Recommend Autobiographies.

I know that the nature of an Autobiography is that you have to be interested in the person to be interested in the book, but there are exceptions to every rule. There must be some autobiographies out there that are a cut above and are a good read whether you like the person, or even heard of them or not.

So can you recommend a good Autobiography?

I would prefer the kind done by a person with a few key characteristics that match my own: Atheist, Liberal, Science-minded. But it doesn’t have to fit that.

"Have a Nice Day: A tale of Blood, tears, and Sweatsocks" by Michael “Mick” Foley, a WWE wrestler written in the late 90s/early 2000 about his career to that point. Very poignant, and surprisingly candid and humorous. He comes across as a really down to earth interesting guy, and it’s a well written book even for those who don’t know the business of professional wrestling. But he was the first to pop into my head.

Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth

I enjoyed both of them quite well.

Steve Forbes said that Katherine Graham’s autobiography was destined to be as well-remembered as U.S. Grant’s. When you consider they stood on opposite sides of the political spectrum, that is praise.

I found Jackie Stewart’s “Winning is Not Enough” very engrossing even outside auto racing circles although there is the occasional English business man mentioned that you never heard of. As Stewart says “I went into great detail because I am dyslexic and when you are, you assume everyone is as stupid as you.”

Marianne Faithful’s was blisteringly & unflatteringly honest. I couldn’t put it down.

Autobiography and humour can be had in many of Bill Bryson’s books.

Also a favourite autobiography is Travels by Michael Crichton, particularly since I don’t really like Crichton as a novelist. For a different kind of autobiography try* A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius* by David Eggers. Cooking with Queen Ida is a combined autobiography and Creole cookbook.

Clive James has written a series of autobiographies and I am fairly sure he ticks all your boxes. The first two are very funny and accessible, while the third might be boring to readers who aren’t interested in academia/publishing/intellectuals etc. I haven’t read the last two books.

But my favourite autobiographies every are by the New Zealand author Janet Frame. She has amazing stories to tell about growing up and dealing with her crippling shyness and mental illness while trying to become a writer. She writes so well, you feel like you are getting to know a real person and you just hope the best for her without feeling like she is begging for sympathy. She was only saved from a lobotomy when one of her books won a literary prize! They were made into the all fantastic movie An Angel at My Table by Jane Campion.

Came in to recommend A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (which I bought purely because of the title), but it looks like I was beaten to it. Equal parts tragic and hilarious, with a hearty dose of Fucking Awesome mixed in for flavor.

How about Isaac Asimov? He wrote two big volumes of autobiography—In Memory Yet Green and In Joy Still Felt—that remind me a bit of Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, but with Asimov playing the role of both Johnson and Boswell: full of anecdotes and observations and conversations. The second volume only comes up to 1978. Near the end of his life, he wrote another memoir: I, Asimov.

More a memoir than an autobio, but I would recommend that everyone read Stephen King’s On Writing/". Particularly to those who claim “King can,t write.”

I’ve been reading autobiographies for more than 50 years and the best one I have ever read is* Memoirs *by U. S. Grant. I am not at all interested in military history, but I was entralled by this autobiography. It was like having personal, honest, straightforward talk with one of the greats in American history.

B.B. King’s Blues All Around Me is a great read. He has lived through interesting times.

Papillon by Henri Charrière is an exciting read and much superior to the movie.

Frederick Douglass’ autoiography, and Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, are both available online. Highly recommended.


I’m not a biography reader in general. You Belong In A Zoo is one of the few exceptions.

Many interesting replies to consider. I’ll put them on a list. At first I am intrested by Ghandi, Clive James, and Isaac Asimov. Then I’ll move onto the others.

On the day I wrote the OP I’d bought Stephen Fry’s “Moab is my Washpot”. Stephen is one of my favourite people. Once I’ve read that I’ll move onto the others (If I haven’t found other books to read in between)

I’ve recently finished both Peter Kay’s (The Sound of Laughter and Saturday Night Peter) which were very good. A little ‘common’ but that’s not a bad thing. I only mention that because it’s unusual to find it in a book. It was if anything a bit refreshing.

My favourite autobiography is Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory. It is very unusual in that it is not really chronological, but it takes more of a thematic approach. Apart from that, however, it is one of the most beautifully written things I have ever had the pleasure of setting my eyes on. Just wonderful.

I recommend “Harpo Speaks” by Harpo Marx. (Yes, really.) Every time it comes up in one of these threads, someone makes the comment that they envy someone else being able to read it for the first time. It’s a really good book. Harpo was bright, observant, and had lots of very interesting friends. He traveled the world in the first half of the 20th century, and had a lot of great stories to tell. (Just don’t try to pin down the dates. As he himself said, Groucho was the one who could remember dates. Harpo just remembered the stories.)

Nelson Mandela’s Long walk to Freedom is well worth the effort (it’s not short).

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. I read the book, but many say it’s even better as an audio book because Martin reads it himself, and so you get all the ‘performance’ bits exactly as he himself would have delivered them.
Me: Stories of My Life** by Katherine Hepburn might win a prize for the least imaginatively titled autobiog, and in truth it’s not that remarkable as a book. What I liked about it was that it underlined the contrast between the public persona, of a glamorous star living the high life, and the private reality of someone who actually lived a rather normal and unremarkable life, and had her feet firmly on the ground.

Run out this second and get a copy of Roald Dahl’s BOY and read it. RIGHT NOW!!!