiography I’ve had to purchase in multiples because it is in demand with my girls. 

Misty Copeland’s grit and determination, added to her passion, led her to a successful career in dance.  It all began so simply. 

She writes,  “My family didn't have very much money, so ballet wasn't even on my radar; I just found it randomly when I was 13 at a Boys & Girls Club. We were practicing on a basketball court in gym clothes with some old socks on. Even though it terrified me at first, I found that I really liked it.”  Find something you love and pursue it with all your heart.  Yes.

Check out these other inspirational biographies of African-Americans.

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina

Lion: A Long Way Home  by Saroo Brierley

An incredible true story that just proves the point that life is often stranger than anything anyone could make up in a million years. 

autobiography biography and informational books

His book chronicles his struggle to remember where he came from and to reconnect with his family, which he does when he is 25 years old.  You can watch a trailer for the Hollywood Version here.

Lion: A Long Way Home

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

autobiography biography and informational books

Vincent’s younger brother Theo is the pragmatist in the relationship, but still an art lover—he works as an art dealer, which on the face of it could be immensely helpful for Vincent.  But Vincent’s artistic style, that of the Impressionist school, is simply not in fashion and Theo can’t change that fact. 

Despite their personality differences and all the drama Vincent brings to the relationship these brothers remain loyal to the core.  This is a beautiful and touching story of brotherly love and devotion. 

You’ll find it special as a direct result of Deborah Heilgman’s efforts to get the details right: she carefully gleaned information from more than 600 letters Vincent wrote to his brother Theo over his lifetime. 

Deborah Heiligman is the award winning author of Charles and Emma and many other books for children and young adults.

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

Find more book suggestions for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students here.  


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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster (September 12, 2023)
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  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1982181284
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  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.13 x 1.9 x 9.25 inches
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Walter isaacson.

Walter Isaacson is writing a biography of Elon Musk. He is the author of The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race; Leonardo da Vinci; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution; and Kissinger: A Biography. He is also the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He is a Professor of History at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN, and editor of Time magazine.

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  1. 15 Best Biographies and Autobiography Books for your TBR List

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  2. 12 Best Biography Books You Must Read

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  3. Autobiography Book

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  4. The best autobiographies and biographies

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  5. Best Autobiography Books You Should Read Atleast Once

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  6. A Short Autobiography

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  1. 50 best autobiographies & biographies of all time

    I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. by Maya Angelou. A favourite book of former president Obama and countless others, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, recounts Angelou's childhood in the American south in the 1930s. A beautifully written classic, this is the first of Maya Angelou's seven bestselling autobiographies.

  2. Biography Books

    Biography, autobiography and memoir are three different types of books that revolve around true life stories. An autobiography is a life story written by the subject of the book. A biography is a life story written by someone other than the subject of the book. A memoir is a book written about a specific time in the author's life. Popular ...

  3. Amazon Best Sellers: Best Biographies & Memoirs

    Top 100 Paid Top 100 Free. #1. The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War. Erik Larson. Kindle Edition. 1 offer from $14.99. #2. If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood. Gregg Olsen.

  4. The Best Autobiographies (145 books)

    post a comment ». 145 books based on 41 votes: Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, Love Life by Rob Lowe, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Open by Andre Agassi, Born ...

  5. Best biographies and memoirs of 2021

    Best biographies and memoirs of 2021. Brian Cox is punchy, David Harewood candid and Miriam Margolyes raucously indiscreet. Fiona Sturges. Sat 4 Dec 2021 07.00 EST. Last modified on Wed 8 Dec 2021 ...

  6. 20 Best Autobiographies of All Time

    6. Living for Change: An Autobiography by Grace Lee Boggs (1998) We listed the dual biography of Grace Lee Boggs and her husband James Boggs on our best biographies list, but even if you've read ...

  7. Autobiography and Biography Books

    Autobiography and Biography Books Showing 1-50 of 2,122 The Diary of a Young Girl (Mass Market Paperback) by. Anne Frank (shelved 16 times as autobiography-and-biography) avg rating 4.19 — 3,740,696 ratings — published 1947 Want to Read saving… Want to Read; Currently Reading ...

  8. Best Memoir & Autobiography 2021

    Michelle Zauner. If it feels like this one was on display at every bookstore in 2021, that's because it pretty much was. Korean American author-musician Michelle Zauner—she of the indie rock initiative Japanese Breakfast—was one of publishing's biggest success stories this year. Her deeply felt memoir addresses love and loss, art and ...

  9. Best autobiography and memoirs of 2020

    Broom's award-winning debut, The Yellow House (Corsair), is a history of a house, a family and a neighbourhood brought low by neglect, racism and inequality. The youngest of 12 children, she had ...

