Books The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written  

Ranker Books
4.8k votes 596 voters 8k views 55 items

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
282 57
The Diary of a Young Girl is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

2
141 60
In Cold Blood is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
clash1977 added Truman Capote

3
123 66
The Other Boleyn Girl is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Philippa Gregory

4
100 54
Into the Wild is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Jon Krakauer

5
101 57
Girl With a Pearl Earring: A S... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

6
68 43
Harriet Tubman: the Road to Fr... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

7
65 47
A Beautiful Mind: The Life of ... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

8
65 48
The Agony and the Ecstasy is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

9
71 55
Nicholas and Alexandra is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Robert K. Massie

10
62 48
The Night Trilogy is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Elie Wiesel

11
61 50
John Adams is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
David McCullough

12
89 83
Eat, Pray, Love is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Elizabeth Gilbert

13
58 49
The Autobiography of Malcolm X is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Alex Haley, Malcolm X

14
63 56
Unbroken: A World War II Story... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

15
59 54
The Immortal Life of Henrietta... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

16
49 48
Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Gore Vidal

17
46 46
The Aviator's Wife is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Melanie Benjamin

18
39 40
Lust for life is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
clash1977 added Irving Stone

19
41 44
Catherine the Great: Portrait ... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

20
39 43
Cleopatra: A Life is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Stacy Schiff

21
39 43
Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Therese Anne Fowler

22
43 50
Benjamin Franklin: An American... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

23
40 46
The Paris Wife is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Paula McLain

24
35 42
Wolf Hall is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Hilary Mantel

25
35 43
Shakespeare: The World as Stag... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

26
37 46
Alexander Hamilton is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Ron Chernow

27
32 42
Truman is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
David McCullough

28
28 40
Crazy Horse and Custer is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Stephen Ambrose

29
31 46
The Constant Princess is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Philippa Gregory

30
26 41
Steve Jobs is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Walter Isaacson

31
27 45
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

32
23 42
Einstein: His Life and Univers... is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

33
22 43
Wild Swans is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Jung Chang

34
22 44
American Lion is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Jon Meacham

35
17 37
Let the Trumpet Sound: a Life ... is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

36
19 42
The Professor and the Madman is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Simon Winchester

37
18 41
Queen Anne: The Politics of Pa... is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

38
20 45
Theodore Rex is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Edmund Morris

39
25 55
Mein Kampf is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
LarsWinkel added Adolf Hitler

40
17 42
LOVE IS ETERNAL is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Irving Stone

41
18 44
Washington: A Life is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Ron Chernow

42
15 41
Mornings on Horseback is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
David McCullough

43
14 40
The Power Broker is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Robert Caro

44
15 42
First Family: Abigail and John... is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

45
13 39
American Sphinx: The Character... is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

46
14 42
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Pr... is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

47
12 39
His Excellency: George Washing... is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

48
13 41
Churchill and the Jews: A Life... is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written

49
13 42
With malice toward none is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written
Stephen B. Oates

50
12 40
Destiny of the Republic: A Tal... is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Biographical Novels Ever Written