Special Report

20 of the Most Popular Autobiographies of All Time

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

20. Running with Scissors
> Author: Augusten Burroughs
> Year published: 2002
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 106,437

“Running with Scissors” recounts the unorthodox childhood of author Augusten Burroughs. Burroughs is sent by his unbalanced poet mother to live with her psychiatrist, referred to as “Dr. Finch,” and the many other unusual people already in the home. There, a 12-year-old Burroughs has a childhood with no rules or restraints, marked by drug use and inappropriate sexual relationships between some of the many other characters who live in the house.

Several of the people Burroughs describes in “Running with Scissors” sued him, claiming the book contains “bizarre, imagined scenarios and exaggerated descriptions” of life in the house as well as enough detail that they could be identified.

Source: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

19. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
> Author: Loung Ung
> Year published: 2000
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 115,477

Loung Ung’s harrowing memoir “First They Killed My Father” recounts the horrors of the Cambodian genocide under the reign of dictator Pol Pot beginning in 1975. Ung was the child of a government official and was forced to flee when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army stormed her city, forcing her family to flee. She eventually was forced to train as a child soldier after being separated from her family.

Richard Bernstein wrote in the New York Times that the book was written “straightforwardly, vividly, and without any strenuous effort to explicate their importance, allowing the stories themselves to create their own impact.”

Source: Bryan Bedder / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

18. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
> Author: Ishmael Beah
> Year published: 2007
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 124,146

Ishmael Beah recounts his time as a child soldier in Sierra Leone in his autobiography “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.” Beah was displaced by war at age 12, forced to wander the countryside before being taken in by the army and made to be a soldier at age 13. Then, he spent years being plied with drugs and killing with astonishing regularity. He was eventually rescued by UNICEF workers, rehabilitated, and made his way to the U.S. where he earned his college degree and shared his story.

Goodreads describes the book as a “rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.”

Source: Courtesy of Amazon

17. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
> Author: James McBride
> Year published: 1995
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 124,367

In his book “The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother,” author James McBride recounts his experience of growing up with a Black minister father, 11 siblings, and a light-skinned mother who would not discuss her racial identity. Throughout the book, he tells her story, retracing her steps through a difficult and chaotic childhood, and relaying her message that education and perseverance are the keys to life.

Throughout the book, McBride touches on his own experiences with race, drugs, violence, poverty, and self-actualization. Publisher’s Weekly called the book a “moving and unforgettable memoir.”

Source: Courtesy of Amazon

16. The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom
> Author: Corrie Ten Boom
> Year published: 1971
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 139,927

“The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom” recounts the life of a Dutch woman who was the nation’s first licensed watchmaker, before the Nazi invasion of Holland in 1940. Corrie Ten Boom and her family would go on to help lead the Dutch Underground, an organization that hid Jewish people from the Nazis, in hundreds of safehouses across the country.

The title of the book refers to the secret room behind a false wall in ten Boom’s home where she would hide those facing Nazi persecution. The book, released in 1971, became a best-seller and was even made into a movie in 1975.

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