Here are 16 of the greatest autobiographies ever written about the most influential and fascinating individuals of our world.
Coming in at number 16 is, The story of my life, by Helen Keller published in 1903.
“…every one who wishes to gain true knowledge must climb the Hill Difficulty alone, and since there is no royal road to the summit, I must zigzag it in my own way. I slip back many times, I fall, I stand still, I run against the edge of hidden obstacles, I lose my temper and find it again and keep it better, I trudge on, I gain a little, I feel encouraged, I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon……Every struggle is a victory.
Coming in at number 15 is, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass published in 1845.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is an 1845 memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and former slave Frederick Douglass during his time in Lynn, Massachusetts. It is generally held to be the most famous of a number of narratives written by former slaves during the same period.
Coming at number 14 is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Published in 2005.
The book recounts the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents. The title refers to her father’s long held intention of building his dream house, a glass castle.
Coming at number 13 is “Surely you are joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a curious character by Richard Feynman, published in 1985.
Feynman recounts his experiences trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and cracking the uncrackable safes guarding the most deeply held nuclear secrets—and much more of an eyebrow-raising nature. One of the most famous science books of our time, the phenomenal national bestseller that “buzzes with energy, anecdote and life…….It almost makes you want to become a physicist” (Science Digest).
Coming at number 12 is Just Kids by Patti Smith, published in 2010.
Patti Smith’s first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work–from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.
Coming at number 11 is Bossy Pants by Tina Fey, published in 2011.
Coming at number 10 is Born Standing Up by Steve Martin, published in 2007.
Born in Texas but raised in California, Steve was seduced early by the comedy shows that played on the radio when the family traveled back and forth to visit relatives. When Disneyland opened just a couple of miles away from home, an enchanted Steve was given his first chance to learn magic and entertain an audience. He describes how he noted the reaction to each joke in a ledger – ‘big laugh’ or ‘quiet’ – and assiduously studied the acts of colleagues, stealing jokes when needed. With superb detail, Steve recreates the world of small, dark clubs and the fear and exhilaration of standing in the spotlight. While a philosophy student at UCLA, he worked hard at local clubs honing his comedy and slowly attracting a following until he was picked up to write for TV.
From here on, Steve Martin became an acclaimed comedian, packing out venues nationwide. One night, however, he noticed empty seats and realized he had ‘reached the top of the roller coaster’. BORN STANDING UP is a funny and riveting chronicle of how Steve Martin became the comedy genius we now know and is also a fascinating portrait of an era.
Coming at number 9 is Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, published in 1996.
Angela’s Ashes is Frank McCourt’s masterful memoir of his childhood in Ireland. “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland.
Coming at number 8 is The Diary of A Young Girl by Annne Frank, published in 1947.
Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl is among the most enduring documents of the twentieth century. Since its publication in 1947, it has been read by tens of millions of people all over the world. It remains a beloved and deeply admired testament to the indestructible nature of the human spirit.
Coming at number 7 is Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, published in 2011.
Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—in addition to interviews with more than one hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Isaacson was given “unprecedented” access to Jobs’s life. Jobs is said to have encouraged the people interviewed to speak honestly. Although Jobs cooperated with the book, he asked for no control over its content other than the book’s cover, and waived the right to read it before it was published.
Coming at number 6 is A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, published in 1964.
A Moveable Feast is a memoir by American author Ernest Hemingway about his years as a struggling young migrant journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920s. The book, first published in 1964, describes the author’s apprenticeship as a young writer while he was married to his first wife, Hadley Richardson.
Coming at number 5 is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, published in 1969.
Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American South of the 1930s. She learns the power of the white folks at the other end of town and suffers the terrible trauma of rape by her mother’s lover. As a black woman, Maya Angelou has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope and joy, celebration and achievement; loving the world, she also knows its cruelty.
Coming at number 4 is Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, published in 1994.
These memoirs from one of the great leaders of our time are ‘essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it’ (President Barack Obama) – that is all you need to know to want to read the book.
Coming at number 3 is Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama, published in 1995.
The former President of the United States Barack Obama wrote an enchanting memoir on race an inheritance. In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father—a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man—has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional odyssey—first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migration of his mother’s family to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.
Coming at number 2 is The story of my experiments with truth by Mahatma Gandhi, published in the year 1927.
Gandhi recounts his life from childhood up until 1921, noting that “my life from this point onward has been so public that there is hardly anything about it that people do not know.” Harper Collins chose this work as one of the “100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century.” The pursuit of truth was a guiding principle for Gandhi. He states that it “is not my purpose to attempt a real autobiography. I simply want to tell the story of my numerous experiments with truth, and as my life consists of nothing but those experiments, it is true that the story will take the shape of an autobiography.” He also notes that this “will of course include experiments with non-violence, celibacy and other principles of conduct believed to be distinct from truth.”
Coming 1st is The Autobiography of Malcom X by Malcom X himself and Alex Haley published in 1965.
The Black leader discusses his political philosophy and reveals details of his life, shedding light on the ideas that enabled him to gain the allegiance of a still growing percentage of the Black populationSeptember 20, 2019