The most recommended biographies

Who picked these books? Meet our 3,586 experts.

3,586 authors created a book list connected to biographies or autobiographies, and here are their favorite of both.

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Book cover of Starting Out In the Afternoon

Jane Christmas Author Of What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim: A Midlife Misadventure on Spain's Camino de Santiago de Compostela

From my list on memoirs that combine the inward and outward journey.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I hated the outdoors, hated change, hated discomfort. Imagine my surprise when, in 2004, without an iota of expertise, I decided to hike Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It was life-changing and world-opening on so many levels. Since then, I’ve written five best-selling journey memoirs, two of which have been nominated for awards. I read just about anything but I am particularly drawn to stories about those who leave the comfort of their homes to go and live another life. We all think of doing it; few of us actually do.

Jane's book list on memoirs that combine the inward and outward journey

Jane Christmas Why did Jane love this book?

Your marriage is over and your child is heading off to university. What to do? Why, you get in your car and drive nearly 6,000 km from Toronto to the Yukon. This lyrical, enchanting memoir of a mid-life journey tugs at the soul. What strikes me the most about it is the courage of its author to go it alone.

By Jill Frayne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Starting Out In the Afternoon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jill Frayne’s long-term relationship was ending and her daughter was about to graduate and leave home. She decided to pack up her life and head for the Yukon.

Driving alone across the country from her home just north of Toronto, describing the land as it changes from Precambrian Shield to open prairie, Jill finds that solitude in the wilds is not what she expected. She is actively engaged by nature, her moods reflected in the changing landscape and weather. Camping in her tent as she travels, she begins to let go of the world she’s leaving and to enter the…


Book cover of Dying to Do Letterman: Turning Someday into Today

Donald B. Stewart Author Of Past Medical History: Recollections of a Medical Miscreant

From my list on surviving a life-changing challenge.

Why am I passionate about this?

When life’s experiences fall dismally short of expectations, many of us find ourselves lost at a crossroads. When my path to becoming a doctor began to exact an unacceptable toll, I had to find a way out; discharging myself from the hospital was the solution, and by far the best clinical decision of my brief medical career.  As a result, I’m still fascinated by choices others make when faced with what seem like impossible obstacles, and where those decisions lead. Following the medical dream from age five, it wasn’t easy to change my life’s course, but that crucial choice allowed me to grow in ways I couldn’t imagine.  

Donald's book list on surviving a life-changing challenge

Donald B. Stewart Why did Donald love this book?

Sometimes when faced with impossible choices, the answer is to double down and keep going – even in the face of an existential threat.

As a visual humorist (I deliver my jokes on paper), I shared an immediate rapport with standup comedian Steve Mazan, who was pitching his book at an IdeaFestival, while still dealing with the lingering consequences of liver cancer. Steve’s answer was to say, “I’ve been dying to appear on David Letterman. Now I’m literally dying to do it!”

There’s something to be said of checking off the important boxes on your bucket list. Steve Mazan turned his list into a book, one that delivers a powerful punch line.

By Steve Mazan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dying to Do Letterman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Steve Mazan's someday was to perform on The Late Show with David Letterman. In his early thirties Steve was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer that spread to his liver. Doctors told him he might have only five years left to live. So Steve did something strange: he started living. In a literal race against time, he decided to chase that childhood dream and turn someday into today—he would perform his act live on The Late Show with David Letterman . . . even if it killed him.
With his confidence in a rut and his healthcare bills mounting,…


Book cover of Colour Bar: Movie Tie-In: A United Kingdom

Sylvia Vetta Author Of Sculpting the Elephant

From my list on mixed relationships.

Why am I passionate about this?

I married Indian born Atam Vetta when mixed relationships were rare and viewed with hostility not just in the UK. In 1966, they were illegal in South Africa and in most Southern States of the USA (until Loving v Virginia). In India they are not illegal but many upper-caste Indians do not approve of marriage outside of caste. In the UK attitudes have revolutionised. Mixed relationships are no longer rare and it is predicted that by 2075 the majority of the population will be of mixed ancestry. There are mixed relationships in all three of my novels. My aim was to explore what we have in common whilst being honest about the challenges. The ultimate prize is an enhanced understanding and the creativity that comes with crossing cultures.

Sylvia's book list on mixed relationships

Sylvia Vetta Why did Sylvia love this book?

London 1945: the heir to the largest tribe of Bechuanaland (Botswana) arrives in Britain. Seretse Khama, an urbane 24-year-old was welcomed into the elite world of Oxford. But when he fell in love with Englishwoman Ruth Williams, the full force of colonial power was brought to bear to prevent their marriage. 

