Malcolm X / Alex Haley The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Last updated date: June 18, 2019

DWYM Score
9.5

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We looked at the top 1 Autobiography and dug through the reviews from 7 of the most popular review sites including Good Reads, The Guardian, The Gatvol Blogger, ConsciousED, National Catholic Reporter, Behind The Blue Sky, The Written Word and more. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Autobiography you should buy.

Overall Take

In our analysis of 61 expert reviews, the Malcolm X / Alex Haley Malcolm X / Alex Haley The Autobiography of Malcolm X placed 5th when we looked at the top 10 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note July 2, 2019:
Checkout The Best Autobiography Book for a detailed review of all the top autobiography.

Expert Summarized Score
9.6
7 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.4
1,502 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
The strength of his words, the power of his ideas continue to resonate more than a generation after they first appeared.
- Good Reads
This autobiography does not just bear witness to racism. This is a book about humanity and human failings and how to rise through and beyond them.
- The Guardian
The Autobiography Of Malcolm X is an important historical text which provides an insight into the life of an icon of the Civil Rights struggle plus a conclusive historical account of America from a different perspective.
- The Gatvol Blogger
Malcolm X was a complex individual. Like many people he struggled to understand himself and the world around him. But he remained diligent and throughout his life he stayed curious and searched for the truth. Through hard work and commitment, he proved that redemption is possible in one’s lifetime.
- ConsciousED
Malcolm taught me seriousness of purpose, black pride, love of black history, and love of black people. He taught me resistance, resolve, and daring. He led me to black consciousness.
- National Catholic Reporter
February 15, 2016 | Full review
The most enjoyable part of the book for me was probably his description of his time in prison. I’m fascinated by autodidacts, and by the process of opening oneself up to new information in the search for truth.
- Behind The Blue Sky
November 17, 2010 | Full review
The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ is a powerful book. Alex Haley’s diligent collection of information and beautiful delivery are a credit to his skills as a journalist and author. ‘The Autobiography’ could be read as an incredible tale of metamorphosis of the most extreme caliber, a notion that is fundamentally important in human nature and repeated throughout literature.
- The Written Word
October 16, 2009 | Full review
What experts didn't like
I found I had to do a bit of plodding through the chapters related to Malcolm’s conversion to and work for the Nation of Islam, not because I find the NOI uninteresting, but because the incessant glorification of Elijah Muhammad made for boring reading. Fundamentalism in any of its forms always strikes me as a bit robotic and, well, soulless: all mistakes are the fault of the individual, while all glory is due to the deity of one’s choice or his (always his) earthbound representative. That doesn’t leave much room for reflection.
- Behind The Blue Sky
November 17, 2010 | Full review
His speeches (in prison, in the mosques and on tv) are quoted with vast explanations, which adds to the context and understanding of some of his more radical quotes. This however does not remove the racist and sexist nature of his opinions – in fact they are magnified and sharpened by the lack of interruption. Some of these opinions Malcolm X revises or comes to completely disagree with by the end of ‘The Autobiography’ (such as segregation and the concept of there being ‘no good whites’), others he retains.
- The Written Word
October 16, 2009 | Full review

From The Manufacturer

Malcolm X's searing memoir belongs on the small shelf of great autobiographies. The reasons are many: the blistering honesty with which he recounts his transformation from a bitter, self-destructive petty criminal into an articulate political activist, the continued relevance of his militant analysis of white racism, and his emphasis on self-respect and self-help for African Americans. And there's the vividness with which he depicts black popular culture--try as he might to criticize those lindy hops at Boston's Roseland dance hall from the perspective of his Muslim faith, he can't help but make them sound pretty wonderful. These are but a few examples. The Autobiography of Malcolm X limns an archetypal journey from ignorance and despair to knowledge and spiritual awakening. When Malcolm tells coauthor Alex Haley, "People don't realize how a man's whole life can be changed by one book," he voices the central belief underpinning every attempt to set down a personal story as an example for others. Although many believe his ethic was directly opposed to Martin Luther King Jr.'s during the civil rights struggle of the '60s, the two were not so different. Malcolm may have displayed a most un-Christian distaste for loving his enemies, but he understood with King that love of God and love of self are the necessary first steps on the road to freedom. --Wendy Smith

Overall Product Rankings

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2. Nelson Mandela Long Walk to Freedom
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3. Paramhansa Yogananda Autobiography of a Yogi
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4. Ashlee Vance Elon Musk
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5. Malcolm X / Alex Haley The Autobiography of Malcolm X
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Expert Reviews: 7
7. Eric Clapton Clapton: The Autobiography
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8. Sally Field In Pieces
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9. Willie Nelson / David Ritz It’s a Long Story: My Life
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10. Andre Agassi Open: An Autobiography
Overall Score: 8.6
Expert Reviews: 6

An Overview On Autobiography

  • 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.

DYWM 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 Buying Guide

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.