Young people should read autobiographies and memoirs. They provide valuable lessons that can be applied to their lives. The great biographies give us insight into the lives of successful people and how they deal with complex problems. We are invited into people’s lives to observe how they deal with difficult situations and make crucial decisions.
Then, what are the best biography books? If you are looking for good biography books to read, Penn Book has compiled a list of the top best biography books.
What Is a Biography?
The finest biography books have been compiled here after I combed the internet for lists of the best biographies and solicited your recommendations for the best memoirs and autobiographies you’ve ever read.
Describe a biography. For the sake of this list, a biography is any narrative that chronicles a person’s life. A few novels examine specific things, locations, or events.
Many of them could color their memoirs with the accounts of other individuals. However, the finest historical biographies maintain their protagonists in focus, which sets them apart from other novels.
Best Biographies Ever Written
Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert
Although many biographies of Winston Spencer Churchill have been written, Gilbert’s biography is the definitive on him widely considered Britain’s most excellent prime minister.
This biography is a tribute to the charismatic man who led Britain through World War II. It features a deft balance of detailed research and personal details.
Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
Totto-Chan, a unique figure in Japanese culture, is at the same level of celebrity status as Oprah in the United States. The story tells the story of a pre World War II Japanese girl who was misunderstood as a child.
She suffered from attention disorders, excessive energy and later was mentored and supported by a particular school principal. Japan has sold over 5 million copies of the book.
Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
Dwight D. Eisenhower is the man responsible for winning World War II. He also prevented the use of nuclear weapons twice and tried to keep our troops out of Vietnam. All this while looking easy. This biography offers a history lesson and a glimpse into the mind of a genius man.
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Best biography that inspired a hit musical
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, a hit Broadway musical that was a huge success, is also a work by creative genius.
This massive work of more than 800 pages covers every moment of the youngest Founding Father’s life, from his involvement in the Revolutionary War and early American government to his infamous (and ultimately career destroying!) affair with Maria Reynolds.
Although he may not have been elected president, he was an exciting and unique figure in American History. It’s also fun to find the truth behind the songs.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Rebecca Skloot is a writer with a fascinating background. Although she has published more than 200 essays and short stories, her most famous work is The Immortal Live of Henrietta Lacks.
The most remarkable biographical achievement of the twenty first Century is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It’s about a woman whose cells changed the course of modern medicine.
Rebecca Skloot expertly recollects the life of a black woman who had her cancer cells taken without her consent for medical testing. Without her knowledge, we wouldn’t be able to access many of the crucial cures we have today.
This biography has attracted so much attention in the last decade than Oprah Winfrey produced an HBO film about it.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
The Autobiography of Malcolm X is one of the most famous biographies of all time. It remains a classic and essential book. Malcolm X’s politics are controversial, but they offer a provocative perspective that will challenge your views on America and the American Dream.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
A co-founder and innovator of Apple, Steve Jobs is known for his inventiveness that reimagined technology in the 21st century. Water Issacson uses 40 interviews with Steve Jobs, plus interviews with more than 100 of his friends and family members, to paint a fascinating portrait of this influential man.
Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher
Donald Trump is the most divisive US President of all time, whether you love him or not. A team of award winning Washington Post journalists has compiled a comprehensive biography about Trump. It was co-authored by Marc Fisher and Michael Kranish, an investigative journalist and senior editor.
The book provides a detailed look into Trump’s life, including his childhood in Queens and his turbulent career in entertainment and real estate. It also gives insight into his remarkable rise to the top as a Republican presidential candidate.
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer
This is the story of a professional football player who quit a $3 million NFL contract to join the Army Rangers following 9/11. He died under suspicious circumstances in Afghanistan.
Although Pat Tillman was not perfect, he was an example that we could all learn from. His incredible story of courage and selflessness will always be linked to the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston
Hurston was a prolific essayist, short story writer, and novelist. In 1927, she turned her hand to biographical writing with this fantastic work. It was kept secret until its publication in 2018.
Cudjo Lewis was captured and enslaved 50 years after the Atlantic slave market was banned in the United States. The author spent three months in Cudjo’s company, learning about his life from Africa to crossing the Middle Passage and the years before the Civil War. This biography is a first hand account of this part of painful History.
