An autobiography is a book written about an individual by the individual themselves. Though many may employ the services of a professional writer and editor to ensure the book’s content is grammatically correct, the essence of the book comes from the words of the individual about whom the book has been written, and they will have final say over its content. You can be assured then, that when reading an autobiography, as opposed to a biography (written about an individual by someone else entirely), that the subject of the book is telling you what they want you to know about themselves.
Over history, the genre of the autobiography has involved stories from people with a variety of backgrounds, including political figures, historical figures, entertainment stars and sportspeople. Whether you are reading about a success story within business or the life story of your favourite athlete, autobiographies allow the reader to share the experiences with the writer and hear it from their own personal perspective.
In this piece, we take a look at just a few of the most famous, bestselling and critically revered autobiographies that have ever been written.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Written by Franklin himself (as all real autobiographies must be) in 1791, the book tells the story of Franklin’s life and success “for the benefit of his posterity”. It documents his own rise from obscurity and poverty to eminence and wealth while also outlining his struggles along the way, which can be relatable to the reader even in the modern age.
Franklin went on to become one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and was a vital component of the group responsible for The Declaration of Independence.
Anne Frank: The Diary of Anne Frank
A famous name, and one of the most famous autobiographies of all time, The Diary of Anne Frank was written during the Nazi occupation of Germany, starting in 1942 on Anne’s 13th Birthday and ends suddenly on 1 August 1944. During this period, Jewish citizens were forced to go into hiding as a result of Hitler and the Nazi Party’s treatment of Jews in Europe, and Anne documents the struggle she and her family endured.
The overall message of the importance of freedom in our society is at the forefront of this book, andit will stand the test of time as a vitally important historical document and lesson from history. Freedom is just as important today as it was then, and this book is a timeless classic.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama’s autobiography has become one of the bestselling autobiographies of all time, selling over 10 million copies worldwide. Released in 2018, the 426-page memoir centres on her childhood, relationship with former US President Barack Obama and life inside the White House.
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Similarly to the Diary of Anne Frank, Long Walk to Freedom focuses on the idea of freedom and Nelson Mendela’s fight for equality. Mandela was involved in the efforts to abolish apartheid in South Africa during the 70s and sacrificed much of his life in prison in order to do so.
A great moral figure of our time, Mandela’s lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa, and worldwide, won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. He was the first black candidate to do so – a truly inspirational story to be enjoyed by all.
Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant
The late Kobe Bryant is considered one of the greatest competitors that the sporting world has ever seen. His ability to focus on the task at hand is unmatched by most and he chalked it down to “Mamba Mentality”, a term coined by Bryant that is based on five pillars – passion, obsession, relentlessness, resiliency, and fearlessness.
Released in 2018, this book is an inspirational blueprint to success, whether in the sporting industry or not, and its overall ethos is to “do more than the next guy”. Once again suitable for budding sportspeople of all ages, or those looking for motivational help.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Though not strictly an autobiography, as Steve Jobs was written by renowned biographer Walter Isaacson, Jobs authorised the book, and worked with Isaacson in its production with over forty interviews carried out over a two year period.
The late Apple founder Steve Jobs’ life and approach to invention and entrepreneurship are cleverly detailed by Isaacson, giving insights into his methods as well as personal and previously unknown details about him.
“The attention to detail is astounding, and this is an encyclopedic record of Job’s life right up to his battle against cancer and death … a fitting legacy to a flawed genius” – Evening Standard