It has personal resonance for me because when I met Atam, in 1964, Smethwick was in the grip of a racist campaign. Atam and I volunteered to help the sitting Labour MP, Patrick Gordon Walker combat the Conservative Peter Griffiths’ campaign. The slogan was, ‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour’. Atam was welcomed because he spoke Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu and we accompanied Patrick Gordon Walker canvassing. When I watched A United Kingdom, the film about Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams, I knew that they had portrayed it well when the government representatives treat…

By Susan Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Colour Bar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The true story of a love which defied family, Apartheid, and empire - the inspiration for the major new feature film A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike

London, 1947. He was the heir to an African kingdom. She was a white English insurance clerk. When they met and fell in love, it would change the world.

This is the inspiring true story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams, whose marriage sent shockwaves through the establishment, defied an empire - and, finally, triumphed over the prejudices of their age.

'Reading the book, I realised that I had never…


Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

By Wendy Lee Hermance,

Book cover of Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

Wendy Lee Hermance Author Of Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Wendy Lee Hermance was heard on National Public Radio (NPR) stations with her Missouri Folklore series in the 1980s. She earned a journalism degree from Stephens College, served as Editor and Features Writer for Midwestern and Southern university and regional publications, then settled into writing real estate contracts. In 2012 she attended University of Sydney, earning a master’s degree by research thesis. Her books include Where I’m Going with this Poem, a memoir in poetry and prose. Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat marks her return to feature writing as collections of narrative non-fiction stories.

Wendy's book list on why Portugal is weird

What is my book about?

Weird Foods of Portugal describes the author's first years trying to make sense of a strange new place and a home there for herself.

Witty, dreamlike, and at times jarring, the book sizzles with social commentary looking back at America and beautiful, finely drawn descriptions of Portugal and its people. Part dark-humor cautionary tale, part travel adventure, ultimately, Hermance's book of narrative non-fiction serves as affirmation for any who wish to make a similar move themselves.

Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

By Wendy Lee Hermance,

What is this book about?

"Wendy Lee Hermance describes Portugal´s colorful people and places - including taxi drivers and animals - with a poet´s empathy and dark humor. Part travel adventure, part cautionary tale, Weird Foods of Portugal is at it´s heart, affirmation for all who consider making such a move themselves."


Book cover of Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics

Nicholas Smith Author Of Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers

From my list on running history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I get it, to most people running isn’t fun, but its simplicity can be deceptive. To some, running (especially when done in nature) can be a spiritual act. To others, it (along with its cousin jogging) should’ve been included in the Geneva Conventions. Me? I’ve been running since the third grade and watching running for even longer. Growing up, the Olympics were required viewing and an interest in running naturally flowed from it. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy the great many books out there about runners and their impact on sports, culture, and world events. 

Nicholas' book list on running history

Nicholas Smith Why did Nicholas love this book?

In one of the indelible images from the 20th Olympic Games is the grainy footage of American sprinter Jesse Owens racing down a dirt-running track to victory during the notorious 1936 Berlin Olympics, which Adolf Hitler sought to exploit as a propaganda opportunity. Owens won an unprecedented four gold medals during those Games, a stark defiance to the Nazi’s racist ideology. Triumph tells the story of those Olympics, along with Owens humble origins as a talented black athlete in Jim Crow America, his unlikely friendship with a German long jumper, and his inglorious return to the U.S. that prohibited him from profiting from his success on the track because of draconian amateur rules of the time. 

By Jeremy Schaap,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Triumph as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The remarkable behind-the-scenes story of one of the most iconic clashes in sports and world history.

In 1936, against a backdrop of swastikas flying and storm troopers goose-stepping, an African-American athlete won a staggering four Olympic gold medals. Jesse Owens, the son of sharecroppers, had single-handedly crushed Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy. The story of Jesse Owens at the 1936 games is that of a high-profile athlete giving a performance that transcends sports. But it is also the intimate and complex tale of the courage of one remarkable man.

This is the incredible true story of one of the moment…


Book cover of Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness

Kirsten Fullmer Author Of Love on the Line

From my list on girls who don’t need to be saved.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated with stories about women who step outside the norm and accomplish their goals. Books that tell of girls who are shy or insecure, but find inner strength in the face of adversity, inspire me. My mother wasn’t afraid to guide me toward these stories when I was young, and I gave books with this theme to my daughters as well. It doesn’t matter where you start from, it only matters where you think you can go, and I love books that share this idea; especially stories of women who do amazing and unexpected things.  

Kirsten's book list on girls who don’t need to be saved

Kirsten Fullmer Why did Kirsten love this book?

This book is about Anne Hobbs, a nineteen-year-old girl, who in 1927 travels to Alaska to run a ramshackle, one-room schoolhouse. Along the way, she is exposed to more than just the elements. Against the local’s advice, she allows Native American children into her class and falls in love with a half-Inuit man. In this fascinating and charming story, Anne learns the meaning of prejudice and perseverance, irrational hatred, and unconditional love. 

