Trevor Noah Born a Crime

Last updated date: June 21, 2019

DWYM Score
9.9

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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 Publishers Weekly, Cannonball Read, Huff Post, Life Righting Collective, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Richmond News, The Literary Phoenix and more. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Autobiography you should buy.

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 this a compelling read from start to finish. In our analysis of 61 expert reviews, the Trevor Noah Trevor Noah Born a Crime placed 1st 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
10.0
7 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.6
6,427 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What 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 problems with our world.
- The Literary Phoenix
What 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

From The Manufacturer

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a comic’s origin story better than the one Trevor Noah serves up in Born a Crime. . . . [He] developed his aptitude for witty truth telling [and]…every hardscrabble memory of helping his mother scrape together money for food, gas, school fees, and rent, or barely surviving the temper of his stepfather, Abel, reveals the anxious wellsprings of the comedian’s ambition and success. If there is harvest in spite of blight, the saying goes, one does not credit the blight-but Noah does manage to wring brilliant comedy from it.”—O: The Oprah Magazine “What makes Born a Crime such a soul-nourishing pleasure, even with all its darker edges and perilous turns, is reading Noah recount in brisk, warmly conversational prose how he learned to negotiate his way through the bullying and ostracism. . . . What also helped was having a mother like Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. . . . Consider Born a Crime another such gift to her—and an enormous gift to the rest of us.”—USA Today “[Noah] thrives with the help of his astonishingly fearless mother. . . . Their fierce bond makes this story soar.”—People “This isn't your average comic-writes-a-memoir: It’s a unique look at a man who is a product of his culture—and a nuanced look at a part of the world whose people have known dark times easily pushed aside.”—Refinery29 “Noah’s memoir is extraordinary . . . essential reading on every level. It’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a finer job of it.”—The Seattle Times “Powerful prose . . . told through stories and vignettes that are sharply observed, deftly conveyed and consistently candid. Growing organically from them is an affecting investigation of identity, ethnicity, language, masculinity, nationality and, most of all, humanity—all issues that the election of Donald Trump in the United States shows are foremost in minds and hearts everywhere. . . . What the reader gleans are the insights that made Noah the thoughtful, observant, empathic man who wrote Born a Crime. . . . Here is a level-headed man, forged by remarkable and shocking life incidents, who is quietly determined and who knows where home and the heart lie. Would this unique story have been published had it been about someone not a celebrity of the planet? Possibly not, and to the detriment of potential readers, because this is a warm and very human story of the type that we will need to survive the Trump presidency’s imminent freezing of humane values.”—Mail & Guardian (South Africa) “[Noah’s] story of surviving—and thriving—is mind-blowing.”—Cosmopolitan

Overall Product Rankings

1. Trevor Noah Born a Crime
Overall Score: 9.9
Expert Reviews: 7
2. Nelson Mandela Long Walk to Freedom
Overall Score: 9.8
Expert Reviews: 5
3. Paramhansa Yogananda Autobiography of a Yogi
Overall Score: 9.6
Expert Reviews: 7
4. Ashlee Vance Elon Musk
Overall Score: 9.6
Expert Reviews: 6
5. Malcolm X / Alex Haley The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Overall Score: 9.5
Expert Reviews: 7
7. Eric Clapton Clapton: The Autobiography
Overall Score: 9.4
Expert Reviews: 3
8. Sally Field In Pieces
Overall Score: 9.4
Expert Reviews: 4
9. Willie Nelson / David Ritz It’s a Long Story: My Life
Overall Score: 9.1
Expert Reviews: 7
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.