51 best autobiographies & biographies of all time

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

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 our edit of the best autobiographies and biographies to read right now.

The best inspiring autobiographies and biographies

Finding Hildasay

by Christian Lewis

Book cover for Finding Hildasay

After hitting rock bottom having suffered with depression for years, Christian Lewis made an impulsive decision to walk the entire coastline of the UK. Just a few days later he set off with a tent, walking boots and a tenner in his pocket. Finding Hildasay tells us some of this incredible story, including the brutal three months Christian Lewis spent on the uninhabited island of Hildasay in Scotland with no fresh water or food. It was there, where his route was most barren, that he discovered pride and respect for himself. This is not just a story of a remarkable journey, but one of depression, survival and the meaning of home. 


by Yusra Mardini

Book cover for Butterfly

After fleeing her native Syria to the Turkish coast in 2015, Yusra Mardini boarded a small dinghy full of refugees headed for Greece. On the journey, the boat's engine cut out and it started to sink. Yusra, her sister, and two others took to the water to push the overcrowded boat for three and a half hours in open water, saving the lives of those on board. Butterfly is Yusra Mardini's journey from war-torn Damascus to Berlin and from there to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Game. A UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and one of People magazine's 25 Women Changing the World, discover Yusra and her incredible story of resilience and unstoppable spirit.

Celebrating the Seasons with the Yorkshire Shepherdess

by Amanda Owen

Book cover for Celebrating the Seasons with the Yorkshire Shepherdess

From the rural heart of Swaledale, Yorkshire shepherdess Amanda Owen shares stories of life with a large family and a large herd of sheep, as the year turns from lambing to haymaking to midwinter feeds in the snow. From leaping hares to rare moorland flowers, her beautiful photos help bring the text to life, as do the interspersed recipes for the seasonal meals she feeds her family. Yorkshire curd tart anyone?

This is Going to Hurt

by Adam Kay

Book cover for This is Going to Hurt

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. With 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions and a tsunami of bodily fluids, Kay provides a no-holds-barred account of working on the NHS frontline. Now a major BBC comedy-drama, don't miss this special edition of This Is Going To Hurt including a bonus diary entries and an afterword from the author. 

Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas

by Adam Kay

Book cover for Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas

This is Going to Hurt gave readers an unparalleled insight into the work of a junior doctor, with a dose of wry wit but no less emotion. In Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas Adam returns to his shifts on the ward amidst the festive season: when hospital admissions reach their height. This is a love letter to all those who spend their festive season on the front line, removing babies and baubles from the various places they get stuck, at the most wonderful time of the year. He reminds us to think of those working to care for the UK during a time that many of us think of as a blissful haze of parties and presents. 

A Fortunate Woman

by Polly Morland

Book cover for A Fortunate Woman

Funny, emotional and imbued with great depth, A Fortunate Woman is an exploration of the life of a country doctor in a remote and wild wooded valley in the Forest of Dean. The story was sparked when writer and documentary maker Polly Morland found a photograph of the valley she lives in tucked inside a tattered copy of John Berger’s A Fortunate Man. Itself an account of the life of a country doctor, the book inspired a woman doctor to follow her vocation in the same remote place. And it is the story of this woman that Polly Morland tells, in this compelling portrait of landscape and community.

Crying in H Mart

by Michelle Zauner

Book cover for Crying in H Mart

This radiant read by singer, songwriter and guitarist Michelle Zauner delves into the experience of being the only Asian-American child at her school in Eugene, Oregon, combined with family struggles and blissful escapes to her grandmother's tiny Seoul apartment. The family bond is the shared love of Korean food, which helped Michelle reclaim her Asian identity in her twenties. A lively, honest, riveting read.

Lily's Promise

by Lily Ebert

Book cover for Lily's Promise

This is the moving story of Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert, written with her great-grandson Dov. When Lily was liberated at the end of the Second World War, a Jewish-American soldier handed her a banknote with the words ‘the start to a new life, good luck and happiness!’ written on it. Decades later, when Lily was 96, Dov decided to use social media to track down the family of that soldier. Lily finally told her compelling life story to the world, fulfilling the promise she made to her 16-year-old self to share the horrors of the holocaust with the world – in the hope that such evil would never be seen again.