This story taught me that we, as girls, can do important things and change the world around us. Anne was sweet and shy, but through showing compassion and concern, she made a change in her community. It wasn’t easy and she faced hardship, but she was successful and content within herself. Why do I love this book? First of all, the book is an adventure about survival in the wilderness. Anne had people watching out for her and…

By Robert Specht,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tisha as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The beloved real-life story of a woman in the Alaskan wilderness, the children she taught, and the man she loved.
 
“From the time I’d been a girl, I’d been thrilled with the idea of living on a frontier. So when I was offered the job of teaching school in a gold-mining settlement called Chicken, I accepted right away.”
 
Anne Hobbs was only nineteen in 1927 when she came to harsh and beautiful Alaska. Running a ramshackle schoolhouse would expose her to more than just the elements. After she allowed Native American children into her class and fell in love with…


Book cover of The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto

Ernest Owens Author Of The Case for Cancel Culture: How This Democratic Tool Works to Liberate Us All

From my list on modern-day Black social consciousness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Philadelphia-based journalist and new author. I’m the Editor at Large for Philadelphia Magazine and President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. As an openly Black gay journalist, I’ve headlined for speaking frankly about intersectional issues in society regarding race, LGBTQIA, and pop culture. Such experiences have awakened my consciousness as an underrepresented voice in the media and have pushed me to explore societal topics. My new book The Case for Cancel Culture, published by St. Martin's Press, is my way of staking my claim in the global conversation on this buzzworthy topic. 

Ernest's book list on modern-day Black social consciousness

Ernest Owens Why did Ernest love this book?

This book was the kind of post-Trump election awakening that made me feel unapologetic about the way I saw myself as a Black American.

The writing vividly expresses the rage and determination of marginalized voices in a way that’s beyond poignant, but intentional.

Blow, a respected journalist in his own right, pulls from history and current events to make a case for something ambitious: Reverse Black migration as a means of combating racial injustice in the South. 

By Charles M Blow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Devil You Know as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A New York Times Editor's Choice | A Kirkus Best Nonfiction Book of the Year

From journalist and New York Times bestselling author Charles Blow comes a powerful manifesto and call to action, "a must-read in the effort to dismantle deep-seated poisons of systemic racism and white supremacy" (San Francisco Chronicle).

Race, as we have come to understand it, is a fiction; but, racism, as we have come to live it, is a fact. The point here is not to impose a new racial hierarchy, but to remove an existing one. After centuries of waiting…


Book cover of Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark

Caroline Studdert Author Of Hellcat of The Hague: The Nel Slis Story

From my list on about and by madly inspiring women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always adored stories of courageous, sometimes outrageous women who forge ahead into the unknown, survive in strange lands in troubled times, pursue their career dreams. Like my favourite picks, I’ve relished my own adventures in distant countries (Libya, Czechia, Kyrgystan, Mongolia…), while always earning my crust from writing. From motivational research in Dublin and London, I switched to financial journalism in Holland, where I met and was inspired by ground-breaking journalist Nel Slis whose story I’ve told in my book Hellcat of the Hague. Now I’m settled in London to concentrate on my novels and short stories and be near my family, I hope you love these books too.

Caroline's book list on about and by madly inspiring women

Caroline Studdert Why did Caroline love this book?

Among a tiny handful of intrepid women travellers in the nineteenth and twentieth century, Freya Sterk stands out. Not only for her courage in going where no woman or man had gone before in remote and dangerous Middle Eastern regions and for her unique mastery of their languages, but also for her own beautiful writing. Largely self-educated, she is adopted by the Royal Geographical Society and lionised as an explorer. And she revels in the limelight. Knighted by the Queen at age 82, Freya emerges as appealingly human and fallible, and unusually democratic in her dealings with the people she meets in these remote regions.  Her biographer has created a brilliant, absorbing, and penetrating picture of this flamboyant woman.

By Jane Fletcher Geniesse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Passionate Nomad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book • Finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction

“Highly readable biography . . . The woman who emerges from these pages is a complex figure—heroic, driven . . . and entirely human.”—Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

Passionate Nomad captures the momentous life and times of Freya Stark with precision, compassion, and marvelous detail. Hailed by The Times of London as “the last of the Romantic Travellers” upon her death in 1993, Freya Stark combined unflappable bravery, formidable charm, fearsome intellect, and ferocious ambition to become the twentieth century’s best-known woman traveler.…


Book cover of Down Under

Clinton Walker Author Of Stranded

From my list on music from Australia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art school dropout and recovering rock critic who, since 1981, has published a dozen books on Australian music and popular culture, plus worked extensively in television and as a freelance journalist. I'm too old to be called an enfant terrible, but with the way I still seem to be able to court controversy, I must remain some sort of loose cannon! Sydney’s Sun-Herald has called me "our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture," and that’s a tag I’m flattered by but which does get at what I’ve always been interested in. I consider myself a historian who finds resonances where most don’t even bother to look, in our own backyard, yesterday, and the fact that so much of my backlist including Inner City Sound, Highway to Hell, Buried Country, Golden Miles, History is Made at Night, and Stranded are still in print, I take as vindication I’m on the right track…

Clinton's book list on music from Australia

Clinton Walker Why did Clinton love this book?

