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Best Biographies: The 70 BEST Biography Books of All Time

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.

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What Is a Biography?

I’ve scoured the internet for lists of top biographies, I’ve taken your suggestions on the best memoirs and best autobiographies you’ve ever read and I’ve collected them here in the definitive list of best biography books ever written.

What is a biography? As far as this list is concerned, a biography is any story that follows the life of a person. Some books explore events, objects or places. Many of those may use people’s stories to colour their narratives. But the difference between those books and the best historical biographies is that good biographies keep both eyes on their heroes.

The 70 Best Biographies Ever Written

Why these best biographies and not others? To stay objective, I rank all my book recommendations by what’s most loved (Goodreads rating), what’s most popular (Goodreads review count) and what’s proven timelessly relevant (first publication date).

This isn’t a whimsical list. It’s a data-driven, crowdsourced collection of the best biographies ever published as decided by book lovers just like you. (Note: To maximise diversity, I only include the top ranking book from any series in a list.)

And if you think something's missing? I LOVE book recommendations so if there are any other best biographies that you think deserve mentioning, email me and I’ll be sure to include them in the next round of updates.

Until then, enjoy this ultimate list of the 70 best biographies of all time...

Books 1-10: The Top 10 Best Biographies of All Time

The top 10 best biographies of all time are...

Best Biographies: Man's Search for Meaning
1. Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor E. Frankl (FREE Summary)
Man's Search for Meaning is a gruelling, yet deeply liberating insight into the why behind each of our whats and hows - by holocaust survivor, psychologist and founder of logotherapy, Viktor Frankl.
Published 1946 // 165 pages // Rated 4.4 over 572,400 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: Night (The Night Trilogy, #1)
2. Night (The Night Trilogy, #1) - Elie Wiesel (FREE Summary)
A haunting account of the events leading up to and during the author's internment and survival in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps as a young teenager - by author, poet and holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel.
Published 1956 // 115 pages // Rated 4.4 over 1,124,600 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: The Hiding Place
3. The Hiding Place - Corrie ten Boom (FREE Summary)
The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom
The Hiding Place tells the remarkable story of Corrie ten Bloom and her family's resistance against the Nazi German occupation of Holland during World War II - by war hero, Corrie ten Bloom.
Published 1971 // 242 pages // Rated 4.4 over 296,300 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: Meditations
4. Meditations - Marcus Aurelius (FREE Summary)
Meditations is a humbling and thought-provoking insight into the stoic mindset of one of history's greatest leaders and thinkers - by Roman emperor, philosopher and example to us all, Marcus Aurelius.
Published 180 // 99 pages // Rated 4.3 over 180,300 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: The Autobiography of Malcolm X
5. The Autobiography of Malcolm X - Malcolm X (FREE Summary)
An eye-opening, powerful biography that reveals the mind behind one of the most outspoken leaders of black pride and black nationalism in the 20th Century - by activist, Malcolm X, and journalist, Alex Haley.
Published 1965 // 527 pages // Rated 4.3 over 246,800 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou (FREE Summary)
A beautifully written, raw and vulnerable autobiography of the author's early years and struggles overcoming trauma and racism - by poet, memoirist and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou.
Published 1969 // 289 pages // Rated 4.3 over 483,500 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: Endurance
7. Endurance - Alfred Lansing (FREE Summary)
Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
An incredible memoir of exploration, leadership and two-year struggle for survival against all odds during Shackleton's failed attempt to cross the Antarctic in 1914 - by journalist and writer, Alfred Lansing.
Published 1959 // 282 pages // Rated 4.4 over 109,100 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: The Diary of a Young Girl
8. The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank (FREE Summary)
The accessible, precocious, heartwarming and deeply tragic memoir of the author's early teens and final years in hiding from Nazi occupation in Amsterdam during the second half of WW2 - by teenager and aspiring writer Anne Frank.
Published 1947 // 283 pages // Rated 4.2 over 3,331,800 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: Maus I (Maus, #1)
9. Maus I (Maus, #1) - Art Spiegelman (FREE Summary)
A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History
Published 1986 // 159 pages // Rated 4.4 over 296,600 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: All Creatures Great and Small
10. All Creatures Great and Small - James Herriot (FREE Summary)
The Warm and Joyful Memoirs of the World's Most Beloved Animal Doctor
Published 1972 // 442 pages // Rated 4.3 over 136,300 reviews on Goodreads

Books 11-70: The Best Biographies to Read Next

Here are the next best biographies from my database...

11. Twelve Years a Slave - Solomon Northup
Published 1853 // 363 pages // Rated 4.2 over 109,800 reviews on Goodreads
12. Schindler's List - Thomas Keneally
Published 1982 // 429 pages // Rated 4.3 over 155,600 reviews on Goodreads
13. "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" - Richard P. Feynman
Adventures of a Curious Character
Published 1985 // 400 pages // Rated 4.3 over 185,400 reviews on Goodreads
14. Band of Brothers - Stephen E. Ambrose
E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
Published 1992 // 432 pages // Rated 4.4 over 114,800 reviews on Goodreads
15. All Things Bright and Beautiful - James Herriot
Published 1974 // 378 pages // Rated 4.3 over 75,500 reviews on Goodreads
16. The Pianist - Władysław Szpilman
The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939–45
Published 1946 // 222 pages // Rated 4.2 over 75,300 reviews on Goodreads
17. The World of Yesterday - Stefan Zweig
Published 1942 // 461 pages // Rated 4.5 over 17,100 reviews on Goodreads
18. Autobiography of a Yogi - Paramahansa Yogananda
Published 1946 // 448 pages // Rated 4.2 over 58,600 reviews on Goodreads
19. On Writing - Stephen King
A Memoir of the Craft
Published 2000 // 320 pages // Rated 4.3 over 260,500 reviews on Goodreads
20. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - Frederick Douglass
Published 1845 // 158 pages // Rated 4.1 over 112,300 reviews on Goodreads
21. A Grief Observed - C.S. Lewis
Published 1961 // 76 pages // Rated 4.2 over 70,900 reviews on Goodreads
22. The Story of My Life - Helen Keller
Published 1902 // 240 pages // Rated 4.1 over 143,400 reviews on Goodreads
23. My Bondage and My Freedom - Frederick Douglass
Published 1855 // 432 pages // Rated 4.4 over 11,300 reviews on Goodreads
24. Wild Swans - Jung Chang
Three Daughters of China
Published 1991 // 562 pages // Rated 4.3 over 105,600 reviews on Goodreads
25. Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer
A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster
Published 1997 // 368 pages // Rated 4.2 over 456,500 reviews on Goodreads
26. The Power Broker - Robert A. Caro
Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
Published 1974 // 1,246 pages // Rated 4.4 over 18,500 reviews on Goodreads
27. Totto-chan - Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
The Little Girl at the Window
Published 1981 // 232 pages // Rated 4.4 over 26,800 reviews on Goodreads
28. Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela
Published 1994 // 656 pages // Rated 4.3 over 80,300 reviews on Goodreads
29. The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956 - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Published 1973 // 472 pages // Rated 4.3 over 26,200 reviews on Goodreads
30. The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis, #1-2) - Marjane Satrapi
Published 2003 // 341 pages // Rated 4.4 over 159,000 reviews on Goodreads
31. My Family and Other Animals (Corfu Trilogy, #1) - Gerald Durrell
Published 1956 // 273 pages // Rated 4.2 over 50,100 reviews on Goodreads
32. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Harriet Ann Jacobs
Published 1861 // 176 pages // Rated 4.1 over 49,500 reviews on Goodreads
33. The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
Published 2005 // 288 pages // Rated 4.3 over 1,066,100 reviews on Goodreads
34. Desert Solitaire - Edward Abbey
Published 1968 // 337 pages // Rated 4.2 over 45,500 reviews on Goodreads
35. If This Is a Man • The Truce - Primo Levi
Published 1987 // 453 pages // Rated 4.5 over 17,800 reviews on Goodreads
36. Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom
Published 1997 // 210 pages // Rated 4.1 over 911,300 reviews on Goodreads
37. The Path to Power - Robert A. Caro
Published 1982 // 882 pages // Rated 4.3 over 22,400 reviews on Goodreads
38. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt, #1) - Frank McCourt
Published 1996 // 452 pages // Rated 4.1 over 595,200 reviews on Goodreads
39. 84, Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff
Published 1970 // 97 pages // Rated 4.2 over 70,600 reviews on Goodreads
40. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt - Edmund Morris
Published 1979 // 816 pages // Rated 4.2 over 51,900 reviews on Goodreads
41. Nicholas And Alexandra - Robert K. Massie
Published 1967 // 584 pages // Rated 4.2 over 28,100 reviews on Goodreads
42. Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell
Published 1933 // 213 pages // Rated 4.1 over 77,600 reviews on Goodreads
43. A Child Called "It" (Dave Pelzer, #1) - Dave Pelzer
Published 1995 // 184 pages // Rated 4.1 over 410,100 reviews on Goodreads
44. The Stranger Beside Me - Ann Rule
Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story
Published 1980 // 548 pages // Rated 4.1 over 90,100 reviews on Goodreads
45. Gandhi - Mahatma Gandhi
An Autobiography
Published 1927 // 528 pages // Rated 4.1 over 65,500 reviews on Goodreads
46. Seabiscuit - Laura Hillenbrand
An American Legend
Published 1999 // 457 pages // Rated 4.2 over 158,000 reviews on Goodreads
47. The Agony and the Ecstasy - Irving Stone
Published 1958 // 776 pages // Rated 4.1 over 87,100 reviews on Goodreads
48. Born Free - Joy Adamson
A Lioness of Two Worlds
Published 1960 // 224 pages // Rated 4.2 over 33,000 reviews on Goodreads
49. A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
Published 1964 // 192 pages // Rated 4.0 over 136,900 reviews on Goodreads
50. Gather Together in My Name - Maya Angelou
Published 1974 // 224 pages // Rated 4.3 over 15,100 reviews on Goodreads
51. West with the Night - Beryl Markham
Published 1942 // 294 pages // Rated 4.1 over 35,800 reviews on Goodreads
52. Helter Skelter - Vincent Bugliosi
The True Story of the Manson Murders
Published 1974 // 689 pages // Rated 4.1 over 138,200 reviews on Goodreads
53. Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
Published 2010 // 492 pages // Rated 4.4 over 874,700 reviews on Goodreads
54. Black Like Me - John Howard Griffin
Published 1961 // 208 pages // Rated 4.1 over 66,800 reviews on Goodreads
55. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. - Martin Luther King Jr.
Published 1986 // 400 pages // Rated 4.3 over 21,200 reviews on Goodreads
56. Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck
In Search of America
Published 1962 // 214 pages // Rated 4.1 over 85,600 reviews on Goodreads
57. Alive - Piers Paul Read
The Story of the Andes Survivors
Published 1974 // 318 pages // Rated 4.1 over 71,500 reviews on Goodreads
58. The Heart of a Woman - Maya Angelou
Published 1981 // 288 pages // Rated 4.2 over 22,000 reviews on Goodreads
59. Kon-Tiki - Thor Heyerdahl
Published 1948 // 240 pages // Rated 4.1 over 21,700 reviews on Goodreads
60. Team of Rivals - Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Published 2005 // 916 pages // Rated 4.3 over 176,800 reviews on Goodreads
61. Up from Slavery - Booker T. Washington
Published 1900 // 256 pages // Rated 4.1 over 31,200 reviews on Goodreads
62. The Last Lion - William Manchester
Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932
Published 1983 // 992 pages // Rated 4.3 over 14,800 reviews on Goodreads
63. Moneyball - Michael Lewis
The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
Published 2003 // 317 pages // Rated 4.3 over 119,600 reviews on Goodreads
64. Abraham Lincoln - Carl Sandburg
The Prairie Years and the War Years
Published 1939 // 762 pages // Rated 4.3 over 5,000 reviews on Goodreads
65. Black Boy - Richard Wright
Published 1945 // 419 pages // Rated 4.1 over 51,600 reviews on Goodreads
66. Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain
Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Published 2000 // 312 pages // Rated 4.1 over 272,600 reviews on Goodreads
67. The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch
Published 2008 // 217 pages // Rated 4.3 over 329,400 reviews on Goodreads
68. Alexander Hamilton - Ron Chernow
Published 2004 // 818 pages // Rated 4.2 over 164,500 reviews on Goodreads
69. Truman - David McCullough
Published 1992 // 1,120 pages // Rated 4.1 over 84,000 reviews on Goodreads
70. Naked - David Sedaris
Published 1997 // 304 pages // Rated 4.1 over 256,400 reviews on Goodreads

