Special Report

20 of the Most Popular Autobiographies of All Time

Source: Sion Touhig / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

9. Long Walk to Freedom
> Author: Nelson Mandela
> Year published: 1994
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 287,886

“Long Walk to Freedom” is the autobiography of former South African President Nelson Mandela and the head of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. The autobiography covers everything from Mandela’s early childhood to spending 27 years in prison.

According to a review by the African Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the book is “emotive, compelling and uplifting” and “a story of hardship, resilience and ulti- mate triumph, told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader.”

Source: Emma McIntyre / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

8. Born a Crime
> Author: Trevor Noah
> Year published: 2016
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 329,360

“Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” is an autobiographical comedy book written by comedian and current host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, Trevor Noah. The autobiography is a coming of age story about a boy whose existence was illegal. His mother was black and his father was white, and under apartheied laws, marriage — and any kind of romantic relationships — between white people and people of color were illegal.

“By turns alarming, sad and funny, his book provides a harrowing look, through the prism of Mr. Noah’s family, at life in South Africa under apartheid and the country’s lurching entry into a postapartheid era in the 1990s,” Michiko Kakutani wrote in a a review in The New York Times.

7. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
> Author: Marjane Satrapi
> Year published: 2000
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 360,948

“Persepolis” is a graphic memoir by Marjane Satrapi, descended from a previous line of Iranian royalty. Satrapi writes about her childhood years, from 6 to 14, in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. “Persepolis” in the title is a reference to the ancient capital of the Persian Empire.

An editorial review in The New York Times Book Review describes the book as “delectable … Dances with drama and insouciant wit.”

Source: Topical Press Agency / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

6. The Story of My Experiments with Truth
> Author: Mahatma Gandhi
> Year published: 1927
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 503,974

“The Story of My Experiments with Truth” is the autobiography of Mohandas K. Gandhi. In the book, Gandhi documents his life from early childhood through to 1921, in the process recounting the story of how he developed the concept of active nonviolent resistance, which played a major role in India’s fight/struggle for independence from British colonization in 1947.

Gandhi’s autobiography has been described as “probably the most important book ever published in India” by Ramachandra Guha, author of “Gandhi Before India.”

Source: Courtesy of Amazon

5. Educated
> Author: Tara Westover
> Year published: 2018
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 649,879

“Educated” is about Tara Westover’s isolated upbringing in a Mormom family and the change she undergoes through education. Westover eventually got a doctorate from Cambridge University and had a fellowship at Harvard University. Throughout the book, Westover, who was kept out of school, emphasizes the importance of education in changing a person’s life.

When the book was published in 2018, it was named one of the best books of the year by several publications, including The Washington Post, Time, Bloomberg, The Economist, and The Guardian.

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