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The Best Autobiography Book

Last updated on July 2, 2019

We looked at the top 10 Autobiography and dug through the reviews from 54 of the most popular review sites including Kirkus Reviews, Move To End Violence, People, Little Brown and Company, The Real Review, Record Collector Magazine and more. The result is a ranking of the best Autobiography.

Best Autobiography Book

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Our Picks For The Top Autobiography

Show Contents
Our Take
Experts Included
Pros
Cons
  The Best Overall
  The Best Value

Trevor Noah

Born a Crime

Overall Take

With plenty of wit, Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” covers "The Daily Show" host's upbringing in South Africa during apartheid. You'll get an in-depth look at African history and culture through the eyes of someone who was there. Noah's unique voice shines through in the various stories he tells, making... Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Publishers Weekly, Cannonball Read, Huff Post, Life Righting Collective, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Richmond News and 1 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Walmart.
Pros
" Noah is quick with a disarming joke, and he skillfully integrates the parallel narratives via interstitial asides between chapters to explain the finer details of African culture and history for the uninformed."
Cons
"It feels as though there is a side of Noah that we have not seen – one that perhaps would render him vulnerable in a way that he has chosen not, as yet, to share."

Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom

Overall Take

Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom" was a success upon its release. It even inspired a 2013 movie starring Idris Elba. Tthis book takes a look at the many challenges that made Mandela the leader he later became. However, don't expect to read much about his 27 years in captivity... Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Kirkus Reviews, Move To End Violence, People, Little Brown and Company, The Real Review. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" This memoir is remarkably free of polemics, self-pity, and self-aggrandizement. It is the work of a man who has led by action and example--a man who is one of the few genuine heroes we have."
Cons
"But most of the book details Mandela’s life before and after prison. Perhaps there’s little one can say about life during such a long incarceration—it’s a tale of stamina. But other famous prisoners, such as Natan Sharansky, infused their prison..."

Paramhansa Yogananda

Autobiography of a Yogi

Overall Take

Originally released in 1947, this version of Paramhansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” keeps the original text intact while also providing supplemental material. It includes a final chapter written in 1951 by Yogananda himself, in addition to the original inspiring stories from Yogananda's life. Yoga practitioners will love to read... Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, Spirituality and Practice, Writing Cave, Biography Online, The Freelance History Writer Notes and Reviews, Huff Post and 1 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" Autobiography of a Yogi is at once a beautifully written account of an exceptional life and a profound introduction to the ancient science of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation."
Cons
"Personally the only nagging point in the book is that although the book has been written in and around 1945 and it describes a period between somewhere around 1915-1940, not even once he talks about India’s freedom struggle. He goes..."

Ashlee Vance

Elon Musk

Overall Take

Ashlee Vance's "Elon Musk" takes an in-depth look at the man behind some of the most interesting innovations of our time. Vance was given exclusive access to Musk, his friends and family members. You'll also get 16 pages of color photos to enhance your reading.

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Space Flight Insider, Clean Technica, Hook Agency. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Walmart.
Pros
" More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy"
Cons
"The book is a good read. However, while Vance provides new information gained from hundreds of interviews, “Elon Musk” seems to jump around a bit. It’s definitely not your typical biography."
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We identified the majority of the autobiography available to purchase.
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54

Expert Reviews Included

Reviews from our DWYM category experts and analysis of some of the most respected sources including: Kirkus Reviews, Move To End Violence, People, Little Brown and Company, The Real Review.

62,142

User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including Amazon, Target, Walmart.

Our experts reviewed the top 10 Autobiography and also dug through the reviews from 54 of the most popular review sites including Kirkus Reviews, Move To End Violence, People, Little Brown and Company, The Real Review, Record Collector Magazine and more. The result is a ranking of the best of the best Autobiography.

DWYM is your trusted roduct review source. Our team reviews thousands of product reviews from the trusted top experts and combines them into one easy-to-understand score. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in their category.

