In no particular order, this is my list of the best 14 biographies and memoirs of all time.
- Open – The tennis great opens up about, well, everything. Beautifully written and candid. An amazing read, even if you don’t like tennis.
- Shoe Dog – The founder of Nike describes the first ten years of the company in both hilarious and powerful terms. A book that shows us that even the greatest successes are never apparent while they’re happening.
- Einstein: His Life and Universe – The biography that put Isaacson on the map as one of the best biographers.
- Educated – Unbelievable story of a woman who grew up in a family of abusive religious fanatics in rural Idaho. As a teen, she secretly educated herself and managed to get into college.
- Born a Crime – An incredible story of growing up biracial in South Africa during apartheid and struggling to make a career in show business afterward.
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – A harrowing depiction of Angelou’s abusive and racist upbringing. A book filled with power and beauty.
- Just Kids – Rock and roller Patti Smith describes her youth in the underground scene of New York City before emerging as one of punk rocks preeminent voices. Winner of National Book Award.
- Hunger – The story of a morbidly obese woman and her lifelong struggles with not just food, but her body, men and sex in general. Powerful.
- Reading Lolita in TehranA story of a woman living under the theocratic regime in Iran who refuses to obey the strict Islamic laws and insists on reading and teaching western literature. A powerful story of everyday bravery in the face of oppression.
- The Glass Castle – An incredible story of resilience and redemption. Spent seven years straight on the New York Times bestseller list.
- In Cold Blood – The first of its kind, a non-fictional narrative of a murder based on the killer’s perspective.
- The Diary of a Young Girl – The diary of a young jewish girl who was captured and killed by the occupying Nazi forces.
- Night – A short memoir of Wiesel’s time in Auschwitz and how he survived.
- Alexander Hamilton – The classic by the Pulitzer Prize winning biographer that spawned the hit musical Hamilton.
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