Empire: The Life, Legend, and Madness of Howard Hughes by Donald Barlett
This is the epic biography of an extraordinary man. This biography reveals his extraordinary success and his inner struggles. The story focuses on the eccentric but brutal character of this aviator and film producer.
Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game – Updated Edition by Andrew Hodges
Hodges’ 1983 biography about Alan Turing reveals the inside workings of this brilliant mathematician and cryptologist. Despite its title (a reference to his work during WWII), this book covers many of the enigmatic Turing.
It includes his heroic code breaking efforts during the Second World War, his contributions to mathematical biology and computer pioneer in the years that followed, as well as the vicious persecution he suffered in the 1950s when homosexual acts were still criminalized by English law.
Prince: A Private View by Afshin Shahidi
This intimate snapshot of Prince’s life was compiled just after the superstar’s untimely death in 2016. It is primarily a visual work. Shahidi was his private photographer from 2000 to his death. Pictures are worth a thousand words. But Shahidi’s pictures show Prince’s extraordinary vibrance, contagious excitement, and singular personality.
The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C Stewart
Alain Locke was an artist, writer, and theorist. He is best known for his leadership of the Harlem Renaissance. Alain Locke’s life is a vivid portrayal of his personal and private life. It also highlights his influences and the many ways that he supported African American literary and artistic creations.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Louis Zamperini, a lieutenant bombardier, crashed into the Pacific Ocean during World War II. In an attempt to survive, Zamperini managed to pull himself onto a life raft, where he faced many trials, including starvation, shark attacks, and the attack of enemy aircraft.
This biography depicts Louis’s life from his childhood to his military service. It also includes a historical account of atrocities that occurred during World War II.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Alexander Supertramp, Christopher McCandless, also known as Alexander Supertramp, hitchhiked from Alaska to Alaska in April 1992 and then disappeared into the Denali wilderness.
McCandless, now five months old, was found dead in his shelter. But what caused it? Krakauer’s McCandless biography traces McCandless’s steps back to the beginning, trying to determine what the young man was seeking on his trek and whether he understood the dangers ahead.
Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera
Herrera’s 1983 great biography about Frida Kahlo one of the most recognizable names in modern art) has become the definitive account of her life.
While Kahlo was undoubtedly subject to a lot of pain (a terrible accident at age 18 and a husband with constant affairs), the focal point of the book’s biography is not her suffering.
It’s her artistic brilliance, immense resolve, her determination to make a difference in the world, and her dedication to her work that will never be forgotten.
The book covers her childhood during the Mexican Revolution and her passionate relationships. It also intertwines her paintings and their stories through her story.
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson
Rosemary Kennedy may not have been assassinated or killed in a mysterious plane crash, but her fate is the worst of the Kennedy Curse. Her parents kept her from society and rarely saw her again. This new biography, written by Kate Larson, is the full truth of Rosemary’s life after a lobotomy.
The Black Rose: The Dramatic Story of Madam C.J. Walker, America’s First Black Female Millionaire by Tananarive Due
Madam C.J. Walker is best known for being the first Black female millionaire. However, she was also an entrepreneur, philanthropist, born to former slaves in Louisiana.
The book was researched and written by Alex Haley before his death. Tananarive Due, an author, brought Haley’s life to life in this captivating biography of an American pioneer.
Surviving Hiroshima: A Young Woman’s Story by Anthony Drago and Douglas Wellman
Kaleria Palichikoff, a daughter of Russian immigrants, fled Russia to be with her family in Japan. Then, at 22 years old, the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima.
Amid such devastation, Kaleria tried to help survivors and treat radiation related injuries. The US Army interviewed Kaleria, one of few English speaking survivors. She was eventually able to start a new life in America after the war.
Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
Isaacson is the standard in contemporary biographers. His book on Leonardo da Vinci is a bestseller. Isaacson can provide a personal portrait of the most well known painter of all times, albeit centuries removed.
Ida: A Sword Among Lions by Paula J. Giddings
This biography about Ida B. is an award winning one. This award winning biography of Ida B. is beloved for its ability to highlight racially motivated abuses.
Black women suffered in America during her lifetime and celebrated Ida’s activism. Ida traveled across the country reporting on the horrendous acts and the stories of the affected families and communities.
Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang
Many are familiar with Mao Zedong, the revolutionary leader of China. Jung Chang has carefully curated a biography that reveals more about the life and times of the Red Emperor.
