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good autobiography titles

50 Inspiring Autobiography Title Ideas

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Hey there, looking to get started on your autobiography but stuck on what to call it? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! Choosing the perfect name for your life story can be tough, but it’s also a fun and important decision. So, grab a cup of coffee and get ready to brainstorm some awesome autobiography name ideas!

Table of Contents

Choosing a memorable autobiography name, reflecting your personal journey in the title, incorporating key themes and milestones, using humor or wit to engage readers, seeking feedback and suggestions from others, in conclusion.

When it comes to choosing a memorable name for your autobiography, there are a few things to consider. The title of your life story should be captivating, intriguing, and reflective of the journey you’ve been through. It’s the first thing people will see when they come across your book, so it’s important to make it memorable.

One approach to creating an autobiography name is to brainstorm keywords or phrases that encapsulate the essence of your story. Think about the major themes, events, or turning points in your life, and try to distill them into a few impactful words. Consider using **metaphors or symbolism** to convey deeper meanings and emotions. It’s also helpful to evoke a sense of curiosity or mystery with the title, sparking interest in potential readers.

Another strategy is to draw inspiration from literature, poetry, or famous quotes that resonate with your life experiences. **Quoting a meaningful line** from a favorite book or poem can add a layer of depth and resonance to your autobiography title. Additionally, incorporating personal mottos or mantras that have guided you through life can lend authenticity and significance to the name of your book.

For **creativity and impact**, consider experimenting with wordplay, alliteration, or unconventional phrasing. A catchy, unique title can make your autobiography stand out and pique curiosity. Remember to also consider the marketability and resonance of the title, as it will play a major role in attracting potential readers. By taking the time to consider these factors, you can create a memorable autobiography name that truly captures the essence of your life story.

Themes Events Metaphors
Mental Health Love and Loss Phoenix Rising
Resilience Family Legacy Roots and Wings
Finding Purpose Career Breakthroughs The Road Less Traveled

Are you ready to share your personal journey with the world? Choosing the perfect title for your autobiography is crucial in capturing the essence of your story. Your title should reflect the unique experiences, challenges, and triumphs that have shaped you into the person you are today. Here are some tips and ideas for creating an impactful and meaningful title that truly represents your personal journey:

### Tips for When brainstorming ideas for your autobiography title, consider the following tips to ensure it resonates with your readers:

– **Think about the central theme**: What is the main message or theme of your life story? Is it resilience, love, overcoming adversity, or personal growth? – **Use imagery**: Incorporate vivid imagery that reflects key moments or symbols from your life that have had a significant impact on your journey. – **Highlight your unique perspective**: What sets your story apart from others? Emphasize what makes your experiences and insights distinctive and valuable.

### Autobiography Title Ideas Here are some creative and inspiring title ideas to spark your imagination and help you craft the perfect name for your autobiography:

| Title Ideas | Description | |—————————-|————————————————–| | Unbreakable Spirit | A powerful and evocative title reflecting resilience and strength. | | From Struggle to Strength | Capture the essence of overcoming obstacles and personal growth. | | In My Own Words | Emphasize the personal and intimate nature of your story. | | The Road Less Traveled | Highlight the unique and unconventional path of your journey. |

Find a title that resonates with you and captures the heart of your personal narrative. Taking the time to reflect and choose the perfect name for your autobiography will ensure that your story is told in a compelling and authentic way.

When it comes to choosing a name for your autobiography, it’s important to incorporate key themes and milestones from your life. These elements help to tell your unique story and make your book memorable to readers. Whether you’re focusing on a specific event, a personal journey, or an overarching theme, the title of your autobiography should encapsulate the essence of your life story.

One approach to brainstorming autobiography name ideas is to reflect on significant milestones and themes in your life. Consider the following prompts to help spark inspiration for your autobiography title: – What are the defining moments or turning points in your life? – What themes or patterns have been recurring throughout your journey? – What unique experiences or challenges have shaped your perspective and identity?

By incorporating these key themes and milestones into your autobiography title, you can create a compelling and meaningful representation of your life story. Remember to choose a title that resonates with you and accurately captures the essence of your unique narrative. Embrace creativity and authenticity as you explore different autobiography name ideas that reflect the depth and richness of your personal journey.

When it comes to choosing a name for your autobiography, it’s essential to create a title that is engaging, memorable, and reflective of your personality and experiences. One way to capture readers’ attention is to use humor or wit in your autobiography title. Incorporating humor into the title can make it more relatable and appealing to a wider audience, while adding wit can add a clever and thought-provoking element.

Here are some ideas for autobiography names that use humor or wit to engage readers:

  • “Laughing Through the Tears: My Life Story” – This title combines humor and emotion, drawing readers in with the promise of both lighthearted moments and poignant reflections.
  • “The Chronicles of Awkwardness: A Memoir” – Using humor to acknowledge the inherent awkwardness of life can resonate with readers who can relate to the challenges and humorous moments that come with navigating through life.
  • “Sarcastic and Sassy: My Journey to Self-Discovery” – This title employs wit and humor to convey a bold and confident narrative, appealing to readers who appreciate a sharp sense of humor.

Are you in the process of writing your autobiography and in need of a catchy and captivating name? Naming your autobiography is a crucial step in the publishing process. A well-thought-out title can pique the interest of potential readers and encapsulate the essence of your life story. If you’re currently brainstorming autobiography name ideas, we’re here to help.

can provide valuable insights and fresh perspectives that you may not have considered. It’s always beneficial to gather input from a diverse group of people to ensure that your autobiography name resonates with a wide audience. Whether you’re a first-time author or a seasoned writer, feedback from others can make a significant impact on the success of your book. Here are some suggestions for soliciting feedback and suggestions for your autobiography name:

– Reach out to friends, family, and colleagues who know you well – Join writing groups or forums and participate in discussions about autobiography titles – Utilize social media platforms to conduct polls and gather opinions from a broader audience – Attend book clubs or literary events to engage with avid readers and gather feedback By , you can gain valuable insights that will help you choose a compelling and memorable name for your autobiography. Your book deserves a title that truly captures the essence of your life story, and the input of others can help you achieve that goal. So, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for feedback – the perfect autobiography name may be just a suggestion away.

Q: I’m struggling to come up with a catchy title for my autobiography. Any tips? A: Yes, think about the main theme or message of your autobiography and try to capture that in a few words.

Q: Can I use a quote as the title of my autobiography? A: Of course! A meaningful quote can make a great title for your autobiography and give it a personal touch.

Q: How long should my autobiography title be? A: It should be relatively short and punchy, ideally no more than a few words or a brief phrase.

Q: What if I can’t think of anything good? A: Don’t stress too much about it – sometimes a simple, straightforward title can be just as effective as a clever or creative one.

Q: Should I include my name in the title? A: It’s up to you! Including your name can make the autobiography feel more personal, but it’s not necessary.

Q: Can I ask friends and family for title ideas? A: Absolutely! Getting input from others can help you brainstorm and come up with something that truly resonates with you.

Q: Are there any common themes or phrases used in autobiography titles? A: Yes, many autobiographies use phrases like “My Story” or “Life and Times of [Name]” but feel free to get creative and come up with something unique to you.

So if you’re considering writing your own autobiography, choosing the perfect title is an important first step. Whether you decide to go with a catchy phrase or a meaningful quote, make sure it reflects the essence of your life story. Hopefully, the ideas we’ve shared here have sparked some inspiration for your own memoir title. Happy writing!

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good autobiography titles

Constructing the memoir of your life can be a truly grueling process. The most crucial element to consider, of course, is the enticing title. The stakes are incredibly high  — with the wrong label, your entire life could be inaccurately represented. For widespread applicability, I have laid out options for some niche lifestyles.

For the foodie:

  • BuzzFeed, what kind of cheese am I?
  • What to expect when you’re expecting a food baby
  • DTF: Down to feast?
  • I’m eating fries in my parked car
  • I’m just here for the cake
  • I almost just ate something healthy
  • The art of consuming Domino’s pizza
  • And then they gave me an oatmeal raisin cookie…
  • Boba for the soul
  • Coffee and carbs: A delicacy like no other
  • How did I get food on my forehead, again?
  • I put too much Kraft parmesan on my spaghetti
  • Are you going to finish that?

For the risqué:

  • I asked for a water cup and filled it with Coke
  • “This is my face. I’m not mad”: The plight of RBF
  • Nobody cares
  • Is it better to roast or to toast?
  • Sugar, spice and everything nice or sarcasm, Pepsi and everything sexy?
  • Do I want bangs, or should we just talk about my feelings?
  • Sorry, Mom.
  • “I’m 29. I can finally play a high schooler on TV. Thank you, Jackson Stewart”: On starting my Disney career later in life
  • I did a thing, and I’m not sorry
  • Goal Digger
  • I turned off my autocorrect, and I only journal in pen: A baddie’s guide to writing
  • Trial and lots of error

For the hot mess:

  • I never really know what’s going on
  • I’m late, and I’m sweating
  • Still in bed
  • Call me again in 3-5 business days
  • Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over my internal monologue
  • “I think I just said the funniest thing ever”: The story of my delusional comedy career
  • I haven’t changed my sheets in like a year.
  • Floor-seat mentality with a nosebleed budget
  • I wasn’t gonna cry in Starbucks though, yk?
  • Do I look like an Android user?
  • Rock my Crocs off
  • “Sorry, my Uber is here”: A beginner’s guide to exiting swiftly from awkward situations
  • Crap, I really need to finish my memoir

Okay, maybe these titles don’t reflect your life story in their simplicity, but hopefully they made you smile a bit.

For more stream of consciousness musings, contact Alanna Flores at alanna13 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Alanna Flores '22 is a Managing Editor of The Grind. Contact her at alanna13 'at' stanford.edu.

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10 memoir title ideas and why they work so well

Sometimes, memoir titles come to you in a flash of inspiration, sometimes they need to be painfully extracted, one tortuous word after another. Sometimes, titles come before books. Sometimes, they only make themselves known to you after you’ve finished writing.

In this article, we’re going to review a range of memoir titles, and give you some prompts for coming up with memoir title ideas for your own books.

good autobiography titles

Good memoir titles should entice or intrigue the reader, evoke a sense or spirit of the book, and give readers a hint as to the tone of the story they’re going to read. A good memoir title can help sell a book, a bad one can sink it.

So how do you come up with a good memoir title for your book?

Good memoir titles come in many shapes and sizes

From snappy single-word memoir titles, to fragments of phrases, and snippets of conversation, there is no one-size-fits-all. There are occasional trends towards certain types of title – single-word titles ( Becoming, Arranged, Ghosted, Educated ) have been big, but the autobiography and memoir market has space for all kinds of titles. So don’t worry about trying to fit your title into a particular style.

To help you think up the best and most appropriate title for your memoir, here are some good memoir titles, grouped into types, drawn from books published in the last few years.

Single word memoir titles

There’s a trend for single word memoir titles, like Educated (Tara Westover), Toast (Nigel Slater), Redeemable (Erwin Jones), Stumped (Richard Harrison) and the most famous one-word memoir title of recent times, Becoming by Michelle Obama.

If you’re considering single word memoir titles, consider using active verbs like fighting, running, winning to give that sense of action and forward motion.

The ‘I told you I could eat a frog’ type memoir titles

Fragments of speech drawn from your manuscript can make for interesting titles.

One of my favourite examples of this approach is No One Round Here Reads Tolstoy (Mark Hodkinson). It’s a very elegant example of how a few carefully chosen words can really sum up the ethos, feel, and intentions of a whole book.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson is the question her mother asked her when she learnt that her daughter was a lesbian. Again, that one line of speech sums up so much about that book. Just like fiction, memoirs often hinge on a point of conflict, and that question provides conflict in spades.

The familiar expression (or variation on a familiar expression) memoir titles

A popular device is to take a well-worn expression or saying as inspiration. Often, these kinds of titles subvert our expectations.

Just Ignore Him by Alan Davies suggests how a seemingly innocuous phrase can have a darker subtext.

Must Try Harder by Paula McGuire takes that old remark, beloved of school teachers, and uses it as a springboard for a book about how she fought against mediocrity.

Puntastic memoir titles

Me:Moir (by Vic Reeves, born James Moir) could just be the best title for a memoir of all time.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher is a nice play on wishful thinking.

The confrontational title

A shocking or confrontational title will make potential readers notice your book.

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jenette McCurdy is an arresting, confrontational, title that pulls no punches. The title leaves readers in no doubt that this is going to be an uncompromising memoir, and coupled with the cover image, a blackly comical one.

Positive and aspirational memoir titles

Many writers use their memoirs to show how they’ve overcome some trial or adversity, and in doing so, write with one eye on helping their readers. If you’re writing an unashamedly positive book, then you need an equally positive or aspirational title to go with it.

Some good examples:

Find A Way by Diana Nyad

Forward by Abby Wambach

Yes Please by Amy Poelher

And how about A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival  by Melissa Fleming. It’s a biography, not a memoir, but how beautiful is that title?

Intriguing memoir titles…

It’s hard to beat Hitler, Stalin, Mum and Dad by Daniel Finkelstein as a title that conjures up so many questions that you want to dip in and find out the answers straightaway.

Clickbait memoir titles

Stephen Moffatt, the writer of the BBCs Sherlock and Doctor Who talked about slutty episode titles that drew viewers in. It can be a good approach to memoirs too.

I’m going to nominate a book I worked on called Sex, Suicide and Serotonin (Debbie Hampton) in this category, for obvious reasons.

The defining moment

Some stories are all leading up to one event, or inspired by the ramification of an event. In those cases, it makes sense to use that event as the basis of your title. Some books that do that include:

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Play on the contrasts

You can sum up the whole expanse of your memoir’s emotional or topical range by bringing out the extremes in your title. The expression ‘rags to riches’ is the obvious example of that kind of thinking.

Some memoirs that play with contrasts in their title are:

A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

Slow Days, Fast Company by Eve Babitz

Memoir titles: the suffix and sub-title

Very often memoir writers will add the explanatory suffix – a memoir – to make it clear what a reader is going to get.

As well as the suffix, some memoirists add a sub-title to give extra context and meaning to the title. If you’ve chosen a subtly engaging memoir title, then your sub-title can give a bit more context.

Let’s say you’re going to call your memoir, Drowning Not Waving , you could add in an explanatory sub-title: Reflections of a Frazzled Father !

Or perhaps you want to write a book about surviving a difficult childhood. You don’t want to write a conventional ‘misery memoir’ but your publisher thinks that being known as a misery memoir might make your book more marketable. You can use your sub-title to hit that part of the market without compromising your intentions. For example: Unbroken: Not Just Another Misery Memoir .

Love, Interrupted by Simon Thomas features the sub-title: Navigating Grief One Day at a Time . The job of the sub-title in this case is to give potential readers a sense of what the book is about. Anyone hoping for a memoir going into detail on his days on Blue Peter or as a Sky Sports presenter will appreciate straightaway that this is a very different kind of book.

Another benefit of the memoir sub-title is that it gives you some key words to play with, which is useful for anyone trying to promote and market a book.

Memoir title ideas often come late in into the writing process

If the perfect memoir title hasn’t come to you before or during the writing process, don’t panic.

It makes sense that it should be easier to think up a title after you’ve finished writing your manuscript. At the start of the process, you have the freedom of knowing your book can be anything. But that freedom can be more of a distraction. Generally, when you work out a structure and start to shape the book, you’ll impose limitations on it, which will help you see the core of the book more clearly. And the clearer your vision gets, the easier it will be to come up with interesting and appropriate memoir title ideas.  

You may also find that if you started out with an idea of what you wanted your memoir title to be, it doesn’t actually fit the book you’ve written. So don’t be afraid of abandoning a title if it doesn’t work for you anymore.

Some prompts to help you come up with more memoir title ideas

Some writers rely on ‘free writing’ – they start with a blank page and write whatever comes into their head when they think about their life story. If that doesn’t give them ready-made titles, it can spark ideas that lead to titles.

If you’re still struggling to come up with a good memoir title, here are a few more ideas:

  • As you were writing, did any themes loom larger for you than others? Any turns of phrase that kept cropping up?
  • What do people always say about you? Are there any particular words or phrases they use to describe you? Could one of those work as your title?
  • Could you go with a comic contrast, e.g. Punctual (for somebody who is known for being late).
  • Are there are any things that people have said to you – or about you – that have really inspired you, challenged you, infuriated you, or spurred you on?

Too many memoir title ideas?

If you end up with too many good ideas for your memoir title, test your title ideas out with your friends and family. Is there a consensus on which titles work better than others? Do you find that, as you suggest the ideas, you start to feel more passionate about one of them?

If you still can’t decide, do a mock up of your cover, with the different title options. Sometimes, seeing an idea on the page can really help clarify your thoughts.

And don’t forget to Google your preferred title, to make sure it’s not already out there. Having a book with the same title as one that’s already been published isn’t very helpful when it comes to publicising and promoting your book, and selling it.

Let’s write the memoir, then worry about what to call it!

If you’re confident you’ve got a life story you want to tell, I’m confident we’ll find the perfect memoir title for it. Get in touch via my contact form if you’re looking for a ghostwriter to write your memoir – and we’ll give it the title that fits.

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The New York Times

Books | the 50 best memoirs of the past 50 years, the 50 best memoirs of the past 50 years.


The New York Times’s book critics select the most outstanding memoirs published since 1969.

Click the star icon to create and share your own list of favorites or books to read.

Fierce Attachments

Vivian gornick, farrar, straus & giroux, 1987.

“I remember only the women,” Vivian Gornick writes near the start of her memoir of growing up in the Bronx tenements in the 1940s, surrounded by the blunt, brawling, yearning women of the neighborhood, chief among them her indomitable mother. “I absorbed them as I would chloroform on a cloth laid against my face. It has taken me 30 years to understand how much of them I understood.”

When Gornick’s father died suddenly, she looked in the coffin for so long that she had to be pulled away. That fearlessness suffuses this book; she stares unflinchingly at all that is hidden, difficult, strange, unresolvable in herself and others — at loneliness, sexual malice and the devouring, claustral closeness of mothers and daughters. The book is propelled by Gornick’s attempts to extricate herself from the stifling sorrow of her home — first through sex and marriage, but later, and more reliably, through the life of the mind, the “glamorous company” of ideas. It’s a portrait of the artist as she finds a language — original, allergic to euphemism and therapeutic banalities — worthy of the women that raised her. — Parul Sehgal

I love this book — even during those moments when I want to scream at Gornick, which are the times when she becomes the hypercritical, constantly disappointed woman that her mother, through her words and example, taught the author to be. There’s a clarity to this memoir that’s so brilliant it's unsettling; Gornick finds a measure of freedom in her writing and her feminist activism, but even then, she and her mother can never let each other go. —  Jennifer Szalai

Gornick’s language is so fresh and so blunt; it’s a quintessentially American voice, and a beautiful one. The confidence of her tone in “Fierce Attachments” reminds me of the Saul Bellow who wrote, in the opening lines of “The Adventures of Augie March,” “I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way.” — Dwight Garner

Buy this book

good autobiography titles

The Woman Warrior

Maxine hong kingston, alfred a. knopf, 1976.

This book is more than four decades old, but I can’t think of another memoir quite like it that has been published since. True stories, ghost stories, “talk stories” — Maxine Hong Kingston whirs them all together to produce something wild and astonishing that still asserts itself with a ruthless precision.

The American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants, Kingston navigates a bewildering journey between worlds, each one stifling yet perforated by inconsistencies. There’s the Chinese village of Kingston’s ancestors, where girls learn the song of the warrior woman while being told they are destined to become a wife and a slave. There’s the postwar California of her childhood, where she has to unlearn the “strong and bossy” voices of the Chinese women in her family in favor of an “American-feminine” whisper. There’s Mao’s revolution, which is supposed to upend the old feudal system that kept her female ancestors trapped in servitude (if they weren’t victims of infanticides as unwanted baby girls) but also imposes its own deadly cruelty, preventing her parents from returning home.

