Sometimes life is hard, and it feels like you are getting nowhere. You can feel like you are going in circles with no results.
That’s when you need a blast of confidence and inspiration to get you moving. Some of the best autobiographies will show you that an average person is capable of amazing things, even you.
Difference Between Autobiography, Biography, and Memoir
No there are a lot of different nonfiction books out there, some seem more similar than others. What’s the difference between autobiography, biography, and memoir?
Autobiography is when an author is telling the story of their life. They tend to focus on large chunks of the author’s life and facts. Sometimes there is a ghostwriter to assist the author in being factual and objective.
They usually start when the author is young and goes in chronological order. Though they could be in their current time and then use flashbacks to go back in time. They include events, places, reactions, and other relevant events that happened during that period of time.
They also use letters and photos to tell their story in addition to their writing.
The main difference between an autobiography and a biography is that biographies are written by someone else. They are usually written about historical or famous people. They can be written with or without the subject’s consent.
They are also written in the third person, creating a distance that isn’t in autobiographies. They also have a more formal tone. They involve a lot of research and facts.
A memoir is factual but tends to be more focused on memories than the author’s life as a whole. Usually, memoir focuses on one aspect of the writer’s life like addiction, adolescence, parenting and the like.
They are told from different moments of their life that are strung together with the theme. It can also be more focused on creating a story than facts. They can have dialogue, setting, and character descriptions.
How We Reviewed
How do we decide what is inspirational and what isn’t? The definition is different for each person. We tried to find stories about transformation, strength, and compelling writing.
From there we looked to sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble to see what people consider are the best autobiographies. We look for books with a high rating and a lot of reviews to get diverse opinions.
We looked through the reviews to see if readers not only find the book inspirational, but fun to read. We wanted to make sure you felt rewarded after finishing even the toughest books.
Top 8 Best Autobiographies to Inspire You
We tried to make sure the stories were different from each other with their story and in different time periods. Hopefully, one of the books sounds inspiring to you.
Nelson Mandela is a famous figure who’s known as a moral, civil rights activist. He spent his whole life fighting racial oppression in South Africa and eventually became president of the country.
He was imprisoned for twenty-seven years for terrorism and his role as the leader of the outlawed ANC. Once he was freed, he became a well-respected leader of his country and won a Nobel Peace Prize. He worked on bringing South Africa back from its segregated society.
This book follows the early years of Mandela’s life and how his struggle made him the man he was.
Readers call this forceful in the best way and allow the reader to see him as a person and not just a figurehead. Mandela discusses his motivation for why he wanted to fight for his people and justice.
Some people found that the best way to read this book was in bits and pieces at a time because the book is filled with so much information.
Some readers found that it was a little dry and wanted more emotion.
Maya Angelou is known as one of the greatest writers to have ever lived. This autobiography is no different. It may be hard to read because Angelou’s life was tough. This is the first out of a seven-volume series.
This autobiography is all about Klein's tumultuous six-year period during Nazi reign. Her childhood is destroyed when Nazis stormed into Poland and separated her from her family. They were all sent to different German labor camps.
Over the years, she felt everything was being taken away, all but her life, hence the title. By the end of the war, she lost her parents, brother, home, possessions, and community. Eventually, she was saved by American troops and even married one of the soldiers.
Her tale is all about inner strength and the spirit in humanity. Despite the terrible situation Klein and others in the labor camps create a community to support each other. This book shows the power of hope.
Readers are in awe of Klein’s strength and raw emotional writing. She does not spare the reader of any of the gruesome details, yet readers couldn’t stop reading. People can’t believe that she went through this journey and was able to have a happy ending.
Many readers said they felt honored to read Klein’s autobiography.
Like many books on this list, it can be too heartbreaking to read at times and readers should prepare themselves before they dive in.
The Black Panther party is a huge part of the civil rights movement history. Assata Shakur was a part of the party and was powerful enough to be a target of J. Edgar Hoover. She took part in some of the Panther’s more violent protests.
Agassi is known for his professional tennis skills, but this autobiography is about more than just tennis. His father decided that Agassi would be a tennis player as a baby. His father was known to be moody and demanding.
Imagine not only living in a country at war but having to fight as a soldier as a kid. It’s estimated that around three hundred thousand children get turned into soldiers. Beah is one of them.
This is another story about completely reinventing yourself and rebuilding your life. This autobiography was written when Kody Scott, now known as Sanyika Shakur, was in solitary confinement.
Who hasn’t heard of Nike? This book is written by the founder and board chairman of the company. The book shows how Phil Knight started without anything and create an empire. It shows that success has a very messy path and that no single path is the same.
Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his dad when he graduated from business school. His planned to create a business out of importing high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan. Selling shoes from the trunk of his car, he made eight thousand dollars in his first year of business.
He talks about the risks he took, the setbacks he faced, the competitors and hostile bankers along with his triumphs. He shows how human the creator of Nike can be and writes about his journey in a way that shows that anyone can create a business of their own.
It’s not all business with this book though. He writes a lot about the relationship with his former track coach Bill Bowerman who became the heart and soul of the company. He writes about his first employees who started as misfits and became shoe-crazed brothers.
Readers appreciate how human Knight made himself and his company. Sharing his mistakes, complications, and success make the readers feel closer to him than your average tycoon memoir usually was. He also shares tips for inspiring entrepreneurs.
Some people felt that it could have more emotion in the writing and wanted more of his perspective. Many people skimmed through the more business-oriented sections of the books because they got bored.
Inspiration comes in many different forms and luckily so do autobiographies. There are so many stories out there and the world, and we picked on a handful compared to what’s out there. The best way to pick out the best autobiographies for inspiration is to think about what about you that needs inspiring.
Are you feeling lost? Need help starting a business? A reminder of your strength? What will make you feel better about your life?
How difficult of a story do you want to read? Some of these books are tough to read because they are brutal and unflinching. While this is what makes them great, they can be more depressing than motivating.
Overall, the verdict is that any of these books would be great for you. They are well written exciting stories about real people. Some may seem more interesting than others due to your personal preferences.