You won’t find these stories or interviews in historical books. The horrific statistic that Mao was responsible for more than 70,000,000 deaths during his reign begins this extensive account.
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
This 2017 book by Christopher Knight will appeal to fans of Into the Wild, The Lost City of Z, and Into the Wild. It tells the story of a man who lived in the Maine woods for almost 30 years.
Readers who dream of escape will be captivated by the story of Knight, the so-called last true hermit, with vivid descriptions of Knight’s rural setting, carefully planned moves, and how he survived the Maine winters.
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
This biography of John Nash, a respected mathematician, was a finalist in the 1998 Pulitzer Prize. It also served as the basis for the award winning film of the same name.
Nasar explores Nash’s illustrious career from his early days at MIT to the RAND Corporation. He also discusses his internal struggle against schizophrenia that almost cost him his life.
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Biographies are not always about the great people of life. This biography is about Joseph Stalin, one of the best villains of all time. This book is primarily about his rise to absolute power.
The book goes into great detail about the madman’s actions and the court he kept. This book is recommended for mature readers only due to the disturbing scenes and emotions scattered throughout.
Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed not to repeat it, old saying. The subject matter makes it a difficult read, not because of its language but because of its difficulty.
It is difficult to believe that one man could be capable of such a multitude of monstrosities. Understanding this is important so that we, as a society, can prevent similar events from happening again.
Titan: The Life of John. D. Rockefeller Sr. by Ron Chernow
Ron Chernow has created some of the best biographies of all time. This biography of John is 832 pages long. D. Rockefeller shares the most important lessons that you can learn from Rockefeller. He is a strangely stoic and resilient man but humble and compassionate, despite his reputation for being a robber baron.
Rockefeller was more open minded and generous than most successful people. You can also read his mistakes and make your assessment of Rockefeller.
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
This gripping 2009 biography features another mysterious explorer. Grann tells the story of Percy Fawcett, the archaeologist who disappeared in the Amazon with his son in 1925, searching for an ancient lost city.
Grann also describes his 80-year-old journeys through the Amazon, describing the dangers Fawcett might have faced and finally discovering the Lost City of Z.
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
While most depictions of the Mongols are bloodthirsty pillagers and ruthless thieves, this biography shows how they made many advances for their conquered countries. Genghis Khan created universal religious freedom and abolished torture.
The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts
Harvey Milk, the first openly homosexual elected official in California, was assassinated 11 months into his term. Harvey Milk’s inspiring biography, set against the rise in LGBTQIA+ activism during the 1970s, tells Harvey Milk’s story and the story of hope and perseverance within the queer community.
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
His rivals were stunned and dismayed when Lincoln won the presidency. Lincoln’s ability to connect with the people and his unwavering sense of dignity and poise made him the victor.
This ability enabled him to create one of the unique presidential cabinets in History. He assembled it from his most politically experienced and robust rivals.
Bohemian Rhapsody: The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury by Leslie-Ann Jones
Bohemian Rhapsody, the biography of Freddie Mercury that you didn’t know you needed. This book was primarily about the 1980s when Queen started to fall apart mainly before Live Aid.
It has been described as an emotional rollercoaster that takes the reader from Freddie’s childhood in India, Zanzibar, to his wilder years of the ’70s & ’80s.
Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvelous Works of Nature and Man by Martin Kemp
Kemp’s biography of da Vinci is the most widely used biography of the Renaissance figure. This fantastic book sheds light upon one of the most significant creative figures ever to live.
It guides readers through a comprehensive account of da Vinci’s scientific, artistic, and technological works, as well as the life events which shaped them.
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro
Robert Moses, the former New York parks commissioner, was a man who loved power and gained power. He was also transformed by it.
This biography of over 1,000 pages could be the definitive guide to power and legacy. This biography is a valuable learning tool that reveals who you should not be and what you should do.
E=mc²: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis
This “biography of the world’s most famous equation” is a unique interpretation of the genre since it follows the history of the equation itself, not the life of Einstein.
Bodanis transforms what might be a very dull topic into interesting reading for readers of all types, covering everything from the beginnings and development of its separate parts (energy, mass, and light) to its implications in the twentieth century.
Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario
Enrique’s mother left Honduras for the US when he was just five years old, intending to return immediately. Eleven years later, Enrique decided to take things into his own hands and travel by train through Central and South America to see his mother again. He would risk his life on the “train of death” and at the hands of the immigration officials.