Sometimes a book comes completely out of nowhere. Such was the case with Trevor Conomy’s Down Under. Conomy was not an author with a pedigree in music journalism or anything like that, but when Down Under came out, in 2015, it spoke for itself. The life story of a song – Melbourne pub band Men At Work’s “Down Under” – what makes the book compelling is not so much the story of its fluky success, when in 1982 it become a huge hit all round the world, but rather the aftermath: How more than a quarter-century later the song went to court against a copyright infringement claim. That it lost the case was a travesty and a human tragedy, and Conomy’s short, punchy little book reveals why in all its gory detail.

By Trevor Conomy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Down Under as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the biography not of a person but of one of the most loved and controversial songs in the history of Australian music.

Originally released as a B-side in 1980, 'Down Under' made Men at Work the biggest band on the planet. The song became an alternative Australian anthem and its video (recorded on the sand dunes of Cronulla) became an image of Australia recognised the world over.

Even when Men at Work suddenly disappeared, 'Down Under' remained in the national psyche. Nearly three decades later, Spicks and Specks innocently revealed a link between the song and the tune…


Book cover of A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss

Patricia Newman Author Of Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation

From my list on elephants for people who love them.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Sibert Honor author and write books for kids and teens about nature. Ever since I saw an elephant skull on the savanna in Kenya, I’ve been fascinated by elephants. When my daughter was an undergrad, she worked with Katy Payne and the Elephant Listening Project, and I knew I had to write about ELP’s astounding work—one of the only groups working with forest elephants. I hope you enjoy the QR codes in Eavesdropping on Elephants. Katy and her colleagues were very generous with their work. The more I write the more I discover our connections to our natural world that humble me and fill me with gratitude. 

Patricia's book list on elephants for people who love them

Patricia Newman Why did Patricia love this book?

As an author of children’s books, I love to share what I’m passionate about with kids. As you read Elephant Memories by Cynthia Moss, give A Passion for Elephants to the children in your life. Imagine the terrific discussions you can have about Cynthia’s adventures sharing two books about the same person. You’ll be able to supplement the kids’ knowledge with some startling facts of your own.

By Toni Buzzeo, Holly Berry (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Passion for Elephants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

A science and nature biography of Cynthia Moss, the elephant expert, by the author of Caldecott Honor book One Cool Friend

Cynthia Moss was never afraid of BIG things. As a kid, she loved to ride through the countryside on her tall horse. She loved to visit faraway places. And she especially loved to learn about nature and the world around her. So when Cynthia traveled to Africa and met the world’s most ENORMOUS land animal, the African elephant, at Amboseli National Park in Kenya, she knew she had found her life’s work.

Cynthia has spent years learning everything she…


Book cover of Hey Ho Let's Go: The Story of the Ramones

Uli Hesse Author Of The Three Lives of the Kaiser

From my list on life in a dysfunctional family (i.e. The Ramones).

Why am I passionate about this?

I've written about a dozen books, all about football (or soccer, depending on your denomination), but that was never the plan. The plan was always to write about music. The first piece I ever published in a proper magazine was a profile of Wayne Kramer, formerly of the MC5. It ran in the German edition of Rolling Stone. The honeymoon didn't last long, though, as I gradually ran out of ideas what to pitch to the magazine, until one day I asked: "Would you be interested in a non-music piece about how football has grown out of the Dark Eighties and become hip?" They said yes, and that was that.

Uli's book list on life in a dysfunctional family (i.e. The Ramones)

Uli Hesse Why did Uli love this book?

The first proper book about the Ramones came out in 1993 and was written by Jim Bessman.

It's not without merit, but as an authorized biography, produced in collaboration with the band, it fails to cut really deep. Ten years later, when the respected English journalist Everett True (not his real name, which lends a nice touch to this tale of four fake brothers) put pen to paper, things were very different.

The band had broken up and two founder members were dead. Maybe that's why it's such a harrowing read in parts – the details of Joey's death are particularly poignant, not least because True is clearly in his camp, not Johnny's. I think definitive is the unavoidable term here.

By Everett True,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hey Ho Let's Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The death of Joey Ramone in the summer of 2001 and Dee Dee Ramone in June 2002 provided ample evidence of the high regard that his band was held by fans and critics. Once regarded as a joke, their music little more than an adrenaline rush of one minute five second noise, The Ramones have come to be regarded as having influenced almost every star struck guitarist who knew just three chords and wanted to write a song.