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
251 51
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
129 53
In Cold Blood is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
clash1977 added In Cold Blood Truman Capote

3
112 61
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
91 48
Into the Wild is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Into the Wild Jon Krakauer

5
90 50
Girl With a Pearl Earring: A S... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

6
61 41
Harriet Tubman: the Road to Fr... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

7
60 42
A Beautiful Mind: The Life of ... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

8
59 43
The Agony and the Ecstasy is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

9
57 44
The Night Trilogy is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Night Trilogy Elie Wiesel

10
57 45
John Adams is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
John Adams David McCullough

11
61 50
Nicholas and Alexandra is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Nicholas and Alexandra Robert K. Massie

12
81 73
Eat, Pray, Love is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert

13
59 51
Unbroken: A World War II Story... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

14
52 44
The Autobiography of Malcolm X is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Autobiography of Malcolm X Alex Haley, Malcolm X

15
53 50
The Immortal Life of Henrietta... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

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16
45 44
Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Lincoln Gore Vidal

17
36 35
Lust for life is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
clash1977 added Lust for life Irving Stone

18
40 41
The Aviator's Wife is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Aviator's Wife Melanie Benjamin

19
35 36
Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald Therese Anne Fowler

20
35 38
Cleopatra: A Life is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Cleopatra: A Life Stacy Schiff

21
36 41
Catherine the Great: Portrait ... is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

22
36 41
The Paris Wife is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Paris Wife Paula McLain

23
38 47
Benjamin Franklin: An American... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

24
31 38
Truman is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Truman David McCullough

25
33 41
Alexander Hamilton is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Alexander Hamilton Ron Chernow

26
32 40
Shakespeare: The World as Stag... is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

27
28 38
Wolf Hall is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel

28
30 41
The Constant Princess is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Constant Princess Philippa Gregory

29
26 36
Crazy Horse and Custer is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Crazy Horse and Custer Stephen Ambrose

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30
26 41
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

31
22 36
Steve Jobs is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Steve Jobs Walter Isaacson

32
21 39
American Lion is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
American Lion Jon Meacham

33
20 38
Einstein: His Life and Univers... is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

34
20 39
Wild Swans is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Wild Swans Jung Chang

35
18 37
The Professor and the Madman is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Professor and the Madman Simon Winchester

36
17 38
LOVE IS ETERNAL is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Love Is Eternal Irving Stone

37
18 40
Theodore Rex is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Theodore Rex Edmund Morris

38
18 40
Washington: A Life is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Washington: A Life Ron Chernow

39
14 34
Let the Trumpet Sound: a Life ... is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

40
15 36
First Family: Abigail and John... is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

41
16 38
Queen Anne: The Politics of Pa... is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

42
14 35
The Power Broker is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
The Power Broker Robert Caro

43
15 37
Mornings on Horseback is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Mornings on Horseback David McCullough

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44
21 50
Mein Kampf is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
LarsWinkel added Mein Kampf Adolf Hitler

45
12 36
American Sphinx: The Character... is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

46
13 38
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Pr... is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

47
12 37
Churchill and the Jews: A Life... is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

48
12 37
Empress is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Empress Shan Sa

49
12 37
Lee is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Lee Douglas Freeman

50
11 36
Destiny of the Republic: A Tal... is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written