The narrative undulates, shifting between ghost world, real world and family lore. It can be deadpan and funny, too. The young Kingston resolves to become a lumberjack and a newspaper reporter. Both worthy ambitions, but I’m thankful she wrote this indelible memoir instead. — Jennifer Szalai

Alison Bechdel

Houghton mifflin harcourt, 2006.

Alison Bechdel’s beloved graphic novel is an elaborately layered account of life and artifice, family silence and revelation, springing from her father’s suicide. He was a distant man who devoted himself to the refurbishment of his sprawling Victorian home — and to a hidden erotic life involving young men. The title comes from the abbreviation of the family business — a funeral home — but it also refers to the dual funhouse portrait of father and daughter, of the author’s own queerness.

It’s a sexual and intellectual coming-of-age story that swims along literary lines, honoring the books that nourished Bechdel and her parents and seemed to speak for them: Kate Millet, Proust, Oscar Wilde, theory, poetry and literature. “Fun Home” joins that lineage, an original, mournful, intricate work of art. — Parul Sehgal

The Liars’ Club

Viking, 1995.

This incendiary memoir, about the author’s childhood in the 1960s in a small industrial town in Southeast Texas, was published in 1995 and helped start the modern memoir boom. The book deserves its reputation. You can almost say about Mary Karr’s agile prose what she says about herself at the age of 7: “I was small-boned and skinny, but more than able to make up for that with sheer meanness.”

As a girl, Karr was a serious settler of scores, willing to bite anyone who had wronged her or to climb a tree with a BB gun to take aim at an entire family. Her mother, who “fancied herself a kind of bohemian Scarlett O’Hara,” had a wild streak. She was married seven times, and was subject to psychotic episodes. Her father was an oil refinery worker, a brawling yet taciturn man who came most fully alive when telling tall stories, often in the back room of a bait shop, with a group of men called “The Liars’ Club.”

This is one of the best books ever written about growing up in America. Karr evokes the contours of her preadolescent mind — the fears, fights and petty jealousies — with extraordinary and often comic vividness. This memoir, packed with eccentrics, is beautifully eccentric in its own right. — Dwight Garner

For generations my ancestors had been strapping skillets onto their oxen and walking west. It turned out to be impossible for me to “run away” in the sense other American teenagers did. Any movement at all was taken for progress in my family.

—Mary Karr, “The Liar’s Club”

Christopher Hitchens

Twelve, 2010.

This high-spirited memoir traces the life and times of this inimitable public intellectual, who is much missed, from his childhood in Portsmouth, England, where his father was a navy man, through boarding school, his studies at Oxford and his subsequent career as a writer both in England and the United States.

Christopher Hitchens was a man of the left but unpredictable (and sometimes inscrutable) politically. “Hitch-22” demonstrates how seriously he took the things that really matter: social justice, learning, direct language, the free play of the mind, loyalty and holding public figures to high standards.

This is a vibrant book about friendships, and it will make you want to take your own more seriously. Hitchens recounts moments with friends that include Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and the poet James Fenton. There is a lot of wit here, and bawdy wordplay, and accounts of long nights spent drinking and smoking. Hitchens decided to become a student of history and politics, he writes, after the Cuban missile crisis. “If politics could force its way into my life in such a vicious and chilling manner, I felt, then I had better find out a bit more about it.” He was a force to contend with from the time he was in short pants. “I was probably insufferable,” he concedes. — Dwight Garner

Read the critics discuss the process of putting together the list.

Men We Reaped

Jesmyn ward, bloomsbury, 2013.

“Men’s bodies litter my family history,” the novelist Jesmyn Ward writes in this torrential, sorrowing tribute to five young black men she knew, including her brother, who died in the span of four years, lost to suicide, drugs or accidents. These men were devoured by her hometown, DeLisle, Miss. — called Wolf Town by its first settlers — “pinioned beneath poverty and history and racism.”

Ward tells their stories with tenderness and reverence; they live again in these pages. Their fates twine with her own — her dislocation and anguish, and later, the complicated story of her own survival, and isolation, as she is recruited to elite all-white schools. She is a writer who has metabolized the Greeks and Faulkner — their themes course through her work — and the stories of the deaths of these men join larger national narratives about rural poverty and racism. But Ward never allows her subjects to become symbolic. This work of great grief and beauty renders them individual and irreplaceable. — Parul Sehgal

Random House, 1995

It’s Vidal, so you know the gossip will be abundant, and top shelf. Scores will be settled (with Anaïs Nin, Charlton Heston, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, his mother), conquests enumerated (Jack Kerouac), choice quips dispensed. “At least I have a style,” Truman Capote once sniped at him. “Of course you do,” Vidal responded soothingly. “You stole it from Carson McCullers.”

It was a rangy life — one that took him into the military, politics, Hollywood, Broadway — and he depicts it with the silky urbanity you expect. What comes as a shock is the book’s directness and deep feeling — its innocence.

It’s a love story, at the end of the day. Vidal had a lifelong companion but remained passionately compelled by a beautiful classmate, his first paramour, Jimmie, who died at 19, shot and bayoneted while sleeping in a foxhole on Iwo Jima. He is the phantom that has haunted Vidal’s long, eventful life. “Palimpsest” is a book full of revelations.

“By choice and luck, my life has been spent reading other people’s books and making sentences for my own,” Vidal writes. Our great luck, too. — Parul Sehgal

Giving Up the Ghost

Hilary mantel, a john macrae book/henry holt & company, 2003.

As a poor Catholic girl growing up in the north of England, Hilary Mantel was an exuberant child of improbable ambition, deciding early on that she was destined to become a knight errant and would change into a boy when she turned 4.

Her mesmerizing memoir reads like an attempt to recover the girl she once was, before others began to dictate her story for her. At the age of 7, looking about the garden, she saw an apparition, perhaps the Devil. She thought it was her fault, for allowing her greedy gaze to wander. Her stepfather was bullying, judgmental, condescending; anything Mantel did seemed to anger him. As a young woman, she started to get headaches, vision problems, pains that coursed through her body, bleeding that no longer confined itself to that time of the month. The doctors told her she was insane.

The ghost she is giving up in the title isn’t her life but that of the child she might have had but never will. Years of misdiagnoses culminated in the removal of her reproductive organs, barnacled by scar tissue caused by endometriosis. Her body changed from very thin to very fat. Mantel, perhaps best known for her novels “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies,” writes about all of this with a fine ear and a furious intelligence, as she resurrects phantoms who “shiver between the lines.” — Jennifer Szalai

I used to think that autobiography was a form of weakness, and perhaps I still do. But I also think that, if you’re weak, it’s childish to pretend to be strong.

—Hilary Mantel, “Giving Up the Ghost”

A Childhood

Harry crews, harper & row, 1978.

This taut, powerful and deeply original memoir covers just the first six years of this gifted novelist’s life, but it is a nearly Dickensian anthology of physical and mental intensities.

Harry Crews grew up in southern Georgia, not far from the Okefenokee Swamp. His father, a tenant farmer, died of a heart attack before Crews was 2. His stepfather was a violent drunk. When Crews was 5, he fell into a boiler of water that was being used to scald pigs. His own skin came off, he writes, “like a wet glove.” When he recovered from this long and painful ordeal, he contracted polio so severely that his heels drew back tightly until they touched the backs of his thighs. He was told, incorrectly, that he would never walk again. “The world that circumscribed the people I come from,” he writes, “had so little margin for error, for bad luck, that when something went wrong, it almost always brought something else down with it.”

Crews sought solace in the Sears, Roebuck catalog, the only book in his house besides the Bible. He began his career as a writer by making up stories about the people he saw there. These humans didn’t have scars and blemishes like everyone he knew. “On their faces were looks of happiness, even joy, looks that I never saw much of in the faces of the people around me.” — Dwight Garner

Dreams From My Father

Barack obama, times books/random house, 1995.

Barack Obama’s first book was published a year before he was elected to the Illinois senate and long before his eight years in the White House under the unrelenting gaze of the public eye. “Dreams From My Father” is a moving and frank work of self-excavation — mercifully free of the kind of virtue-signaling and cheerful moralizing that makes so many politicians’ memoirs read like notes to a stump speech.

Obama recounts an upbringing that set him apart, with a tangle of roots that didn’t give him an obvious map to who he was. His father was from Kenya; his mother from Kansas. Obama himself was born in Hawaii, lived in Indonesia for a time, and was largely raised by his mother and maternal grandparents, after his father left for Harvard when Obama was 2.

“I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds,” he writes, “understanding that each possessed its own language and customs and structures of meaning, convinced that with a bit of translation on my part the two worlds would eventually cohere.” To see what held his worlds together was also to learn what kept them apart. This is a book about the uses of disenchantment; the revelations are all the more astonishing for being modest and hard-won. — Jennifer Szalai

Philip Roth

Simon & schuster, 1991.

Philip Roth’s book is a Kaddish to his father, Herman Roth, who developed a benign brain tumor at 86. Surgery was not an option, and Herman became immured in his body, which “had become a terrifying escape-proof enclosure, the holding pen in a slaughterhouse.”

“Patrimony,” which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, is written plainly, without any flourishes — just the unbearable facts of a father’s decline, the body weakening, the vigorous mind dimming. It’s the rough stuff of devotion. Roth adopts care of his increasingly difficult father and witnesses his rapid decline, admonishing himself: “You must not forget anything.”

“He was always teaching me something,” Roth recalls of his father. He never stopped. In this book, Roth offers a moving tribute to the man but also a portrait almost breathtaking in its honesty and lack of sentimentalism, so truthful and exact that it is as much a portrait of living as dying, son as father. “He could be a pitiless realist,” Roth writes of Herman, proudly. “But I wasn’t his offspring for nothing.” — Parul Sehgal

I had seen my father’s brain, and everything and nothing was revealed. A mystery scarcely short of divine, the brain, even in the case of a retired insurance man with an eighth-grade education from Newark’s Thirteenth Avenue School.

—Philip Roth, “Patrimony”

All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw

Theodore rosengarten, alfred a. knopf, 1974.

This indelible book, an oral history from an illiterate black Alabama sharecropper, won the National Book Award in 1975, beating a lineup of instant classics that included “The Power Broker,” Robert Caro’s biography of Robert Moses; Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men”; Studs Terkel’s “Working”; and Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Unlike these other books, “All God’s Dangers” has largely been forgotten. It’s time for that to change.

This book’s author, Theodore Rosengarten, was a Harvard graduate student who went to Alabama in 1968 while researching a defunct labor organization. Someone suggested he speak with Shaw, whose real name was Ned Cobb. What emerged from Cobb’s mouth was dense and tangled social history, a narrative that essentially takes us from slavery to Selma from the point of view of an unprosperous but eloquent and unbroken black man.

Reading it, you will learn more about wheat, guano, farm implements, bugs, cattle killing and mule handling than you would think possible. This is also a dense catalog of the ways that whites tricked and mistreated blacks in the first half of the 20th century. “Years ago I heard that Abraham Lincoln freed the colored people,” Cobb says, “but it didn’t amount to a hill of beans.” About his white neighbors, he declares, “Any way they could deprive a Negro was a celebration to ’em.” This book is not always easy reading, but it is the real deal, an essential American document. — Dwight Garner

Lives Other Than My Own

Emmanuel carrère. translated from the french by linda coverdale., metropolitan books/henry holt & company, 2011.

You begin this memoir thinking it will be about one thing, and it turns into something else altogether — a book at once more ordinary and more extraordinary than any first impressions might allow.

Emmanuel Carrère starts with the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka — he was there, vacationing with his girlfriend. But that’s just the first 50 pages. Then he turns to the story of his girlfriend’s sister, a small-town judge who’s dying of cancer, and her friendship with another judge, who also has cancer. Carrère’s girlfriend chides him for thinking that such unpromising material offers him some sort of golden storytelling opportunity: “They don’t even sleep together — and at the end, she dies,” she says to him. “Have I got that straight? That’s your story?”

She does have it straight, but there’s so much more to it. Carrère weaves in his own experiences, coming up against his own limitations, his own prejudices, his own understanding of what defines a meaningful life. His sentences are clean, never showy; he writes about himself through others in a way that feels both necessarily generous and candidly — which is to say appropriately — narcissistic.

Whenever I try to describe this memoir — and I do that often, since it’s a book I don’t just recommend but implore people to read — I feel like I’m trying to parse a magic trick. — Jennifer Szalai

A Tale of Love and Darkness

Amos oz. translated from the hebrew by nicholas de lange., harcourt, 2004.

This memoir was born from a long silence, written 50 years after Amos Oz’s mother killed herself with sleeping pills, when he was 12, three months before his bar mitzvah. The resulting book is both brutal and generous, filled with meandering reflections on a life’s journey in politics and literature.

The only child of European Jews who settled in the Promised Land, Oz grew up alongside the new state of Israel, initially enamored of a fierce nationalism before becoming furiously (and in one memorable scene, rather hilariously) disillusioned. As a lonely boy, Oz felt unseen by his awkward father and confounded by his brilliant and deeply unhappy mother. She taught him that people were a constant source of betrayal and disappointment. Books, though, would never let him down. Hearing about what happened to those Jews who stayed in Europe, the young Oz wanted to become a book, because no matter how many books were destroyed there was a decent chance that one copy could survive.

Oz says he essentially killed his father by moving to a kibbutz at 15 and changing his name. But his father lives on in this memoir, along with Oz’s mother — not just in his recollections of her, but in the very existence of this book. She was the one who captivated him with stories that “amazed you, sent shivers up your spine, then disappeared back into the darkness before you had time to see what was in front of your eyes.” — Jennifer Szalai

This Boy’s Life

Tobias wolff, the atlantic monthly press, 1989.

“Our car boiled over again just after my mother and I crossed the Continental Divide.” So begins Tobias Wolff’s powerful and impeccably written memoir of his childhood in the 1950s, a classic of the genre that has lost none of its power.

Divorced mother and son had hit the road together, fleeing a bad man, trying to change their luck and maybe get rich as uranium prospectors. The author’s wealthy and estranged father was absent. Soon his mother linked up with a man named Dwight (never trust a man named Dwight) who beat young Wolff, stole his paper route money and forced him to shuck horse chestnuts after school for hours, until his hands were “crazed with cuts and scratches” from their sharply spined husks. Wolff became wild in high school, a delinquent and a petty thief, before escaping to a prep school in Pennsylvania. His prose lights up the experience of growing up in America during this era. He describes going to confession and trying to articulate an individual sin this way: “It was like fishing a swamp, where you feel the tug of something that at first seems promising and then resistant and finally hopeless as you realize that you’ve snagged the bottom, that you have the whole planet on the other end of your line.” — Dwight Garner

A Life’s Work

Rachel cusk, picador, 2002.

Rachel Cusk writes about new motherhood with an honesty and clarity that makes this memoir feel almost illicit. Sleepless nights, yes; colic, yes; but also a raw, frantic love for her firstborn daughter that she depicts and dissects with both rigor and amazement.

As many readers as there are who love “A Life’s Work” as much as I do, I know others who have been put off by its steely register, finding it too denuded, shorn of warmth and giddiness — those very things that help make motherhood such an enormous experience, and not just a grueling one. But whenever I read Cusk’s book, I am irrevocably pulled along in its thrall, constantly startled by her observations — milk running “in untasted rivulets” down her baby’s “affronted cheek”; pregnancy literature that “bristles with threats and the promise of reprisal” — and her willingness to see her experience cold.

Or, at least, to try to, because what becomes clear is that it’s impossible for Cusk to hold on to her old self. The childless writer who could compartmentalize with ease and take boundaries for granted has to learn an entirely new way of being. Embedded in Cusk’s chiseled sentences are her attempts to engage with a roiling vulnerability. None of the chipper, treacly stuff here; motherhood deserves more respect than that. — Jennifer Szalai

J.M. Coetzee

Viking, 1997.

The Nobel Prize-winning J.M. Coetzee is one of those novelists who rarely give interviews, and when he does, he’s like the Robert Mueller of the literary world — reticent, discreet and quietly insistent that his books should speak for themselves.

Coetzee, in other words, is taciturn in the extreme. Yet he has also written three revealing volumes about his life — “Boyhood,” “Youth” and “Summertime.” The first, “Boyhood,” is most explicitly and conventionally a memoir, covering his years growing up in a provincial village outside of Cape Town. The child of Afrikaner parents who had pretensions to English gentility, he was buttoned-up and sensitive, desperate to fit into the “normal” world around him but also confounded and repulsed by it. He noticed how his indolent relatives clung to their privileged position in South Africa’s brutal racial hierarchy through cruelty and a raw assertion of power. Out in the world, he lived in constant fear of violence and humiliation; at home he was cosseted by his mother and presided like a king.

The memoir is told in the third-person present tense, which lends it a peculiar immediacy. Coetzee is free to observe the boy he once was without the interpretive intrusions that come with age; he can remain true to what he felt then, rather than what he knows now. His recollections are stark and painfully intimate: “He feels like a crab pulled out of its shell, pink and wounded and obscene.” — Jennifer Szalai

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974

“The book is already a period piece,” the legendary travel writer Jan Morris opens her memoir. “It was written in the 1970s, and is decidedly of the 1970s.” It might be of its time but it is also ardent, musical, poetic and full of warm humor — a chronicle of ecstasies. Best remembered as one of the first accounts of gender transition, “Conundrum” is a study of home in all its forms — of finding home in one’s body, of Morris’s native Wales, of all the cities she possesses by dint of loving them so fiercely.

We are carried from her childhood, in the lap of a family militantly opposed to conformity, to her long career as a reporter in England and Egypt. She went everywhere, met everyone: Che Guevara (“sharp as a cat in Cuba”), Guy Burgess (“swollen with drink and self-reproach in Moscow”). It’s an enviably full life, with a long marriage, four children and Morris’s determinedly sunny disposition and ability to regard every second of her life, however difficult — especially if difficult — as a species of grand adventure.

She chafes at the notion of “identity” (“a trendy word I have long distrusted, masking as it often does befuddled ideas and lazy thinking”). It is thrilling to watch her arrive at an understanding of a sense of self and language that is her own, bespoke. “To me gender is not physical at all, but is altogether insubstantial,” she writes. “It was a melody that I heard within myself.” — Parul Sehgal

I did not query my condition, or seek reasons for it. I knew very well that it was an irrational conviction — I was in no way psychotic, and perhaps not much more neurotic than most of us; but there it was, I knew it to be true, and if it was impossible then the definition of possibility was inadequate.

—Jan Morris, “Conundrum”

Sonali Deraniyagala

Alfred a. knopf, 2013.

Sonali Deraniyagala was searching the internet for ways to kill herself when one click led to another and she was staring at a news article featuring pictures of her two young sons. The boys had died not long before — victims of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, which also killed Deraniyagala’s husband and her parents. She herself survived by clinging to a branch.

“Wave” is a meticulous account of derangement — of being so undone by grief that life becomes not just impossible but terrifying. She recalls stabbing herself with a butter knife. She couldn’t look at a flower or a blade of grass without feeling a sickening sense of panic. Reading this book is like staring into the abyss, only instead of staring back it might just swallow you whole.

This, believe it or not, is why you should read it — for Deraniyagala’s unflinching account of the horror that took away her family, and for her willingness to lay bare how it made her not only more vulnerable but also, at times, more cruel. Her return to life was gradual, tentative and difficult; she learned the only way out of her unbearable anguish was to remember what had happened and to keep it close. — Jennifer Szalai

Always Unreliable: Unreliable Memoirs, Falling Towards England and May Week Was in June

Clive james, picador, 2004.

The Australian-born critic, poet, memoirist, novelist, travel writer and translator Clive James isn’t as well known in America as he is in England, where he’s lived most of his adult life. Over there, cabdrivers know who James is: the ebullient man who hosted many comic and erudite television programs over the years. We have no one quite like him over here: Think Johnny Carson combined with Edmund Wilson.