Hope Not Fear

by Hassan Akkad

Book cover for Hope Not Fear

Hassan Akkad is a filmmaker and photographer who had to flee his home in Damascus and, via unrest, protest and torture, seek asylum in the UK. Here he documented the work of cleaners on a London Covid-19 ward, a project which led the UK government to U-turn on excluding cleaners and porters from the bereavement compensation scheme. Akkad's theme of finding connection through kindness and love has universal resonance, and makes this a truly inspiring read.

Brown Baby

by Nikesh Shukla

Book cover for Brown Baby

In Brown Baby, Nikesh Shukla, author of the bestselling The Good Immigrant, explores themes of racism, feminism, parenting and our shifting ideas of home. This memoir, by turns heartwrenching, hilariously funny and intensely relatable, is dedicated to the author’s two young daughters, and serves as an act of remembrance to the grandmother they never had a chance to meet. Through love, grief, food and fatherhood, Shukla shows how it’s possible to believe in hope.

Adventures Of The Yorkshire Shepherdess

by Amanda Owen

Book cover for Adventures Of The Yorkshire Shepherdess

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…

The Colour of Madness

by Samara Linton

Book cover for The Colour of Madness

The Colour of Madness brings together memoirs, essays, poetry, short fiction and artworks by people of colour who have experienced difficulties with mental health. From experiencing micro-aggressions to bias, and stigma to religious and cultural issues, people of colour have to fight harder than others to be heard and helped. Statistics show that people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK experience poor mental health treatment in comparison to their white counterparts, and are more likely to be held under the Mental Health Act. 

The Diary of a Young Girl

by Anne Frank

Book cover for The Diary of a Young Girl

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

Book cover for I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

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. 

I Am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai

Book cover for I Am Malala

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. 


by Michelle Obama

Book cover for Becoming

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

Book cover for In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin

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 memoirs

Nothing But The Truth

by The Secret Barrister

Book cover for Nothing But The Truth

How do you become a barrister? Why do only 1 per cent of those who study law succeed in joining this mysterious profession? And why might a practising barrister come to feel the need to reveal the lies, secrets, failures and crises at the heart of this world of wigs and gowns? Full of hilarious, shocking and surprising stories, Nothing But The Truth tracks the Secret Barrister’s transformation from hang ‘em and flog ‘em, austerity-supporting twenty-something to a campaigning, bestselling, reforming author whose writing in defence of the law is celebrated around the globe.

Scenes from My Life

by Michael K. Williams

Book cover for Scenes from My Life

When Michael K. Williams died on 6 September 2021, he left behind a career as one of the most electrifying actors of his generation. At the time of his death, Williams had nearly finished his memoir, which traces his life in whole, from his childhood and his early years as a dancer to his battles with addiction. Alongside his achievements on screen he was a committed activist who dedicated his life to helping at-risk young people find their voice and carve out their future. Imbued with poignance and raw honesty, Scenes from My Life is the story of a performer who gave his all to everything he did – in his own voice, in his own words.

The Happiest Man on Earth

by Eddie Jaku

Book cover for The Happiest Man on Earth

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. Eddie Jaku always considered himself a German first, and a Jew second. All of that changed in November 1938, when he was beaten, arrested and taken to a concentration camp. But through his courage and tenacity he still 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. 

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I Heard What You Said

by Jeffrey Boakye

Book cover for I Heard What You Said

Before Jeffrey Boakye was a black teacher, he was a black student. Which means he has spent a lifetime navigating places of learning that are white by default. Since training to teach, he has often been the only black teacher at school. At times seen as a role model, at others a source of curiosity, Boakye’s is a journey of exploration – from the outside looking in. In the groundbreaking I Heard What You Said, he recounts how it feels to be on the margins of the British education system. Thought-provoking, witty and completely unafraid, I Heard What You Said is a timely exploration of how we can dismantle racism in the classroom and do better by all our students.

Brown Girl Like Me

by Jaspreet Kaur

Book cover for Brown Girl Like Me

Equal parts memoir and manifesto, Jaspreet Kaur equips women with the confidence and skillset they need to navigate the difficulties that come with an intersectional identity. Pulling no punches, and tackling topics from mental health and menstruation stigma to education and beauty standards, Brown Girl Like Me will educate, inspire and spark urgent conversations for change; essential reading for South Asian women and people with an interest in feminism and cultural issues.

