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Biographies and Memoirs I've Read and Can Recommend

Updated on September 19, 2017
Linda BookLady profile image

I'm a book blogger, the Book Lady at YouTube, and a memoir writer.

Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet | Source

Best selling biographies

I'm an avid reader of biographies and autobiographies and use this page to list biographies I love and biographies I find on best-seller lists, that I'd like to read.

Biographies tell the intimate, personal life story of someone - most often a famous person, but not always. Biographies are usually written by a non-involved third person. Sometimes they are written by a friend, colleague, or family member.


This Boy's Life is a coming-of-age memoir by author Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff is best known for writing short stories, but he's also written two memoirs and a few novels. I read This Boy's Life in 2017... or should I say, I listened to the audiobook version. This is a great memoir telling the story of his move from Florida to Utah with his mother. Later they moved to Washington state.

The first move was to escape from an abusive boyfriend. Tobias' mom wanted to live in Utah with the idea of earning riches through the mining industry. That didn't pan out, and the boyfriend followed her. Once again they were cohabiting, this time in Salt Lake City. Tobias learned bad habits from the man, and eventually mother and child made their second escape, this time with the goal of living in Seattle.

As single mothers do, Tobias' mom managed to find another man. Unfortunately, he was a bit of a narcissist. Enough with the story telling . . . I don't want to get into a lot of spoilers.

I very much recommend this book and especially recommend it to young single mothers who are wondering how to raise their children. Very often, the second or third husband turns out to be someone incapable of treating the children appropriately. A sad state of affairs, and something this book illustrates clearly.

Where Tobias Wolff lived during teenage years

show route and directions
A markerSeattle, WA -
Seattle, WA, USA
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Where they occasionally traveled to, the largest city nearby.

B markerConcrete, WA -
Concrete, WA 98237, USA
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Where Tobias Wolff went to high school.

C markerMarblemount, WA -
Marblemount, WA, USA
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Where his step-father always stopped at a bar, on the way home.

D markerNewhalem, WA -
Newhalem, WA 98267, USA
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Where he lived, nearly 40 miles away from his high school. In the book, he called this place "Chinook."

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, by Michael Finkel

The first time I saw the cover of this book while browsing in my favorite independent bookstore, I knew we had an appointment in the future. I bought it a month or so later, and wow, what a story.

There's a lot of controversy about this book because many people don't like the hermit. He was a bit of an oddball, yes, but more than that, he was a thief, terrorizing the cabin owners around a lake in the state of Maine, breaking in to rob them and take whatever he might want or need. They should have bought extras for their local hermit, because this was a problem lasting many years.

My main reason for loving the book was the persistence of the author who went after this story with a vengeance. While other writers failed, he managed to get into the personal life of the reclusive hermit, after the man was apprehended and jailed. He explored the hermit's wooded territory and wrote about his findings. I found the research and reporting of this solitary life to be as fascinating as the hermit's story itself.

In the Woods

I spent a large part of my life living in the woods, so the book, Stranger in the Woods, caught my eye. I've also had a long-time fascination with hermits, perhaps because I'm a bit of a hermit myself, preferring a solitary life.
I spent a large part of my life living in the woods, so the book, Stranger in the Woods, caught my eye. I've also had a long-time fascination with hermits, perhaps because I'm a bit of a hermit myself, preferring a solitary life. | Source

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption - By Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Air Force lieutenant. I read this biography in 2011. It opened my eyes to some of the realities and suffering of US troops during the second world war. One wonders why atomic warfare was used to end the war. This book shows why.

In 1943 the bomber Louis Zamperini was in crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He was one of three survivors who found a raft to pile onto. His story of being on that raft, starving and drifting for weeks, is riveting, but then he became a prisoner of the Japanese military.

I listened to the Audible audiobook version and could not stop listening. Not only is the book well-written by Seabiscuit author, Laura Hillenbrand, the adventures and experiences of Mr. Zamperini are mind-boggling. They gave me a much greater appreciation of soldiers in World War II than I had before.

