An autobiography is a first-hand experience of a person written by the person themselves. Autobiographies are mainly written by famous people or public figures, and they show readers the other side of these people. These books teach the readers lessons based on the author’s life struggles, their emotions and their trauma.
Reading an autobiography can offer you a unique insight into a world that is very different from your own. These real-life stories are entertaining, educational and more realistic than fiction.
On that note, here are the four best autobiography books you should definitely read at least once in your life.
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
This autobiography chronicles the life of the legendary leader, Nelson Mandela. Starting from his early years, growing up to become a freedom fighter, to the 27 years he spent in prison in South Africa, this book contains everything you need to know about Nelson Mandela and the role he played in crafting a democratic South Africa.
This book contains an extensive analysis of Mandela’s fight against the apartheid that affected all South Africans at the time.
Winning the presidency of South Africa, a Nobel Peace Prize and the hearts of millions all over the world, Nelson Mandela is one of the most memorable leaders of our time. Approximately 700-pages long, Long Walk to Freedom is not a light read, but it is a book that everyone should read at least once in their lifetime.
Memorable quote from the book. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This autobiography wasn’t planned. Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who, along with her friends and family, lived during World War II. With the threat of WWII on her neck, she went into hiding with her family.
For her 13th birthday, she received a diary. While in hiding, she wrote in her diary about everything she experienced during the time: friendships, family, her academic performances, and her crushes on boys, amongst other things. She also wrote about how she lived life in hiding, her loneliness, her observations about other people’s actions and her regular emotional swings.
Shortly after her 15th birthday, Frank and her family were caught and sent to a concentration camp where she unfortunately died of typhus.
Originally written in Dutch and later translated to English, The Diary of a Young Girl continues to touch hearts decades after Frank’s death and the end of WWII.
Memorable quote from the book. “It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Published in 1969, this autobiography of legendary writer and poet, Maya Angelou, details the gripping aspects of her life from age 3 to age 16. From living with her paternal grandmother in a small town in Arkansas, to being raped by an older man at the age of eight, Angelou writes eloquently and heart wrenchingly about the trauma she endured at such a young age.
When her rapist was murdered after she told her mother of the rape, Angelou blamed herself for it. Out of fear, she became a selective mute and decided to keep her mind filled by reading books.
At 15, she began to worry about her sexuality and decided that having sex with a boy will keep her from becoming a lesbian. She did this and got pregnant. After hiding her pregnancy for six months, she told her family and they helped her through the pregnancy and motherhood.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings details the discrimination, humiliation and racial violence that African American children endured in the segregated American south.
Memorable quote from the book. “To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision. Few, if any, survive their teens. Most surrender to the vague but murderous pressure of adult conformity. It becomes easier to die and avoid conflict than to maintain a constant battle with the superior forces of maturity.”
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Steven King
One of the most prolific and gifted writers in the history of America, Steven King abandons his famous nightmare-inducing writing style and takes on an intense, laid-back one to write this memoir On Writing.
In this memoir, King details his childhood and the convictions that helped him create the horrifying, yet outstanding, works he has released to–and for–the world. The first part of the book covers King’s addiction to drugs and alcohol, his struggles before and after fame, and the near-fatal car accident he was involved in while writing the book.
In the second part, King delves into the art of writing, urging people to forget the writing blocks, to stop overthinking things and just go for it. Each part of this memoir (there are three parts) is written exceptionally well and is lined with raw honesty and sheer transparency.
Whether you’re an aspiring writer or an avid reader, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is an essential read.
Memorable quote from the book. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
While these are not the only great and inspirational autobiographies out there, they chronicle the lives of the most influential people that lived during some of the worst phases of history and have changed the world in many ways. Other great autobiographies include, but are not limited to:
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass
- A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
- Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie