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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.

Looking for the best biographies of all time?

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Here’s what you’ll find on this page…

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 of All Time

Why are some famous biographies ranked higher than others? To stay as objective as possible, I rank all my book recommendations by a combination of what’s most loved (Goodreads rating), what’s most popular (Goodreads review count) and what’s delivered timelessly relevant advice (first publication date).

This isn’t just a whimsical list of my favourite people or their memoirs. It’s a crowdsourced collection of the best biographies ever published as decided by readers and biography lovers like you.

And if there’s a top biography you think I’ve missed off this list? I LOVE book recommendations so if there are great biographies, autobiographies or memoirs 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 list of the 70 best biographies of all time…

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

The top 10 best biographies of all time are…

Best Biographies: Night (The Night Trilogy #1)

1. Night (The Night Trilogy #1) – Elie Wiesel

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 1958 // 115 pages // Rated 4.3 over 1,055,000 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: Man's Search for Meaning

2. Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl (FREE Summary)

A gruelling and 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 497,500 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

3. The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcolm X

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 // 466 pages // Rated 4.3 over 234,600 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: Endurance

4. Endurance – Alfred Lansing

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 100,500 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: The Diary of a Young Girl

5. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

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 3,061,100 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

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 455,800 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: The Complete Maus

7. The Complete Maus – Art Spiegelman

A clever and haunting Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel that uses zoomorphism (animals-as-humans) to tell the story of the author’s father’s survival of the holocaust – by cartoonist, Art Spiegelman.
Published 1986 // 296 pages // Rated 4.5 over 163,400 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: The Choice

8. The Choice – Edith Eger

Embrace the Possible
A moving and uplifting memoir of the author’s struggles through the ghetto, concentration camps and death marches during her near-miss survival of the holocaust – by psychologist and holocaust survivor, Edith Eger.
Published 1959 // 289 pages // Rated 4.6 over 51,300 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies:

9. “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” – Richard P. Feynman

Adventures of a Curious Character
An eccentric, intelligent and entertaining memoir of the incredible life of one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century – by ground-breaking theoretical physicist and one of humanity’s most engaging teachers, Richard Feynman.
Published 1985 // 391 pages // Rated 4.2 over 178,400 reviews on Goodreads
Best Biographies: If This Is a Man • The Truce

10. If This Is a Man • The Truce – Primo Levi

A lucid and unpretentious memoir of the author’s arrest and incarceration at Auschwitz concentration camp in the final years of the Second World War – by chemist, writer and holocaust survivor, Primo Levi.
Published 1947 // 419 pages // Rated 4.5 over 17,000 reviews on Goodreads

Books 11-70: 60 Good Biographies to Read Next

Here are the next 60 best biographies from my database…

11. My Bondage and My Freedom – Frederick Douglass

Published 1855 // 432 pages // Rated 4.4 over 10,900 reviews on Goodreads

12. Autobiography of a Yogi – Paramahansa Yogananda

Published 1946 // 520 pages // Rated 4.2 over 56,600 reviews on Goodreads

13. The Story of My Life – Helen Keller

Published 1902 // 240 pages // Rated 4.1 over 143,600 reviews on Goodreads

14. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

Published 1970 // 370 pages // Rated 4.1 over 643,400 reviews on Goodreads

15. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass

Published 1845 // 76 pages // Rated 4.0 over 108,900 reviews on Goodreads

16. Totto-chan – Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

The Little Girl at the Window
Published 1981 // 232 pages // Rated 4.4 over 25,200 reviews on Goodreads

17. On Writing – Stephen King

A Memoir of the Craft
Published 2000 // 320 pages // Rated 4.3 over 248,200 reviews on Goodreads

18. Wild Swans – Jung Chang

Three Daughters of China
Published 1991 // 562 pages // Rated 4.2 over 104,200 reviews on Goodreads

19. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Published 1963 // 294 pages // Rated 4.0 over 670,700 reviews on Goodreads

20. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster
Published 1997 // 368 pages // Rated 4.2 over 432,200 reviews on Goodreads

21. The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Published 1973 // 472 pages // Rated 4.3 over 23,200 reviews on Goodreads

22. Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela

Published 1994 // 656 pages // Rated 4.3 over 79,500 reviews on Goodreads

23. The Power Broker – Robert A. Caro

Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
Published 1974 // 1,344 pages // Rated 4.3 over 18,400 reviews on Goodreads

24. The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

Published 2005 // 288 pages // Rated 4.3 over 994,400 reviews on Goodreads

25. Desert Solitaire – Edward Abbey

Published 1968 // 337 pages // Rated 4.2 over 43,900 reviews on Goodreads

26. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – Harriet Ann Jacobs

Published 1861 // 176 pages // Rated 4.1 over 49,800 reviews on Goodreads

27. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt, #1) – Frank McCourt

Published 1996 // 452 pages // Rated 4.1 over 575,200 reviews on Goodreads

28. Gandhi – Mahatma Gandhi

An autobiography
Published 1927 // 528 pages // Rated 4.1 over 62,900 reviews on Goodreads

29. Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom

Published 1997 // 210 pages // Rated 4.1 over 851,200 reviews on Goodreads

30. Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
Published 2010 // 473 pages // Rated 4.4 over 841,800 reviews on Goodreads

31. The Agony and the Ecstasy – Irving Stone

Published 1958 // 776 pages // Rated 4.1 over 86,700 reviews on Goodreads

32. Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

The Story of a Childhood
Published 2000 // 153 pages // Rated 4.2 over 177,700 reviews on Goodreads

33. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt – Edmund Morris

Published 1979 // 780 pages // Rated 4.2 over 52,000 reviews on Goodreads

34. The Path to Power – Robert A. Caro

Published 1982 // 882 pages // Rated 4.2 over 23,800 reviews on Goodreads

35. Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin

Published 1960 // 208 pages // Rated 4.1 over 69,000 reviews on Goodreads

36. Kon-Tiki – Thor Heyerdahl

Published 1948 // 240 pages // Rated 4.1 over 20,900 reviews on Goodreads

37. Seabiscuit – Laura Hillenbrand

An American Legend
Published 1999 // 457 pages // Rated 4.2 over 160,300 reviews on Goodreads

38. West with the Night – Beryl Markham

Published 1942 // 294 pages // Rated 4.1 over 36,800 reviews on Goodreads

39. A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

Published 1964 // 192 pages // Rated 4.0 over 132,500 reviews on Goodreads

40. Black Boy – Richard Wright

Published 1945 // 419 pages // Rated 4.1 over 50,900 reviews on Goodreads

41. 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

Published 1970 // 97 pages // Rated 4.1 over 61,200 reviews on Goodreads

42. Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck

In Search of America
Published 1962 // 214 pages // Rated 4.0 over 83,600 reviews on Goodreads

43. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Martin Luther King Jr.

Published 1986 // 400 pages // Rated 4.2 over 21,500 reviews on Goodreads

44. Narrative of Sojourner Truth – Sojourner Truth

Published 1850 // 80 pages // Rated 4.1 over 8,900 reviews on Goodreads

45. My Early Life, 1874-1904 – Winston S. Churchill

Published 1930 // 396 pages // Rated 4.3 over 3,400 reviews on Goodreads

46. Up from Slavery – Booker T. Washington

Published 1900 // 256 pages // Rated 4.0 over 32,100 reviews on Goodreads

47. The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch

Published 2008 // 217 pages // Rated 4.2 over 326,700 reviews on Goodreads

48. Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin

The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Published 2005 // 916 pages // Rated 4.2 over 177,000 reviews on Goodreads

49. Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

Stories From a South African Childhood
Published 2016 // 304 pages // Rated 4.5 over 499,700 reviews on Goodreads

50. Surprised by Joy – C.S. Lewis

The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis
Published 1955 // 185 pages // Rated 4.0 over 59,800 reviews on Goodreads

51. A Beautiful Mind – Sylvia Nasar

Published 1998 // 461 pages // Rated 4.1 over 129,000 reviews on Goodreads

52. Plutarch’s Lives – Plutarch

Volume II
Published 100 // 706 pages // Rated 4.2 over 3,000 reviews on Goodreads

53. The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown

Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Published 2013 // 416 pages // Rated 4.3 over 251,600 reviews on Goodreads

54. Educated – Tara Westover

Published 2018 // 334 pages // Rated 4.5 over 1,033,500 reviews on Goodreads

55. A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Published 1997 // 397 pages // Rated 4.1 over 370,600 reviews on Goodreads

56. Becoming – Michelle Obama

Published 2018 // 426 pages // Rated 4.5 over 752,300 reviews on Goodreads

57. The Last Lion – William Manchester

Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory 1874-1932
Published 1983 // 992 pages // Rated 4.2 over 15,700 reviews on Goodreads

58. Wind, Sand and Stars – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Published 1939 // 229 pages // Rated 4.1 over 16,300 reviews on Goodreads

59. The Color of Water – James McBride

A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
Published 1996 // 291 pages // Rated 4.1 over 115,400 reviews on Goodreads

60. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

Published 2016 // 208 pages // Rated 4.4 over 489,900 reviews on Goodreads

61. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

Published 1996 // 207 pages // Rated 4.0 over 948,600 reviews on Goodreads

62. Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Published 2000 // 312 pages // Rated 4.1 over 256,100 reviews on Goodreads

63. Alexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow

Published 2004 // 818 pages // Rated 4.2 over 158,100 reviews on Goodreads

64. First They Killed My Father – Loung Ung

A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
Published 2000 // 238 pages // Rated 4.2 over 42,200 reviews on Goodreads

65. Plutarch’s Lives – Plutarch

Volume I
Published 100 // 766 pages // Rated 4.1 over 5,400 reviews on Goodreads

66. Shoe Dog – Phil Knight

A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE
Published 2016 // 386 pages // Rated 4.5 over 196,800 reviews on Goodreads

67. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – Benjamin Franklin

Published 1791 // 160 pages // Rated 3.8 over 77,400 reviews on Goodreads

68. Walden – Henry David Thoreau

Published 1854 // 352 pages // Rated 3.8 over 175,800 reviews on Goodreads

69. Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

Published 2011 // 656 pages // Rated 4.1 over 1,067,200 reviews on Goodreads

70. What Do You Care What Other People Think? – Richard Feynman

Further Adventures of a Curious Character
Published 1988 // 288 pages // Rated 4.1 over 28,800 reviews on Goodreads

Best Biography 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? Here’s a breakdown of all the book lists and book recommendations on the site…

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...

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Best Biographies Memoirs Autobigraphies Books

Arthur Worsley
I founded TAoL to discover and share the best wisdom on how to live long and prosper. Before that I studied Psychology, Philosophy & Physiology at Oxford and consulted at McKinsey. Still curious? Learn more or take my FREE productivity quiz.

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