The Best Overall

Trevor Noah Born a Crime

Expert Summarized Score
10.0
7 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.6
6,427 user reviews
The DWYM Expert Take

With plenty of wit, Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” covers "The Daily Show" host's upbringing in South Africa during apartheid. You'll get an in-depth look at African history and culture through the eyes of someone who was there. Noah's unique voice shines through in the various stories he tells, making this a compelling read from start to finish.

What other experts liked
Noah is quick with a disarming joke, and he skillfully integrates the parallel narratives via interstitial asides between chapters to explain the finer details of African culture and history for the uninformed.
- Publishers Weekly
Noah’s story has so much heart as it explores a plethora of social issues from a place that is both deeply genuine and genuinely funny.
- Cannonball Read
His writing has that kind of authenticity. It bubbles over with excitement and good humor, and at the same time it’s penetrating in the accuracy of its psychological and social observation.
- Huff Post
September 28, 2017 | Full review
The book is a largely chronological recounting of his itinerant and, one suspects, idiosyncratic childhood. Presumably its intention is to paint a more rounded picture of Trevor Noah the man to his increasing number of fans around the world.
- Life Righting Collective
March 15, 2018 | Full review
The book is filled with such funny exchanges between mother and son. In Born a Crime, the 33-year-old Noah is direct but never unfunny about growing up biracial in the post-apartheid era.
- The Los Angeles Review of Books
February 18, 2017 | Full review
Throughout the book he explores serious topics such as colonialism, racism, apartheid, being an outsider, abusive relationships, religion, gender roles and more. Yet, this is one of the funniest books I have ever read.
- Richmond News
February 28, 2019 | Full review
I was totally moved by this book. I thought it was amazing and I have so much respect for Trevor, because he used this platform NOT to talk about how awesome he is, but to draw attention to the fundamental...
- The Literary Phoenix
What other experts didn't like
It feels as though there is a side of Noah that we have not seen – one that perhaps would render him vulnerable in a way that he has chosen not, as yet, to share.
- Life Righting Collective
March 15, 2018 | Full review

Overall Product Rankings

1. Trevor Noah Born a Crime

Overall Score: 9.9
Reviews Included: 10

2. Nelson Mandela Long Walk to Freedom

Overall Score: 9.8
Reviews Included: 6

3. Paramhansa Yogananda Autobiography of a Yogi

Overall Score: 9.6
Reviews Included: 10

4. Ashlee Vance Elon Musk

Overall Score: 9.6
Reviews Included: 9

5. Malcolm X / Alex Haley The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Overall Score: 9.5
Reviews Included: 10

