Culture

The Best Autobiographies Ever Written 

Buster McDermott
Originally by
Updated March 10, 2020 12k votes 4.3k voters 514k views 127 items

List Rules Which autobiographies were the best and most moving reads? Vote them up and add all of your favorites.

The best autobiographies ever written include memoirs by famous historical figures, authors, politicians, celebrities, and more. This list includes a wide variety of books that are considered autobiographical, including more recent memoirs. Which one is the best? That's for you to decide, with votes of course. Some of the books listed here have proven to be life-changing reads. If you are an avid reader of autobiographies, you'll likely recognize a vast majority of the books listed here. If one of your favorites is missing, by all means, please do add it to the list. Those of us who love reading a beautifully written autobiography will be grateful!

When talking about the best-written autobiographies ever, any list would be woefully incomplete without Anne Frank: 'The Diary of a Young Girl,' as well as 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X' and Frank McCourt's heartbreaking (and humorous) memoir 'Angela's Ashes.' These books are not only notable autobiographies, they are certainly among the best non-fiction eBooks ever.

Not all of the best autobiographies ever written are dark and serious. Some manage to mix an ample amount of humor in. Tina Fey's brilliant 'Bossypants' and Steve Martin's 'Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life' are excellent examples of must read books by stand up comedians. FYI: You don't necessarily have to spend a small fortune to purchase these best autobiographies ever written. Some of them are available as free ebooks, or even as audiobooks so be sure to check before you shell out a ton of money. If you're a reading fanatic, you might also like this list of famous autobiographical novel books, as well as this list of the top must-read books of all time.

list ordered by
1
The Diary of a Young Gir... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Anne Frank

First Published: 1947

Subjects: Netherlands in World War II, Otto Frank, World War II, Hannah Pik-Goslar, Sol Kimel, + more

The Diary of a Young Girl is a book of the writings from the Dutch language diary kept by Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the ...more
2
The Autobiography of Ben... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Benjamin Franklin

First Published: 1791

Subjects: Philosophy, Pennsylvania, Education, World, Biography, + more

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is the traditional name for the unfinished record of his own life written by Benjamin Franklin from 1771 to 1790; however, Franklin himself appears to have ...more
3
Night is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Elie Wiesel

First Published: 1955

Subjects: Literary, Entertainment, Poland, Modern history, World War II, + more

Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–45, at the height of the Holocaust toward the end ...more
4
I Know Why the Caged Bir... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Maya Angelou

First Published: 1969

Subjects: Literary, Arkansas, Women, United States of America, 20th century, + more

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the 1969 autobiography about the early years of African-American writer and poet Maya Angelou. The first in a seven-volume series, it is a coming-of-age story ...more
5
The Confessions of St. A... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
looksharp added Augustine of Hippo

First Published: 0398

Subjects: Augustine of Hippo

Confessions is the name of an autobiographical work, consisting of 13 books, by St. Augustine of Hippo, written in Latin between 397 and 400 AD. Modern English translations of it are sometimes ...more
6
The Story of My Life is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Helen Keller

Subjects: Special education, Helen Keller, Education, Women, Public policy, + more

The story of my life, with her letters (1887-1901) and a supplementary account of her education is a book written by Helen Keller.
7
On Writing: A Memoir of ... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Stephen King

First Published: 2000-10-03

Subjects: Creative writing, Literary, Composition, Literature, Linguistics, + more

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, published in 2000, is a memoir of the author's experiences as a writer, and also serves as a guide book for those who choose to enter the ...more
8
A Walk in the Woods is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Bill Bryson

First Published: 1998-05-04

Subjects: Kindred Spirits, Sports, Travel, North America, Natural history, + more

A Walk in the Woods may be: A Walk in the Woods (book), a 1998 book by Bill Bryson A Walk in the Woods (film), a 2015 film by Ken Kwapis, based on Bryson's book A Walk in the Woods (play), a ...more
9
Up From Slavery is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Booker T. Washington

First Published: 1901

Up from Slavery is the 1901 autobiography of Booker T. Washington detailing his personal experiences in working to rise from the position of a slave child during the Civil War, to the ...more
10
Girl, Interrupted is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Susanna Kaysen

First Published: 1993

Subjects: Internal medicine, Medicine, Massachusetts

Girl, Interrupted is a best-selling 1993 memoir by American author Susanna Kaysen, relating her experiences as a young woman in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s after being diagnosed with ...more
11
Bossypants is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Tina Fey

First Published: 2011-04-05

Bossypants is an autobiographical comedy book written by American comedian Tina Fey. The book topped The New York Times Best Seller list, and stayed there for five weeks upon its release. Since ...more
12
Running with Scissors is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Augusten Burroughs

Subjects: Literary, Homosexuality, Massachusetts, 20th century

Running with Scissors is a 2002 memoir by American writer Augusten Burroughs. The book tells the story of Burroughs's bizarre childhood life after his mother, a chain-smoking aspiring poet, sent ...more
13
Chronicles: Volume One ... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Bob Dylan

First Published: 2004-10-05

Chronicles, Volume One is the first part of Bob Dylan's planned 3-volume memoir. Published on October 5, 2004, by Simon & Schuster, the 304-page volume covers selected points from Dylan's ...more
14
The Diving-Bell and the ... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Jean-Dominique Bauby

First Published: 1997-03-06

Subjects: Locked-in syndrome, Quadriplegia, Jean-Dominique Bauby

The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly is a book by Jean-Dominique Bauby.
15
Donnie Brasco: My Underc... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
looksharp added Joseph D. Pistone
Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia is a 1988 autobiographical crime book written by Joseph D. Pistone about his story as an FBI agent going undercover and infiltrating the Mafia. In ...more
16
Born Standing Up: A Comi... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Steve Martin

First Published: 2007-11

Subjects: Steve Martin

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life is a memoir, released November 20, 2007, by Steve Martin, an American author, actor, comedian, producer, playwright and screenwriter. It chronicles his early ...more
17
My Left Foot is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Christy Brown

Subjects: Christy Brown

My Left Foot is the 1954 autobiography of Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy on June 5, 1932 in Dublin, Ireland. As one of 13 surviving children, Brown went on to be an author, ...more
18
The Education of Henry A... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
19
Life and Times of Freder... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass is Frederick Douglass' third autobiography, published in 1881, revised in 1892. Because of the emancipation of American slaves during and following the ...more
20
The Story of My Experime... is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Mahatma Gandhi

First Published: 1927

Subjects: Nonviolent resistance

Autobiography is a book written by Mahatma Ghandi.
21
Long Walk to Freedom is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Nelson Mandela

First Published: 1994

Subjects: Human rights, World, Nelson Mandela, Politics, International relations, + more

Long Walk to Freedom is an autobiographical work written by South African President Nelson Mandela, and published in 1995 by Little Brown & Co. The book profiles his early life, coming of ...more
22
The Autobiography of Mal... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Alex Haley, Malcolm X

First Published: 1965

Subjects: Security, African American, African American studies, Black, Islam

The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965, the result of a collaboration between human rights activist Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley. Haley coauthored the autobiography based on ...more
23
Open: An Autobiography ... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Andre Agassi
24
Angela's Ashes is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
Frank McCourt

First Published: 1996-09-05

Subjects: Frank McCourt

Angela's Ashes is a 1996 memoir by the Irish author Frank McCourt. The memoir consists of various anecdotes and stories of Frank McCourt's impoverished childhood and early adulthood in Brooklyn, ...more
25
Witness is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Autobiographies Ever Written
looksharp added Whittaker Chambers

First Published: 1952

Witness is a book written by Whittaker Chambers.