  10. Autobiography

    Types of autobiography. An autobiography may be placed into one of four very broad types: thematic, religious, intellectual, and fictionalized.The first grouping includes books with such diverse purposes as The Americanization of Edward Bok (1920) and Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (1925, 1927). Religious autobiography claims a number of great works, ranging from Augustine and Kempe to the ...

  11. Biography & Autobiography eBooks

    by May Sarton. QUICK ADD. The Knights of England Boxed Set, Books 1-3: Three Complete Historical Medieval Romance. by Mary Ellen Johnson. Discover the best biography and autobiography eBooks at Barnes & Noble. Find biographies from celebrities, political figures, musicians and more.

  12. 100 Best Autobiography Books of All Time

    The Fry Chronicles (Memoir #2) Stephen Fry | 4.01. Thirteen years ago, Moab Is My Washpot, Stephen Fry's autobiography of his early years, was published to rave reviews and was a huge best seller. In the years since, Stephen Fry has moved into a completely new stratosphere, both as a public figure, and a private man.

  13. Biographies & Memoirs

    New Releases. Find the latest and greatest biographies and memoirs right here. In the first few minutes of Adrienne Brodeur's first memoir, her mother starts a passionate affair with her husband's closest friend. and enlists her 14-year-old daughter as her main accomplice. Then, in the second half, things get *really* juicy. It's source ...

  14. Autobiography

    An autobiography, sometimes informally called an autobio, is a self-written biography of one's own life. Definition The word "autobiography" was first used deprecatingly by William Taylor in 1797 in the English periodical The Monthly Review , when he suggested the word as a hybrid, but condemned it as "pedantic".

  15. Autobiography vs. Biography vs. Memoir

    The three primary formats of a memory book, used to tell a life story, are a biography, an autobiography, and a memoir. Distinguishing between the three can feel a bit confusing since they all share several similarities. But there are some distinct differences. Simply put, a biography is the life history of an individual, written by someone […]

  16. Life Writing

    Summary. Since 1990, "life writing" has become a frequently used covering term for the familiar genres of biography, autobiography, memoir, diaries, letters, and many other forms of life narrative. Initially adopted as a critical intervention informed by post-structuralist, postmodernist, postcolonial, and especially feminist theory of the ...

  17. Nonfiction Biography & Autobiography

    Informational: Guides and How-to Books: Step-by-step instructions on a specific topic: ... Because both are literary works, biography and autobiography both contain story elements. The subject and ...

  18. Biography vs. Autobiography: Differences and Features

    Analyze the differences: biography vs autobiography. Includes descriptions & examples of each. We've even highlighted key differences for easy reference. ... An autobiography is always written by the person the book is about. A biography is always written by someone other than the subject of the book.

  19. The best sports books and autobiographies

    Belonging: The Autobiography. by Alun Wyn Jones. Belonging is the story about how as a boy, Alun Wyn Jones left Mumbles and returned as the most capped rugby player of all time. It is the story of what it takes to become a player who is seen by many as one of the greatest Welsh players there has ever been.

  20. Biography and Autobiography Books

    Biography and Autobiography Books Showing 1-50 of 5,519 The Diary of a Young Girl (Mass Market Paperback) by. Anne Frank (shelved 42 times as biography-and-autobiography) avg rating 4.19 — 3,739,642 ratings — published 1947 Want to Read saving… Want to Read; Currently Reading ...

  21. 20 Best New Autobiography Books To Read In 2024

    A list of 20 new autobiography books you should read in 2024, such as Karma, Making It So, Autobiography and UP FROM SLAVERY. Categories Experts Newsletter. BookAuthority; BookAuthority is the world's leading site for book recommendations, helping you discover the most recommended books on any subject. Explore; Home; Best Books; New Books ...

  22. Difference between Biography and Autobiography (with Comparison Chart

    Biography is the life history of an individual, written by someone else, whereas the autobiography is an expression of a person's life, written by self. Both of these two presents the view of, what happened in the past where the author lived. These are non-fiction books, written in chronological order, tells a story about the person who made ...

  23. The 100 Best Biography And Autobiography Picture Books

    Top 10 Biography And Autobiography Picture Books. 7.0. 01. Abe's Honest Words. Written by Doreen Rappaport & illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 7.0. 02. Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire. Written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville & illustrated by Brigette Barrager.

  24. Best Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs for Upper Elementary

    12 Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade Students. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, B.M. Mooyaart (Translator), Eleanor Roosevelt (Introduction) It is July 6, 1942, the setting is Amsterdam, and Anne Frank has just received a diary for her birthday. The rest is history.

  25. Elon Musk: Isaacson, Walter: 9781982181284: Amazon.com: Books

    Shortlisted for the Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year "Whatever you think of Mr. Musk, he is a man worth understanding— which makes this a book worth reading." — The Economist "With Elon Musk, Walter Isaacson offers both an engaging chronicle of his subject's busy life so far and some compelling answers..." — Wall Street Journal "Walter Isaacson's new biography ...