6. Benjamin Franklin The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Overall Score: 9.5
Reviews Included: 4

7. Eric Clapton Clapton: The Autobiography

Overall Score: 9.4
Reviews Included: 5

8. Sally Field In Pieces

Overall Score: 9.4
Reviews Included: 7

9. Willie Nelson / David Ritz It’s a Long Story: My Life

Overall Score: 9.1
Reviews Included: 10

10. Andre Agassi Open: An Autobiography

Overall Score: 8.6
Reviews Included: 9

Our Autobiography Buying Guide

  • Your choice of autobiography starts with the subject itself. If you’re interested in learning more about the person, you’ll be more likely to pick up that book. Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” is written by the biracial host of “The Daily Show,” who spent his childhood hidden away in South Africa due to apartheid. Noah is at heart a comedian, and his wit adds levity to what would otherwise be a somber tale.
  • Also providing a personal look at life in South Africa is Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom,” which was used as the basis for the 2013 movie starring Idris Elba. Mandela spent 27 years imprisoned due to apartheid and became an internationally-renowned political leader upon his release. In his book, he continues to inspire by presenting his story positively, never showing signs of self-pity or bitterness.
  • Passionate yoga practitioners will be familiar with Paramhansa Yogananda, the first yoga master of India. Paramhansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” is a reprint of the 1946 autobiography, complete with bonus material, including a final chapter written by Yogananda in 1951. If you want all the material from the 1946 edition, this is the only currently published version that has it.
  • You’re probably drawn to Ashlee Vance’s “Elon Musk” for the same reasons many people are. Considered one of the greatest minds of our time, Musk consistently fascinates experts in his field, as well as the public. This biography is written by Vance, an award-winning feature writer for “Bloomberg Businessweek,” based on interviews with Musk himself. While writing the book, Vance was granted exclusive access to Musk, as well as his family and friends. You’ll find this book doesn’t follow the typical structure of a biography, jumping around more than usual.
  • If you’re reading an autobiography to go beyond learning more about the subject, you’ll have plenty of reasons to take a closer look at Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime,” which provides an up close and personal look at African history and culture. While you’re reading Noah’s story, you also get a deep exploration into a variety of social issues, including racism, religion, gender roles and abusive relationships.  Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” will also offer a view of apartheid-era South Africa from an insider’s perspective. But the book actually provides a look at how Mandela was shaped into the leader he later became. Yoga practitioners aren’t the only ones who will be intrigued by Paramhansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi.” Its underlying messages on religion and spirituality can inspire anyone who is looking for deeper meaning. Although Ashlee Vance’s “Elon Musk” truly is an in-depth profile of the subject himself, Vance offers a view of Musk that brings comparisons to legends like Thomas Edison and Howard Hughes.
  • For those who want an autobiography that revolves entirely around the subject itself, Ashlee Vance’s “Elon Musk” won’t disappoint. Unlike other biographies, this one focuses solely on the person it’s about, complete with 16 full pages of color photos. If you want to know what makes the man tick, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for in this book. Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” is another one that puts its subject front and center, with an in-depth look at Mandela’s youth, as well as his life after prison. If you’re reading to learn more about his 27 years in captivity, though, you’ll be disappointed, as very little of the book details that part of his life.
  • Today’s readers consume content in a variety of ways. Although all four books are available in print, only Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime,” “Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” and Ashlee Vance’s “Elon Musk” can be downloaded in audiobook form. You can get Paramhansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” for Kindle, though, as well as the other three books.

DWYM Fun Fact

Autobiographies often profile public personas, but very few of those famous people are professional writers. For that reason, many celebrities bring in ghostwriters to help turn their words into page-turners. Ghostwriters usually spend hours interviewing these people, but they go deeper than simply regurgitating what their subjects say. They observe speech patterns, humor styles and the overall “voice” of the person they’re profiling in order to make the book sound as though that person was personally behind every word. Famous people who have acknowledged using ghostwriters for their autobiographies include Gwyneth Paltrow, Donald Trump, John F. Kennedy, Leah Remini and Laura Bush.

The Autobiography Tips and Advice

Autobiographies and biographies are both different from other types of books. The subject matter itself is typically the top draw, with some non-readers choosing to read one simply because they’re interested in the person it covers. If you’re looking at a list of the latest autobiographies, though, you’ll probably narrow your choices to familiar names, then choose the person that interests you most.

But before you buy, it’s important to look a little deeper. Even the most interesting subject can make for a dull autobiography, particularly if the subject isn’t willing to open up. A rambling narrative that never quite ventures beneath the surface makes for a dull read. In addition to an interesting subject, you also want a book that compels you to turn the page.

Sometimes a good autobiography isn’t as much about the subject as the experiences that person has had. You may find you learn about a place or a time in history by reading about a certain person, for instance. Seeing events through the eyes of someone experiencing them can be much more powerful than reading about those same events in history books.

Even more common, though, is the inspiration a person can get from these personal stories. The person profiled doesn’t even have to be on the same type of path as you. You can apply their stories of overcoming obstacles and reaching their goals to your own journey. If you’re looking for an autobiography to inspire you, there’s no shortage. It’s just a matter of choosing which journey is most likely to draw you in.

With all of that in mind, though, it still comes down to the writing. Whether an autobiography is written by the author or a ghostwriter, the spirit of the subject shines through. A well-written autobiography will make you feel as though you’re seated across the table from the subject, hearing that person’s story over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.