The 31 Best Autobiographies to Read This Year

POSTED ON Oct 17, 2023

Shannon Clark

Written by Shannon Clark

Home > Blog > Writing > The 31 Best Autobiographies to Read This Year

Why do we find other people's lives so interesting? Maybe it's because no two lives are the same, and just when you think your life has been a roller coaster ride, you learn about someone else’s journey, and think, “Woah, no way!”. 

Autobiographies and memoir books are popular because they give us a first-hand account of the inner workings of someone else's life, and for a moment in time, we get to live vicariously through them—sharing their experiences, reliving their defining moments and walking with them through the ups and downs of life.

The categories of autobiography and memoir are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. For this article, you'll find stories that fit squarely into the autobiography template— a first-person account of the writer’s life from childhood (or an early defining moment in their life) to the time of the book’s writing as well as “memoirs” that loosely fit the category.


If you're looking for an interesting life narrative with a positive spin, below I've listed some of the best autobiography books (and “memoir examples“) to put on your reading list this year. You’ll find a mix of new and old ones you may have missed, but all of them are worth a look. 

What makes a great autobiography?

Perhaps a better question to begin with is “What makes a great book?” The answers to both questions are the same. Whether you are reading a book to be entertained, learn something new, or as an escape, a great book should grab you in the beginning, take you on a journey, and leave you with something memorable to take away. Anything else will leave you questioning how you spend your precious time.

The autobiography books on this list were selected because they meet the criteria for a great book that just happens to be an autobiography. You'll find everything from authors and actors who offer a peek behind their career curtain to wounded wanderers, war-torn hearts, and those searching for the faith to believe in more.

Pick a life. Learn a lesson. Carry it with you.

Best autobiographies from career authors

1. James Patterson by James Patterson

Best Autobiographies - James Patterson By James Patterson

Why should I read it? 

Whether you are a published author or an aspiring one, you know that successful authors spilling the “secret sauce” of how they beat the odds to become household names is not a common occurrence. Many spend so much time writing about their fictitious characters or real-world narratives, that they don’t have time to delve into their own stories—let alone share them with inquiring minds. Not the case with James Patterson. You may not get a magic formula, but he does an excellent job of sharing the sum of his parts.

2. Lit by Mary Karr

Best Autobiographies - Lit By Mary Karr

Why should I read it?

Named one of the New York Times Top 10 in Book Reviews. The road that we travel in life can be paved with bad choices, but what does it look like when we take the messes we’ve made (or those made by others) and turn them into something remarkable? In Author Mary Karr's personal story, Lit—a continuation of her previous books, The Liar’s Club and Cherry— she shows that while it’s not easy to turn lemons into lemonade, our past doesn’t have to determine our future. 

3. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie

Best Autobiographies   - Agatha Christie

Why should I read it?

Whether you've read her books or not, Agatha Christie's name is synonymous with mystery and intrigue, and the connection is well-deserved. She penned 75 novels and other short stories over her lifetime and continues to have fans of her writing today. Her autobiography is a rare glimpse into the life of a revered storyteller.

Best autobiographies about journalists and reporters

4. Natural Disaster by Ginger Zee

Best Autobiographies -  Natural Disaster By Ginger Zee

Why should I read it?

In an honest and sometimes self-deprecating fashion, television personality and meteorologist, Ginger Zee, offers readers an inside look into her life choices, her mistakes and triumphs, and how she learned to juggle all of the pieces, even when some of them came crashing down. She candidly shares the tumultuous parts of her life that often mirrored the unpredictable storms she covered on Good Morning America.

5. Going There by Katie Couric

Best Autobiographies  - Going There By Katie Couric

Why should I read it?

For over three decades, television viewers invited Katie Couric into their homes for updates on what was going on around the world. From her position as co-anchor of the Today's Show, an anchor on the CBS Evening News, 60 minutes correspondent, and finally a move to her own podcast, Couric has been a trailblazer. In her autobiography, she peels back the curtain to share the woman behind the name and public image.