James is the author of five memoirs, to which many readers have a cultlike devotion. The first three — “Unreliable Memoirs,” “Falling Towards England” and “May Week Was in June” — have been collected into one volume, “Always Unreliable,” and they are especially incisive and comic. In a preface to the first book, James dealt a truth few memoirists will admit: “Most first novels are disguised autobiographies. This autobiography is a disguised novel.” He’s an admitted exaggerator, but nonetheless he’s led a big life.

He was born in 1939 and grew up with an absent father, a Japanese prisoner of war. Released, his father died in a plane crash on his way home when James was 5. The author fully relives his adolescent agonies (“you can die of envy for cratered faces weeping with yellow pus”) and his rowdy troublemaking years. Later volumes take him to London and then to Cambridge University, where he edits Granta, the literary magazine, dabbles in theater (“It was my first, cruel exposure to the awkward fact that the arts attract the insane”) and gets married. He is never less than good company. — Dwight Garner

Travels With Lizbeth

Lars eighner, st. martin’s press, 1993.

Lars Eighner’s memoir contains the finest first-person writing we have about the experience of being homeless in America. Yet it’s not a dirge or a Bukowski-like scratching of the groin but an offbeat and plaintive hymn to life. It’s the sort of book that releases the emergency brake on your soul. Eighner spent three years on the streets (mostly in Austin, Tex.) and on the road in the late 1980s and early 1990s, after suffering from migraines and losing a series of jobs. The book he wrote is a literate and exceedingly humane document.

On the streets, he clung to a kind of dignity. He refused to beg or steal. He didn’t care for drugs; he barely drank. “Being suddenly intoxicated in a public place in the early afternoon,” he writes, “is not my idea of a good time.” He foraged for books and magazines as much as food, but an especially fine portion of this book is his writing about dumpster-diving. There’s the jarring impression that every grain of rice is a maggot. About botulism, he writes: “Often the first symptom is death.” There is something strangely Emersonian, capable and self-reliant, in his scavenging. “I live from the refuse of others,” he declares. “I think it a sound and honorable niche.” — Dwight Garner

Day after day I could aspire, within reason, to nothing more than survival. Although the planets wandered among the stars and the moon waxed and waned, the identical naked barrenness of existence was exposed to me, day in and day out.

—Lars Eighner, “Travels With Lizbeth”

Little, Brown & Company, 2015

The photographer Sally Mann’s memoir is weird, intense and uncommonly beautiful. She has real literary gifts, and she’s led a big Southern-bohemian life, rich with incident. Or maybe it only seems rich with incident because of an old maxim that still holds: Stories happen only to people who can tell them.

Like Mary Karr, Mann as a child was a scrappy, troublemaking tomboy, one who grew into a scrappy, troublemaking, impossible-to-ignore young woman and artist. She was raised in Virginia by sophisticated, lettered parents. When she grew too wild, they sent her away to a prep school in Vermont where, she writes, “I smoked, I drank, I skipped classes, I snuck out, I took drugs, I stole quarts of ice cream for my dorm by breaking into the kitchen storerooms, I made out with my boyfriends in the library basement, I hitchhiked into town and down I-91, and when caught, I weaseled out of all of it.”

This memoir recounts some of the Southern gothic elements of her parents’ lives. This book is heavily illustrated, and traces her growth as an artist. It recounts friendships with Southern artists and writers such as Cy Twombly and Reynolds Price. Her anecdotes have snap. About his advanced old age, in a line that is hard to forget, Twombly tells the author that he is “closing down the bodega for real.” But this story is entirely her own. — Dwight Garner

Country Girl

Edna o’brien, little, brown and company, 2013.

The enormously gifted Irish writer Edna O’Brien was near the red-hot center of the Swinging ’60s in London. She dropped acid with her psychiatrist, R.D. Laing. Among those who came to her parties were Marianne Faithfull, Sean Connery, Princess Margaret and Jane Fonda. Richard Burton and Marlon Brando tried to get her into bed. Robert Mitchum succeeded after wooing her with this pickup line: “I bet you wish I was Robert Taylor, and I bet you never tasted white peaches.”

O’Brien was born in a village in County Clare, in the west of Ireland, in 1930. This earthy and evocative book also traces her youth and her development as a writer. Her small family was religious. Her father was a farmer who drank and gambled; her mother was a former maid. She has described her village, Tuamgraney, as “enclosed, fervid and bigoted.” O’Brien didn’t attend college. She moved to Dublin, where she worked in a drugstore while studying at the Pharmaceutical College at night. She began to read literature, and she wondered: “Why could life not be lived at that same pitch? Why was it only in books that I could find the utter outlet for my emotions?” This memoir has perfect pitch. — Dwight Garner

Marjane Satrapi. Translated from the French by Mattias Ripa and Blake Ferris.

Pantheon, 2003.

At the age of 6, Marjane Satrapi privately declared herself the last prophet of Islam. At 14, she left Iran for a boarding school in Austria, sent away by parents terrified of their outspoken daughter’s penchant for challenging her teachers (and hypocrisy wherever she sniffed it out). At 31, she published “Persepolis,” in French (it was later translated into English by Mattias Ripa and Blake Ferris), a stunning graphic memoir hailed as a wholly original achievement in the form.

There’s still a startling freshness to the book. It won’t age. In inky shadows and simple, expressive lines — reminiscent of Ludwig Bemelmans’s “Madeline” — Satrapi evokes herself and her schoolmates coming of age in a world of protests and disappearances (and scoring punk rock cassettes on the black market).

The revolution, the rise of fundamentalism, a brutal family history of torture, imprisonment and exile are conveyed from a child’s perspective and achieve a stark, shocking impact. — Parul Sehgal

Margo Jefferson

Pantheon, 2015.

The motto was simple in Margo Jefferson’s childhood home: “Achievement. Invulnerability. Comportment.” Her family was part of Chicago’s black elite. Her father was the head pediatrician at Provident, America’s oldest black hospital; her mother was a socialite. They saw themselves as a “Third Race, poised between the masses of Negroes and all classes of Caucasians.” Life was navigated according to strict standards of behavior and femininity. Jefferson writes of the punishing psychic burden of growing up feeling that she was a representative for her race and, later, of nagging, terrifying suicidal impulses.

Jefferson won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for her book reviews in The New York Times. “Negroland” is an extended form of criticism that dances between a history of social class to a close reading of her mother’s expressions; the information calibrated in a brow arched “three to four millimeters.”

The prose is blunt and evasive, sensuous and ascetic, doubting and resolute — and above all beautifully skeptical of the genre, of the memoir’s conventions, clichés and limits. “How do you adapt your singular, willful self to so much history and myth? So much glory, banality, honor and betrayal?” she asks. This shape-shifting, form-shattering book carves one path forward. — Parul Sehgal

25 More Great Memoirs

Presented in Alphabetical Order by Author

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

Viv albertine, thomas dunne books/st. martin’s press, 2014.

Viv Albertine participated in the birth of punk in the mid-1970s. She was in a band with Sid Vicious before he joined the Sex Pistols. She dated Mick Jones while he was putting together his new band, the Clash. She could barely play guitar, yet she became the lead guitarist for the Slits. Her memoir is wiry and fearless. It contains story after story about men who told her she couldn’t do things that she did anyway. Her life up to the breakup of the Slits occupies only half of the book. There’s a lot of pain in the second section: loneliness, doubt, a bad marriage, cancer, depression. Throughout, this account has an honest, lo-fi grace.

Martin Amis

Talk miramax books/hyperion, 2000.

In this memoir, the acclaimed author of “London Fields,” “Money” and other novels decided, he writes, “to speak, for once, without artifice.” The entertaining, loosely structured result is movingly earnest and wickedly funny. It includes a portrait, both cleareyed and affectionate, of the author’s father, the comic novelist and poet Kingsley Amis. In addition, “Experience” offers more vivid and harrowing writing about dental problems than you might have thought one person capable of producing.

Slow Days, Fast Company

Alfred a. knopf, 1977.

The Los Angeles-born glamour girl, bohemian, artist, muse, sensualist, wit and pioneering foodie Eve Babitz writes prose that reads like Nora Ephron by way of Joan Didion, albeit with more lust and drugs and tequila. “Slow Days, Fast Company” and “Eve’s Hollywood,” the book that preceded it, are officially billed as fiction, but they are mostly undisguised dispatches from her own experiences in 1970s California. Reading her is like being out on the warm open road at sundown, with what she called “4/60 air-conditioning” — that is, going 60 miles per hour with all four windows down. You can feel the wind in your hair.

Russell Baker

Congdon & weed, 1982.

Russell Baker’s warm and disarmingly funny account of his life growing up in Depression-era America has garnered comparisons to the work of Mark Twain. The book quickly became a beloved best seller when it was published, and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for biography. Baker was born into poverty in Virginia in 1925. He was 5 years old when his father, then 33, fell into a diabetic coma and died. The author’s strong, affectionate mother is a major presence in the book. Baker, a longtime humorist and columnist for The New York Times, died in January at 93.

Kafka Was the Rage

Anatole broyard, carol southern books/crown publishers, 1993.

Anatole Broyard, a longtime book critic and essayist for The New York Times, died in 1990 of prostate cancer. What he had finished of this memoir before his death mostly concerned his time living in the West Village after World War II. “A war is like an illness,” he writes, “and when it’s over you think you’ve never felt so well.” He writes about the vogue for psychoanalysis, his experience opening a used-book store and, primarily, his formative relationship with the artist Sheri Martinelli (her pseudonym in the book is Sheri Donatti). The book was truncated, but the writing in it is brilliant and often epigrammatic: “I just want love to live up to its publicity.”

Between the World and Me

Ta-nehisi coates, spiegel & grau, 2015.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book, in the form of a letter to his son, is a scalding examination of his own experience as a black man in America, and of how much of American history has been systemically built on exploiting and committing violence against black bodies. Inspired by a section of James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” that was addressed to the author’s nephew, Coates’s book is a powerful testimony that will continue to have a profound impact on discussions about race in America.

The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan didion, alfred a. knopf, 2005.

Joan Didion, so long an exemplar of cool, of brilliant aloofness, showed us her unraveling in this memoir about the sudden death of her husband of 40 years, the writer John Gregory Dunne, and the frightening illness of her daughter, Quintana. It’s a troubled, meditative book, in which Didion writes of what it feels like to have “cut loose any fixed idea I had ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad.”

Barbarian Days

William finnegan, penguin press, 2015.

This account of a lifelong surfing obsession won the Pulitzer Prize in biography. William Finnegan, a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker, recalls his childhood in California and Hawaii, his many surfing buddies through the years and his taste for a kind of danger that approaches the sublime. In his 20s, he traveled through Asia and Africa and the South Pacific in search of waves, living in tents and cars and cheap apartments. One takes away from “Barbarian Days” a sense of a big, wind-chapped, well-lived life.

Personal History

Katharine graham, alfred a. knopf, 1997.

Katharine Graham’s brilliant but remote father, Eugene Meyer, capped his successful career as a financier and public servant by buying the struggling Washington Post in 1933 and nursing it to health. Graham took command of the paper in 1963, and steered it through the Watergate scandal and the end of Richard Nixon’s presidency, among other dramas. Her autobiography covers her life from childhood to her command of a towering journalistic institution in a deeply male-dominated industry. Her tone throughout is frank, self-critical, modest and justifiably proud.

Thinking in Pictures

Temple grandin, doubleday, 1995.

Memoirs are valued, in part, for their ability to open windows onto experiences other than our own, and few do that as dramatically as Temple Grandin’s “Thinking in Pictures.” Grandin, a professor of animal science who is autistic, describes the “library” of visual images in her memory, which she is constantly updating. (“It’s like getting a new version of software for the computer.”) As Oliver Sacks wrote in an introduction to the book, “Grandin’s voice came from a place which had never had a voice, never been granted real existence, before.”

Autobiography of a Face

Lucy grealy, houghton mifflin, 1994.

When she was 9 years old, Lucy Grealy was stricken with a rare, virulent form of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. She had radical surgery to remove half of her jaw, and years of radiation and chemotherapy, and recovered. She then endured a sense of disfigurement and isolation from other children. She became an accomplished poet and essayist before dying at 39 in 2002. Although entitled to self-pity, Grealy was not given to it. This memoir is a moving meditation on ugliness and beauty. Grealy’s life is the subject of another powerful memoir, Ann Patchett’s “Truth & Beauty,” which recounts the friendship between the two writers.

Dancing With Cuba

Alma guillermoprieto. translated from the spanish by esther allen., pantheon, 2004.

Alma Guillermoprieto was a 20-year-old dance student in 1969, when Merce Cunningham offered to recommend her for a teaching job at the National Schools of the Arts in Havana. This memoir is her account of the six months she spent there, a frustrating and fascinating time that opened her eyes to the world beyond dance. Eventually, political turmoil, piled on top of loneliness, youthful angst and assorted romantic troubles, led the author to the edge of a nervous breakdown. This remembrance is a pleasure to read, full of humanity, sly humor, curiosity and knowledge.

Minor Characters

Joyce johnson, houghton mifflin, 1983.

Joyce Johnson was 21 and not long out of Barnard College when, in the winter of 1957, Allen Ginsberg set her up on a blind date with Jack Kerouac, who was 34 and still largely unknown. Thus began an off-and-on relationship that lasted nearly two years, during which time “On the Road” was published, leading to life-altering fame — not only for Kerouac but many of his closest friends. Johnson’s book about this time is a riveting portrait of an era, and a glowing introduction to the Beats. It’s a book about a so-called minor character who, in the process of writing her life, became a major one.

The Memory Chalet

Penguin press, 2010.

The historian Tony Judt, who was known for his incisive analysis of current events and his synthesizing of European history in books like “Postwar,” wrote this book of autobiographical fragments after he was stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and had become “effectively quadriplegic.” He would think back over his life in the middle of the night, shape those memories into stories and dictate them to an assistant the next day. “The Memory Chalet,” the resulting unlikely artifact, ranges over Judt’s boyhood in England; the lives of his lower-middle-class Jewish parents; life as a student and fellow at King’s College, Cambridge, in the 1960s and early ’70s; and his life in New York City, where he eventually settled and taught.

Kiese Laymon

Scribner, 2018.

The most recently published entry on this list of 50 books, Kiese Laymon’s “Heavy” details the author’s childhood in Mississippi in the 1980s and his relationship with his alternately loving and abusive mother, who raised him on her own. It’s full of sharp, heart-rending thoughts about growing up black in the United States, and his fraught relationship with his body — Laymon’s weight has severely fluctuated over the years, a subject he plumbs with great sensitivity. This is a gorgeous, gutting book that’s fueled by candor yet freighted with ambivalence. It’s full of devotion and betrayal, euphoria and anguish.


Patricia lockwood, riverhead books, 2017.

Patricia Lockwood, an acclaimed poet, weaves in this memoir the story of her family — including her Roman Catholic priest father, who received a special dispensation from the Vatican — with the crisis that led her and her husband to live temporarily under her parents’ rectory roof. The book, consistently alive with feeling, is written with elastic style. And in Lockwood’s father, Greg, it has one of the great characters in nonfiction: He listens to Rush Limbaugh while watching Bill O’Reilly, consumes Arby’s Beef ’n Cheddar sandwiches the way other humans consume cashews and strides around in his underwear. Hilarious descriptions — of, to take one example, Greg’s guitar playing — alternate with profound examinations of family, art and faith.

H Is for Hawk

Helen macdonald, grove press, 2015.

When we meet Helen Macdonald in this beautiful and nearly feral book, she’s in her 30s, with “no partner, no children, no home.” When her father dies suddenly on a London street, it steals the floor from beneath her. Obsessed with birds of prey since she was a girl, Macdonald was already an experienced falconer. In her grief, seeking escape into something, she began to train one of nature’s most vicious predators, a goshawk. She unplugged her telephone. She told her friends to leave her alone. Nearly every paragraph she writes about the experience is strange in the best way, and injected with unexpected meaning.

The Color of Water

James mcbride, riverhead books, 1996.

This complex and moving story, which enjoyed a long run on best-seller lists, is about James McBride’s relationship with his mother, Ruth, the daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox Jewish rabbi. She fervently adopted Christianity and founded a black Baptist church in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn with McBride’s father. The book is suffused with issues of race, religion and identity, and simultaneously transcends those issues to be a story of family love and the sheer force of a mother’s will.

Angela’s Ashes

Frank mccourt, scribner, 1996.

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all,” Frank McCourt writes near the beginning of his Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir. His parents had immigrated to New York, where McCourt was born, but soon moved back to Ireland, where they hoped relatives could help them with their four children. Having returned, they experienced crushing poverty. The book did perhaps more than any other to cement the 1990s boom in memoir writing — and reading. It features a Dickensian gallery of schoolmasters, shopkeepers and priests, in addition to McCourt’s unforgettable family.


Scholastique mukasonga. translated from the french by jordan stump., archipelago books, 2016.

Thirty-seven of Scholastique Mukasonga’s family members were massacred in the Rwandan genocide in the spring of 1994, when the Hutu majority turned on their Tutsi neighbors, killing more than 800,000 people in 100 days. “Cockroaches” is Mukasonga’s devastating account of her childhood and what she was able to learn about the slaughter of her family. (“Cockroach” was the Hutu epithet of choice for the Tutsis.) It is a compendium of unspeakable crimes and horrifically inventive sadism, delivered in an even, unwavering tone.

Keith Richards

Little, brown & company, 2010.

In “Life,” the Rolling Stones guitarist writes with uncommon candor and immediacy — with the help of the veteran journalist James Fox — about drugs and his run-ins with the police; about the difficulties of getting and staying clean; and about the era when rock ’n’ roll came of age. He spares none of his thoughts, good and bad, about Mick Jagger. He also describes the spongelike love of music that he inherited from his grandfather, and his own sense of musical history — his reverence for the blues and R&B masters he has studied his entire life.

A Life in the Twentieth Century

Arthur schlesinger jr., houghton mifflin company, 2000.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a prizewinning historian who served in John F. Kennedy’s White House, here writes about the first 33 years of his life, from his birth in 1917 — the year the United States entered World War I — to 1950 and the beginnings of the Cold War. The son of an acclaimed historian, Schlesinger was born into great privilege. He went on a yearlong trip around the world between graduating from prep school and attending Harvard. This book has incisive things to say about the large themes of world history, including isolationism and interventionism, and about many other subjects besides, including the films of the 1930s.

Edmund White

Ecco/harpercollins publishers, 2006.

“My Lives” is broken into chapters whose headings follow a clever formula: “My Shrinks,” “My Mother,” “My Father,” “My Hustlers” ... But these seemingly narrow-focus, time-hopping slices add up to a robust autobiography. Edmund White’s portraits of his parents and their lives before him are novelistic; his writing about his own sexual experiences is exceedingly candid. Reviewing the book for The Guardian, the novelist Alan Hollinghurst said that “no other writer of White’s eminence has described his sexual life with such purposeful clarity.”

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Jeanette winterson, grove press, 2012.

This memoir’s title is the question Jeanette Winterson’s adoptive mother asked after discovering her daughter was a lesbian. Winterson’s mother loomed over her life, as she looms over this book. In a quiet way she is one of the great horror mothers of English-language literature. When she was angry with her daughter, she would say, “The Devil led us to the wrong crib.” This memoir’s narrative includes Winterson’s search for her birth mother and the author’s self-invention, her intellectual development. The device of the trapped young person saved by books is a hoary one, but Winterson makes it seem new, and sulfurous.

Close to the Knives

David wojnarowicz, vintage, 1991.

