books The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written  

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A list of the finest biographical novels to ever tell life stories. Like historical novels, biographical novels can be tough to pin down because they blur the line between fiction and non-fiction. They're based on fact, but they also leave room for the author's imagination, telling slightly fictionalized stories with style and entertainment value.

Biographical and autobiographical novels are different from conventional biographies in that they are less dry, comprehensive, and rigorous. Instead, these stories hook readers emotionally, creating a sense of immediacy and involvement uncommon to history books.

The author of a biographical novel is free to invent dialogue, characters, and even scenes in order to best tell the story rather than sticking only to confirmed facts. As such, these novels are sort of like movies based on true stories: we accept that they're not 100% accurate because they entertainingly capture the spirit of real people and events.

We compiled the best examples of this unique literary form below, so vote up your favorite biographical novels. If we somehow missed a great one, feel free to add it to the list!
list ordered by

1
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The Diary of a Young Girl is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

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2
+ - 47 17
In Cold Blood is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
In Cold Blood Truman Capote

3
+ - 50 22
The Other Boleyn Girl is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Other Boleyn Girl Philippa Gregory

4
+ - 37 16
Into the Wild is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Into the Wild Jon Krakauer

5
+ - 35 15
The Night Trilogy is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Night Trilogy Elie Wiesel

6
+ - 30 11
A Beautiful Mind: The Life of ... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

7
+ - 35 16
Girl With a Pearl Earring: A S... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

8
+ - 31 16
Unbroken: A World War II Story... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

9
+ - 25 13
Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Lincoln Gore Vidal

10
+ - 27 15
The Immortal Life of Henrietta... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

11
+ - 27 15
Harriet Tubman: the Road to Fr... is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

12
+ - 27 16
John Adams is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
John Adams David McCullough

13
+ - 27 16
The Agony and the Ecstasy is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

14
+ - 19 9
The Constant Princess is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Constant Princess Philippa Gregory

15
+ - 26 16
Nicholas and Alexandra is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Nicholas and Alexandra Robert K. Massie

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16
+ - 23 16
Benjamin Franklin: An American... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

17
+ - 19 12
Catherine the Great: Portrait ... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

18
+ - 18 11
Cleopatra: A Life is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Cleopatra: A Life Stacy Schiff

19
+ - 19 13
Alexander Hamilton is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Alexander Hamilton Ron Chernow

20
+ - 23 18
The Autobiography of Malcolm X is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Autobiography of Malcolm X Alex Haley, Malcolm X

21
+ - 19 15
Shakespeare: The World as Stag... is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

22
+ - 18 15
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

23
+ - 30 29
Eat, Pray, Love is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert

24
+ - 16 14
Truman is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Truman David McCullough

25
+ - 14 12
Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald Therese Anne Fowler

26
+ - 13 11
Lust for life is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Lust for life Irving Stone

27
+ - 14 13
The Aviator's Wife is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Aviator's Wife Melanie Benjamin

28
+ - 12 11
Crazy Horse and Custer is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Crazy Horse and Custer Stephen Ambrose

29
+ - 11 12
Wild Swans is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Wild Swans Jung Chang

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30
+ - 11 12
Einstein: His Life and Univers... is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

31
+ - 9 10
The Professor and the Madman is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Professor and the Madman Simon Winchester

32
+ - 11 13
Washington: A Life is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Washington: A Life Ron Chernow

33
+ - 10 12
Wolf Hall is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel

34
+ - 10 12
Mornings on Horseback is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Mornings on Horseback David McCullough

35
+ - 9 11
With malice toward none is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
With Malice Toward None Stephen B. Oates

36
+ - 8 11
Queen Anne: The Politics of Pa... is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

37
+ - 8 11
Churchill and the Jews: A Life... is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

38
+ - 8 11
Empress is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Empress Shan Sa

39
+ - 8 11
LOVE IS ETERNAL is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Love Is Eternal Irving Stone

40
+ - 7 10
American Sphinx: The Character... is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

41
+ - 9 13
Theodore Rex is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Theodore Rex Edmund Morris

42
+ - 8 12
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Pr... is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

43
+ - 7 11
The Power Broker is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Power Broker Robert Caro

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44
+ - 7 11
The Master is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Master Colm Tóibín

45
+ - 7 11
First Family: Abigail and John... is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

46
+ - 6 10
Let the Trumpet Sound: a Life ... is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

47
+ - 10 15
American Lion is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
American Lion Jon Meacham

48
+ - 7 12
Lee is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Lee Douglas Freeman

49
+ - 7 12
Destiny of the Republic: A Tal... is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

50
+ - 11 17
The Paris Wife is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Paris Wife Paula McLain