6. Rough Draft by Katy Tur

Best Autobiographies  - Rough Draft By Katy Tur

Why should I read this book?

Journalism is in her DNA. How could it not be when her parents are renowned journalists Zoey Tur and Marika Gerrardand? In Rough Draft, Katy Tur opens the door to her personal life and the legacy of writing and reporting that molded her childhood and framed her adult life.

Best autobiographies about actors

7. What are You Doing Here? by Baroness Floella Benjamin

Best Autobiographies - What Are You Doing Here? By Baroness Floella Benjamin

Why should I read it?

If you’re looking for inspiration mixed with a big dose of reality, then “What Are You Doing Here?” is a great place to start. Baroness Floella Benjamin’s story reminds us that what we dream for ourselves can be so much better than what we imagined, but the road to get there is not always the smoothest path. As a feisty, go-getter in her early 20s, she secured a role in the famous Broadway play Hair on a lunch break and throughout her life continued to navigate the twists and turns of the entertainment industry, notoriety, and public service on her terms.  

8. The Boys by Ron Howard and Clint Howard

Best Autobiographies  - The Boys By Ron Howard &Amp; Clint Howard

Why should I read it?

Playing the beloved character Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham on Happy Days in the 60s and 70s, actor, director, producer, and philanthropist, Ron Howard is anything but a wallflower. In this narrative that he shares with his younger brother, actor Clint Howard, they trace their early beginnings in the entertainment industry, the stabilizing force of their upbringing, and their successful careers in Hollywood.

9. ‘Tis Herself by Maureen O'Hara

Best Autobiographies  - &Quot;Tis Herself By Maureen O'Hara

Why should I read it?

If the mystery of “old Hollywood” sounds intriguing, then the story of Maureen O’Hara, the “technicolor queen”, will feed your curiosity. The actress recounts the first 70 years of her life, including her rise to on-screen royalty. She opens the door to a life filled with adventure and all of the ups and downs that come with the territory. 

10. We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu

Best Autobiographies - We Were Dreamers By Simu Liu

Why should I read it?

Are superheroes real? It depends on who you ask. In actor Simu Lou’s world, anything is possible. In his witty reflections on his journey from China to Hollywood, he shares how he carved out an unexpected path to become the real-life character of his dreams.

11. Thicker Than Water by Kerry Washington

Best Autobiographies - Thicker Than Water By Kerry Washington

Why should I read it?

Even in the bright lights and career highs of Hollywood, Kerry Washington found herself facing one of her deepest fears—one she’d tried to buffer herself against since she was a little girl. In Thicker then Water, Washington chronicles her journey to a successful acting career that was often paved with broken glass and deep wounds. With vulnerability and transparency, she invites the reader to join her on her path to discovery and healing the trauma within. 

12. My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

Best Autobiographies  - My Mother Was Nuts By Penny Marshall

Why should I read it?

Many autobiographies and memoirs are heavy and tough on the heart, but if you’re looking for a bit of levity, My Mother Was Nuts by the late actress, director, and producer, Penny Marshall will put a smile on your face. Filled with her off-beat sense of humor and light-hearted look at life’s unexpected twists and turns, her memoir is a definite break away from the norm.

13. Paul Newman by Paul Newman

Best Autobiographies  - Paul Newman, The Extraordinary Life Of An Ordinary Man

Why should I read this?

What makes this book so intriguing? Intentionality. The original oral project that started in 1986 took five years to complete. Everyone who participated was given one requirement: Tell the truth—including Newman. Autobiographies are often viewed as limited in perspective since they depend on the memory of the author, but not this one. It is a three-dimensional record of a complex man and an intriguing life.

If you're interested in the extensive book writing process for Newman's book, here's an excellent interview with Clea Newman Soderlund and editor David Rosenthal.

14. Managing Expectations by Minnie Driver

Best Autobiographies  - Managing Expectations By Minnie Driver

Why should I read it?

