75 Best Biographies of All Time

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The 75 biographies you must read before you die. Newsweek
01 Anne Frank
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. "A warm and stirring confession, to be read over and over from insight and enjoyment." New York Times. Buy it here Bantam

Biographies and autobiographies give us an insight into the human condition, allowing us to see the world in a different way. Reading how fascinating people overcame their problems and made new discoveries can help us to see a way forward in our lives. As the Open Education Database (OEDb) puts it: "If we can’t learn from experience, we can at least learn from the experiences of other people."

The OEDb's list of the 75 biographies to read before you die covers literature, politics, science, the arts and history, and includes household names such as Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Helen Keller, as well as lesser-known historical figures such as Maria Rosa Henson and Henry Darger, plus a woman reputed to be both a vampire and the world's worst female serial killer.

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02 Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela. "Enthralling . . . Mandela emulates the few great political leaders such as Lincoln and Gandhi, who go beyond mere consensus and move out ahead of their followers to break new ground." Donald Woods, Sunday Times. Buy it here Black Bay Books
03 Maus
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman. "The most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust." Wall Street Journal. Buy it here Penguin
04 A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. "This is a beautifully ragged, laugh-out-loud funny and utterly unforgettable book." San Francisco Chronicle. Buy it here Picador
05 Gandhi- An Autobiography- The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. “An absorbing book that stands alone in frankness and plain honesty... Its place among the classics of autobiography cannot be in doubt.” The New Statesman. Buy it here Beacon Press
06 Kitchen Confidential
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. "There are very few books which all professional cooks should read but this is one. To Escoffier and Larousse may now be added the name, Bourdain." Jay Rayner, The Observer. Buy it here Bloomsbury USA
07 Persepolis
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. “A dazzlingly singular achievement. Striking a perfect balance between the fantasies and neighborhood conspiracies of childhood and the mounting lunacy of Khomeini's reign, she's like the Persian love child of Spiegelman and Lynda Barry.” Salon. Buy it here Pantheon
08 Dreams from My Father- A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama. “Provocative. Persuasively describes the phenomenon of belonging to two different worlds, and thus belonging to neither.” New York Times Book Review. Buy it here Broadway Books
09 Diving Bell
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death by Jean-Dominique Bauby. "A staggering piece of work. It represents an almost inconceivable act of generosity, the gift of the mind and the spirit for which writing was designed." A. L. Kennedy. Buy it here HarperCollins Publishers
10 Helen Keller
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. "The greatest woman of our age.” Winston Churchill. Buy it here CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
11 Jarhead
Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by Anthony Swofford. "Terribly and despicably beautiful." New York Times. Buy it here Scribner
12 The Motorcycle Diaries- Notes on a Latin American Journey by Ernesto “Che” Guevara
The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey by Ernesto “Che” Guevara. "'Easy Rider' meets 'Das Kapital." The Times. Buy it here Ocean Press
13 The Mayor of Castro Street- The Life and Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts
The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts. "A remarkable work... biography, social history and political machination. What makes it exceptional is an objective posture." Los Angeles Times. Buy it here St. Martin's Press