Best Biographies FAQs

Why you should read biographies?

The best biographies combine the life-wisdom and lessons you'd expect from nonfiction with the readability and storytelling you'd expect from a novel. They're often easy to read and they're a wonderful way to experience the world through the eyes of someone who may see and have experienced things very differently. Click here to check out my ranked list of the 70 best biographies of all time.

What is the best selling autobiography of all time?

The best selling autobiography of all time is almost certainly The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. While there's no accurate data on best selling biographies, Anne's diary ranks highest on this list of the best selling books of all time, which makes it a likely contender. Other best selling autobiographies include Night (The Night Trilogy, #1) by Elie Wiesel and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

What's the best autobiography to read?

The top two books on this list - Night (The Night Trilogy, #1) and The Autobiography of Malcolm X - are both fantastic autobiographies. Other top-ranked options include famous autobiographies like The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Want more ideas? Click here to read the full list of best biographies and best autobiographies ever written.

What are some good biographies to read?

The top-ranked biographies on my list (and a good place to start) are Night (The Night Trilogy, #1), The Autobiography of Malcolm X and The Complete Maus (graphic novel). For more ideas on some good biographies to read, check out the full list of the top 70 biography books of all time.

More Book Recommendations

Enjoyed this list of the best biographies of all time?

You'll also like TAoL's other book recommendations...

More Best Books of All Time (by Type)

These are some lists of overall best books to read...

More Best Nonfiction Books (by Topic)

These are some lists of best nonfiction books to read...

More Best Fiction Books (by Genre)

These are some lists of best fiction books to read...

Or, you can read all my book recommendations.

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