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The Best Autobiographies of All Time

A long way gone Ishmael BeahThe autobiography holds a strange place in my book-loving heart. When it works, it’s great. I don’t know if I like anything better than reading a really, really good memoir. And there’s nothing more tiresome to me than a bad one. The bad ones are usually the tell-alls and exhibitionist books that are written solely to make a buck. For me, the best autobiographies of all time are written by people that I think I would enjoy knowing.

The subject of an autobiography is the person. If the person has nothing to do with subjects or themes that I can identify with somewhere, I’m probably not going to love it. There are exceptions, of course, and those exceptions are the ones where I feel like they help me venture into new arenas.

So this list I’m about to put down is going to serve as my own personal list of the best autobiographies. I’ll come back frequently (I hope) and add to it as often as there is something worth calling great.

Below, when possible, I’ll link to reviews I have written on this blog.

  • A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Bea
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • The Autiobiography of Malcolm X
  • I’m throwing in the David Sedaris books, just because
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl
  • A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson
  • Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin
  • Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer

I’m going to leave it there for now. Hope to have more soon. I think there are great autobiographies that are some of the best books of all time. Feel free to add to the list!


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Apurva April 16, 2011, 12:49 am

    Dear Josh,
    Thats a nice thing you have done here. Really great. I was looking for some really good biographies to read and I came here to find exactly what I should be reading.

    Thanks a ton for that. I’d like to request you to suggest some sportsperson biographies specifically if you can. I am greatly inspired by ‘OPEN’ by andre aggasi. Im gonna read Pele’s bio now.

    Thanks a ton again.
    Do stop by my blogs sometime if you’d like to.

    Kind Regards,
    Apurva Oka.

    • rohan July 27, 2011, 3:47 am

      Open was awesome I also loved it . how is pele’s autobiography and have u read any other sportsperson’s autobiography

      • Josh Hanagarne July 27, 2011, 8:24 am

        It’s been a while, but I loved the biographies of Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird. Right now I’m reading Bowerman And The Men Of Oregon, which is a great book about the founder of Nike–but he was also a trail-blazing running coach and a hell of a character. Highly recommended.

    • Dhawal August 8, 2011, 6:08 am

      Hi Apurva,

      Lance Armstrong’s autobiography “Its not about the bike” is an excellent read…I too read OPEN. Loved it…

  • Aswathi June 28, 2011, 6:32 am


    I read the two below and loved it.

    1. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography
    2. Eat, pray, love by Elizabeth Gilbert


  • Abhilash September 22, 2011, 8:16 pm

    These are some really good autobiographies that I came across:-
    1)On a clear day you can see General Motors-John De Lorean
    2)Lucky Man-Michael J. Fox
    3)Jack-Straight from the gut-Jack Welch
    4)The child called “it” and its sequels-Dave pelzer
    5)Iacocca: An Autobiography-Lee Iacocca
    6)Confessions of an S.O.B-Al neuharth

    The books are in no particular order…all of them are equally special.

  • Gary April 5, 2012, 3:19 pm

    Paul McGrath-“Back from the brink”… Im sure a lot of you haven’t heard of him but hes a former professional soccer player who had problems with alcohol.

    The best Iv ever read.

  • C Vincent April 23, 2012, 1:15 pm

    Really enjoyed ‘Call me Ted’ by Ted Turner. Totally wasn’t interested in the guy and my opinion of him was negative. Finished the book with admiration for his accomplishments.

    • Josh Hanagarne April 23, 2012, 1:28 pm

      I know nothing about him. I’ll check it out, thank you.

  • loretta June 6, 2012, 1:37 pm

    I liked The girl in the red coat – Roma Ligocka.

  • Janet October 31, 2012, 9:53 am

    Native Son by Richard Wright is a novel.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 31, 2012, 10:16 am

      Good grief, you’re right. I was thinking of Black Boy. thank you!