My father was a World War II veteran but my opinion of war was to become a Viet Nam war protester in the sixties. Learning of the trials and suffering of Mr. Zamperini turned my heart and mind around, as to what transpired during World War II.

Dear Mad'm, by Stella Walthall Patterson

This memoir is a local favorite from the mountain town where I used to live, Happy Camp, California. It is a humorous memoir written by a woman in her 80s. Her family wanted her to go live with a relative and rest, but Stella had other ideas. She decided to go live on her very remote mining claim in the Klamath River Valley, in a cabin near the Klamath River. The town she lived in was called Ferry Point. Now the homes are gone from that area and it is merely a forest service "river access" site. The nearest still-existing town is Happy Camp.

She made friends with the neighbors, a donkey, and a young Native American girl, and did her best to spruce up her cabin, grow vegetables in her garden, and work her mining claim the required days per year.

This memoir is popular and well-loved, not only by other Klamath River Valley residents, but also by readers in many other areas. Stella's memoir inspires us to know that being old isn't the same as being dead. Even at an advanced age, we can continue to be adventurous and make the most of life.

In 2011 I kept getting an inspiration for a "Dear Mad'm Day" event. I'm not much of an event planner, but my friend and co-worker at the Happy Camp Chamber of Commerce certainly is. We did the first Dear Mad'm Day together in 2011, and when I moved away in 2013 she determined to keep up the tradition. Now, in 2017, she's still doing this annually. She calls it the Dear Mad'm Symposium and for the second year the event will take place in the Siskiyou County Historical Society building in Yreka, California. That's really a better location because Happy Camp remains a very remote location, 65 miles from Interstate 5.

The Klamath River near the Dear Mad'm cabin site, Ferry Point, California

My photo of the Klamath River at Ferry Point. I was standing downhill from the Dear Mad'm cabin site, on the southern end of the Ferry Point River Access.
My photo of the Klamath River at Ferry Point. I was standing downhill from the Dear Mad'm cabin site, on the southern end of the Ferry Point River Access. | Source

Where Dear Mad'm lived, and where I lived in Happy Camp

show route and directions
A markerYreka, CA -
Yreka, CA 96097, USA
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B markerHappy Camp, CA -
Happy Camp, CA 96039, USA
get directions

Happy Camp is 20 miles south of the Oregon border, on Highway 96 between Yreka and Crescent City. Ferry Point is about 10 miles south of Happy Camp.

C markerOrleans, CA -
Orleans, CA 95556, USA
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Orleans is 50 miles from Happy Camp.

D markerEureka, CA -
Eureka, CA, USA
get directions

Your comments are welcome! - ...as always.

Submit a Comment

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 3 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @smansour: I like to read them on my Kindle.... somehow it makes reading easier, however for non-fiction aside from memoirs or biographies, I prefer a paperback or hardcover book. There's a book about reading efficiently that I highly recommend, called "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer J. Adler. It's a classic, and very helpful.

  • profile image

    smansour 3 years ago

    fantastic list - by the way, how do you efficiently read biographies? any advices to read them fast and not sacrificing the comprehension?

  • profile image

    phjames 3 years ago

    Another great lens. The reviews are captivating enough to make a person buy them all. Superb!

  • profile image

    undertaher 3 years ago

    Thanks for these, will definitely try out at least the Steve Jobs one.

    I ran across a very interesting project by some guy, who is writing his own autobiography anonymously in the form of a blog. There isn't much to it yet, but let's see what becomes of him. If someone else is intrested, www.ordinarymanslife.com is the place where it can be found.

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    Colin323 3 years ago

    I'm currently reading 'Fanny & Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England'. It may not seem a very edifying topic, but it concerns two male cross-dressers who were subjected to a show trial for their 'crime'. It reveals the darker hypocritical side of London life in mid 19th century and the prosecution of two men who harmed no one with their eccentricities.