David Wojnarowicz, who died at 37 in 1992, was a vital part of the East Village art scene of the 1980s that also produced Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Jean-Michel Basquiat and others. He was a painter, photographer, performance artist, AIDS activist and more — including writer. This work of hard-living autobiography is written in a flood of run-on sentences, and in a tone of almost hallucinatory incandescence. A typical sentence begins: “I remember when I was 8 years old I would crawl out the window of my apartment seven stories above the ground and hold on to the ledge with 10 scrawny fingers and lower myself out above the sea of cars burning up Eighth Avenue ...”

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Crafting Your Legacy: Compelling Memoir Title Ideas & Best Practices

Memoirs are powerful tools for preserving personal histories, sharing life lessons, and inspiring others through one’s unique experiences. Yet, before a reader even glimpses the first page, they are drawn in by one crucial element—the memoir’s title. Your title is the gateway to your story, the promise of the journey ahead, and a glimpse into the essence of your narrative.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the art of crafting compelling memoir titles and offer some best practices to guide you through the process. We’ll help you answer the question of how to make a good title for a story.

The Art of Crafting a Compelling Memoir Title Ideas

  • Capture the Essence: Your memoir title ideas should encapsulate the heart of your story. Think about the central themes, emotions, or lessons you want to convey. Consider what makes your story unique and strive to distill that essence into a few well-chosen words.
  • Embrace Emotion: Great memoirs are emotionally resonant. When thinking about good memoir titles, your book title should reflect the emotional journey of your narrative. Whether it’s joy, resilience, heartbreak, or redemption, convey the predominant emotion in your memoir through your title.
  • Keep It Concise: A concise title is easier to remember and more visually appealing. Aim for brevity while still conveying the essence of your story. A long, convoluted title can be off-putting and may not stick in a reader’s mind.
  • Evoke Curiosity: A compelling memoir title should pique the reader’s curiosity. It should leave them with questions, enticing them to delve deeper into your story. Consider posing a question or using an intriguing phrase that demands exploration.
  • Use Metaphor and Symbolism: Metaphors and symbolism can add depth and layers to your title. They can hint at the underlying themes or events in your memoir, providing readers with a richer understanding of your story.
  • Consider Wordplay: Wordplay, like alliteration or puns, can make your title more memorable and fun. However, be cautious not to overdo it, as it can detract from the seriousness of your memoir’s content.
  • Seek Feedback: Don’t hesitate to seek feedback from friends, family, or writing peers. Their perspectives can provide valuable insights and help you refine your title. Who knows, maybe one of your family or friends will suggest good memory book title ideas!

At StorySavor, we understand that choosing the perfect title for your life story can be a challenging but rewarding process. How to title your story is a question that resonates deeply with us, and we’re here to guide you through it. Your life is a tapestry of experiences, emotions, and moments that deserve a title that does justice to the richness of your narrative. When it comes to how to title your story, we believe in capturing the essence of your journey, inspiring curiosity, and leaving a lasting imprint on your readers’ hearts.

Memoir Title Ideas for Inspiration

If you’re looking for creative autobiography title ideas, we’ve included a list of good book titles and what makes them so effective!

  • Unbroken Bonds: A Memoir of Family and Forgiveness: This title suggests themes of family dynamics and the healing power of forgiveness.
  • Chasing Shadows: A Journey through Grief and Redemption: Evoking imagery of pursuit and transformation, this title hints at a story of loss and personal growth.
  • Notes from the Wild: A Woman’s Solo Adventure: This title combines intrigue with empowerment, promising an adventurous memoir.
  • Threads of Resilience: Stitching Life’s Challenges into Triumph: Metaphorical and empowering, this title suggests a story of resilience and overcoming adversity.
  • Echoes of Yesterday: A Memoir of Love and Loss: This title invokes nostalgia and the passage of time, hinting at a poignant tale of love and its inevitable trials.
  • Beyond the Horizon: Navigating Life’s Uncharted Waters: A title that suggests a journey into the unknown and the pursuit of personal growth and discovery.
  • From Broken to Whole: A Journey of Self-Discovery: This title communicates transformation and self-acceptance, promising a powerful memoir of personal growth.

Hopefully some of these creative autobiography title ideas were able to demonstrate clever ways to incorporate your story and theme into the book’s title.

Best Practices for Crafting an Effective Memoir Title Ideas

Selecting the perfect titles for a book about your life is a deeply personal and meaningful endeavor. It’s a chance to encapsulate the essence of your unique journey in just a few words, to offer readers a glimpse into your world. Your life’s story deserves a title that not only reflects its most pivotal moments but also resonates with the emotions, lessons, and experiences that have shaped you.

Here are some best practices to follow:

  • Research Existing Titles: Before finalizing your title, research existing memoir titles to ensure yours stands out and isn’t too similar to others. You want your memoir to be distinctive.
  • Test Your Title: Share your title with a select group of people and gather feedback. Ask them what emotions or themes the title evokes and whether it piques their interest.
  • Consider SEO: If you plan to market your memoir online, consider search engine optimization (SEO). Ensure that your title contains relevant keywords that potential readers might search for. Good memoir titles are more than just catchy, they can also drive internet traffic!
  • Stay True to Your Story: While it’s important to craft a compelling title, it should also authentically represent your memoir. Avoid sensationalism or exaggeration that misrepresents your narrative.
  • Stay Open to Change: Don’t be afraid to revisit and revise your title as you progress in your writing. Sometimes, the perfect title reveals itself as your memoir evolves.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: If you’re struggling to come up with a title or want expert assistance, consider consulting a professional editor or a biography writing services company experienced in crafting compelling memoir titles.

Captivating Cover Photos and Memorable Memoir Title Ideas: A Winning Combination

When it comes to crafting a compelling biography, one often-underestimated aspect is how to design a good book cover. A well-designed book cover serves as the initial point of contact between your story and potential readers, making it crucial to get it right. So, how to design a good book cover? First, consider the essence of the biography and its central themes. This understanding will help you choose colors, imagery, and fonts that resonate with the narrative. Second, strive for visual simplicity and clarity, ensuring that the cover conveys the book’s message at a glance. A good book cover should be both eye-catching and informative. Lastly, invest in a skilled designer who can bring your vision to life, as professional design expertise can make all the difference in creating a book cover that not only grabs attention but also communicates the essence of your biography effectively. In the world of biography writing, knowing how to design a good book cover is the gateway to capturing the interest of your target audience and inviting them to explore the fascinating life story within.

They say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but when it comes to memoirs, the cover is often your first chance to make an unforgettable impression. In the world of biography writing, we understand the immense power that a compelling cover photo, coupled with a well-chosen memoir title, can have in getting people interested in reading your book. Let’s explore how this dynamic duo can work wonders for your memoir and give you some book cover inspo!

  • The Visual Hook: Humans are inherently visual creatures. Our eyes are naturally drawn to striking and intriguing images. Your memoir’s cover photo is your visual hook, the image that can stop someone in their tracks and make them want to explore your story further. Whether it’s a captivating portrait of the author, a symbolic image, or a scene from your life, the cover photo sets the stage for the narrative within. You can even flip through old picture books for some book cover inspo – select the images that capture you the second you see them!
  • Emotional Resonance: Crafting great memoir book cover ideas is all about evoking emotions and connecting with readers on a personal level. Your memoir’s title may hint at the emotions within, but the cover photo amplifies this effect. It can convey the essence of your story, the era in which it’s set, or the central theme, instantly resonating with potential readers on an emotional level.
  • Storytelling in a Snapshot: Your memoir title may capture the essence of your story in words, but the cover photo accomplishes this in a single image. It’s a visual representation of your narrative that provides a sneak peek into the world readers will step into when they open your book. It’s like a snapshot of your life’s most compelling moments, inviting readers to explore the full album within.
  • Intrigue and Curiosity: Just as a compelling memoir title sparks curiosity, so does a thought-provoking cover photo. It leaves readers with questions, encouraging them to open the book and uncover the answers. When these two elements work in harmony, you create an irresistible curiosity gap that draws readers in. Following this step alone sets a good memoir book cover idea from a bad one!
  • Branding and Recognition: A memorable cover photo and memoir title can become part of your personal brand as an author. Think of iconic memoirs like “The Diary of Anne Frank” with its diary cover or “Steve Jobs” with a simple but powerful black-and-white portrait. These images have become synonymous with the stories they tell and the authors who wrote them.
  • Online Visibility: In today’s digital age, your memoir will likely be discovered online. A captivating cover photo paired with a memorable memoir title can make your book stand out in online searches, social media posts, and e-bookstores. It’s the combination that ensures your memoir gets noticed in a crowded virtual marketplace.
  • A Lasting Impression: Ultimately, the goal of your memoir is to leave a lasting impression on your readers. When they see your book on a shelf or a website, you want them to remember it, to be drawn to it, and to feel compelled to read it. A compelling cover photo and a good memoir title can achieve just that.

In conclusion, crafting a compelling memoir title is an art form that requires thought, creativity, and a deep understanding of your own story. It is your first opportunity to connect with readers, offering them a glimpse into the profound and transformative journey you are about to take them on. By following the best practices and seeking inspiration from successful titles, you can ensure that your memoir title not only grabs attention but also resonates with the core of your narrative, leaving a lasting impact on your readers’ hearts and minds.

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15 Autobiography Examples to Inspire Your Own

good autobiography titles

So you’re ready to write an autobiography ! Congratulations; this can be a gratifying personal project. And just like any creative endeavor, it’s a great idea to start by getting inspired. 

In this article, we’re sharing 15 stellar autobiography examples to get your wheels turning. We’ll also share some need-to-know info on the different types of autobiographies and autobiography layouts, and we’ll leave you with a list of catchy ways to start your book. Let’s get going!

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In this article, we’ll explore:

What are the different types of autobiographies .

As it turns out, there are many different ways to write a book about yourself. You can go the traditional autobiography route, which is a chronological account of your entire life. Or you can write a memoir , which zeroes in on specific themes or time periods in your life. 

If you’d like, your autobiography can be composed of individual personal essays, or you can blend your autobiography with literary techniques to create a piece of creative nonfiction . 

There are graphic autobiographies that use comics or other combinations of images and text to illustrate your life story, or you can simply publish an edited version of your journal or diary . 

You can write a travelog that documents your life through your adventures or blend elements of your life with made-up stories to create autobiographical fiction . 

When it comes to sharing your life story, there are few rules!

How can I lay out my autobiography? 

Did you know there are multiple ways you can structure your autobiography? The most common is to put it in chronological order . But you can also lay out your book in reverse chronological order or even jump around in time .

Here are a few other layouts to consider: 

  • Thematic or topical . As you outline your autobiography, pay attention to themes that emerge. You can lay out your autobiography by central ideas rather than by time. 
  • Flashback and flash-forward. This nonlinear approach can be a great way to create some excitement and intrigue in your life story.
  • Cyclical structure. Is there one event that you feel defined your life story? Why not try circling back to it throughout your book? This can be an interesting way to demonstrate how your perspective changed with time. 

If you need a little more help laying out your autobiography, we have free autobiography templates and free book templates to help you. 

Related: 50 Eye-Catching Autobiography Titles

15 Autobiographies to inspire your own 

Ready to get your creative juices flowing? Here are some examples of autobiography to add to your reading list. 

1. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Autobiography Examples-The Diary Of A Young Girl

One of the best-known autobiographies, The Diary of a Young Girl, is an excellent example of a journal-style layout. Featuring the story of a young girl who is hiding during the Holocaust, aspiring writers will find inspiration in Frank’s raw emotions and candor. 

2. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda 

Autobiography Examples-Autobiography Of A Yogi

A favorite of Steve Jobs, this autobiography details the author’s spiritual journey through yoga and meditation. It’s a wonderful example of how to blend the recounting of events with spiritual insights and philosophical teachings. 

3. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela 

Autobiography Examples-The Long Walk To Freedom

The former South African president wrote this stunning autobiography about his struggle against apartheid, his imprisonment, and his presidency. Aspiring autobiography writers who want to write a book about social change should read this one. 

4. The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi

Autobiography Examples-The Story Of My Experiments With Truth

In his autobiography, Gandhi explores his philosophy of nonviolent resistance through his political and spiritual journey. Writers will appreciate this book for the way it weaves stories of personal growth into a larger narrative of social change. 

5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Autobiography Examples-I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

One of several autobiographical works by Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings explores her coming-of-age experience amidst racism and a traumatic childhood. Writers should read this to hear Angelou’s powerful story and be inspired by her vivid language. 

6. The Story of My Life by Hellen Keller

Autobiography Examples-The Story Of My Life

Keller details her remarkable life as a deaf and blind person, sharing intimate details about her education and advocacy work. Aspiring writers will benefit from reading Keller’s sensory-rich language since she has the unique experience of navigating the world through touch.

7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

Autobiography Examples-The Autobiography Of Malcolm X

This autobiography, written in collaboration with journalist Alex Haley, tracks Malcolm X from his youth through his adulthood as a prominent activist in the civil rights movement. Read this one to learn tips and tricks for writing about your personal evolution. 

8. The Story of My Life by Clarence Darrow 

Autobiography Examples-The Story Of My Life

Darrow shares his experiences as a civil libertarian and prominent American Lawyer in this enlightening autobiography. Writers should read this one to learn how to build a persuasive argument in their book. 

9. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah 

Autobiography Examples-Born A Crime

South African comedian, television host, and political commentator Trevor Noah wrote this autobiography detailing his upbringing during apartheid in South Africa. This is a must-read for writers who are looking to infuse humor into their autobiographies—even when writing about heavy subjects . 

10. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Autobiography Examples-I Am Malala

In her autobiography, Yousafzia recounts her tumultuous and sometimes terrifying journey advocating for equal education for girls. If you want to write your own autobiography, read this one first to learn how to bring an authentic voice to your narrative. 

11. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Autobiography Examples-The Hiding Place

Boom’s autobiography shares the harrowing story of her family’s efforts to hide Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Writers should read this to witness how Boom weaves a historical narrative into her life story. 

12. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie 

Autobiography Examples-Agatha Christie: An Autobiography

Renowned mystery writer Agatha Christie took time away from her suspenseful novels to write a book about herself. If you plan to write an autobiography, read Christie’s first to learn how to build a sense of intrigue. 

13. Chronicles: Volume 1 by Bob Dylan 

Autobiography Examples-Chronicles Volume 1

If you’re an artist writing your autobiography, you’ll be inspired by Dylan’s. It shares his unique perspective on the creative process in music and literature and delves into what it means to maintain your artistic vision. 

14. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi 

Autobiography Examples-When Breath Becomes Air

This well-known autobiography may make you cry, but it’s well worth the read. Written by a surgeon as he faces a terminal illness, it’s a must-read for any author exploring themes of mortality in their writing. 

15. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama 

Autobiography Examples-Dreams From My Father

This autobiography by the former U.S. president is a great read for anyone aspiring to write an autobiography that intertwines their personal story with a larger societal and political narrative. 

  • 31 Best Autobiographies
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What is a catchy autobiography introduction? 

Sometimes the hardest part of a new project is getting started. If you’re ready to begin writing your autobiography and need a good opener, here are some angles to consider: 

  • Start by describing a childhood dream and how it influenced your journey. 
  • Open with a letter to your younger self.
  • Share a formative childhood memory. 
  • Start with a thought-provoking question you’ll answer as your book progresses.
  • Talk about an object that’s meaningful to you and tie it to a larger story about your life.

With so much inspiration and so many wonderful resources, there’s never been a better time to write your autobiography. If, after reading a few books on this list, you’re not sure where to start with yours—let us help! Just sign up for a book consultation to get started.

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Best Autobiographies

These are the top autobiographies and memoirs according to the web’s most popular book blogs. ranked by how often they were featured..

Best Autobiographies

Memoirs That Changed a Generation

Personal stories, universal impact.

memoirs of a generation

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In the three decades since, the memoir has become a powerful force for healing and change on both the individual and the cultural level. Here are 33 unforgettable personal narratives: the naked truth of real lives, elevated by gorgeous language, unforgettable scenes, breathtaking humor, and artful suspense. Each has the power to change your life and heal your heart.

Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy

Childhood cancer left Grealy with half her jaw removed, a disfigurement that filled her with self-loathing. A heartbreakingly wise child reborn as a brilliant writer, she puts readers in touch with a self beyond ugliness or pain.

The Liars' Club, by Mary Karr

With deadpan humor, a killer eye for detail, and a badass persona founded at age 7, Karr makes a convincing case that there's no dysfunctional childhood that can't be redeemed with a great story.

Prozac Nation, by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Wurtzel's raw emotional honesty about coming of age with a diagnosis and a bottomless pill bottle stirred up a storm of criticism and outrage but spoke straight to the hearts of the Kurt Cobain generation.

Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt

A childhood of abject poverty and brutal loss in Limerick, Ireland, becomes a luminous legend in this extraordinary account. Feeling sorry for yourself about something? Here's a sure end to that.

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel

LGBTQIA+ hero Bechdel grew up in a small-town funeral home run by her father, a man with many secrets. This beautifully illustrated graphic memoir inspires us to rethink the mysteries of our own pasts.

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

Strayed cut short a self-destructive spinout after her mother's death with an 1,100-mile hike up the Pacific Crest Trail, blazing a path for readers who are having trouble forgiving themselves.

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Lifting up brokenhearted women since 2006, this iconic story of reinvention after divorce goes from the pits—a cold bathroom floor—to the peaks, a year of sensory delights and spiritual magic in Italy, India, and Bali.

Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen

Kaysen's parents were so frightened by her adolescent melodrama that they hustled her into treatment and she spent over a year in a mental hospital. Her ability to recreate the mindset of a miserable 18-year-old qualifies this memoir as a self-help book for parents.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers

When their parents died within weeks of each other, leaving him the caretaker of his 8-year-old brother, the 21-year-old author had just one superpower—irony. If there's a grief guide for the cool kids, this is it.

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

If you need to know what makes life worth living in the face of a terminal diagnosis, this book has an answer. The heartfelt reckoning of a 36-year-old neurosurgery resident with stage IV cancer was completed by his wife after he died.

Drinking, by Caroline Knapp

Knapp was exactly the kind of well-educated, high-powered woman nobody dreams has a drinking problem, partly because she was so good at hiding it. The gift she gained by ending the denial is one she shares.

Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi

Does your book club need a reboot? Nafisi's account of gathering with her former students to read forbidden classics in the midst of the Islamist crackdown comes with the world's most powerful reading list.

Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs

Burroughs's no-holds-barred account of his harrowing childhood—gross, hilarious, completely outrageous—writes a bold permission slip for anyone who worries her secrets are too much to share.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

Macdonald's experience of bonding with her goshawk Mabel opens a bright window into the bond between people and animals, deepening our understanding of our role as custodians of the natural world.

Just Kids, by Patti Smith

A magic carpet ride to the bohemian New York of the late ’60s and early ’70s, the future punk heroine's love letter to her friend Robert Mapplethorpe is filled with idealism, beauty, and sweetness.

Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward

Ward wrote this book to understand the unjust, untimely deaths of her brother and four other beloved Black men, revealing the forces of poverty and racism in their most personal and vicious form.

First They Killed My Father, by Loung Ung

The author's survival of the violence and terror of the Cambodian Pol Pot regime is a stirring testimony to the resilience of children, a green shoot of hope and goodness in the devastation of the killing fields.

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

Read this book to be astonished—by the gutting nightmare of Didion's loss, and by the power of her intellect and her sentences to transform it into an immortal thing of beauty and deep humanity.

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

Without a bit of sugarcoating, Walls shows how we can love our families and our history no matter how much of a nightmare it all was. Her journey from the trailer park to the limo is an all-American success story.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris

If laughter is the best medicine, Sedaris is a great big bottle of it. The avatar of dysfunctional families everywhere, his sardonic, self-deprecating storytelling is guaranteed to deliver comic relief.

