The Handbook
The Handbook

We’re all eager to get stuck into a cheesy chick-lit or a classic detective fiction read, but what about the humble autobiography? These might sometimes feel like hefty reads but they’re often bursting with empowering stories by some of the world’s greatest leaders, inspiring memoirs of riffling through struggling times, or simply just make for a cracking conversation starter.

From Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom to Agatha Christie’s unsung autobiography, here’s ten autobiographies every bookworm should get stuck into:

Long Walk To Freedom – Nelson Mandela

We’ve all seen countless documentaries and read numerous articles about Mandela’s empowering story but Long Walk To Freedom journeys Mandela’s life from his own perspective.

Famed for his non-violent campaigning years against the South African government and its hugely racist policies, the 1994 autobiography explores this journey from being wildly problematic for the government to becoming the nation’s greatest leader.

An Autobiography – Agatha Christie

Everyone has had the pleasure of being engrossed in one of Agatha Christie’s crime-ridden detective novels but what do we really know about her?

It’s her candid autobiography that’s received the least praise but is arguably her greatest and most captivating. Delve into the history of one of the world’s most enthralling novelists and uncover her story as she journeyed through two World Wars, two marriages and overcame complex struggles as both a writer and female. It’s one autobiography that’ll see you picking up a pen and writing your own.

Autobiography Of Malcolm X – Malcolm X 

Malcolm X was tragically assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom on 21st February 1965. His autobiography however, was completed just before.

Explore the mind, thoughts and feelings of the African American leader of the civil rights movement who, almost singlehandedly, led his fellow black Americans to resist, protect themselves and rise against the white aggression.

An Autobiography: The Story Of My Experiences With Truth – Mahatma Gandhi

An Autobiography: The Story of my Experiences With Truth is another hugely inspiring read.

Starting out as a humble lawyer, Mahatma Gandhi went on to becoming the leader of India’s non-violent independence movement against the British rule and helped fight against South Africa’s racist regimes. In his autobiography, Gandhi sheds a light on the real truth and retells the challenges and trauma he faced during these life changing campaigns and fights against global governments.

Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found – Cheryl Strayed

You might recognise the cover from the 2014 filmic adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon, but this story is a memoir of Cheryl Strayed’s journey of self discovery and triumph.

With a marriage that lost its spark, the death of her mother and her family now in complete and utter turmoil, Strayed has been left with little. While most would wallow in their own pity, Strayed decides to walk eleven-hundred miles along the west coast of America (as you do) and strives to do it alone. With no prior expedition experience, the memoir follows Strayed as she tries to piece her life back together.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

You might remember studying her thought-provoking poetry and metaphor ridden prose at school but Maya Angelou’s six volumes of autobiography delves event deeper into her stories and resilience as an African American woman.

Angelou begins her story retelling her childhood with her grandmother in the south of America and follows her as she becomes the first African American woman to have her screenplay produced.

Just Kids – Patti Smith

Here to help you live out your rockstar dreams is Patti Smith and her autobiography Just Kids. 

Thanks to her 1975 debut album Horses, American singer-songwriter, musician and author Patti Smith is known for being a major catalyst in the New York City punk rock movement. Just Kids is shaped around a love story of two young individuals, studded by art and rock’n’roll experiences. The memories will forever linger her mind, and now yours too.

Dreams From My Father: A Story Of Race And Inheritance – Barack Obama 

The man, the myth, the legend. Barack Obama, of course, has released an autobiography and has since sold over a million copies in the UK alone.

Of course, we all know Obama’s presidential story, but Dreams From My Father explores his emotional upbringing as the son of a black African father and a white American mother. The autobiography begins by retracing his mother’s migration from Kansas to Hawaii, and his childhood in Indonesia and Kenya.

One for those in search of an empowering read.

The Diary Of A Young Girl: The Definitive Edition – Anne Frank

For 21st century readers, it’s hard to even begin imagining what life was like for Jewish families during the Second World War, but Anne Frank’s diary helps to shed some realistic light on the struggles, trauma and hurt.

The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition gives us a glimpse as what the day-to-day life of a young Jewish girl living in Nazi occupied Holland, right up to the day the schoolgirl’s family were arrested in Amsterdam in 1944.

The diary has become world famous and is a must-read at least once in your life.

Testament Of Youth – Vera Brittain

You may know this one for its 2014 British drama adaptation, but Testament of Youth is the first instalment of Vera Brittain’s three-part memoir series.

Famed for its film and TV adaptations, Brittain’s Testament of Youth follows her romance with her brother’s friend Roland Leighton, who was killed with her brother early in World War I. The narrative however, mainly focuses on her work as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse and the beginning of her career as a writer, feminist and pacifist.

Testament of Experience precedes, with the final segment of the memoir to be named Testament of Faith or Testament of Time, but remained unfinished before her death.


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