  • profile image

    AnuradhaM 3 years ago

    I am going to buy some of them. Thanks for this list. :)

  • flycatcherrr profile image

    flycatcherrr 3 years ago

    I may skip the Steve Jobs one, but all the rest look very interesting. I did read Henrietta Lacks over the holidays (finally) and was absolutely rivetted. Then I got sidetracked by the biographies of a few British monarchs, and one of William Lyon Mackenzie King (can't resist an eccentric!)... Next up, most likely In the Garden of Beasts - it sounds fascinating, and I'm always interested in stories of the war years.

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    MarcellaCarlton 3 years ago

    The Abraham Lincoln one sounds really good. The one that interests me the most though is the American Family in Berlin. Very nice lens!

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    anonymous 4 years ago

    "The Devil in the White City..." sounds like an interesting read. I plan to move to Chicago within the next year or so and I've been obsessively reading everything related to it. This definitely goes on my "Christmas Gifts to Me" list.

    I haven't read any biographies lately but I have been viewing some fascinating biographical documentaries on Netflix and PBS Video. I rarely turn my television on anymore because there are so many platforms available online.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Merrci profile image

    Merry Citarella 4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

    Sound like some great books. There are a couple I've been wanting to listen to. Thanks for posting.

  • jmchaconne profile image

    jmchaconne 4 years ago

    As a former military pilot, I can very much related to Louis Zamperini's story, thanks for the tip, it's on my to read list.

  • Cynthia Haltom profile image

    Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

    Thanks for sharing the collection I do all my reading in the summer at the cottage, I will be sure to find some of these books.

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    JayRockins 4 years ago

    RIP Steve Jobs!

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    anonymous 4 years ago

    I read one about Sammy Davis Jr. when I was a kid. From that day forward I enjoyed reading biographies. So since this is the one that got me started, I'll label it as "my favorite".

  • choosehappy profile image

    Vikki 4 years ago from US

    I keep meaning to read the Steve Jobs book; I hear it's amazing. #blessed

  • OrganicMom247 profile image

    OrganicMom247 4 years ago

    Interesting list. Good lens!

  • uneasywriter lm profile image

    uneasywriter lm 4 years ago

    Great list of biographies I have to get around to reading Steve Jobs book.

  • AdamzPg profile image

    AdamzPg 4 years ago

    Nelson Mandela too.. But a great list of biographies.

  • profile image

    anonymous 4 years ago

    This website is AMAZING! Thank you SO MUCH! I can't wait to start reading!!

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    ChroniclesofaWa 4 years ago

    This are great biographies I will soon read.

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    anonymous 4 years ago

    You forgot W.Churchill...

  • profile image

    anonymous 4 years ago

    Nelson Mandela' s biography too

  • PlethoraReader profile image

    Matthew 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

    Great list of biographies, one you might want to add if people are interested in Lincoln (and the inspiration for the film) is either Team of Rivals or Manhunt, the search for his killers. Great job! Blessed!

  • profile image

    forextrading2000 4 years ago

    It is obvious that you put hard work in making your informative lens! Well done!

  • rdcbizz profile image

    rdcbizz 4 years ago

    Love to read

  • lbrummer profile image

    Loraine Brummer 4 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

    Great list!! Blessed!!

  • Digory LM profile image

    Digory LM 4 years ago

    Great lens. It's been a while since I read a biography. Thomas Cahill has superb mini bios in his history books.

  • artsybookmom profile image

    artsybookmom 4 years ago

    Unbroken was great.

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    bskcom 4 years ago

    I am glad you added the Steve Jobs' biography because I consider that book one of the best.

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    xtianfriborg13 5 years ago

    Interesting books! I'd love to read Steve Jobs'.

  • TolovajWordsmith profile image

    Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

    Interesting list of biographies and tons of inspiration for everybody!

  • montanatravel52 profile image

    montanatravel52 5 years ago

    Very interesting collection and display... better get to work on my biography reading:)

  • dbitterman profile image

    dbitterman 5 years ago

    A great collection of some biographies, many of which may be considered "obscure." Thank you.

  • takkhisa profile image

    Takkhis 5 years ago

    Wow! Good collection of Biographies.

