Some biographies and autobiographies read better than fiction. There are some truly amazing people with unbelievable stories in the world, here are ten of the best ones that have been committed to paper.
Losing My Virginity: How I've Survived, Had Fun, And Made A Fortune Doing Business My Way
- Book by Richard Branson
Richard Branson might not be the best storyteller or writer in the world, but the man has had an incredible life. In Losing My Virginity, he recalls his life up to the point of writing, growing up, dropping out of school, and all the successes and failures since. He has lived an extraordinary life, met some iconic people, and he has had some unimaginable experiences. He tells you all of these stories with his characteristic upbeat and positive tone. Despite his public image, after reading this book Branson seems like a likable business adventurer, rather than a rich showoff.
The Glass Castle
- Book by Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls is an American journalist, best known for her work writing gossip columns in publications like The New Yorker Magazine, Esquire and MSNBC.com. Her autobiography The Glass Castle tells unconventional story of her childhood. It is a brilliantly written recollection of growing up extremely poor, in a dysfunctional family. She recalls moving around the country, her father's schemes to make money, almost being raped, her and her siblings' plans to escape and finally, ending up in New York. The story reads like fiction, Walls superbly involves the reader with situation, making it feel as if you were there. In 2017 The Glass Castle was released as a film by Paramount starring Jennifer Lawrence as Jeannette Walls.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
- Book by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was a renowned poet, writer and civil rights activist. She published a total of seven Autobiographies detailing her long and eventful life. The first of these, I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings, chronicles her life up to the age of seventeen, emphasizing how her love of literature helped her build a strong enough character to overcome the trials of racism and trauma. She tells the story of how she was raped as an eight year old, by her mother's boyfriend, and of the struggles she faced being a black girl in a white neighbourhood. The book explores themes of identity and literacy while confronting the issues of rape and racism. The book became a best-seller immediately after being released, and is still used in education systems to this day.
The Professor And The Madman: A Tale Of Murder, Insanity And The Making Of The Oxford English Dictionary
- Book by Simon Winchester
The Professor and the Madman, or as it was originally published as in the UK, The Surgeon of Crowthorne, tells the unbelievable story of the making of the first Oxford English Dictionary, and of its biggest contributor at the time, mister William Chester Minor. When the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, Sir James Murray, reached out to Minor to thank him for his work, he found that Minor was writing out of Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Minor had been arrested for murder and found not guilty by reason of insanity. Writer Simon Winchester was, at first, not interested in writing a book about the origin of the Oxford English Dictionary, but soon changed his mind, when he was told the story of William Minor. Mel Gibson bought the rights for the book in 1998 and in 2019 The Professor and the Madman was released as a film starring Mel Gibson and Sean Penn.
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures In The Culinary Underbelly
- Book by Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain was one of the best known chefs of all time, reaching celebrity via a range of television programs and this, his autobiography. Kitchen Confidential was published in 2000 as Bourdain's memoir wherein he reminisced about the restaurant kitchens he had worked in. It paints a surprising and vivid image of what life behind-the-scenes in restaurants really is. As he writes, he is both commentating on the industry and confessing to his life. His writing is humorous and honest as he tells the stories of drug use, crimes, tricks, and misdeeds taking place in restaurants across the world. Bourdain cited George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London as an important influence. The shocking, yet entertaining book found mass appeal, rather than just the enthusiasts of the culinary arts, and shot Bourdain to fame, creating opportunities for him to be on television as the host of an array of cooking shows and documentaries.
Radioactive: Marie And Pierre Curie, A Tale Of Love And Fallout
- Book by Lauren Redniss
Radioactive is a graphic novel about Marie Curie, her husband Pierre and their research, while not being a complete biography by any means, it is on this list as it is a work of art, wherein Lauren Redniss brilliantly used illustration to relate emotions to their stories which is often told in a very factual, point by point manner. The book recalls Pierre Curry's early scientific talent, and Marie's struggle to find an education as a woman, Pierre's death, Marie's scandalous affair, Marie working alongside her daughter in World War 1, her two Nobel Prizes and finally her death as a result of being exposed to radiation. The artwork in the book, however, brings the story to life in a beautiful way. If you buy the book in its hardcover form it glows in the dark as one final bit of homage to Marie Curie and her amazing life's work.
Into The Wild
- Book by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer tells the story of Christopher McCandless. Christopher had just graduated with top grades, and what seemed to be the perfect path laid out before him, when he decided to donate all his money, cease communicating with his family, and set off, into the wild, on a transcendental journey. Two years later his body was found in Alaska. Krakauer investigated the events that transpired between Christopher leaving home and dying in the woods in Alaska and tells the story in this adventurous, inspiring book. Although the biographical accuracy of this book have been accused of being romanticized, it is a brilliant story, one that captures the imagination and sparks a lust for adventure. The book was put to film in 2007, directed by Sean Penn.
E=mc²: A Biography Of The World's Most Famous Equation
- Book by David Bodanis
David Bodanis takes an equation which everyone in the world has heard, and turns it into one everyone in the world can understand. The first part of the book follows Albert Einstein on his way to this discovery, how it has been used since, and its part in the making of the atom bomb. The second part breaks down the equation, and explains it. This means it pretty much covers physics in the 18th and 19th century. Bodanis, however, succeeds in doing this in a really accessible manner. In doing so, David Bodanis both provides a interesting, engaging read, and educates the reader in a way that most high school teachers were incapable of.
Bob Dylan: A Biography
- Book by Anthony Scaduto
Anthony Scaduto is an investigative crime journalist, a self proclaimed mafia expert. Perhaps it is coming from this approach, so vastly different from that of most music journalists that helped him write what many consider to be the first real serious study of Dylan. In fact, the book is influential to many, as one of the first music biographies to take an investigative approach, which adds to its credibility as an account of the life being set to paper. It covers Dylan's life up to the 70's (when the book was released), the first 12 years of his career, which means that it has no information on the last 50 years of Dylan's life and career. This allows it to focus on Dylan's formation and soul though, before he transformed into a musical deity with 62 years of material to be sifted through and curated. It takes a brilliantly, honest look at the young Bob Dylan.
Walt Disney: The Triumph Of The American Imagination
- Book by Neal Gabler
This is the definitive piece on one of the most influential human beings of all time. Some see Walt Disney as a money crazed tyrant, some as the most beloved story teller of all time, regardless, no one can deny that it would be a hard find looking for someone who has influenced more aspects of more people's lives. He was an artistic genius, a business tycoon, a pioneer and a cultural icon. Neal Gabler published this extensive account of Walt Disney's life in 2006 with a 200 page bibliography. He had researched every imaginable aspect. Although the book is approved by the Disney corporation, it is definitely not biased, Gabler also illuminates some of Disney's less desirable traits and humanizes him.