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What are the different types of autobiographies?

What are the different types of autobiographies?

Date: 22nd November 2021

We have already covered the autobiography sub-genre as a whole in our blog ‘Planning an autobiography: tips on getting started’, where we differentiate between autobiographies and biographies and outline the preparation taken when in the planning stage.

But the differentiation does not end there. There are actually 6 types of autobiography that you can choose depending upon the central approach and theme of the book. The 6 types of autobiography include:

Full autobiography

A full autobiography usually revolves around a complete life story, the whole journey from birth to the present day. Authors will use this form of writing to give insight into their lives, allow readers to experience the “real you” and give inside, exclusive information.

An example of this is My Booky Book by Russell Brand.


Memoirs are differentiated from full autobiographies due to the fact that they focus on a specific place or time, and are written from the first-person point of view. This type is limited in comparison, due to the focused nature of the writing.

A renowned memoir from recent years is Becoming by Michelle Obama, detailing her life up to the point where she became the First Lady of the United States. This memoir also made it into our list of ‘6 timeless autobiographies worth reading’.

Personal essay

Similarly to memoirs, personal essays also focus on a specific lesson of importance from the writer’s life experiences. Also written in first-person perspective, personal essays are not a long form of writing in most cases and follow a typical essay five paragraph format seen in academic essays.

A famous example of a personal essay is Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell. Published in 1936, this essay documents Orwell’s time working as a policeman in Burma where he once was instructed to shoot a rampaging elephant. The essay is described by Buzzfeed as ‘a condemnation of imperialism - and his own selfish desire to not be implicated by it’.


Confessional writing, whether real or fictitious, reveals often intimate and hidden details of the subject’s life. The earliest recorded example of the genre was Confessions of St. Augustine (c. AD 400).

Psychological illness

Many autobiographies highlight the hardship that the subject has endured in order to present a contrast to their success, but will often have airbrushed details in order to maintain the image of the subject. Conversely, some autobiographies detailing psychological illness do not pull any punches and are brutally honest due to the subject matter.

Overcoming adversity

A popular topic for autobiographies, overcoming adversity stories are shared to inspire others in similar situations who can relate to the struggle. They say truth is stranger than fiction and some adversity stories seem abnormal to be reality.

Readers enjoy stories of adversity, which is why this autobiographical approach is so popular and successful. An example of a story involving adversity is the 1965 book The Autobiography of Malcom X.


Religious stories consist of a compilation of experiences showing the subject’s connection to God. Typically, this type of writing will show the contrast between the subject’s life before and after their spiritual salvation and how finding God has helped them improve their life.

The current spiritual leader of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama’s book My Spiritual Journey is a great example for those looking for books on this topic.

My Story Told are happy to help with any of the above autobiographical forms. Your personally selected writer will be there every step of the way to help with planning your book and ensuring the right questions are asked to get the best content. If you’re wondering how it all works, click here for more details.