Best Biographies: 70 Best Biography Books and Memoirs of All Time (2020)

Best Biographies Memoirs Autobigraphies

Best Biographies Memoirs Autobigraphies Books

Looking for a list of the best biographies of all time? Well, you’re in the right place!

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 good biographies is that good biographies keep both eyes firmly fixed on their heroes.

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 just 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, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to include them in the next round of updates!

Until then, enjoy this list of best biographies…


  1. Night (The Night Trilogy, #1) (1958), Elie Wiesel
    Rated 4.3 over 861,100 reviews on Goodreads
  2. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), Malcolm X
    Rated 4.3 over 160,800 reviews on Goodreads
  3. The Complete Maus (1986), Art Spiegelman
    Rated 4.6 over 110,600 reviews on Goodreads
  4. Endurance (1959), Alfred Lansing
    Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
    Rated 4.4 over 69,000 reviews on Goodreads
  5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Maya Angelou
    Rated 4.2 over 347,700 reviews on Goodreads
  6. The Diary of a Young Girl (1947), Anne Frank
    Rated 4.1 over 2,361,500 reviews on Goodreads
  7. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (1985), Richard Feynman
    Adventures of a Curious Character
    Rated 4.3 over 125,100 reviews on Goodreads
  8. If This Is a Man / The Truce (1947), Primo Levi
    Rated 4.6 over 12,500 reviews on Goodreads
  9. The Story of My Life (1902), Helen Keller
    Rated 4.1 over 120,600 reviews on Goodreads
  10. The Autobiography of a Yogi (1946), Paramahansa Yogananda
    Rated 4.2 over 37,400 reviews on Goodreads
  11. My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), Frederick Douglass
    Rated 4.3 over 9,300 reviews on Goodreads
  12. Long Walk to Freedom (1994), Nelson Mandela
    Rated 4.3 over 58,300 reviews on Goodreads
  13. The Choice (1959), Edith Eger
    Embrace the Possible
    Rated 4.5 over 9,000 reviews on Goodreads
  14. Wild Swans (1991), Jung Chang
    Three Daughters of China
    Rated 4.3 over 77,900 reviews on Goodreads
  15. The Path to Power (1982), Robert A. Caro
    Rated 4.4 over 14,200 reviews on Goodreads
  16. The Power Broker (1974), Robert A. Caro
    Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
    Rated 4.5 over 9,800 reviews on Goodreads
  17. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (1970), Rebecca Skloot
    Rated 4.1 over 493,800 reviews on Goodreads
  18. Man’s Search for Meaning (2006), Viktor E. Frankl (Summary)
    A gruelling and yet deeply liberating insight into they why behind each of our whats and hows – by holocaust survivor, psychologist and founder of logotherapy, Viktor Frankl.
    Rated 4.4 over 270,900 reviews on Goodreads
  19. Totto-chan (1981), Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
    The Little Girl at the Window
    Rated 4.3 over 20,400 reviews on Goodreads
  20. The Glass Castle (2005), Jeannette Walls
    Rated 4.3 over 787,000 reviews on Goodreads
  21. Into Thin Air (1997), Jon Krakauer
    A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster
    Rated 4.2 over 338,300 reviews on Goodreads
  22. Unbroken (2010), Laura Hillenbrand
    A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
    Rated 4.4 over 657,700 reviews on Goodreads
  23. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (1979), Edmund Morris
    Rated 4.3 over 34,100 reviews on Goodreads
  24. Desert Solitaire (1968), Edward Abbey
    Rated 4.2 over 34,900 reviews on Goodreads
  25. West with the Night (1942), Beryl Markham
    Rated 4.2 over 26,000 reviews on Goodreads
  26. The Bell Jar (1963), Sylvia Plath
    Rated 4.0 over 516,500 reviews on Goodreads
  27. Persepolis (2000), Marjane Satrapi
    The Story of a Childhood
    Rated 4.2 over 139,800 reviews on Goodreads
  28. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), Harriet Ann Jacobs
    Rated 4.1 over 37,700 reviews on Goodreads
  29. Black Like Me (1960), John Howard Griffin
    Rated 4.1 over 55,000 reviews on Goodreads
  30. The Last Lion (1983), William Manchester
    Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory 1874-1932
    Rated 4.4 over 9,600 reviews on Goodreads
  31. Seabiscuit (1999), Laura Hillenbrand
    An American Legend
    Rated 4.2 over 131,000 reviews on Goodreads
  32. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt, #1) (1996), Frank McCourt
    Rated 4.1 over 486,300 reviews on Goodreads
  33. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), Frederick Douglass
    Rated 4.0 over 80,900 reviews on Goodreads
  34. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1986), Martin Luther King Jr.
    Rated 4.3 over 13,700 reviews on Goodreads
  35. The Agony and the Ecstasy (1958), Irving Stone
    Rated 4.1 over 73,500 reviews on Goodreads
  36. Tuesdays with Morrie (1997), Mitch Albom
    Rated 4.1 over 678,000 reviews on Goodreads
