For centuries, we have written books and read them too. They contain stories with different themes. Examples of these are horror, comedy, romance, mystery and drama. Sometimes, books can be written about the lives of people. In a case where someone writes a book about their own life, it is known as an autobiography. If the book is written by someone else, it is a biography. There are many books of this nature which are available for us today. They tell us the life stories of current and past influential people. By reading them, we can learn a lot and apply some of their lessons in our own lives. Here are the 15 best biographies and autobiographies everyone should read in their life time.

The story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi 

One of the most admired autobiographies in the world is this one by Mahatma Gandhi. The legendary freedom fighter from India wrote his book to express himself, his spirituality and moral code too. Explaining his 4 decades in India, the autobiography depicts political incidents, historical accounts and Gandhi's personal philosophy of peaceful protest. It is a must-read autobiography.

The Biography of Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson

This is a biography about one of America's Founding Fathers. Within it you'll discover his rise from being a lower middle class youth to founding one of the greatest nations on earth. Benjamin Franklin believed in the American Dream and he was aware of the possibilities in the New World. In this book, his inner-most thoughts as shaped by his reality are revealed.

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

Written by the 44th president of the United States of America, Dreams From My Father is a book that explores race relations in the society and the halls of political power. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. His mother was American and his father Kenyan. He grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii. The books explores his experiences while living in these parts of the world and how he came to terms with his roots in Kenya after his father's death. This autobiography has been recognized by Times Magazine as one of the top 100 books written in English since 1923. It is a must read treatise.

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

The late Nelson Mandela is a man that the world will never forget. His autobiography contains his story from being a child in South Africa, growing up and joining the freedom movement, spending more than two decades in prison and rising to become free South Africa's first president. The book contains thoughts, muses and hope for the nation in his own words.

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12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup


Recently adapted into an Oscar nominated movie, 12 Years a Slave is the autobiography of Solomon Northup. He tells the story of how he was born a free man in New York State and was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. He languished under the lash of a number of slave owners and observed their cruelty and cowardice. For more than a decade, Solomon survived slavery and eventually achieved freedom once more. It is a hard read that truly depicts the horrors of slavery. This autobiography is a timeless classic. 

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Synonymous with hope and innocence amid the turmoil of war, The Diary of a Young Girl is a book that captures how life was as a girl during Nazi occupation. In it, Anne expresses her daily life, academics, crushes, friendships, loneliness, fear and the opinions of those around her. Anne and her family hid in their apartment from the Nazi regime for 2 years until eventually, they were found. Though she died in a concentration camp, Anne Frank lives on in her autobiography.

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Jack: A Life by George Sayer

C.S. Lewis is one of the most famous and respected authors in history. Thanks to his achievements and depth of his work, scores of authors have written about him. However, none of them has written as personally as George Sayer. This is because they were very close friends and spent a lot of time together. In this biography, George does not shy away from writing about Lewis' controversial times. As such, Jack: a Life is one of the most candid biographies ever written.

Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

President Dwight Eisenhower is remembered as the one who finally ended World War 2. He is lesser known for being the main force behind the prevention of further nuclear warfare, the end of the Korean war and did the most to shorten the Vietnam war. Not only is he a briliant strategist, Jean Edward Smith depicts him in this biography as a genius politician who made it look easy to be president.

Chronicles Vol 1 by Bob Dylan

Legendary musician and award winning artiste, Bob Dylan has legions of fans across the world. He gives us all an insight into his life and the workings of his mind in this autobiography. The book depicts life in 1961 New York and his experiences during the recording of his first album. It went on to become a massive global hit. Despite its immense success, Bob indicates in the book that he still had a lot of love for his two lesser albums.

Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius

Written in 121AD, this is a biography of written by the personal secretary of Emperor Hadrian. Suetonius observed the lives of 12 caesars and wrote about how they conducted themselves in and out of the public eye. At the time, Roman Caesars were all powerful and their actions were unlimited. Suetonius captures their most honorable moments to their most decadent ones. If you have ever wondered about Julius Caesar and his all-powerful compatriots, this is the book to read.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

The Nazi era spawned quite a collection of books and narratives. This one is bound to be one of the most intriguing. It is the story of a German pastor who was anti-Nazi. He believed that the regime was inhumanly killing innocents. So Pastor Bonhoeffer got into a plot to kill Chancellor Hitler. This biography is written by Eric Metaxas and indicates the rise of Hitler to power and the moral, devotional and marty-like thoughts of Pastor Bonhoeffer. It is a page turning biography that shows how one man can seek to do right when thousands are doing wrong. 

All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, From Lincoln to Roosevelt by John Taliaferro

 Is it possible to see and live through half a century of the political history of a country? John Hay proves that it is. Having began his career as a young legal assistant in the office of Abraham Lincoln, John completed his illustrious career as the Secretary of State for presidents William McKinley and Theodore Rossevelt. His legal and political career spanned the Civil War all the way to World War 1. Written expertly by John Taliaferro, the biography of John Hay is an accurate depiction of the history of the United States of America.

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro

This is a biography of the former parks commissioner of New York. Written expertly by Mr. Caro, it depicts in detail how Robert Moses arrived in New York and saw how power was and what it could do for you. He loved it, acquired as much of it as he could and it transformed him. Robert A. Caro explains what power can turn you into and how to avoid the pitfalls that marred the legacy of Robert Moses.

Totto Chan - The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

Having sold 5 million copies in Japan, this biography of Totto-Chan is a cult classic in the nation of the Rising Sun. In her home country, Totto-Chan is a major celebrity who has her own magazine and news show too. Having grown up in the world before World War 2, Totto suffered from attention disorder, had "too much energy" and was generally misunderstood by everyone around her. Tetsuko Kuroyanagi writes that one day she met a school principle who changed everything for the better. It is a biography worth your time.

The Important Take Away

Biographies and autobiographies allow us to see into the lives, hearts and minds of great leaders and inspirational figures of the world. From presidents to authors, this genre of writing gives us a glimpse into what it was like to be these people. Some of the best ones ever are indicated above. Take the time to read some of them to expand your perspective on life and the world at large.

Don't forget to let us know which one's your favourite of all and which ones are missing on this list!