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The Best Autobiographies Ever Written

Updated July 21, 2020 10.9k votes 4.6k voters 534.7k views126 items

List RulesWhich 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.

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  • 1

    First Published1947

    SubjectsNetherlands in World War II, Otto Frank, World War II, Hannah Pik-Goslar, Sol Kimel

    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
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  • 2
    Alex Haley, Malcolm X
    361
    129

    First Published1965

    SubjectsSecurity, 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 a  ...more
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  • 3

    First Published1927

    SubjectsNonviolent resistance

    Autobiography is a book written by Mahatma Ghandi.  ...more
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  • 4
    194
    72

    SubjectsSpecial education, Helen Keller, Education, Women, Public policy

    The story of my life, with her letters (1887-1901) and a supplementary account of her education is a book written by Helen Keller.  ...more
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  • 5
    Frank McCourt
    207
    69

    First Published1996-09-05

    SubjectsFrank 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, New  ...more
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  • 6
    Nelson Mandela
    334
    124

    First Published1994

    SubjectsHuman rights, World, Nelson Mandela, Politics, International relations

    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 age,  ...more
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  • 7

    First Published1791

    SubjectsPhilosophy, Pennsylvania, Education, World, Biography

    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
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  • 8

    First Published1969

    SubjectsLiterary, Arkansas, Women, United States of America, 20th century

    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 that  ...more
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  • 9
    339
    122
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  • 10
    Elie Wiesel
    311
    155

    First Published1955

    SubjectsLiterary, Entertainment, Poland, Modern history, World War II

    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 of the  ...more
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  • 11
    looksharp addedAugustine of Hippo
    97
    44

    First Published0398

    SubjectsAugustine 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
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  • 12
    Booker T. Washington
    85
    47

    First Published1901

    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 difficulties  ...more
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  • 13
    Susanna Kaysen
    89
    46

    First Published1993

    SubjectsInternal 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
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  • 14
    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 American  ...more
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  • 15

    First Published2000-10-03

    SubjectsCreative writing, Literary, Composition, Literature, Linguistics

    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 craft. In  ...more
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  • 16
    83
    55

    First Published1998-05-04

    SubjectsKindred Spirits, Sports, Travel, North America, Natural history

    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 1988  ...more
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  • 17
    looksharp addedJoseph D. Pistone
    48
    21
    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 1997,  ...more
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  • 18
    stubb addedPrimo Levi
    50
    19

    First Published1956

    SubjectsLiterary, Poland, Judaism, Italy, Modern history

    Primo Levi is in every way a better writer than Elie Wiesel. // First published as If This Be a Man, which is neither informative nor compelling.
    If This Is a Man is a work by the Italian Jewish writer Primo Levi. It describes his arrest as a member of the Italian anti-fascist resistance during the Second World War, and his incarceration in  ...more
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  • 19
    Christy Brown
    55
    36

    SubjectsChristy 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, painter  ...more
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  • 20
    63
    33

    First Published1997-03-06

    SubjectsLocked-in syndrome, Quadriplegia, Jean-Dominique Bauby

    The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly is a book by Jean-Dominique Bauby.  ...more
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  • 21
    Augusten Burroughs
    74
    48

    SubjectsLiterary, 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 him  ...more
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  • 22

    First Published2007-11

    SubjectsSteve 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 life,  ...more
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  • 23
    WilliamCarrigan addedUlysses S. Grant
    62
    44

    SubjectsUnited States of America, United States Army, History of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, History

    The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant is an autobiography of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, focused mainly on his military career during the Mexican-American War and  ...more
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  • 24
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  • 25
    Katharine Hepburn
    39
    29

    First Published1991

    SubjectsHollywood, Classical Hollywood cinema, Entertainment, Women, United States of America

    Me: Stories of My Life is a 1991 book by Katharine Hepburn.  ...more
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List Rules: Which autobiographies were the best and most moving reads? Vote them up and add all of your favorites.