75 Best Biographies of All Time

The 75 biographies you must read before you die. Newsweek
'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 now at AmazonBantam

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 list of the 75 biographies to read before you die covers the arts, literature, politics, science 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.

'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 now at AmazonBlack Bay Books
'Maus: A Survivor’s Tale' by Art Spiegelman. "The most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust." Wall Street Journal. Buy it now at AmazonPenguin
'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 now at AmazonPicador
'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 now at AmazonBeacon Press
'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 now at AmazonBloomsbury USA
'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 now at AmazonPantheon
'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 now at AmazonBroadway Books
'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 now at AmazonHarperCollins Publishers
'The Story of My Life' by Helen Keller. "The greatest woman of our age.” Winston Churchill. Buy it now at AmazonCreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
'Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles' by Anthony Swofford. "Terribly and despicably beautiful." New York Times. Buy it now at AmazonScribner
'The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey' by Ernesto “Che” Guevara. "'Easy Rider' meets 'Das Kapital." The Times. Ocean Press
'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.St. Martin's Press

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 list of the 75 biographies to read before you die covers the arts, literature, politics, science 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.