Minnie Driver’s Managing Expectations is storytelling at its finest (the audio version of her narration is a treat). It is heartwarming, engaging, and surprisingly funny. She has a way of taking the cacophony of the best and worst parts of life and creating a beautiful melody.

Autobiographies about family

15. A Living Remedy by Nicole Chung

Best Autobiographies  - A Living Remedy By Nicole Chung

Why should I read it?

A Living Remedy is a moving look at a life lived, life lost, and the inexplicable pain of knowing that you can’t control either. Nicole invites the reader into her family’s journeys as she grapples with her parent’s mortality, aging, and how she fits into the puzzle.

16. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Best Autobiographies  - The Glass Castle By Jeannette Walls

Why should I read it?

Like many personal stories, The Glass Castle is another one that reads like fiction. The author recounts a volatile and unpredictable upbringing—a mix of excitement and dysfunction, two parents who’ve chosen to live an unrestricted life on the streets, and siblings who learn to survive and thrive on their own. It’s an unconventional love story about family that’s at times difficult to read but even harder to put down. 

17. The Pale-Faced Lie by David Crow  

Best Autobiographies  - The Pale-Faced Lie By David Crow

Why should I read it?

When David Crow was just three years old, his dad told him “We need to get rid of your  mother.” The story is a chilling depiction of a life lived on a razor’s edge and how the author bravely found a way out and beat the odds. 

18. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

Best Autobiographies  - All You Can Ever Know By Nicole Chung

Why should I read this book?

In this moving memoir, Nicole Chung shares her story of adoption and her search for the parents who gave her up—a familiar story that doesn’t unfold the way you expect. Chung’s writing is thoughtful and reflective as she invites you to walk alongside her into womanhood, motherhood, and her journey to fill in the missing pieces.


Autobiographies about faith

19. The Barn by David Hill

Best Autobiographies - The Barn By David Hill

Why should I read it?

The true life story of David Hill feels like a well-scripted movie plot. This heart-wrenching drama unfolds with more twists and turns than a box-office hit. From the painful to the supernatural, each descriptive scene begs the question, “But, how?” Hill shares his faith walk with candor and humility—an engaging read for anyone curious about believing in the impossible. 

20. All My Knotted Up Life by Beth Moore

Best Autobiographies  - All My Knotted Up Life By Beth Moore

Why should I read it?

Do we ever really figure life out? In All My Knotted Up Life, Bible teacher and author Beth Moore talks candidly about wrestling with life's tough questions, facing hardships, and loving her family along the way. The intimate portrait also delves into her childhood, worldwide ministry, and all the stuff in between.

Autobiographies about sports figures

21. Pelé by Pelé

Best Autobiographies - Pelé The Autobiography

Why should I read it?

From humble beginnings in São Paulo where his love of football began to the World Cup stage where he showcased his talent in front of millions, the cultural icon whose career journey also included politician and sports ambassador offers a remarkable story that only he could tell. 

22. I Came as a Shadow by John Thompson

Best Autobiographies - I Came As A Shadow By John Thompson

Why should I read it?

Described as a “great American story”,  coach John Thompson turns his journey into the NBA record books inside out. From the segregated 60s to today’s racial divide, readers get to strap in with him on a roller coaster ride of a lifetime. Learn how the man who always wanted to be a teacher, used basketball to teach a generation life skills on and off the court.

23. Rise by Siya Kolisi

Best Autobiographies - Rise By Siya Kolisi

Why should I read it?

In Rise, South African rugby star Siya Kolisi shares his thoughts on race, faith, and positivity. In this very personal story he reminds the reader that when you believe you can defy the odds, you have a better chance of your dreams coming true.

24. God and Starbucks by Vin Baker

Best Autobiographies - God And Starbucks By Vin Baker

Why should I read it?

Former NBA player Vin Baker shares candidly details his rise to the NBA and subsequent fall after a long bout with addiction. He offers a transparent hindsight look into his life, what he’s overcome, and where he now stands in light of his faith and convictions.