This story of Enrique’s treacherous voyage is not for the weak of heart. Still, it is an account of tremendous dedication and a scathing critique of the suffering of family separation among immigrants.
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families by James Agee
“Let us now honor legendary men and our ancestors who gave birth to us.” Who really merits our praise and recognition? Is the main problem raised in Agee and Evans’ work?
According to this 1941 biography, hundreds of very impoverished individuals were gravely affected by the American “Dust Bowl,” Evans and Agee fervently plead with their readers to recognize these people’s humanity in their book.
Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson by Andrew Wilson
This glittering biography of Sylvia Plath adopts an unorthodox strategy and is named after one of her most moving poems. It tells the story of her life before arriving at Cambridge, avoiding the spotlight on her depressive years and her marriage to poet Ted Hughes.
Wilson carefully investigates Plath’s early family and connections, emotions, and experiences using details from her detailed journals, establishing a high bar for future biographers of Plath.
The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes
Imagine having 24 distinct persons inside you; you never knew which one would emerge. Such was Billy Milligan’s life, which the author of Flowers for Algernon chronicled in this chilling memoir.
Keyes describes Billy’s life experiences and how his mind became “divided” in a refreshingly straightforward manner. He also describes how Billy sought to put the pieces of himself back together with Keyes’ assistance.
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
This exquisitely crafted history follows Paul Farmer, a physician. He has spent decades fighting deadly illnesses worldwide, especially in impoverished places.
Although Farmer’s humanitarian achievements are remarkable in and of themselves, Kidder’s friendship with him and the reader’s feeling of pleasure from reading about someone really heroic, recounted by someone who fully understands and admires what they do, are what give this book its authentic appeal.
Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts
Here is another biography that will alter your perceptions of a renowned historical ruler, but this time in an unexpectedly positive way. The renowned researcher Andrew Roberts explores Napoleon Bonaparte’s life, from his almost faultless military instincts to his complicated and perplexing marriage.
Although it would be simple to mock him, Roberts addresses the “petty tyrant” with a fair degree of regard, which truly makes this piece stand out.
The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson IV by Robert A. Caro
Perhaps Kennedy, Nixon, or W. Bush are more fascinating or controversial than Lyndon Johnson. However, Robert Caro sets out his political career’s long, twisting journey in this superbly crafted history, and it’s full of unexpected turns.
Johnson was a shockingly shrewd character who slowly but surely worked his way up the power ladder. His biggest goal was finally fulfilled in 1963, but at what cost? This book is ideal for Vice fans. By Adam McKay.
Other Best Biography Books
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
Why Are Biographies Important?
A biography is often overlooked, but it contains more than the story of a person’s life. Although the stories are entertaining, there’s another benefit to writing and reading biography books.
For readers: Biographies
Three main points are apparent when looking at the benefits that readers can gain from biographies:
- Biographies provide real-life lessons.
- Inspirational biographies.
- You can walk a mile in the shoes of another person with Biographies.
Biographies for Writers
Biographies can be beneficial to readers as well. Biographers learn from the process. These are some of the benefits that biographers may reap.
- Each one comes with its subject matter.
- They will make you feel humane and humble.
Best Historical Biographies FAQs
Why should you read biographies?
The best well-written biographies combine life lessons and wisdom with the ease of reading and storytelling expected from novels. These biographies are often simple to read and offer a unique way to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
What is the best-selling autobiography of all time?
Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl is the best-selling autobiography of all time. Although there is no data available on the top-selling biographies, Anne Frank’s diary ranks high on this list of best-selling books. Night, #1 (The Night Trilogy) and The Glass Castle are two other best-selling autobiographies.
What’s the best autobiography to read?
The two top-ranked books on this list – Night, #1 and The Automobilia of Malcolm X – are great autobiographies. Famous autobiographies such as Diary of a Young Girl and Why the Cagedbird Sings are also top-ranked. You may also like these ideas.
Reading biographies can inspire new career options for those just launching their careers and serve as an inspiring reminder for seasoned executives about what makes their journey so unique.
Books provide a more accurate representation of the story than Hollywood can. The perfect reading list to get you motivated for your career. Books are the key to success.
If your favorite biography is not on the list, please let us know why in the comments. Let’s get to the good stuff and better titles. Thanks for your reading!
Last update on 2022-09-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API