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  •   50 best autobiographies & biographies of all time

50 best autobiographies & biographies of all time

Enlightening and inspiring: these are the best autobiographies and biographies of 2024, and all time. .

good autobiography titles

Reading an autobiography can offer a unique insight into a world and experience very different from your own – and these real-life stories are even more entertaining, and stranger, than fiction . Take a glimpse into the lives of some of the world's most inspiring and successful celebrities , politicians and sports people and more in our edit of the best autobiographies and biographies to read right now.

  • New autobiographies & biographies
  • Inspiring autobiographies & biographies
  • Sports autobiographies & biographies
  • Celebrity autobiographies & biographies
  • Political & historical autobiographies
  • Literary autobiographies & biographies

The best new autobiographies and biographies

Sociopath: a memoir, by patric gagne.

Book cover for Sociopath: A Memoir

The most unputdownable memoir you’ll read this year, Sociopath is the story of Patric Gagne, and her extraordinary life lived on the edge. With seering honestly, Patric explains how, as a child she always knew she was different. Graduating from feelings of apathy to petty theft and stalking, she realised as an adult that she was a sociopath, uncaring of the impact of her actions on others. Sharing the conflict she feels between her impulses, and her desire to live a settled, loving life with her partner, Sociopath is a fascinating story of one woman’s journey to find a place for herself in the world. 

How Was It For You?

By eve smith.

Book cover for How Was It For You?

From the poolsides of private Caribbean villas where the nation’s wealthiest spend their downtime to strip clubs, brothels, and online platforms, wherever sex is being sold, ‘Eve’ has been there. Now, she’s ready to tell her story of what selling sex is really like – the good, the bad, and the boring bits – and examine why this booming industry continues to live in the shadows and be condemned by the country’s lawmakers and moral police. A compelling and candid anonymous memoir about the reality of working in the sex industry in Britain, How Was It for You? is a book everyone will be talking about this year.

Naked Portrait: A Memoir of Lucian Freud

By rose boyt.

Book cover for Naked Portrait: A Memoir of Lucian Freud

When Rose Boyt finds her old diary in a cardboard box in the summer of 2016, she is transported back to 1989 and her teenage years, a time she never remembered as especially remarkable. However, as Rose reads her accounts of sitting for her father, the painter Lucian Feud, she begins to realise how extraordinary and shocking her experiences truly were. In Naked Portrait: A Memoir of Lucian Freud , Rose Boyt explores her relationship with her father with fresh eyes, painting a vivid portrait of the brilliant, complex man he was. 

The Endless Country

By sami kent.

Book cover for The Endless Country

Travelling through Turkey, the country his father left decades ago, journalist Sami Kent sets out to learn more about the people, ideas, and culture that have defined Turkey’s history, and how Turkish people live today. From the cult of the country’s weightlifters to regional delicacies shaped by Turkey’s flora, The Endless Country is a journey through the extraordinary diversity of the nation’s past and how that history shapes its present.

by Jen Hadfield

Book cover for Storm Pegs

Shrouded in myth and mist, surrounded by unforgiving seas and awe-striking beauty, the Scottish archipelago of Shetland feels like, for all intents and purposes, the edge of the world. So, when celebrated poet Jen Hadfield decided to up sticks and move there in her early twenties, she had more than a few naysayers. Now, almost two decades later, she is sharing her Shetland, a place teeming with wildlife, at the mercy of the weather, and with community at its heart. A rich, magical memoir, Storm Pegs will transport you to a place unlike anywhere else in the world.

Air and Love

By or rosenboim.

Book cover for Air and Love

When Or Rosenboim was growing up, she knew little of her family’s complex history, with her memories of family instead rooted in the traditional dishes her grandmothers prepared with love. After they had both passed away, she began to explore their recipe books, full of handwritten notes for how to make kneidlach balls in hot chicken broth, cinnamon-scented noodle kugel and stuffed vine leaves. There, Or learned of their shared past, one fraught with displacement and change. Interspersing her family’s story with their cherished recipes, Or Rosenboim’s Air and Love is a memoir about food, migration and family.

A Life Reimagined

By jill halfpenny.

Book cover for A Life Reimagined

Jill Halfpenny is one of the nation’s best-loved homegrown TV stars. But, unbeknown to most, her life away from the small screen has been shaped by profound loss, first with the death of her father, who died suddenly while playing five-a-side football when she was four, and then, in cruelly similar circumstances, her partner Matt in 2017. Forced to confront the impact that loss has had on her life and to find a way to process and live with her grief, she went on a journey of discovery. In A Life Reimagined , Jill shares what she has learned and tells her story with unflinching honesty and warmth.

Lisa Marie Presley's memoir

By lisa marie presley.

Book cover for Lisa Marie Presley's memoir

Lisa Marie Presley was never truly understood . . . until now. Before her death in 2023, she’d been working on a raw, riveting, one-of-a-kind memoir for years, recording countless hours of breathtakingly vulnerable tape, which has finally been put on the page by her daughter, Riley Keough.

Literature for the People

By sarah harkness.

Book cover for Literature for the People

When Daniel and Alexander Macmillan moved to London from the Scottish Highlands in 1830, little did they know that the city was on the brink of huge social change, and that they would change publishing forever. This is the story of the Macmillan brothers who, after an impoverished, working-class childhood, went on to bring Alice in Wonderland and numerous other literary classics and ideas to the world. Through meticulous research and highly entertaining storytelling, Sarah Harkness brings to life the two men who founded a publishing house which has stood the test of time for almost two centuries. 

Hildasay to Home

By christian lewis.

Book cover for Hildasay to Home

The follow-up to his bestselling memoir Finding Hildasay , in Hildasay to Home Christian Lewis tells the next chapter of his extraordinary journey, step by step. From the unexpected way he found love, to his and Kate's journey on foot back down the coastline and into their new lives as parents to baby Marcus, Christian shares his highs and lows as he and his dog Jet leave Hildasay behind. Join the family as they adjust to life away from the island, and set off on a new journey together. 

Will You Care If I Die?

By nicolas lunabba.

Book cover for Will You Care If I Die?

In a world where children murder children, and where gun violence is the worst in Europe, Nicolas Lunabba's job as a social organizer with Malmö's underclass requires firm boundaries and emotional detachment. But all that changes when he meets Elijah – an unruly teenage boy of mixed heritage whose perilous future reminds Nicolas of his own troubled past amongst the marginalized people who live on the fringes of every society. Written as a letter to Elijah,  Will You Care If I Die?  is a disarmingly direct memoir about social class, race, friendship and unexpected love.

The best inspiring autobiographies and biographies

By yusra mardini.

Book cover for Butterfly

After fleeing her native Syria to the Turkish coast in 2015, Yusra Mardini boarded a small dinghy full of refugees headed for Greece. On the journey, the boat's engine cut out and it started to sink. Yusra, her sister, and two others took to the water to push the overcrowded boat for three and a half hours in open water, saving the lives of those on board. Butterfly is Yusra Mardini's journey from war-torn Damascus to Berlin and from there to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Game. A UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and one of People magazine's 25 Women Changing the World, discover Yusra and her incredible story of resilience and unstoppable spirit.

Finding Hildasay

Book cover for Finding Hildasay

After hitting rock bottom having suffered with depression for years, Christian Lewis made an impulsive decision to walk the entire coastline of the UK. Just a few days later he set off with a tent, walking boots and a tenner in his pocket. Finding Hildasay tells us some of this incredible story, including the brutal three months Christian Lewis spent on the uninhabited island of Hildasay in Scotland with no fresh water or food. It was there, where his route was most barren, that he discovered pride and respect for himself. This is not just a story of a remarkable journey, but one of depression, survival and the meaning of home. 

The Happiest Man on Earth

By eddie jaku.

Book cover for The Happiest Man on Earth

A lesson in how happiness can be found in the darkest of times, this is the story of Eddie Jaku, a German Jew who survived seven years at the hands of the Nazis. Eddie Jaku always considered himself a German first, and a Jew second. All of that changed in November 1938, when he was beaten, arrested and taken to a concentration camp. But through his courage and tenacity he still came to live life as 'the happiest man on earth'. Published at the author turns one hundred, The Happiest Man on Earth is a heartbreaking but hopeful memoir full of inspiration. 

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I know why the caged bird sings, by maya angelou.

Book cover for I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

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. 

I Am Malala

By malala yousafzai.

Book cover for I Am Malala

After speaking out about her right to education almost cost her her life, Malala Yousafzi refused to be silenced. Instead, her amazing story has taken her all over the world. This is the story of Malala and her inspirational family, and of how one person's voice can inspire change across the globe. 

The best memoirs

This is going to hurt, by adam kay.

Book cover for This is Going to Hurt

Offering a unique insight into life as an NHS junior doctor through his diary entries, Adam Kay's bestselling autobiography is equal parts heartwarming and humorous, and oftentimes horrifying too. With 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions and a tsunami of bodily fluids, Kay provides a no-holds-barred account of working on the NHS frontline. Now a major BBC comedy-drama, don't miss this special edition of This Is Going To Hurt including a bonus diary entries and an afterword from the author. 

Is This Ok?

By harriet gibsone.

Book cover for Is This Ok?

Harriet spent much of her young life feeding neuroses and insecurities with obsessive internet searching and indulging in whirlwind ‘parasocial relationships'. But after a diagnosis of early menopause in her late twenties, her relationship with the internet took a darker turn, as her online addictions were thrown into sharp relief by the corporeal realities of illness and motherhood. An outrageously funny, raw and painfully honest account of trying to find connection in the age of the internet,  Is This Ok? is the stunning literary debut from music journalist, Harriet Gibsone. 

The Colour of Madness

By samara linton.

Book cover for The Colour of Madness

The Colour of Madness  brings together memoirs, essays, poetry, short fiction and artworks by people of colour who have experienced difficulties with mental health. From experiencing micro-aggressions to bias, and stigma to religious and cultural issues, people of colour have to fight harder than others to be heard and helped. Statistics show that people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK experience poor mental health treatment in comparison to their white counterparts, and are more likely to be held under the Mental Health Act. 

Nothing But The Truth

By the secret barrister.

Book cover for Nothing But The Truth

How do you become a barrister? Why do only 1 per cent of those who study law succeed in joining this mysterious profession? And why might a practising barrister come to feel the need to reveal the lies, secrets, failures and crises at the heart of this world of wigs and gowns? Full of hilarious, shocking and surprising stories,  Nothing But The Truth  tracks the Secret Barrister’s transformation from hang ‘em and flog ‘em, austerity-supporting twenty-something to a campaigning, bestselling, reforming author whose writing in defence of the law is celebrated around the globe.

Went to London, Took the Dog: A Diary

By nina stibbe.

Book cover for Went to London, Took the Dog: A Diary

Ten years after the publication of the prize-winning  Love, Nina  comes the author’s diary of her return to London in her sixty-first year. After twenty years, Nina Stibbe, accompanied by her dog Peggy, stays with writer Debby Moggach in London for a year. With few obligations, Nina explores the city, reflecting on her past and embracing new experiences. From indulging in banana splits to navigating her son's dating life, this diary captures the essence of a sixty-year-old runaway finding her place as a "proper adult" once and for all.

A Letter to My Transgender Daughter

By carolyn hays.

Book cover for A Letter to My Transgender Daughter

This moving memoir is an ode to Hays' transgender daughter – a love letter to a child who has always known herself. After a caseworker from the Department of Children and Families knocked on the door to investigate an anonymous complaint about the upbringing of their transgender child, the Hays family moved away from their Republican state. In A Girlhood, Hays tells of the brutal truths of being trans, of the sacrificial nature of motherhood and of the lengths a family will go to shield their youngest from the cruel realities of the world. Hays asks us all to love better, for children everywhere enduring injustice and prejudice.

by Michelle Obama

Book cover for Becoming

This bestselling autobiography lifts the lid on the life of one of the most inspiring women of a generation, former first lady Michelle Obama. From her childhood as a gifted young woman in south Chicago to becoming the first black First Lady of the USA, Obama tells the story of her extraordinary life with humour, warmth and honesty. 

Kitchen Confidential

By anthony bourdain.

Book cover for Kitchen Confidential

Regarded as one of the greatest books about food ever written, Kitchen Confidential lays bare the wild tales of the culinary industry. From his lowly position as a dishwasher in Provincetown to cooking at some of the finest restaurants across the world, the much-loved Bourdain translates his sultry, sarcastic and quick-witted personality to paper in this uncensored 'sex, drugs, bad behaviour and haute cuisine' account of life as a professional chef. Bourdain's tales of the kitchen are as passionate as they are unpredictable, as shocking as they are funny.

Everything I Know About Love

By dolly alderton.

Book cover for Everything I Know About Love

Dolly Alderton, perhaps more than any other author, represents the rise of the messy millennial woman – in the very best way possible. Her internationally bestselling memoir gives an unflinching account of the bad dates and squalid flat-shares, the heartaches and humiliations, and most importantly, the unbreakable female friendships that defined her twenties. She weaves together personal stories, satirical observations, a series of lists, recipes, and other vignettes that will strike a chord of recognition with women of every age. This is a memoir that you'll discuss with loved ones long after the final page. 

The best sports autobiographies and biographies

By chris kamara.

Book cover for Kammy

Presenter, commentator, (sometimes masked) singer, footballer, manager and campaigner, Kammy's action-packed career has made him a bona fide British hero. Kammy had a tough upbringing, faced racism on the terraces during his playing career and has, in recent years, dealt with a rare brain condition – apraxia – that has affected his speech and seen him say goodbye to Sky Sports. With entertaining stories of his playing career from Pompey to Leeds and beyond; his management at Bradford City and Stoke; his crazy travels around the world; of  Soccer Saturday  banter; presenting  Ninja   Warrior ; and the incredible friendships he's made along the way,  Kammy  is an unforgettable ride from one of Britain's best-loved broadcasters.

Alone on the Wall

By alex honnold.

Book cover for Alone on the Wall

In the last forty years, only a handful of climbers have pushed themselves as far, ‘free soloing’ to the absolute limit of human capabilities. Half of them are dead. Although Alex Honnold’s exploits are probably a bit  too  extreme for most of us, the stories behind his incredible climbs are exciting, uplifting and truly awe-inspiring. Alone on the Wall  is a book about the essential truth of being free to pursue your passions and the ability to maintain a singular focus, even in the face of mortal danger. This updated edition contains the account of Alex's El Capitan climb, which is the subject of the Oscar and BAFTA winning documentary,  Free Solo .

Too Many Reasons to Live

Book cover for Too Many Reasons to Live

As a child, Rob Burrow was told he was too small to be a rugby player. Some 500 games for Leeds later, Rob had proved his doubters wrong: he won eight Super League Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups, three World Club Challenges and played for his country in two World Cups. In 2019 though, Rob was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given just two years to live. He went public with the news, determined to fight it all the way. Full of love, bravery and kindness, this is the story of a man who has awed his fans with his positive attitude to life.

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At home with muhammad ali, by hana yasmeen ali.

Book cover for At Home with Muhammad Ali

Written by his daughter Ali using material from her father's audio journals, love letters and her treasured family memories, this sports biography offers an intimate portrait of one of boxing's most legendary figures, and one of the most iconic sports personalities of all time. 

They Don't Teach This

By eniola aluko.

Book cover for They Don't Teach This

In her autobiography, footballer Eni Aluko addresses themes of dual nationality, race and institutional prejudice, success, gender and faith through her own experiences growing up in Britain. Part memoir, part manifesto for change, They Don't Teach This is a must-read book for 2020. 

The best celebrity autobiographies and biographies

Life's work, by david milch.

Book cover for Life's Work

Best known for creating smash-hit shows including NYPD Blue and Deadwood, you’d be forgiven for thinking that David Milch had lived a charmed life of luxury and stardom. In this, his new memoir, Milch dispels that myth, shedding light on his extraordinary life in the spotlight. Born in Buffalo New York to a father gripped by drug-addiction, Milch enrolled at Yale Law befire being expelled and finding his true passion for writing. Written following his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s in 2015, in Life’s Work Milch records his joys, sadnesses and struggles with startling clarity and grace. 

by Adrian Edmondson

Book cover for Berserker!

From brutal schooldays to 80s anarchy, through The Young Ones and beyond, Berserker! is the one-of-a-kind, fascinating memoir from an icon of British comedy, Adrian Edmondson. His star-studded anecdotes and outrageous stories are set to a soundtrack of pop hits, transporting the reader through time and cranking up the nostalgia. But, as one would expect, these stories are also a guaranteed laugh as Ade traces his journey through life and comedy. 

Beyond the Story

Book cover for Beyond the Story

In honor of BTS's 10th anniversary, this remarkable book serves as the band's inaugural official release, offering a treasure trove of unseen photographs and exclusive content. With Myeongseok Kang's extensive interviews and years of coverage, the vibrant world of K-pop springs to life. As digital pioneers, BTS's online presence has bridged continents, and this volume grants readers instant access to trailers, music videos, and more, providing a comprehensive journey through BTS's defining moments. Complete with a milestone timeline, Beyond the Story stands as a comprehensive archive, encapsulating everything about BTS within its pages.

Being Henry

By henry winkler.

Book cover for Being Henry

Brilliant, funny, and widely-regarded as the nicest man in Hollywood, Henry Winkler shares the disheartening truth of his childhood, the difficulties of a life with severe dyslexia and the pressures of a role that takes on a life of its own. Since the glorious era of  Happy Days  fame, Henry has endeared himself to a new generation with roles in such adored shows as  Arrested Development and  Barry , where he’s revealed himself as an actor with immense depth and pathos. But Being Henry  is about so much more than a life in Hollywood and the curse of stardom. It is a meaningful testament to the power of sharing truth and of finding fulfillment within yourself.

What Are You Doing Here?

By floella benjamin.

Book cover for What Are You Doing Here?

Actress, television presenter, member of the House of Lords – Baroness Floella Benjamin is an inspiration to many. But it hasn't always been easy: in What Are You Doing Here?   she describes her journey to London as part of the Windrush generation, and the daily racism that caused her so much pain as a child. She has gone on to remain true to her values, from breaking down barriers as a Play School presenter to calling for diversity at the BBC and BAFTA to resisting the pressures of typecasting. Sharing the lessons she has learned, imbued with her joy and positivity, this autobiography is the moving testimony of a remarkable woman.

by Elton John

Book cover for Me

Elton John is one of the most successful singer/songwriters of all time, but success didn't come easily to him. In his bestselling autobiography, he charts his extraordinary life, from the early rejection of his work to the heady heights of international stardom and the challenges that came along with it. With candour and humour, he tells the stories of celebrity friendships with John Lennon, George Michael and Freddie Mercury, and of how he turned his life around and found love with David Furnish. Me is the real story of the man behind the music. 

And Away...

By bob mortimer.

Book cover for And Away...

National treasure and beloved entertainer, Bob Mortimer, takes us from his childhood in Middlesborough to working as a solicitor in London in his highly acclaimed autobiography. Mortimer’s life was trundling along happily until suddenly in 2015 he was diagnosed with a heart condition that required immediate surgery and forced him to cancel an upcoming tour. The book covers his numerous misadventures along his path to fame but also reflects on more serious themes, making this both one of the most humorous and poignant celebrity memoirs of recent years. 

by Walter Isaacson

Book cover for Steve Jobs

Based on interviews conducted with Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is filled with lessons about innovation, leadership, and values and has inspired a movie starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen. Isaacson tells the story of the rollercoaster life and searingly intense personality of creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized the tech industry. Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written and put nothing off limits, making this an unflinchingly candid account of one of the key figures of modern history.

Maybe I Don't Belong Here

By david harewood.

Book cover for Maybe I Don't Belong Here

When David Harewood was twenty-three, his acting career began to take flight and he had what he now understands to be a psychotic breakdown. He was physically restrained by six police officers, sedated, then hospitalized and transferred to a locked ward. Only now, thirty years later, has he been able to process what he went through. In this powerful and provocative account of a life lived after psychosis, critically acclaimed actor, David Harewood, uncovers a devastating family history and investigates the very real impact of racism on Black mental health.