Autobiographies about going against the odds

25. The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt by Elanor Roosevelt

Best Autobiographies - The Autobiography Of Eleanor Roosevelt

Why should I read it?

In a time in history when many people in the limelight chose to avert their attention from controversial matters like racial injustices, women’s and consumer rights, and improved housing, Eleanor Roosevelt used her public position to speak up for those who couldn’t speak up for themselves. Amidst death threats and limited support, she continued to persevere. Her autobiography gives a glimpse into the many challenges she faced and overcame on the road to writing her own story. 

26. Limp Forward by Libo Meyers

Best Autobiographies - Limp Forward By Libo Meyers

Why should I read this?

Despite the title, Limp Forward: A Memoir of Disability, Perseverance, and Success, is not a story just about overcoming physical challenges. Meyers offers the reader a template for viewing the challenges in life as a springboard for being the exception to the unwritten rules that society places on categories of people. The Apple engineering executive offers those who've ever felt desperate, undervalued, and hopeless a flashlight until they can see the real light at the end of the tunnel.

Autobiographies about culture, immigration, and race

27. The Girl in the Middle by Anais Granofsky

Best Autobiographies - The Girl In The Middle By Anais Granofsky

Why should I read it?

What happens when you’re stuck in the middle of the past you knew and the future opportunities of what you could become? This is the in-between that Anais Granofsky had to learn to navigate at an early age. Born to a white father who came from wealth and a black mother who came from meager means, Anais was stuck between the two sides when her parents' marriage dissolved. In this poignant personal story of “code-switching” between racial identities, we get a deeply moving account of what it’s like to live two lives at the same time that are worlds apart. 

28. Good Morning, Hope by Argita and Detina Zalli

Best Autobiographies  - Good Morning Hope By Argia And Detina Zalli

Why should I read it?

War-torn countries are heartbreaking and an all too familiar story. Within the pages of Good Morning Hope, we are given an intimate look into the lives of identical twins Argita and Detina Zalli when their beloved country was ripped apart along with everything they knew to be true. Follow them on their journey through devastation and heartbreak as they fight their way through a world that is no longer their own.

29. Mott Street by Ava Chin

Best Autobiographies  - Mott Street By Ava Chin

Why should I read it?

If you don’t know your family’s roots, can you really know who you are? Ava Chin goes on a revealing search of her family’s history and discovers what will put her on the path to changing how her family’s future unfolds. In this narrative about family, legacy, and the different faces of exclusion, Chin offers a deeper perspective on what it means to be human—what it means to be valued. 

30. First Gen by Alejandra Campoverdi

Best Autobiographies  - First Gen By Alejandra Campoverdi

Why should I read it?

In this empowering story about achieving the American dream, Alejandra Campoverdi shares her life journey with candor and fierce dedication to her identity as a Mexican American and first-generation trailblazer. She shows how the seemingly disparate pieces of our lives can be sewn together to create a beautiful, complex tapestry.

31. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Best Autobiographies  - The Best We Could Do By Thi Bui

Why should I read this?

It’s illustrated! We wrap up our list with a unique narrative presentation by cartoonist Thi Bui about family, immigration, escape, and the ties that connect the pieces. In his story, Bui shares the impact of the Vietnam War by contrasting what things looked like before the war, during and after their migration to the United States. The visual narrative adds an unexpected depth to the storytelling.

Takeaway

There’s something about reading someone else’s life story that adds perspective to your own. Although many autobiographies (and memoirs) are written by people who've achieved great notoriety in their lifetime, most of them are written by everyday people like you and me.

If you’re thinking about writing a book about your life, remember that you don’t have to be rich and famous to have an engaging story to tell. It's easier to relate to someone who's walked a similar path, and everybody has a story to tell whether they think it has merit or not.

Remember that a great personal story is less about the perfect ending and has everything to do with the journey. Consider sharing a part of your life with the world. You never know what kind of impact it will have.

Are you ready to take the next step in writing your autobiography (with an eye-catching autobiography title) or memoir? Our team of writing experts is ready to help you take the next step.


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