  37. Team of Rivals (2005), Doris Kearns Goodwin
    The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
    Rated 4.3 over 132,300 reviews on Goodreads
  38. What Do You Care What Other People Think? (1988), Richard Feynman
    Further Adventures of a Curious Character
    Rated 4.3 over 19,200 reviews on Goodreads
  39. Gandhi (1927), Mahatma Gandhi
    An autobiography
    Rated 4.1 over 40,500 reviews on Goodreads
  40. Travels with Charley (1962), John Steinbeck
    In Search of America
    Rated 4.1 over 60,300 reviews on Goodreads
  41. A Moveable Feast (1964), Ernest Hemingway
    Rated 4.0 over 104,300 reviews on Goodreads
  42. Up from Slavery (1900), Booker T. Washington
    Rated 4.1 over 21,200 reviews on Goodreads
  43. The Last Lecture (2008), Randy Pausch
    Rated 4.3 over 275,000 reviews on Goodreads
  44. First They Killed My Father (2000), Loung Ung
    A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
    Rated 4.3 over 27,500 reviews on Goodreads
  45. Speak, Memory (1951), Vladimir Nabokov
    Rated 4.2 over 10,600 reviews on Goodreads
  46. Peter the Great (1980), Robert K. Massie
    His Life and World
    Rated 4.2 over 11,200 reviews on Goodreads
  47. A Beautiful Mind (1998), Sylvia Nasar
    Rated 4.1 over 114,500 reviews on Goodreads
  48. Black Boy (1945), Richard Wright
    Rated 4.1 over 44,300 reviews on Goodreads
  49. Alexander Hamilton (2004), Ron Chernow
    Rated 4.2 over 91,800 reviews on Goodreads
  50. A Walk in the Woods (1997), Bill Bryson
    Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
    Rated 4.1 over 311,800 reviews on Goodreads
  51. Kon-Tiki (1948), Thor Heyerdahl
    Rated 4.1 over 17,900 reviews on Goodreads
  52. The Boys in the Boat (2013), Daniel James Brown
    Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
    Rated 4.4 over 181,200 reviews on Goodreads
  53. Born a Crime (2016), Trevor Noah
    Stories From a South African Childhood
    Rated 4.5 over 209,800 reviews on Goodreads
  54. Into the Wild (1996), Jon Krakauer
    Rated 4.0 over 782,600 reviews on Goodreads
  55. Walden (1854), Henry David Thoreau
    Rated 3.8 over 135,100 reviews on Goodreads
  56. The Color of Water (1996), James McBride
    A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
    Rated 4.1 over 94,200 reviews on Goodreads
  57. Narrative of Sojourner Truth (1850), Sojourner Truth
    Rated 4.1 over 7,700 reviews on Goodreads
  58. Educated (2018), Tara Westover
    Rated 4.5 over 307,700 reviews on Goodreads
  59. Becoming (2018), Michelle Obama
    Rated 4.6 over 215,200 reviews on Goodreads
  60. Confessions (397), Augustine of Hippo
    Rated 3.9 over 40,100 reviews on Goodreads
  61. When Breath Becomes Air (2016), Paul Kalanithi
    Rated 4.4 over 292,900 reviews on Goodreads
  62. Mountains Beyond Mountains (2003), Tracy Kidder
    The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World
    Rated 4.2 over 62,500 reviews on Goodreads
  63. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1791), Benjamin Franklin
    Rated 3.8 over 58,500 reviews on Goodreads
  64. John Adams (2001), David McCullough
    Rated 4.1 over 271,300 reviews on Goodreads
  65. Shelley (1974), Richard Holmes
    The Pursuit
    Rated 4.4 over 300 reviews on Goodreads
  66. Kitchen Confidential (2000), Anthony Bourdain
    Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
    Rated 4.1 over 189,700 reviews on Goodreads
  67. The Journal, 1837-1861 (1960), Henry David Thoreau
    Rated 4.4 over 200 reviews on Goodreads
  68. On the Road (1955), Jack Kerouac
    Rated 3.6 over 311,800 reviews on Goodreads
  69. Plutarch’s Lives (100), Plutarch
    Volume I
    Rated 4.1 over 5,000 reviews on Goodreads
  70. Last Train to Memphis (1994), Peter Guralnick
    The Rise of Elvis Presley
    Rated 4.3 over 5,200 reviews on Goodreads

II. Best Books Of All Time

These are the overall best books to read (by type).

III. Best Nonfiction Books (A-Z)

These are the best nonfiction books to read (by topic).

IV. Best Fiction Books (A-Z)

These are the best fiction books to read (by genre).

Or, you can read all my book recommendations.
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Stefan Sandström
Stefan Sandström
3 months ago

Of course I don’t agree with the order of the individual books in the lists, but that’s just me. However, the book that I think is the all time best biography isn’t even mentioned. Yet. Here goes: Marguerite Yourcenar’s amazing book: Memoirs of Hadrian. The story how she repeatedly tried to put it together from ~20 years of age over the years, until she finally got cancer and finally matured enough to write her masterpiece. Fantastic storytelling, history lesson and a deep dive into the psyche of men, all-in-one!

Chandler Kinney
Chandler Kinney
8 months ago

Fantastic job done. I just loved your work here. Lovely. I visited your blog for the first time.

11 months ago

Thank you for such a great list!
Perhaps these books deserve spot there too:
Partners of the Heart
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story