Scenes from My Life

By michael k. williams.

Book cover for Scenes from My Life

When Michael K. Williams died on 6 September 2021, he left behind a career as one of the most electrifying actors of his generation. At the time of his death, Williams had nearly finished his memoir, which traces his life in whole, from his childhood and his early years as a dancer to his battles with addiction. Alongside his achievements on screen he was a committed activist who dedicated his life to helping at-risk young people find their voice and carve out their future. Imbued with poignance and raw honesty,  Scenes from My Life  is the story of a performer who gave his all to everything he did – in his own voice, in his own words.

The best political and historical autobiographies

The fall of boris johnson, by sebastian payne.

Book cover for The Fall of Boris Johnson

Sebastian Payne, Whitehall Editor for the Financial Times, tells the behind-the-scenes story of the fall of former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. After being touted saviour of the Conservative Party, it took Johnson just three years to resign after a series of scandals. From the blocked suspension of Owen Patterson to Partygate and the Chris Pincher allegations, Payne gives us unparalleled access to those who were in the room when key decisions were made, ultimately culminating in Boris's downfall. This is a gripping and timely look at how power is gained, wielded and lost in Britain today.

Charles III

By robert hardman.

Book cover for Charles III

Meet the man behind the monarch in this new biography of King Charles III by royal expert and journalist Robert Hardman. Charting Charles III’s extraordinary first year on the throne, a year plighted by sadness and family scandal, Hardman shares insider details on the true nature of the Windsor family feud, and Queen Camilla’s role within the Royal Family. Detailing the highs and lows of royal life in dazzling detail, this new biography of the man who waited his whole life to be King is one of 2024’s must-reads. 

by Sung-Yoon Lee

Book cover for The Sister

The Sister , written by Sung-Yoon Lee, a scholar and specialist on North Korea, uncovers the truth about Kim Yo Jong and her close bond with Kim Jong Un. In 2022, Kim Yo Jong threatened to nuke South Korea, reminding the world of the dangers posed by her state. But how did the youngest daughter of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, his ‘sweet princess’, become the ruthless chief propagandist, internal administrator and foreign policymaker for her brother’s totalitarian regime? Readable and insightful, this book is an invaluable portrait of a woman who might yet hold the survival of her despotic dynasty in her hands.

Long Walk To Freedom

By nelson mandela.

Book cover for Long Walk To Freedom

Deemed 'essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history' by former US President, Barack Obama, this is the autobiography of one of the world's greatest moral and political leaders, Nelson Mandela. Imprisoned for more than 25 years, president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, the Nobel Peace Prize winner's life was nothing short of extraordinary. Long Walk to Freedom vividly tells this story; one of hardship, resilience and ultimate triumph, written with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader. 

The Diary of a Young Girl

By anne frank.

Book cover for The Diary of a Young Girl

No list of inspiring autobiographies would be complete without Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl . Charting the thirteen-year-old's time hiding in a 'Secret Annex' with her family to escape Gestapo detection, this book (which was discovered after Anne Frank's death), is a must-read, and a testament to the courage shown by the millions persecuted during the Second World War. 

The best literary autobiographies

Book cover for Stay True

Winner of Pulitzer Prize in Memoir, Stay True  is a deeply moving and intimate memoir about growing up and moving through the world in search of meaning and belonging. When Hua Hsu first meets Ken in a Berkeley dorm room, he hates him. A frat boy with terrible taste in music, Ken seems exactly like everyone else. For Hua, Ken represents all that he defines himself in opposition to – the mainstream. The only thing Hua, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, and Ken, whose Japanese American family has been in the US for generations, have in common is that, however they engage with it, American culture doesn’t seem to have a place for either of them. 

A Fortunate Woman

By polly morland.

Book cover for A Fortunate Woman

Funny, emotional and imbued with great depth, A Fortunate Woman is an exploration of the life of a country doctor in a remote and wild wooded valley in the Forest of Dean. The story was sparked when writer and documentary maker Polly Morland found a photograph of the valley she lives in tucked inside a tattered copy of John Berger’s  A Fortunate Man . Itself an account of the life of a country doctor, the book inspired a woman doctor to follow her vocation in the same remote place. And it is the story of this woman that Polly Morland tells, in this compelling portrait of landscape and community.

Father and Son

By jonathan raban.

Book cover for Father and Son

On 11 June 2011, three days short of his sixty-ninth birthday, Jonathan Raban suffered a stroke which left him unable to use the right side of his body. Learning to use a wheelchair in a rehab facility outside Seattle and resisting the ministrations of the nurses overseeing his recovery, Raban began to reflect upon the measure of his own life in the face of his own mortality. Together with the chronicle of his recovery is the extraordinary story of his parents’ marriage, the early years of which were conducted by letter while his father fought in the Second World War.

Crying in H Mart

By michelle zauner.

Book cover for Crying in H Mart

This radiant read by singer, songwriter and guitarist Michelle Zauner delves into the experience of being the only Asian-American child at her school in Eugene, Oregon, combined with family struggles and blissful escapes to her grandmother's tiny Seoul apartment. The family bond is the shared love of Korean food, which helped Michelle reclaim her Asian identity in her twenties. A lively, honest, riveting read.

The Reluctant Carer

By the reluctant carer.

Book cover for The Reluctant Carer

The phone rings. Your elderly father has been taken to hospital, and your even older mother is home with nobody to look after her. What do you do? Drop everything and go and help of course. But it's not that straightforward, and your own life starts to fall apart as quickly as their health. Irresistibly funny, unflinching and deeply moving, this is a love letter to family and friends, to carers and to anyone who has ever packed a small bag intent on staying for just a few days. This is a true story of what it really means to be a carer, and of the ties that bind even tighter when you least expect it. 

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50 Best Autobiographies of All Time

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Hannah Yang

best autobiographies

Table of Contents

Top new autobiography books, best autobiographies of all time, most famous autobiographies, inspiring autobiographies, must-read autobiographies for athletes, top autobiographies about politics, good autobiographies about science.

Autobiographies allow us to experience other people’s lives from their own perspectives.

It can be really powerful to see the ways other people describe their own lives, especially when those people are inspiring figures or well-known celebrities.

So, what are some great autobiographies you can read?

This article will give you 50 fantastic autobiographies to add to your reading list across several categories: sports, politics, science, and more.

Let’s start our list with recent releases. Here are some great autobiographies that were published within the past five years.

new autobiogarphies

1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama (2020)

In this powerful autobiography, President Barack Obama takes us on the journey that led to his presidency. He describes his time in the White House and how he handled issues like the global financial crisis and Operation Neptune’s Spear.

2. All In: An Autobiography by Billie Jean King (2021)

Billie Jean King writes about how she became the tennis legend she is today, with 39 Grand Slam titles and six years as the top-ranked female tennis player in the world. She incorporates her insights on leadership, activism, love, happiness, and more.

3. Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman by Alan Rickman (2022)

Alan Rickman, an actor famous for his roles in movies like Die Hard, Harry Potter, and many more, wrote these diaries from 1993 to 2016. These diaries are a rare peek into his inner world and all his real life stories from that time period.

4. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (2022)

Jennette McCurdy, famous for playing Sam Puckett on the Nickelodeon show iCarly, writes about her troubled relationship with her mother and how that dictated her choices until her mom passed away. She writes about her early life, her mental health, her acting career, and her struggle for independence.

5. Finding Me by Viola Davis (2022)

Famous actress Viola Davis writes about how she built her successful career and how she grounded herself in self-love and radical honesty. Her writing is intimate, personal, and moving.

good autobiography titles

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6. Spare by Prince Harry (2023)

Prince Harry tells the world about the loss of his mother, his time in the British Army, his relationship with Meghan Markle, and the tensions he’s faced with his older brother, the heir. Spare is raw and often heart-wrenching.

7. Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music by Henry Threadgill (2023)

Henry Threadgill, a Pulitzer Prize-winning saxophonist, flutist, and composer, writes about his childhood in Chicago in the 1960s, his service in Vietnam, and his devotion to the art of jazz music.

Now it’s time to turn to the classics. Let’s look at some famous autobiographies that have truly stood the test of time.

best autobiographies

8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)

Maya Angelou writes about her childhood from age 3 to 16. She underwent many traumatic experiences, including racism and sexual assault, but she overcame those hardships to become one of the greatest American poets of all time. 

The Collected Autobiographies continues her story if I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings leaves you hungry for more.

9. Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez (1993)

Luis J. Rodriguez writes about growing up immersed in L.A. gang culture. In the 1990s, Always Running was one of the most frequently banned books in the U.S. because of its graphic content and daring stance on police brutality.

10. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (1964)

Famous American writer Ernest Hemingway describes his experiences in Paris in the 1920s. He writes about his first wife Hadley, his son Jack, and his early experiments with the craft of writing.

11. An Autobiography by Agatha Christie (1977)

Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime, invented some of the world’s most famous detectives, such as Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple. Her autobiography, published after her death, is considered by some to be one of her greatest literary masterpieces.

12. Chronicles Volume One by Bob Dylan (2004)

Award-winning musician Bob Dylan writes about his life and music in this famous autobiography. However, it’s worth mentioning that this book has been controversial for accusations of plagiarism, so read with discretion.

13. Bare by George Michael (1990)

George Michael, the lead singer of Wham!, writes about his rise to stardom. The people who knew George describe what happened behind the scenes, providing even deeper insight into what he was really like, not just as a performer but also as a person.

Many autobiographies have topped bestseller lists and even become household names. Here are some famous autobiographies that millions of people have read.

most famous autobiographies

14. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)

Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl hiding from Nazi persecution throughout the Holocaust, tells her story in this heartbreaking diary. The Diary of a Young Girl is an absolute must-read if you haven’t read it already.

15. Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 by Mark Twain (2010)

Mark Twain completed his autobiography by 1910 but asked that it not be published for another 100 years. In 2010, when it was finally published, it became an instant New York Times bestseller that provides an intimate portrait of this famous author’s experiences.

16. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X (1965)

Malcolm X was one of the most famous figures of the American civil rights movement. Alex Haley, an esteemed contributor to Reader’s Digest , compiled this autobiography using interviews and excerpts of Malcolm X’s writing.

17. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (1845)

Frederick Douglass, an esteemed abolitionist and orator, chronicles his life story as a former slave in this vivid autobiographical account. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is widely considered one of the best autobiographies of all time.

18. Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010)

Artist Patti Smith writes about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who later passed away due to AIDS. The book addresses sexuality, politics, and artistic expression in a moving and evocative way.

19. Cash: The Autobiography by Johnny Cash (1997)

Johnny Cash is a famous American musician, known for songs like “Folsom Prison Blues.” In this definitive biography, he writes about his spirituality, memories, and relationships.

20. Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca (1984)

Lee Iacocca, the son of Italian immigrants, became the president of Ford Motor Company and also helped Chrysler turn its fate around. His book tells us, in his own words, how he faced obstacles with integrity and grit.

If you’re looking for inspiration to help you change your life or make a difference in the world, reading an autobiography can be a great place to start. Many people have done incredible things that are sure to motivate you.

Here are some great examples of inspiring autobiographies.

inspiring autobiographies

21. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai (2013)

The Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai for defending the right for Pakistani girls to get an education. Now, she’s one of the most courageous and inspiring figures in the world, and her bestselling memoir describes her journey.

22. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda (1946)

Paramahansa Yogananda is the man most often credited with making yoga popular in the U.S. In Autobiography of a Yogi, he writes about his life story as well as his life lessons for readers who want to learn about yoga and finding inner peace.

23. The Autobiography of Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane (2017)

Gucci Mane, a prolific trap and hip-hop artist, started writing this memoir while incarcerated. His autobiography tells us about his childhood in Alabama, living on the streets in Atlanta, and his experience making music while overcoming obstacles.

24. Living for Change: An Autobiography by Grace Lee Boggs (1998)

Grace Lee Boggs is a human rights activist who never stopped fighting for a more just society. She writes about how she dedicated her life to her beliefs and helped make the world a fairer place.

25. The Story of My Experiments With Truth by Mohandas K. Gandhi (1925)

Mahatma Gandhi, famous for his civil disobedience campaigns, wrote this autobiography in weekly installments, which he published in his journal Navjivan. Now, the completed book has been named one of the “100 Best Spiritual Books of the 20th Century.”

26. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (1902)

As a young child who was both blind and deaf, Helen Keller had no way to communicate with the world. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her learn how to rise above her disabilities. This compassionate memoir provides hope, courage, and faith for all of us.

27. Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me by Janet Mock (2017)

Janet Mock is an award-winning writer, director, and producer, as well as a trans rights advocate. In this inspiring memoir, she writes about what she learned in her twenties and how she found her path.

28. Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018)

Former first lady Michelle Obama writes about her extraordinary life in this inspirational memoir. Becoming is structured in three parts: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. She writes about her childhood growing up in Chicago, her relationship with her husband Barack Obama, and their experiences serving in the White House.

It’s not easy to become a record-breaking athlete. It takes a lot of training, grit, and determination.

Many world-famous athletes have written autobiographies explaining how they reached such high levels of accomplishment in their fields. Here are a few great books by successful athletes.

autobiographies for athletes

29. Flying Free: My Victory Over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team by Cecilia Aragon (2020)

Cecilia Aragon started out as a meek, bullied young girl, then rose to become one of the most acclaimed female aerobatic pilots of all time. She writes about her experience joining the U.S. aerobatic team and her lifelong love of math.

30. Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance by Simone Biles (2016)

Simone Biles is an American gymnast who’s won seven Olympic medals. In Courage to Soar , she talks about how she overcame obstacles and trained incessantly to become the greatest in her sport.

31. Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi (2009)

Andre Agassi was raised to be a tennis champion from a young age by his exacting father. Though Agassi dominated on the court, he often resented the sport in his personal life, and Open documents his complicated feelings throughout his career.

32. The Game by Ken Dryden (1983)

The Game , which was named one of the “Top 10 Sports Books of All Time” by Sports Illustrated , tells the story of Ken Dryden, a legendary Canadian hockey player. He writes about his fellow players, his life on the road, and his worldview both on and off the ice.

33. Drive: The Story of My Life by Larry Bird (1989)

Larry Bird, who has won three NBA MVP awards, has often been viewed as one of the most private and mysterious basketball legends. In Drive, he reveals all the private feelings that he rarely shared publicly, including the story behind his failed marriage and his decision to transfer schools.

34. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (2015)

William Finnegan started surfing as a young child and went on to chase waves around the world: Australia, Asia, Africa, and more. His autobiography reads almost like an adventure story, showing how he mastered the art of surfing.

35. I Always Wanted to Be Somebody by Althea Gibson (1958)

Althea Gibson was the first African American tennis player to win at Wimbledon. Her autobiography explains how she triumphed over a difficult childhood to achieve athletic success.

36. Strongman: My Story by Eddie Hall (2017)

Eddie “The Beast” Hall is a British strongman who won the World’s Strongest Man competition. He writes about the training, nutrition, and dedication required to make it as a professional strongman.

Many politicians write autobiographies describing the ways their leadership impacted their communities.

Here are some famous political autobiographies, which might be well worth a read.  

politics autobiographies

37. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (1994)

Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa, tells his life story in Long Walk to Freedom. He writes about his experiences growing up, training as a lawyer, becoming an anti-apartheid activist, and getting sentenced to life in prison.

38. Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright (2003)

Madam Secretary tells the story of Madeleine Albright, who served as U.S. Secretary of State during Bill Clinton’s presidency. She writes about how she approached peace in the Middle East, NATO’s interventions abroad, and many other prominent global affairs issues.

39. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor (2013)

Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, writes about growing up in a low-income Puerto Rican immigrant family and how her childhood shaped her rise to success. This inspiring story will remind you that anyone with enough dedication can achieve their dreams.

40. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (1909)

Benjamin Franklin wrote his autobiography in the 1770s–1790s, but it wasn’t published until 1909. Now you can read about the life of one of America’s Founding Fathers and his moral views on the society he lived in.

41. An Autobiography by Jawaharlal Nehru (1936)

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, wrote this book while in prison from 1934–1935. He writes about his vision for modern India and his views on both history and the present.

42. Daughter of the East: An Autobiography by Benazir Bhutto (1988)

Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was a prime minister of Pakistan who was executed in 1979. In Daughter of the East, Benazir Bhutto writes about how she took up her father’s mantle and began leading the Pakistan People’s Party.

43. The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris (2019)

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris writes about her upbringing in an immigrant family in California, her passion for justice, and her rise to one of the highest leadership roles in the U.S. She also reckons with the truths that define her country and how we can face them.

Finally, let’s finish our list with some autobiographies written by incredible scientists. These people made discoveries that changed the world, and it’s fascinating to hear about the life events that led them to those discoveries.

science autobiographies

44. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson (1968)

James Watson writes about how he and his partner Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA. This tremendous breakthrough won them a Nobel Prize and revolutionized the future of biology.

45. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman (1985)

In this witty and lighthearted autobiography, Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, recounts his life in physics. His voice shines through in this book, which is simultaneously eccentric, funny, and brilliant.

46. My Brief History by Stephen Hawking (2013)

Stephen Hawking writes about how he triumphed over Lou Gehrig’s Disease to become one of the most famous scientists of all time. He also explains his breakthrough research into black holes and quantum gravity.

47. Letters from the Field, 1925–1975 by Margaret Mead (1977)

Margaret Mead sent letters to her family and friends while she was conducting field research in Samoa, New Guinea, Bali, and more. These smart, lyrical, and insightful letters show us the inner world of a wonderful scientist.

48. Jane Goodall: 50 Years at Gombe: A Tribute to Five Decades of Wildlife Research, Education, and Conservation by Jane Goodall (2013)

Dr. Jane Goodall tells us about her groundbreaking studies of chimpanzee behavior and her philanthropic work across five decades. Photos accompany her writing to make this book come to life. 

49. An Appetite for Wonder: The Makings of a Scientist by Richard Dawkins (2013)

Richard Dawkins, a renowned evolutionary biologist, writes about his personal evolution as a scientist. An Appetite for Wonder covers his childhood in colonial Kenya, his education at Oxford, and his work championing a gene-centered perspective on evolution.

50. On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks (2015)

Dr. Oliver Sacks was a British neurologist who authored many bestselling books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. In On the Move , he writes about his childhood, his experience coming out as a gay man, his drug addiction, and many more personal experiences in a moving and incisive way.

There you have it—our picks for the top autobiographies of all time.

Good luck, and happy reading!

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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The Why Not 100

Saturday, May 3, 2014

69 awesome and awful autobiography titles.

good autobiography titles


good autobiography titles

LOL: Hitch-22

Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me (R. Kelly) Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?: A Memoir (George Clinton)

larger than life [eddie large]

Thanks for this list. It gave me the idea to create the best Autobiography Quotes. Keep up with the good work!

this helped me a lot with homework

Wow.great post.

lolol very punny !


How To Come Up With Autobiography Titles

How To Come Up With Autobiography Titles

When you write a story about yourself, one of the most difficult aspects of the creative process isn’t putting in the stories you want to tell. It’s coming up with a title for that story. Knowing how to come up with autobiography titles that are good is a skill set that requires some practice to get right. The first title you think up isn’t always the best title – but it could be.

Let’s go through the creation process step by step so that you can figure out that great title for your story today.

#1. No puns. Just don’t do it.

You’ll find a lot of autobiographies have incorporated puns as part of the title. From Wink Martindale’s Winking at Life to Tori Spelling’s sTORI Telling , a bad pun creates a negative first impression for many readers. Just be simple and straight forward with the title based on the stories you’ve told. If you were a war veteran, a good title might be The Battles I’ve Fought and Won .

#2. Humor can backfire on you.

Humor within a title for an autobiography can be a good thing. Take Joe Namath’s autobiography title for example: I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow ‘Cause I Get Better Looking Every Day . The humor fits with the public personality that Namath has always presented. It’s a good fit. If you can come up with a humorous title that fits your personality, then roll with it.