Making It

by Jay Blades

Book cover for Making It

Making It is an inspirational memoir about beating the odds and turning things around even when it all seems hopeless. Jay Blades reflects on strength, weakness and what it means to be a man. He shares the details of his life, from his childhood growing up on a council estate in Hackney, to his adolescence when he was introduced to violent racism at secondary school, to being brutalized by police as a teen, to finally becoming a beloved star of the hit primetime show The Repair Shop. With Jay's positivity, pragmatism and kindness shining through every page, he shows that with care and love, anything can be mended.

The best royal biographies

Queen of Our Times

by Robert Hardman

Book cover for Queen of Our Times

This is the definitive biography of Queen Elizabeth II by one of Britain’s leading royal authorities. With original insights from those who knew her best, interviews with world leaders and access to unseen papers, bestselling author Robert Hardman explores the full, astonishing life of our longest reigning monarch in this compellingly authoritative yet intimate biography.

The best sports autobiographies and biographies


by Eddie Jones

Book cover for Leadership

One of the most successful sports coaches ever, Eddie Jones took three separate nations to Rugby World Cup Finals, and enjoyed a success rate with the England team of almost eighty per cent. An expert in guiding and managing high-performing teams, Jones believes that his methods can be applied to many walks of life. From fostering ambition to following your curiosity, Jones shares his methodology, much of it learned through conversations with other successful managers and leaders, including Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola. Leadership is the ultimate guide to being your best, in rugby and in life.

Too Many Reasons to Live

by Rob Burrow

Book cover for Too Many Reasons to Live

As a child, Rob Burrow was told he was too small to be a rugby player. Some 500 games for Leeds later, Rob had proved his doubters wrong: he won eight Super League Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups, three World Club Challenges and played for his country in two World Cups. In 2019 though, Rob was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given just two years to live. He went public with the news, determined to fight it all the way. Full of love, bravery and kindness, this is the story of a man who has awed his fans with his positive attitude to life.

Belonging: The Autobiography

by Alun Wyn Jones

Book cover for Belonging: The Autobiography

This is the tale of a lad from Mumbles who became the most capped rugby player of all time. Having watched the 1997 Lions Tour of South Africa in the hall of his school, he ascended the sport to become named the 2021 Lions Captain. This is a stirring story about physical achievement, but also about perthyn, or belonging. Belonging to the team, to the legions of fans, to the great players of the past, and to the country of Wales itself.

My Life in Football

by Kevin Keegan

Book cover for My Life in Football

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. 

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They Don't Teach This

by Eniola Aluko

Book cover for They Don't Teach This

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

Book cover for At Home with Muhammad Ali

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 celebrity autobiographies and biographies

What Are You Doing Here?

by Floella Benjamin

Book cover for What Are You Doing Here?

Actress, television presenter, member of the House of Lords – Baroness Floella Benjamin is an inspiration to many. But it hasn't always been easy: in What Are You Doing Here?  she describes her journey to London as part of the Windrush generation, and the daily racism that caused her so much pain as a child. She has gone on to remain true to her values, from breaking down barriers as a Play School presenter to calling for diversity at the BBC and BAFTA to resisting the pressures of typecasting. Sharing the lessons she has learned, imbued with her joy and positivity, this autobiography is the moving testimony of a remarkable woman.

A Funny Life

by Michael McIntyre

Book cover for A Funny Life

Comic Michael McIntyre specialises in pin-sharp observational routines that have made him the world's bestselling funny man. But when he turns his gaze to himself and his own family, things get even funnier. This bracingly honest memoir covers the highs, lows and pratfalls of a career in comedy, as Michael climbs the greasy pole of success and desperately attempts to stay up there.


by Elton John

Book cover for Me

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. 

Gotta Get Theroux This

by Louis Theroux

Book cover for Gotta Get Theroux This

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. 

