The best autobiographies and biographies

Enlightening and inspiring: these are the best autobiographies and biographies to read this year.

by Sam Book
30/11/2020
4 minutes to read

Reading an autobiography can offer a unique insight into a world and experience very different from your own – and these real-life stories are even more entertaining, and stranger, than fiction. Take a glimpse into the lives of some of the world's most inspiring and successful celebrities, politicians and sports people and more in these bestselling autobiographies and biographies. 

The best inspiring autobiographies and biographies

The Happiest Man on Earth

by Eddie Jaku

Book cover for 9781529066333

A lesson in how happiness can be found in the darkest of times, this is the story of Eddie Jaku, a German Jew who survived seven years at the hands of the Nazis, and through his courage and tenacity came to live life as 'the happiest man on earth'. Published at the author turns one hundred, The Happiest Man on Earth is a heartbreaking but hopeful memoir full of inspiration. 

Read more about The Happiest Man on Earth

This is Going to Hurt

by Adam Kay

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Offering a unique insight into life as an NHS junior doctor through his diary entries, Adam Kay's bestselling autobiography is equal parts heartwarming and humorous, and oftentimes horrifying too. This special edition of This Is Going To Hurt includes bonus diary entries and an afterword from the author. 

Don’t miss Adam Kay in conversation with Mark Watson. 

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A Nurse's Story

by Louise Curtis

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The story of what a nurse's life is like in a busy A&E unit during the Covid-19 crisis, Louise Curtis' moving memoir is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. As Curtis shares the toll the outbreak has taken on both her A&E department and her wellbeing, you'll be reminded of the enormous sacrifices healthcare professionals have made for all of us this year.  

Adventures Of The Yorkshire Shepherdess

by Amanda Owen

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If you've ever dreamed of packing up and starting a whole new life somewhere new (and who hasn't at least once this year) then Amanda Owen's inspiring autobiography is for you. Charting her life with her husband and nine children on their hill farm in Yorkshire, Amanda shares the family's many escapades with a warmth and humour that will have you dreaming of your own farmhouse in the Yorkshire Dales…

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The Diary of a Young Girl

by Anne Frank

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No list of inspiring autobiographies would be complete without Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl. Charting the thirteen-year-old's time hiding in a 'Secret Annex' with her family to escape Gestapo detection, this book (which was discovered after Anne Frank's death), is a must-read, and a testament to the courage shown by the millions persecuted during the Second World War. 

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

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A favourite book of former president Obama and countless others, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, recounts Angelou’s childhood in the American south in the 1930s. A beautifully written classic, this is the first of Maya Angelou's seven bestselling autobiographies. 

Over the Top

by Jonathan Van Ness

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Best known as the ever-positive and effervescent grooming and self-care expert on Netflix's Queer Eye, Jonathan Van Ness has inspired thousands of people to embrace their truth since the hit show debuted in 2018. But for Van Ness, life hasn't been as positive and joyful as the image he radiates, and in his bestselling autobiography Over The Top he shares his raw, unfiltered and unexpected life story. 

I Am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai

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After speaking out about her right to education almost cost her her life, Malala Yousafzi refused to be silenced. Instead, her amazing story has taken her all over the world. This is the story of Malala and her inspirational family, and of how one person's voice can inspire change across the globe. 

Becoming

by Michelle Obama

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This bestselling autobiography lifts the lid on the life of one of the most inspiring women of a generation, former first lady Michelle Obama. From her childhood as a gifted young woman in south Chicago to becoming the first black First Lady of the USA, Obama tells the story of her extraordinary life with humour, warmth and honesty. 

In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin

by Lindsey Hilsum

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In her job as a foreign correspondent, Marie Colvin reported from some of the most dangerous places in the world. It was a job that would eventually cost her her life. In this posthumous biography of the award-winning news journalist, Lindsey Hilsum shares the story of one of the most daring and inspirational women of our times with warmth and wit, conveying Colvin's trademark glamour. 


The best celebrity autobiographies

Me

by Elton John

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Elton John is one of the most successful singer/songwriters of all time, but success didn't come easily to him. In his bestselling autobiography, he charts his extraordinary life, from the early rejection of his work to the heady heights of international stardom and the challenges that came along with it. With candour and humour, he tells the stories of celebrity friendships with John Lennon, George Michael and Freddie Mercury, and of how he turned his life around and found love with David Furnish. Me is the real story of the man behind the music. 

Read Elton John on life, fate and embracing your bad side.

Look Again

by David Bailey

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David Bailey looks back on his incredible life in Look Again, his fabulously entertaining celebrity autobiography. From shooting for Vogue during the swinging sixties to his relationships with international starlets and friendships with some of Britain's most iconic figures, this is the story of an East End boy who became one of the country's most successful photographers and had heaps of fun along the way. 

In our exclusive video, David Bailey looks back over his life and incredible career in photography.