What you shouldn’t do is try to force the humor on others. When Russell Brand released his autobiography, it was titled My Booky Wook . Not as impressive.

#3. Describe what is important to you.

Ultimately your autobiography has one key point that you’re trying to make. It’s more than a collection of stories. It’s a commentary about what you’ve learned in life. What is that one key lesson that you’re trying to make? Or are there several key points that are being made? Figure that out and you may just have the title for your autobiography. A good example of this comes from Nelson Mandela and his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom .

But that key point needs to be interesting. There must be a purpose communicated to the reader that they will have a valuable experience from reading your autobiography. Peter Marshall’s autobiography Back Stage With the Original Hollywood Square doesn’t quite make that grade.

#4. Capture the attention of the reader.

There are three ways that you can effectively capture the attention of a reader with an autobiography title.

  • Be self-deprecating. If you take your biggest fault and make it your title, then the humble reflection will be something that will attract people to your autobiography.
  • Be controversial. One of the best examples of this method comes from Charles Grodin: It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here . If you’ve done something that isn’t socially acceptable, it might make for a great title.
  • Be concise. You can’t get much shorter than the title of Katherine Hepburn’s autobiography: Me . If you can make your title be three words or less, then it will generally be more memorable to the reader who is interested in picking it up.

#5. Be evocative with your descriptions.

This is one of the benefits of being a relatively unknown person when writing an autobiography. You can choose a very descriptive title that brings about evocative mental images for the reader involved. Many of these “unknowns” have become reading staples in our society today. Think about stories like Girl, Interrupted or Reading Lolita in Tehran and then think about what you’ve done that could create similar emotions.

#6. Test out your titles with trusted friends and family.

In this final step, you’ll first want to come up with 3-5 titles that you’d be happy having for your autobiography based on the steps above. Then take those titles and test them out with your family and friends. See which ones they prefer. Have them give you one answer. Ask as many people as you like because the goal is to trim your titles down to 2 from this process.

Then take those two titles to everyone you know. Create a poll on Facebook or Twitter. Ask people for email feedback. Ask them to choose one title from the two. If the results are solidly in favor of one title, then that’s what you’ll call your autobiography. If the results are mixed, then go back to the 3-5 titles and ask again. If you still have mixed results, come up with 3-5 new titles and try again.

A good autobiography title goes a long way

Although a bad autobiography title won’t kill your story off completely, it won’t do it any favors. A good title can entice more people to read your stories. Follow these steps and you’ll know how to come up with autobiography titles that are great as soon as today.

If you’ve found these tips on picking an autobiography title useful, check out these further resources:

Biography vs autobiography what is the best autobiography layout memoir vs autobiography 9 great autobiography writing tips how to publish an autobiography.

good autobiography titles

About the Author

Melissa G. Wilson is a seasoned author and publisher with over 20 years of experience, guiding over 174 thought leaders to success in the literary and business arenas. As the founder of Networlding Publishing and a former “Networking Coach,” Melissa has authored five best-sellers, including “Networlding” which held a top spot on Amazon for a year. Based in Chicago’s West Loop, she combines her passion for networking and publishing to help authors from diverse fields achieve their goals. Melissa is committed to fostering community and professional growth, offering free consultations for aspiring non-fiction business authors .

Autobiography guide banner

This 47-page mini-ebook gives you everything you need to start writing your own autobiography, including:

–Developing an overall theme

–Outlining your autobiography

–Choosing a winning title

–Best autobiography layouts

–Autobiography marketing strategy and more!

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13 inspiring autobiographies everyone should read

The  Insider Picks  team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

There are few things as inspiring as a firsthand account of greatness. While fiction can give us a glimpse into a world that may feel too perfect for our reality, stories that actually happened can be just as, if not more, amazing.

The people we now regard as masters of their craft were once just another kid with a dream — to make music, to write, to make people laugh, to change the world. And through the autobiography, we can get a glimpse into the life and struggle that took place before the world learned who they were.

These stories can be found in most every field — memoirs of businessmen, musicians, comedians, writers, and politicians — whatever you aspire to be, you can probably find an account of someone’s path toward a similar goal.

Below is a collection of autobiographies that I’ve read or had recommended to me by friends, family, and the internet. If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration to help you further your craft, or if you simply need a new book to read and are a big fan of Johnny Cash or Bryan Cranston, there’s probably something here for you.

“Kitchen Confidential: Adventures In The Culinary Underbelly” by Anthony Bourdain

good autobiography titles

Anthony Bourdain has something of a dream life today, traveling the world to explore tastes and cultures in a way very few will ever get the chance to do. But before he was a jet setter, he was a chef. In "Kitchen Confidential," readers get a window into the wild world of his restaurant days, including sex, drugs, and culinary expertise.

Buy it here >>

“Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life” by Steve Martin

good autobiography titles

One of the first funnymen I was introduced to as a child, Steve Martin is a legendary performer of stage, screen, magic, and banjo. His memoir recounts stories of his childhood, including starting his career at Disneyland and the discipline and sacrifice it took to perform as much as he did. This one is a personal favorite, and a must-read for any aspiring performer.

“A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway

good autobiography titles

One of the greatest writers to have ever lived, Hemingway’s "A Moveable Feast" gives readers a glimpse of his life as a young, poor writer in Paris in the 1920s, and the thoughts and activities that filled his days. The book captures intimates scenes from cafes, bars, and apartments, and features cameos and conversations with James Joyce, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and more.

“The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley” by Malcolm X

good autobiography titles

Named one of the ten most important nonfiction books of the twentieth century by TIME magazine, "Malcolm X" tells readers firsthand the story of one of the most important activists, speakers, and fighters in the struggle for change in America.

“A Life in Parts” by Bryan Cranston

good autobiography titles

Before he was Heisenberg, Bryan Cranston was a lot of things, playing roles including paperboy, farmhand, security guard, dating consultant, murder suspect, dock loader, lover, husband, and father over the course of his prolific acting career. In his memoir, he provides readers with stories of his youth, his journey as an actor, and landing the role that would change his career forever, Walter White.

“Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time” by Howard Schultz

good autobiography titles

Before it was the International Coffee Making Machine that it is today, Starbucks was a single store on the Seattle waterfront that just made good coffee. In "Pour Your Heart Into It," CEO Howard Schultz goes through the guiding philosophies and principles that have helped shape his business, and the wisdom he’s gained over the years while growing that single store into over 1,600 when the book was published back in 1999. Today, there are 21,000 Starbucks stores worldwide.

“On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King

good autobiography titles

Stephen King is one of the most gifted and prolific writers in American history, creating so many works of such high-quality that it can be tough to imagine how he does it. Here, he details the habits and convictions that have helped him create the horrifying works he’s crafted for the world — essential reading for any aspiring writer.

“Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way,” by Richard Branson

good autobiography titles

Richard Branson is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his generation, with ventures in music, airlines, retail, and even soda. It happened thanks in part to his stated philosophy of "Oh, screw it, let’s do it" and a few of his other personal rules for success. For anyone out there who wants to start their own business, Branson’s book could serve you well.

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

good autobiography titles

Released this past September, "Born to Run" has already been praised by critics all over. Starting with the story of when he and the E Street Band played the Super Bowl Halftime show in 2009 and weaving back in and out of his personal and musical history, this book is a great resource for any die hard fans of The Boss.

“Cash: The Autobiography” by Johnny Cash

good autobiography titles

The story of The Man in Black as he chooses to tell it. From childhood to stardom, the path for Johnny Case was never smooth, and that journey helped make his music as iconic as it is today. With stories of addiction, Elvis, and a love of his wife, this book allows readers a more detailed look at the history that inspired his work.

“Life” by Keith Richards

good autobiography titles

It’s hard to imagine a person on the planet who has lived a more interesting life than Keith Richards. A founding member of the Rolling Stones, Richards defined for many what it meant to be a rock star, and here he tells his audience about his life of drugs, music, love, and more drugs.

“Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela

good autobiography titles

The book that inspired the recent film about the man who inspired so many. Nelson Mandela was one of the most influential moral and political leaders the world has seen. In "Long Walk to Freedom," Mandela recounts the struggles that made up his life, and his journey from prison to triumph. 

“My Booky Wook” by Russell Brand

good autobiography titles

You’ll probably recognize Russell Brand as the musical sexpot Aldous Snow from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," but before breaking big, Brand was living quite a life. In his book, the comic is strikingly candid about his relationship with heroin, and his ability to freely form words into captivating sentences translates extremely well from the microphone to the page. 

good autobiography titles

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The Top 10: Best Autobiography Titles

From fay weldon to donald rumsfeld, the cleverest plays on words for the names of memoirs.

good autobiography titles

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We have done worst autobiography titles and obscure titles of political memoirs, and I have been meaning to get round to this one for some time, prompted by Andy Jeal and, finally, by Dan Kelly. I may have been holding back because there is such a thin line between the best and the worst.

1. Coreyography , Corey Feldman. Actor and singer: the voice, aged nine, of Young Copper in The Fox and the Hound , 1981.

2. Auto Da Fay , Fay Weldon. Born Franklin Birkinshaw, author of “Go to work on an egg” and The Life and Loves of a She-Devil , 1983.

3. It’s About A Ball , Alan Ball. Youngest member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team. Wrote his memoir in 1978.

4. Fourth Among Equals . “By that bloke in the Gang Of Four who wasn’t Jenkins, Owen or Williams,” said Simon James. Bill Rodgers, co-founder of the Social Democratic Party in 1981, now Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, 89.

5. Me: Moir , Vic Reeves. Comedian whose real name is Jim Moir. Nominated by Dermot O’Sullivan and CJH.

6. Kind of Blue , Kenneth Clarke. A subtle reference to his love of classic jazz and to his (later) dislike for toeing the Conservative Party line. Suggested by Dan Kelly, Ms Information and James Undy.

7. The Third Man , Peter Mandelson. Simple and clever by the third person in the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown relationship. “Always liked it,” said Tim Sculthorpe.

8. Known and Unknown , Donald Rumsfeld. “Quite a clever title,” said Dan Kelly, referring to the US Defence Secretary’s celebrated observation: “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.” Department of Defence news briefing, 12 February 2002.

9. Tim Book Two , part two of the autobiography of Tim Burgess, lead singer of The Charlatans. “Which is pretty cool,” said someone called Play For Today.

10. Nobody Knows the Truffles I’ve Seen , George Lang (above). Restaurateur, nominated by Robert Wright‏.

Honourable mentions for Paul T Horgan, who nominated Nerd Do Well , by Simon Pegg, actor and comedian, which is very good; Dan Kelly (again) for Coming Up Trumps , by Baroness Trumpington; and Brian Mathieson, for Granny Made Me an Anarchist , by Stuart Christie, who went off to Spain intending to blow up General Franco. Someone also nominated Tainted Life , by Marc Almond of Soft Cell.

And finally, a mention for Joshua Topp, who nominated No Turn Unstoned , not a memoir but a collection of unfavourable theatre reviews compiled by Diana Rigg, the actor.

Next week: People Whose Names Could Be Journeys, such as Derry Irvine

Coming soon: Unexpected Words in Pop Songs, starting with “encumber” (“He would not encumber me”) in “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to [email protected]

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Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Success Mindset

15 best autobiographies everyone should read at least once.

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Autobiographies of famous people might be more of a self-help book than a simple account of someone’s life. There are times in our lives when we lose our focus and  feel overwhelmed in life . Getting inspired by real-life stories from some of the best autobiographies can really motivate us.

Reading about other people’s diverse viewpoints and life experiences can provide us with a better perspective towards life and widen our horizon.

“Autobiography is a wound where the blood of history does not dry.” [1]

And this is right. The life lessons from these autobiographies can always inspire us to think and live differently.

15 Best Autobiographies You Need to Read

Here’re some of the best autobiographies for your perusal.

1. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

Understand Benjamin Franklin's past even if you did not live it.

Lasso Brag

Through Writing, Franklin creates a place where his memories can live on in perpetuity, separate from his physical body, as part of collective memory.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is an intentional attempt to rewrite his past in a way that readers – including his son and American society – will understand, even if they did not fully live it.

Franklin’s lifelong pursuit of self-improvement began at a young age. Franklin’s desire for perfection led him to devise a plan to achieve it in just 13 weeks by eliminating bad habits and acquiring the 13 virtues he considered most important.

In addition, he laid out a day in which each necessary task was given the appropriate amount of time.

2. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

A Long Walk to Freedom : The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Mandela’s struggles and feats make his autobiography one of the most inspiring ones of all time.

An excerpt from Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s Autobiography, Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom , depicts the battle for black liberation in South Africa. It is one of the best autobiographies if you are looking for inspiration.

First Black President Nelson Mandela was sworn into office on May 10, 1994, ending more than three centuries of white dominance in South Africa. In the country’s first democratic elections, his party took 252 of the 400 seats up for grabs.

The opening ceremony was held in the Union Buildings amphitheater in Pretoria, which was attended by many dignitaries and political personalities from numerous countries.

Affirming his country’s invulnerability to such oppression, Mandela greeted the assembled dignitaries with a polite bow during his speech.

As the country’s first black president, he founded democracy and vowed that no one would be discriminated against, regardless of race, color, creed, or ethnicity.

That the government will treat everyone equally and with respect was a promise he made many times again. Mandela’s struggles and feats make his account one of the most inspiring autobiographies of all time.

3. The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Freedom fighter and activist Mohandas Gandhi led India to independence after a long and arduous struggle.

In his book “ An Autobiography: My Life and My Experiences with the Truth ,” he recounts his experiences fighting against English colonialism and spreading his philosophy, known as “Satyagraha.”.

It is, indeed one of the most popular autobiographies through the course of education in India and many countries.

Most people can’t claim Gandhi’s level of moral and ethical commitment. Despite this, he tells us of his own mistakes and how he has grown because of them.

However, these quotations illustrate Gandhi’s devotion to doing what he believes is good, from honesty to vegetarianism, from keeping commitments to self-denial. Morality is the foundation of his worldview, including the experiments that guide his daily activities.

One can even say that in the entire list this one is one of the good autobiographies that will guide you throughout your lives.

4. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

During World War II, Anne Frank was a teenage Jewish girl who wrote a diary while her family hid from the Nazis. The Diary of a Young Girl is one of the best autobiographies of all time.

She and seven others stayed in Amsterdam’s “Secret Annex” for two years before being captured and deported to German concentration camps. In 1945, Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen detention camp.

Frank’s father was the last survivor of the family. He decided to publish Anne’s diary, which details her thoughts, feelings, and observations while hiding.

It has been a best-seller worldwide and a staple of Holocaust teaching programs for decades. Her legacy is honored by several humanitarian groups, and hers is one of the best autobiographies, read in several languages by people all around the world.

5. Chronicles, Vol 1 by Bob Dylan

Chronicles: Volume One

Bob Dylan began his incredible musical career when he landed in New York City in the early 1960s. Dylan’s own words present an intimate glimpse of Dylan’s motives, difficulties, and astonishing creativity in Chronicles, Vol 1.

On the surface, Dylan’s memoir comprises of three chapters on his childhood and youth, which are surrounded by two chapters about

Dylan’s experiences while working on two completely unappreciated albums. The literary aspect of this work is what first grabs the reader’s attention.

So it was wise to arrange the two chapters focusing on an older, more broken self between the three chapters on an artist who is still striving to find his voice, so the dreams witnessed in the latter can be seen refracted, half-lit, but are still present.

The book’s title is also relevant, as this is a work that deals a lot with debts.

6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The poem compares the features of a caged bird and a free bird, with a focus on the caged bird. The poem opens by describing the freedom of the free bird, which can fly wherever and whenever it wants because there are no other birds to compete with.

As a metaphor for a white person, the free bird follows the tide of air movement. In the sun’s orange light, it appears to be dipping its wings. It appears to be seizing the entire sky as it soars into the air.

Angelou also published one of the most inspiring autobiographies called I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings . As the title of her whole backstory, it is clear that this title meant a lot to Angelou.

This is what she talked about in her autobiography. She talked about how hard it was to be a black author and poet. She thought that people didn’t hear her because of her skin color.

She thought that, in some ways, she was still being enslaved. People in Angelou’s time were free, but there were still many rules in society that made many black people not feel independent.

7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley

The Autobiography of Malcolm X talks a lot about Malcolm’s experiences with racism, and “perception” is used a lot. Malcolm says that people thought of black people in a bad way when he was growing up.

There, Malcolm says that black and white people would not be able to live together in peace because of the idea of perception, which is the main reason he wants to keep them apart.

Malcolm also talks about religion in this book. Malcolm was a big fan of Islam, and he talks about religion in this text. He says Islam is better because it doesn’t support racism.

He says that “America needs to understand Islam because this is the only religion that removes race from its society.” Indeed deserving to be added to the group of truly readable and good autobiographies.

8. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie

Autobiography, An

Unless it’s a sleazy tell-all, you’d better skip the details and get straight to the dirt; the best autobiographies of all time strike a balance between the charming and the indulgent.

Agatha Christie’s Autobiography isn’t a sleazy tell-all (a Dame wouldn’t say such things anyhow), but she does it with enough charm and humor to make it worthwhile.

It wasn’t published until 1977, a year after Agatha Christie’s demise at 85 years old when she penned her autobiography.

Christie is one of the world’s best-known mystery writers, yet the author remained a mystery for many fans of Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple.

Christie was a private person who rarely spoke to the media, never did interviews, and even disappeared for some time. Despite this, she had a long and successful career as a writer.

Christie fans finally had a chance to discover more about their favorite mystery author thanks to the release of one of the most inspiring autobiographies.

9. Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

Open: An Autobiography

Although some may disagree that Andre Agassi was the greatest tennis player of all time, it is clear the Las Vegas native was the most successful at attracting attention. The tome is one of the best autobiographies for sports fanatics all over the globe.

He first appeared on the pro tour in the 1980s, wearing a flamboyant outfit sponsored by Nike. It included stone-washed denim, skintight compression shorts called “Hot Lava,” and dark sunglasses that looked like they belonged on a roulette wheel at midnight.

Many were fooled by the granite consistency of Agassi’s game

Tennis star Andre Agassi is widely regarded as one of the greatest players.

Andre’s father, who was emotionally and physically abusive, was a driving force in Andre’s early development as a gymnast.

In the book Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi , Tennis star Andre won his first grand slam at the tender age of twenty-two, which details his sporting career and personal connections with Barbara Streisand and Brook Shields.

Andre Agassi College Prep Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada, was founded due to his philanthropic endeavors, as detailed in his autobiography.

10. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Rarely has a book about writing been so simplistic, useful, and illuminating as this one has been.

Author Stephen King’s childhood and early focus on writing to tell stories are recounted in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft ‘s first chapter in one of his top autobiographies.

Readers will gain a new and often hilarious perspective on the development of a writer from the author’s vivid memories of his formative years in high school-college and the years leading up to his debut novel, Carrie.

Next, King discusses the essential tools of the writer’s profession, including how to use them to their full potential and keep them handy at all times.

Readers are taken on a journey through a wide range of topics, from plotting and character development to work habits and rejection, by the author.

It is a poignant tale of how King’s intense drive to write propelled him to recovery and brought him back to his life, which was serialized in the New Yorker to great acclaim.

11. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition

A Movable Feast  is one of Ernest Hemingway’s best-known works of fiction. Mary Hemingway, the author’s widow, published the memoir after her husband’s death in the 1950s, based on entries from Hemingway’s diaries from the 1920s.

The writer and his little son, Jack, lived in Paris during this time with his first wife, Hadley.

When Ernest Hemingway was a young American writer in Paris (1921–26), with his first wife Hadley Richardson, he wrote a collection of anecdotes called A Moveable Feast.

Hemingway worked as a journalist while pursuing his dream of becoming a full-time novelist in a modest apartment on Paris’s artsy Left Bank.

