Special Report

20 of the Most Popular Autobiographies of All Time

Source: Wikimedia Commons

4. Walden
> Author: Henry David Thoreau
> Year published: 1854
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 766,454

Moving into a cabin by a lake, immersing yourself in nature, and distancing yourself from social life sounds like a life change people in the 21st century may make. But Henry David Thoreau, a naturalist and a philosopher, did it in the 19th century, writing a book about his experiences, praising self-sufficiency and living a simple life.

First published in 1854, “Walden” is still considered an inspiration and a guide for people who try to find solutions to critical environmental challenges.

Source: Scott Eells / Getty Images

3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
> Author: Maya Angelou
> Year published: 1969
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 807,242

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is the first of six autobiographies written by Maya Angelou. The book is about Angelou’s coming of age in a small Southern town where she and her brother were sent to by their mother. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is also about how strength of character can help a child overcome prejudice.

“Miss Angelou’s book is more than a tour de force of language or the story of childhood suffering: it quietly and gracefully portrays and pays tribute to the courage, dignity and endurance of the small, rural Southern black community in which she spent most of her early years in the 1930s,” said Robert A. Gross in Newsweek’s original review of the book.

Source: Courtesy of Amazon

2. Man’s Search for Meaning
> Author: Viktor Frankl
> Year published: 1946
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 886,944

“Man’s Search for Meaning” is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl, an Austrian Jewish psychiatrist, describing his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, including at Auschwitz, during World War II and also the lessons he learned from his struggles.

Decades after the book’s publication, “Man’s Search for Meaning” is viewed as a memoir, a self-help book, and a psychology manual simultaneously. Its English language editions alone have sold more than 3 million copies, according to the Harvard Book Store.

Source: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

1. The Diary of a Young Girl
> Author: Anne Frank
> Year published: 1947
> Wikipedia pageviews, Mar 29, 2019 – Mar 29, 2021: 1,132,501

“The Diary of a Young Girl” is a journal by Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager who chronicled her family’s life in hiding between 1942 and 1944 during the Nazis occupation of the Netherlands. Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp a year later.

First published in 1947, the book has been read by millions of people and has been described as “the single most compelling personal account of the Holocaust, by The New York Times Book Review. It adds that the book “remains astonishing and excruciating.”