More Myself

by Alicia Keys

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Alicia Keys' More Myself is a celebrity autobiography with a difference. After years of playing sold-out arenas and topping the charts, Keys is now stepping back and asking, ‘who am I, really?’ Part memoir, part narrative documentary, More Myself offers an insight into the life and mind of one of the world's most celebrated musicians through her quest for her truth. 

Read an extract from More Myself. 

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The Meaning of Mariah Carey

by Mariah Carey

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The global icon and award-winning singer shares the details of her incredible life in her first autobiography, The Meaning of Mariah Carey. From her meteoric rise to fame with a string of hits in the 1990s, to her reinventions, relationships and everything in between, this is Mariah's story, in her own words. 

Walking with Ghosts

by Gabriel Byrne

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Walking With Ghosts is the autobiography of Hollywood star Gabriel Byrne. Beginning with his formative years growing up the eldest of six children on the outskirts of Dublin in the 1960s, through to his journey from amateur dramatics groups to Hollywood and Broadway stardom, this poetic memoir is a heartwarming tribute to the Irish childhood that shaped Byrne and his craft. 

Gotta Get Theroux This

by Louis Theroux

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After three decades reporting on the lives of some of the world's most extreme people, now Louis Theroux is telling his own story. From his socially awkward (his words, not ours) TV debut in 1994, to his journeys across America and his interview with now disgraced Jimmy Saville, Louis looks back on his career with his trademark razor-sharp observation and self-deprecating humour. 

Discover Louis Theroux’s favourite non-fiction books.

I Wanna Be Yours

by John Cooper Clarke

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As wry and funny as the man himself, I Wanna Be Yours is John Cooper Clarke's story, in his own words. In his trademark voice, which is as lyrical as his poetry, and with his brand of slightly sick humour, John shares tales of his performing career and his many remarkable friendships. This autobiography will be loved by both lifelong fans and new readers. 

Listen to John Cooper Clarke talk inspiration, poetry and MC’ing for Chuck Berry.

Tina Turner: My Love Story

by Tina Turner

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She may be best known as the queen of rock' n' roll, but Tina Turner's life is so much more than her music. From her childhood picking cotton in Tennessee to her remarkable rise to fame and what lay beyond, in My Love Story she shares her extraordinary life, her joys and her struggles – all with heart-felt candour and courage.


The best sports autobiographies and biographies

My Life and Rugby

by Eddie Jones

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A legend of the game in the eyes of England Rugby fans, Eddie Jones tells his story for the first time in his bestselling sports autobiography. From his childhood growing up in a working-class area of Sydney all the way to leading England to the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, My Life and Rugby offers an insight into the life and mindset of one of the game's most inspiring and enigmatic coaches.

Read all about Eddie Jones’s career highlights. 

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My Life in Football

by Kevin Keegan

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Growing up the son of a miner in Doncaster in the 1950s, Kevin Keegan could only dream of representing his country at his favourite sport. From impressing as a young player at Scunthorpe United to scoring in front of The Kop and playing for his country, in My Life in Football the Liverpool and England legend shares how his dream became a reality. This inspiring sports autobiography from one of the legends of the beautiful game is the perfect read for any football fan. 

Listen to Kevin discuss his football career, his favourite modern football player and his most life-changing moments.

They Don't Teach This

by Eniola Aluko

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In her autobiography, footballer Eni Aluko addresses themes of dual nationality, race and institutional prejudice, success, gender and faith through her own experiences growing up in Britain. Part memoir, part manifesto for change, They Don't Teach This is a must-read book for 2020. 

At Home with Muhammad Ali

by Hana Yasmeen Ali

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Written by his daughter Ali using material from her father's audio journals, love letters and her treasured family memories, this sports biography offers an intimate portrait of one of boxing's most legendary figures, and one of the most iconic sports personalities of all time. 


The best political autobiographies

Promise Me, Dad

by Joe Biden

Book cover for 9781509890088

Get to know President-Elect Joe Biden through his deeply moving memoir. In Promise Me Dad, Biden charts the year in which his beloved son Beau passed away from the effects of a brain tumour as he fought to balance the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family . Candid about his family's tragic loss and the impact it has had on him as both a man and a politician, this is not only a story of tragedy, but of hope and humanity. 

The Truths We Hold

by Kamala Harris

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Born the daughter of immigrants and civil rights activists in California, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris grew up with a strong sense of social justice. In her bestselling memoir The Truths We Hold, she shares how her childhood and the lessons she's learnt in her career as a lawmaker have inspired and shaped the person and politician that she is today, and her manifesto for a fairer future. 

Dreams From My Father

by Barack Obama

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Published fifteen years before he was elected president of the USA, Dreams from My Father offers a unique portrait of Obama as a young man. In this bestselling autobiography, the former president retraces his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia, and visits Kenya to confront the truth of his father's life, asking questions about identity, belonging and justice along the way. A must-read book before you pick up Obama's new autobiography, A Promised Land.