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From Rags to Ricky

by Sid Owen

Book cover for From Rags to Ricky

There's more to Sid Owen than loveable Ricky Butcher, the character he played in EastEnders. This is a sharp and authentic account of growing up with an armed robber father who ended up in prison, going out 'on the rob' and living with his mum and siblings on a north London council estate. Acting offered a way out, and at thirteen Owen was working with Donald Sutherland and Al Pacino. From a future where crime seemed the the only option, Owen has built a career that has seen him rise above deprivation and loss.

Be My Baby

by Ronnie Spector

Book cover for Be My Baby

Featuring a new introduction by Keith Richards, Be My Baby was described by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the greatest rock memoirs ever written. The title comes from Ronnie Spector's first collaboration with producer Phil, and charts their ensuing marriage, as well as the way his Wall of Sound production drowned out her gorgeously emotive voice. A testimony to Ronnie's survival of marital abuse, the book also charts her glorious return to form, as she partied with David Bowie and toured with Bruce Springsteen.

The Meaning of Mariah Carey

by Mariah Carey

Book cover for The Meaning of Mariah Carey

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. 

What Are You Doing Here?

by Floella Benjamin

Book cover for What Are You Doing Here?

Actress, television presenter, member of the House of Lords – Baroness Floella Benjamin is an inspiration to many. But it hasn't always been easy: in What Are You Doing Here?  she describes her journey to London as part of the Windrush generation, and the daily racism that caused her so much pain as a child. She has gone on to remain true to her values, from breaking down barriers as a Play School presenter to calling for diversity at the BBC and BAFTA to resisting the pressures of typecasting. Throughout her career, Benjamin has campaigned passionately for the needs of children, and has sparked joy amongst her many fans.

Every Good Boy Does Fine

by Jeremy Denk

Book cover for Every Good Boy Does Fine

A New York Times bestseller, this uniquely illuminating memoir is the story of the making of a musician, in which renowned pianist Jeremy Denk explores what he learned from his teachers about classical music: its forms, its power, its meaning - and what it can teach us about ourselves.

Maybe I Don't Belong Here

by David Harewood

Book cover for Maybe I Don't Belong Here

When David Harewood was twenty-three, his acting career began to take flight and he had what he now understands to be a psychotic breakdown. He was physically restrained by six police officers, sedated, then hospitalized and transferred to a locked ward. Only now, thirty years later, has he been able to process what he went through. In this powerful and provocative account of a life lived after psychosis, critically acclaimed actor, David Harewood, uncovers a devastating family history and investigates the very real impact of racism on Black mental health.

Theroux the Keyhole

by Louis Theroux

Book cover for Theroux the Keyhole

In Theroux the Keyhole Louis takes us into his own home, where Covid kept him from his journalistic penchant of chasing the weird and wonderful world. Instead Louis is struggling to keep up with Joe Wicks, and with his video-game obsessed kids. Meanwhile he muses on podcasting, far-right radicalisation and the power of the pandemic to make us face up to the most important things in life.

Look Again

by David Bailey

Book cover for Look Again

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. 

More Myself

by Alicia Keys

Book cover for More Myself

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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Walking with Ghosts

by Gabriel Byrne

Book cover for Walking with Ghosts

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. 

I Wanna Be Yours

by John Cooper Clarke

Book cover for I Wanna Be Yours

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. 

Tina Turner: My Love Story

by Tina Turner

Book cover for Tina Turner: My Love Story

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.

Over the Top

by Jonathan Van Ness

Book cover for Over the Top

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. 

The best political autobiographies and memoirs

The Fall of Boris Johnson

by Sebastian Payne

Book cover for The Fall of Boris Johnson

Sebastian Payne, Whitehall Editor for the Financial Times, tells the behind-the-scenes story of the fall of former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. After being touted saviour of the Conservative Party, it took Johnson just three years to resign after a series of scandals. From the blocked suspension of Owen Patterson to Partygate and the Chris Pincher allegations, Payne gives us unparalleled access to those who were in the room when key decisions were made, ultimately culminating in Boris's downfall. This is a gripping and timely look at how power is gained, wielded and lost in Britain today.

Promise Me, Dad

by Joe Biden

Book cover for Promise Me, Dad

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

Book cover for The Truths We Hold

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

Book cover for Dreams From My Father

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.