Several of the artists and authors mentioned in the sketches were also American ex-pats living in Paris at Hemingway’s writings. Drawing from various perspectives, the sketches show the progression of events rather than following a strict timeline.

12. Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1

Famous American author Mark Twain shares his life story with young readers in one of his best autobiographies of all time. The Autobiography of Mark Twain , as well as insights into the mind of an author and the United States when it was young and hopeful.

The period covered by Mark Twain’s Autobiography ranges from 1835 to 1910, which is a significant one in the history of the US.

Twain’s wit and insight give readers a unique perspective on the Civil War, slavery and race relations, the settlement of the American West, globe travel in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and major literary and historical works.

Twain was widely recognized as a brilliant storyteller throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and readers eagerly awaited his memoirs.

13. I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne

I Am Ozzy

Through the pages of one of his popular autobiographies, the world gets to meet Ozzy Osbourne. For the first time, Ozzy reveals the details of his life to the public. After filming a TV show, he’s now released an entire book about his family’s privacy invasion. Take a tour through the life of Ozzy Osbourne.

He recalls everything from his childhood to the present day throughout his life. I Am Ozzy is Ozzy’s way of telling you about the things that have shaped him into who he is now and the things that have made him laugh. As a result, Ozzy divided his book into two parts.

“Starting Over” is what he calls the second section of the book. But he makes an intriguing choice in how to divide up a book and name the parts. He has chapters inside each portion.” At the outset of his autobiography, he says that no one expected him to write it, yet he did.

From his working-class childhood, his decision to leave the factory job for music, how his band was formed, why he is notorious for biting off bats and fowl heads, drug and alcohol problems, near-death encounters with STDs, and the realities of becoming a grandfather.

14. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

Mein Kampf

Adolf Hitler wrote the Mein Kampf book, which translates to “My Struggle” in English. One volume was published in 1925, followed by another in the following year. It is one of the most popular autobiographies in the world.

Being one of the best autobiographies to read, the book explains Hitler’s political theory, including his views on the state, politics, and race.

In the early 1930s, Hitler amassed a small fortune thanks to the popularity of his book, Main Kampf.

After Hitler became chancellor, the book was made required reading for most Germans, and it served as a means of spreading Nazi ideology and principles throughout the country.

For instance, the book was provided to newlywed couples by the German government as a marriage gift during Hitler’s leadership in Germany.

Additionally, it was made available to all German troops serving in the field throughout World War II. Mein Kampf had sold more than 10 million copies in Germany by the end of World War II and translated them into 11 languages.

As a picture of fascism and Nazism in Germany at the time, it is still relevant today.

15. Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Among other things, Barack Obama was an author before he became a politician. Dreams from My Father  is a refreshing and insightful depiction of a young man pondering the big concerns of identity and belonging.

It was an emotional journey for Obama, born to an African-American father and an American mother. When his mother’s family relocated from Kansas to Hawaii, he followed in their footsteps and grew up in Indonesia.

When he finally gets to Kenya, he faces the painful truth of his father’s death and finally makes peace with his father’s two estates.

Final Thoughts

Biographies and autobiographies can improve your life by allowing you to reading others’ words and apply their knowledge and experience to your own life.

Just let these best autobiographies mentor you. You will be able to learn valuable life lessons without having to experience the same things as these famous people.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com


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Writing Beginner

How To Write an Autobiography 2024 (Tips, Templates, & Guide)

Your life story has value, merit, and significance. You want to share it with the world, but maybe you don’t know how .

Here’s how to write an autobiography:

Write an autobiography by creating a list of the most important moments, people, and places in your life. Gather photos, videos, letters, and notes about these experiences. Then, use an outline, templates, sentence starters, and questions to help you write your autobiography .

In this article, you are going to learn the fastest method for writing your autobiography.

We are going to cover everything you need to know with examples and a free, downloadable, done-for-you template.

What Is an Autobiography?

Typewriter, lightbulb, and crumpled paper - How To Write an Autobiography

Table of Contents

Before you can write an autobiography, you must first know the definition.

An autobiography is the story of your life, written by you. It covers the full span of your life (at least, up until now), hitting on the most significant moments, people and events.

When you write your autobiography, you write an intimate account of your life.

What Should I Include In an Autobiography?

If you are scratching your head, baffled about what to include in your autobiography, you are not alone.

After all, a big part of how to write an autobiography is knowing what to put in and what to leave out of your life story. Do you focus on every detail?

Every person? Won’t your autobiography be too long?

A good way to think about how to write an autobiography is to use the Movie Trailer Method.

What do movie trailers include?

  • High emotional moments
  • The big events
  • The most important characters

When you plan, organize, and write your autobiography, keep the Movie Trailer Method in mind. You can even watch a bunch of free movie trailers on YouTube for examples of how to write an autobiography using the Movie Trailer Method.

When wondering what to include in your autobiography, focus on what would make the cut for a movie trailer of your life:

  • Most important people (like family, friends, mentors, coaches, etc.)
  • Significant events (like your origin story, vacations, graduations, life turning points, life lessons)
  • Emotional moments (When you were homeless, when you battled a life-threatening condition, or when you fell in love)
  • Drama or suspense (Did you make it into Harvard? Did your first surgery go well? Did your baby survive?)

Autobiography Structure Secrets

Like any compelling story, a well-structured autobiography often follows a pattern that creates a logical flow and captures readers’ attention.

Traditionally, autobiographies begin with early memories, detailing the writer’s childhood, family background, and the events or people that shaped their formative years.

From here, the narrative typically progresses chronologically, covering major life events like schooling, friendships, challenges, achievements, career milestones, and personal relationships.

It’s essential to weave these events with introspective insights.

This allows readers to understand not just the what, but also the why behind the author’s choices and experiences.

Towards the end, an effective autobiography often includes reflections on lessons learned, changes in perspective over time, and the wisdom acquired along life’s journey.

Example of the Structure:

  • Introduction: A gripping event or anecdote that gives readers a hint of what to expect. It could be a pivotal moment or challenge that defines the essence of the story.
  • Childhood and Early Memories: Recounting family dynamics, birthplace, cultural background, and memorable incidents from early years.
  • Adolescence and Discovering Identity: Experiences during teenage years, challenges faced, friendships formed, and personal evolutions.
  • Pursuits and Passions: Describing education, early career choices, or any particular hobby or skill that played a significant role in the author’s life.
  • Major Life Events and Challenges: Chronicles of marriage, parenthood, career shifts, or any significant setbacks and how they were overcome.
  • Achievements and Milestones: Celebrating major accomplishments and recounting the journey to achieving them.
  • Reflections and Wisdom: Sharing life lessons, changes in beliefs or values over time, and offering insights gained from lived experiences.
  • Conclusion: Summarizing the journey, contemplating on the present state, and sharing hopes or aspirations for the future.

How To Write an Autobiography Quickly: Strategies & Templates

Want the quickest way to organize and write your autobiography in record time? You can literally write your autobiography in 7 days or less with this method.

The secret is to use done-for-you templates.

I have personally designed and collected a series of templates to take you from a blank page to a fully complete Autobiography. I call this the How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint.

And it’s completely free to download right from this article. 🙂

In the How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint, you get:

  • The Autobiography Questions Template
  • The Autobiography Brainstorm Templates
  • The Autobiography Outline Template

Here is an image of it so that you know exactly what you get when you download it:

Autobiography Blueprint

How To Write an Autobiography: Step-by-Step

When you sit down to write an autobiography, it’s helpful to have a step-by-step blueprint to follow.

You already have the done-for-you templates that you can use to organize and write an autobiography faster than ever before. Now here’s a complete step-by-step guide on how to maximize your template.

  • Brainstorm Ideas
  • Order your sections (from medium to high interest)
  • Order the ideas in each section (from medium to high interest)
  • Write three questions to answer in each section
  • Choose a starter sentence
  • Complete a title template
  • Write each section of your by completing the starter sentence and answering all three questions

Brainstorm Your Autobiography

The first step in writing your autobiography is to brainstorm.

Give yourself time and space to write down the most significant people, events, lessons, and experiences in your life. The templates in the How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint provide sections for you to write down your brainstormed ideas.

How to Brainstorm Your Autobiography

This will help you organize your ideas into what will become the major sections of your book.

These will be:

  • Y our most significant events and experiences.
  • The people who impacted you the most.
  • The challenges you have overcome.
  • Your achievements and successes.
  • The lessons you have learned.

The “other” sections on the second page of the Brainstorm template is for creating your own sections or to give you more space for the sections I provided in case you run out of space.

As I brainstorm, I find asking myself specific questions really activates my imagination.

So I have compiled a list of compelling questions to help you get ideas down on paper or on your screen.

How to Write an Autobiography: Top 10 Questions

Order Your Sections (From Medium to High Interest)

The next step is to order your main sections.

The main sections are the five (or more) sections from your Brainstorm templates (Significant events, significant people, life lessons, challenges, successes, other, etc). This order will become the outline and chapters for your book.

How do you decide what comes first, second or third?

I recommend placing the sections in order of interest. Ask yourself, “What’s the most fascinating part of my life?”

If it’s a person, then write the name of that section (Significant People) on the last line in the How to Write an Autobiography Outline Template. If it’s an experience, place the name of that section (Significant Events) on the last line.

For example, if you met the Pope, you might want to end with that nugget from your life. If you spent three weeks lost at sea and survived on a desert island by spearfishing, that is your ending point.

Then complete the Outline by placing the remaining sections in order of interest. You can work your way backward from high interest to medium interest.

If you are wondering why I say “medium to high interest” instead of “low to high interest” it is because there should be no “low interest” parts of your autobiography.

But wait, what if you met the Pope AND spent three weeks lost at sea? How do you choose which one comes first or last?

First of all, I want to read this book! Second, when in doubt, default to chronological order. Whatever event happened first, start there.

Here is an example of how it might look:

Autobiography Example

Order The Ideas in Each Section (From Medium To High Interest)

Now, organize the ideas inside of each section. Again, order the ideas from medium to high interest).

Within your “Significant People” section, decide who you want to talk about first, second, third, etc. You can organize by chronological order (who you met first) but I recommend building to the most interesting or most significant person.

This creates a more compelling read.

Keep in mind that the most significant person might not be the most well-known, most famous, or most popular. The most significant person might be your family member, friend, partner, or child.

It comes down to who shaped your life the most.

So, if your “significant people list” includes your dad, a famous social media influencer, and Mike Tyson, your dad might come last because he had the biggest significance in your life.

Write Three Questions to Answer in Each Section

Ok, you’ve done the heavy lifting already. You have the major sections organized and outlined.

Next on your autobiography to-do list is to choose and write down three questions you are going to answer in each section. You can write your questions down in the provided “boxes” for each section on the template outline (or on another piece of paper.

This is easier than it might seem.

Simply choose one of the sample autobiography questions below or create your own:

  • Why did I choose this person/event?
  • What does this person/event mean to me?
  • How did I meet this person?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
  • What is the most interesting part?
  • How did I feel about this person or event?
  • How do I feel now?
  • Why does this person or event matters to me?
  • How did this person or event change my life?
  • What is the most challenging part?
  • How did I fail?
  • How did I succeed?
  • What did I learn?

Questions are the perfect way to write quickly and clearly. I LOVE writing to questions. It’s how I write these blog posts and articles.

Choose a Starter Sentence

Sometimes the hardest part of any project is knowing how to start.

Even though we know we can always go back and edit our beginnings, so many of us become paralyzed with indecision at the starting gate.

That’s why I provided sample starter sentences in your How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint.

Here are the story starters:

  • I began writing this book when…
  • Of all the experiences in my life, this one was the most…
  • I’ve been a…
  • My name is…
  • Growing up in…
  • It wasn’t even a…
  • It all started when…
  • I first…
  • I was born…

Keep in mind that you do not need to begin your book with one of these story starters. I provide them simply to get you going.

The key is to not get bogged down in this, or any, part of writing your autobiography. Get organized and then get writing.

Complete a Title Template

At the top of the How to Write an Autobiography Outline is a place for you to write your book title.

Some authors struggle forever with a title. And that’s ok. What’s not ok is getting stuck. What’s not ok is if coming up with your title prevents you from finishing your book.

So, I provided a few title templates to help juice your creativity.

Just like the story starters, you do not need to use these title templates, but you certainly can. All you need to do is fill in the title templates below and then write your favorite one (for now) at the top of your outline. Presto! You have your working title.

You can always go back and change it later.

How to Write an Autobiography Title templates:

  • [Your Name]: [Phrase or Tag Line]
  • The [Your Last Name] Files
  • Born [Activity]: A [Career]’s Life
  • The Perfect [Noun]: The Remarkable Life of [Your Name]

Examples using the Templates:

  • Christopher Kokoski: Blog Until You Drop
  • The Kokoski Files
  • Born Writing: A Blogger’s Life
  • The Perfect Freelancer: The Remarkable Life of Christopher Kokoski

Write Your Autobiography

You have your outline. You have your title, templates, and sentence starters. All that is left to do is write your autobiography.

However, you can use tools like Jasper AI and a few other cool tricks to craft the most riveting book possible.

This is the easy way to remarkable writing.

Check out this short video that goes over the basics of how to write an autobiography:

How To Write an Autobiography (All the Best Tips)

Now that you are poised and ready to dash out your first draft, keep the following pro tips in mind:

  • Be vulnerable. The best autobiographies share flaws, faults, foibles, and faux pas. Let readers in on the real you.
  • Skip the boring parts. There is no need to detail every meal, car ride, or a gripping trip to the grocery store. Unless you ran into the Russian Mafia near the vegetables or the grocery store is perched on the side of a mountain above the jungles of Brazil.
  • Keep your autobiography character-driven . This is the story of YOU!
  • Be kind to others (or don’t). When writing about others in your story, keep in mind that there may be fallout or backlash from your book.
  • Consider a theme: Many autobiographies are organized by theme. A perfect example is Becoming . Each section of the book includes “becoming” in the title. Themes connect and elevate each part of the autobiography.
  • Write your story in vignettes (or scenes). Each vignette is a mini-story with a beginning, middle, and end. Each vignette builds. Each vignette should be described in rich sensory language that shows the reader the experience instead of telling the reader about the experience. Each vignette is immersive, immediate, and intimate.
  • Include snippets of dialogue. Use quotation marks just like in fiction. Show the dialogue in brief back-and-forth tennis matches of conversation. Remember to leave the boring parts out!
  • Choose a consistent tone. Some autobiographies are funny like Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. Others are serious such as Open by Andre Agassi. Your story (like most stories) will likely include a mix of emotions but choose an overall tone and stick with it.
  • Don’t chronicle, captivate . Always think about how to make each section, each chapter, each page, each paragraph, and each sentence more compelling. You want to tell the truth, but HOW you tell the truth is up to you. Create suspense, conflict, and mystery. Let drama linger until it becomes uncomfortable. Don’t solve problems quickly or take away tension right away.

How Do I Format an Autobiography?

Most autobiographies are written in the first person (using the pronouns I, me, we, and us).

Your autobiography is written about you so write as yourself instead of pretending to be writing about someone else.

Most autobiographies are also written in chronological order, from birth right up to your current age, with all the boring parts left out. That doesn’t mean you can’t play around with the timeline.

Sometimes it’s more interesting to start at a high moment, backtrack to the beginning and show how you got to that high moment.

Whatever format you choose, be intentional, and make the choice based on making the most compelling experience possible for your readers.

How Long Should an Autobiography Be?

There are no rules to how long an autobiography should be but a rough guideline is to aim for between 200 and 400 pages.

This will keep your book in line with what most readers expect for books in general, and will help get your book traditionally published or help with marketing your self-published book.

How To Write a Short Autobiography

You write a short autobiography the same way that you write a long autobiography.

You simply leave more out of the story.

You cut everything down to the bones. Or you choose a slice of your life as you do in a memoir. This often means limiting the people in your book, reducing the events and experiences, and shrinking your story to a few pivotal moments in your life.

How To Start an Autobiography

The truth is that you can start your autobiography in any number of ways.

Here are four common ways to begin an autobiography.

  • Start at the beginning (of your life, career or relationship, etc.)
  • Start at a high moment of drama or interest.
  • Start at the end of the story and work backward
  • Start with why you wrote the book.

Good Autobiography Titles

If you are still stuck on titling your autobiography, consider going to Amazon to browse published works. You can even just Google “autobiographies.”

When you read the titles of 10, 20, or 50 other autobiographies, you will start to see patterns or get ideas for your own titles. (HINT: the title templates in the Autobiography Blueprint were reverse-engineered from popular published books.

Also, check out the titles of the full autobiography examples below that I have included right here in this article.

Types of Autobiographies

There are several different kinds of autobiographies.

Each one requires a similar but slightly nuanced approach to write effectively. The lessons in this article will serve as a great starting point.

Autobiography Types:

  • Autobiography for School
  • Autobiography Novel
  • Autobiography for a Job
  • Short Autobiography
  • Autobiography for Kids

Therefore, there is actually not just one way to write an autobiography.

Memoir vs. Autobiography: Are They The Same?

It’s common to feel confused about a memoir and an autobiography. I used to think they were the same thing.

But, nope, they’re not.

They are pretty similar, which is the reason for all the confusion. A memoir is the story of one part of your life. An autobiography is the story of your full life (up until now).

What Is the Difference Between an Autobiography and a Biography?

An autobiography is when you write about your own life. A biography, on the other hand, is when you write the story of someone else’s life.

So, if I write a book about the life of the President, that’s a biography.

If the President writes a story about his or her own life, that’s an autobiography.

What Not To Include In an Autobiography

Autobiographies are meant to be a snapshot of our lives that we can share with others, but there are some things that are best left out.

Here are three things you should avoid including in your autobiography:

1) Anything That Readers Will Skip

Your life may not be filled with non-stop excitement, but that doesn’t mean you need to include every mundane detail in your autobiography.

Stick to the highlights and leave out the low points.

2) Character Attacks on Others

It’s okay to discuss conflicts you’ve had with others, but don’t use your autobiography as a platform to attack someone’s character.

Keep it civil and focus on your own experiences and how they’ve affected you.

3) Skipping Highlights

Just because something embarrassing or painful happened to you doesn’t mean you should gloss over it in your autobiography.

These are the moments that shape us and make us who we are today, so don’t skip past them just because they’re uncomfortable.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your autobiography is interesting, honest, and engaging.

How To Write an Autobiography: Autobiography Examples

I have always found examples to be extremely instructive. Especially complete examples of finished products. In this case, books.

Below you will find examples of published autobiographies for adults and for kids. These examples will guide you, motivate you and inspire you to complete your own life story.

They are listed here as examples, not as endorsements, although I think they are all very good.

The point is that you don’t have to agree with anything written in the books to learn from them.

Autobiography Examples for Adults

  • A Promised Land (Autobiography of Barack Obama)
  • If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t) (Betty White)
  • It’s a Long Story: My Life (Willie Nelson)
  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography (Rob Lowe)
  • Becoming (Michelle Obama)

Autobiography Examples for Kids

  • This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (NOT Disability) (Aaron Philips)
  • Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid (Mikaila Ulmer)

Tools to Write Your Autobiography

Here are some recommended tools to help you write your autobiography:

Recommended ToolsLearn More
Jasper AI
Show Not Tell GPT
Dragon Professional Speech Dictation and Voice Recognition
Surface Laptop
Sqribble (eBook maker)

Final Thoughts: How To Write An Autobiography

Thank you for reading my article on How to Write an Autobiography.

Now that you know all of the secrets to write your book, you may want to get it published, market it, and continue to upskill yourself as an author.

In that case, read these posts next:

  • Can Anyone Write A Book And Get It Published?
  • The Best Writing Books For Beginners 2022 (My 10 Favorites)
  • Why Do Writers Hate Adverbs? (The Final Answer)
  • How To Write a Manifesto: 20 Ultimate Game-Changing Tips

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