Everything you need to know about bestselling biographies, what they are and where to get them.
Biographies, autobiographies and memoirs allow readers to gain a personal insight into the lives of the subjects. They take readers on a journey through successes and failures, loves and losses, inspiration and setbacks – all elements that help make your favourite sportsman, celebrity, artist, musician or icon more real and more human. So which biographies have made that all-important bestseller list?
How to decide which biography is right for you
With so many biographies to choose from, it can be extremely hard to decide where to start. We’ve compiled information from the New York Times Best Sellers list and other sources to help make your decision easier. First you’ll need to consider the following:
- Who are you buying the biography for?
- What subject do you want it to focus on? Eg, music, sports or politics?
- What do you want to feel? Eg, moved, entertained or enlightened?
We’ll take you through the best biographies for a range of different interests to help you decide which biography will make the perfect read for you or for someone else.
The best biographies for...
With such a wide variety of biographies available, we’ll need to break up our recommendations into a range of different interests.
The best biographies for music lovers
This is quite a broad genre in itself, so we’ll subcategories to help give a clearer picture.
The number one Amazon bestseller for music biographies is Lady Blue Eyes: My Life With Frank written by Barbara Sinatra. This is Barbara Sinatra’s first public love letter to the husband she adored. She celebrates the sensational singer, possessive lover and devoted friend that she found in Frank Sinatra in this intimate and personal piece of literature. Frank Sinatra is an American icon best known for his easy listening or “swing” music.
And you can’t go past cult favourite Scar Tissue by Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis. The book reached #1 on The New York Times Best Sellers list following its release in 2004. Exploring Kiedis’ long-term addiction to drugs, the novel gives an uncompromising view of the life of one of the world’s biggest rockstars.
If rock/alternative is more your thing, you’ll want to pick up a copy of The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band written in collaboration by Motley Crue themselves! It’s been dubbed a genuine cultural phenomenon and has now been reissued to celebrate 30 wild years of rock's most infamous band. Follow Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil and Mick Mars as they hold nothing back in this outrageous autobiography.
If you’re soothed by the more classical musical genres, then Becoming Bach by Tom Leonard might be the perfect choice for you. Follow the story of Johann Sebastian Bach and his family of musicians as he turned the patterns he saw every day into melodies and songs, leading to his becoming one of the most important and celebrated musical composers of all time.
If you prefer pop culture, or something a little more contemporary, then you might fancy A Sick Life: TLC 'n Me: Stories from On and Off the Stage by Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins. The book chronicles Tionne's journey from when she was a sickly young girl who was told she wouldn't live to see 30, unveils how she broke into the music scene and celebrates the sickle cell disease advocate she is today. The unpolished storytelling of her remarkable life, disease and never-ending strength that enabled her to power through the odds offers readers a story like unlike any other.
The best biographies for business
If you’re enthusiastic about business success, you’ll find Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson both entertaining and insightful. The founder of the Virgin Group shares how his early experiences shaped his later business ventures. Branson always followed his gut, and with his trademark slogan “Oh, screw it. Let’s do it” this part memoir part business guide for entrepreneurs details how his belief that customer service reigns supreme has led to his unimaginable success.
The best celebrity biographies
Celebrity culture is massive. But, it also covers a broad spectrum. There are sporting celebrities, reality celebrities, TV celebrities and, of course, Hollywood celebrities. As a result, we’re going to break this one down too.
Mia Farrow is a renowned and adored American actress best known for her role in Rosemary’s Baby. Her memoir What Falls Away is an exquisitely written account filled with raw honesty of her earliest memories of the walled gardens and rocky shores of western Ireland. She details her Hollywood childhood and her progression towards her career as an actress. She tells of her struggle to protect her children in a painful custody battle with Woody Allen. This is a truly moving and eye-opening read in which Mia Farrow speaks for the first time on many of these events.
From Golden Globe award-winning actress Amy Poehler comes the #1 New York Times Best Seller Yes Please. Poehler’s memoir is written as a hilarious collection of essays, stories, thoughts, ideas, haikus and words to live by drawn directly from the life and mind of this acclaimed actress, writer and comedian. She openly discusses sex, love, family, friendship and plastic surgery. This is a perfect read for fans of laugh-out-loud biographies.
Sports biographies are an area of diversity too. If you’re into baseball, Babe: The Legend Comes To Life by Robert Creamer is ideal. The author’s biography of Babe Ruth follows baseball’s most famous figure from his early childhood to his abrupt end. It offers readers a fascinating look into both baseball and life in the early 20th century. Hardcore baseball fans will appreciate the stats and visuality of Ruth’s most important games, while more casual fans will get caught up in his celebrity lifestyle and, at times, surprising character.
If you’re into boxing, then you’ll not want to miss Muhammad Ali: His Life And Times by Thomas Hauser. This bestselling biography tells the incredible story of Muhammad Ali from his childhood, to his gold medal fight at the Rome Olympics, to his epic battles against Joe Frazier and beyond. The author uses the words of more than 200 of Ali’s friends, family and opponents, as well as world leaders and more. He creates a portrait of a religious, competitive and extraordinary man, and his unapologetic admiration of Ali shines through the documented account of Ali’s life and career.
Finally, if you’re a football (or soccer) fanatic, then why not dive into Pelé's autobiography Pelé. As one of the greatest players to run around a pitch, Pelé has won countless league victories and three World Cup Championships while playing for his home country Brazil. In his bestselling autobiography, Pelé shows us how he rose to fame from his poverty-stricken start in the streets of Sao Paulo. He even divulges his more recent role as a UN ambassador and human rights activist.
The best biographies for children
Although biographies are usually aimed at adults or young adults, there is a growing interest in biographical literature for kids. One children’s bestseller is She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton. This biography is aimed at children who are ready to take on the world. It introduces them to 13 inspirational women who never took no for an answer.
The best biographies of all time
So, what are the biographies that have stood the test of time and made it into this category? There really are a staggering number to choose from. From Angelas's Ashes by Frank McCourt to A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson, the options, genres and subjects on offer are limitless. Check out Amazon’s list of top 100 not-to-be-missed biographies here
Where can I buy biographies?
Biographies are available from all good bookstores including Amazon (we can only buy Kindle books through Amazon Australia at the moment), Booktopia, The Book Depository, Angus & Robertson, Better World Books and Wordery.