  • Camden1 profile image

    Camden1 5 years ago

    I haven't read very many biographies lately, although I did enjoy Steve Jobs. I definitely want to get several of the books you've listed. Pinned so that I can find this list again!

  • profile image

    efaler 5 years ago

    This is an awesome list! Great books to add to my to-read list!

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    A_Boring_Accountant 5 years ago

    Steve Jobs. Such a good read. Can't recommend it enough. Brilliantly written by Walter Isaacson

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    CristianStan 5 years ago

    I can't choose which one I like better: Steve Jobs or In the Garden of Beasts. Great lens!

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    Great list. Thanks for a great lens :)

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @coolmon2009 lm: My favorite so far is Unbroken... I loved that biography!

  • profile image

    coolmon2009 lm 5 years ago

    I read some of the biographies on your list, nice listing.

  • Scarlettohairy profile image

    Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

    I've ready many of these biographies. I love Erik Larson's books!

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @mumsgather: Thanks so much!!! I love reading biographies.

  • profile image

    mumsgather 5 years ago

    What a fantastic list. So nicely done. Blessed.

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @ItayaLightbourne: Thanks so much!!

  • ItayaLightbourne profile image

    Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

    Fantastic best biography list and article! Very well done. I did see the movie 'Into The Wild'. It was a very sad movie to me. I still get glimpses of the movie when I'm out working in my garden or looking at edible weeds growing and wonder if he knew about this one or that. Angel Blessings. :)

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @anonymous: Thanks, Tipi... I was just visiting one of your pages a moment ago...

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    Linda, thank you for this list of books to read. Very nicely done, btw! :)

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @JennaBaxton: I need to read that. Don't know why I've been putting it off. My favorite from this list so far is Unbroken.

  • profile image

    JennaBaxton 5 years ago

    The Steve Jobs' biography was really good.

  • siobhanryan profile image

    siobhanryan 5 years ago

    I enjoyed* Into The Wild*

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    anonymous 5 years ago

    I think you would love "One Crowded Hour", by Tim Bowden. It's about the Australian journalist, Neil Davis, who was the only journo who stayed in Saigon as the North Vietnamese forces moved in. He stood at the gates of the Palace and said something like "Welcome to Saigon". He was an amazing journo, war correspondent, who couldn't settle back into our spoilt western way of life. His life ended in Thailand, with his camera still rolling as he lay dying from bullet wounds in one of those little mini-coups they are fond of there. It's a great read.

  • profile image

    IncredibleArtWorld 5 years ago

    Thanks for the lens! "Into the Wild" is my favorite on this list.I haven't had the chance to read the book but I watched the movie and that guy has such an interesting life story. I'm pretty eager to read the book now.

  • profile image

    Sanja94 5 years ago

    Nice work. My favorite is Into the wild. Thank you for writing, I love your lens.

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    anonymous 5 years ago

    Stealing The Wave and Eddie Would Go..these are 2 fantastic reads both about surfing..now before you click off.I live miles from the sea and couldn't surf if you strapped me to an ironing board in a tsunami...but to read about the strength and endurance and in Eddies case, the self sacrifice.These are not sportsmen but demi-gods of strength and endurance...and as OB1 would say "more powerful than you could possibly imagine"...I have a small box of books never to be thrown or sold and these are 2 in that box..

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    ana's story

  • GOT LM profile image

    GOT LM 5 years ago

    Nice work!

  • profile image

    smsr0100451 5 years ago

    I love biographies. Thanks for beautiful lens.

  • profile image

    smsr0100451 5 years ago

    I love biographies. Thanks for beautiful lens.

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    Edutopia 5 years ago

    I have issue with George Washington's Sacred Fire on the list since it is mostly a revisionist attempt to downplay Washington's life and sanitize it in a way that makes him seem more agreeable to the modern conservative movement.

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    ifuturz 5 years ago

    I do love a good biography

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    JustFromTheStreets 5 years ago

    I can recommend Steve Jobs! great story and it gave me a new perspective to Apple.

  • Joyce Mann profile image

    Joyce T. Mann 5 years ago from Bucks County, Pennsylvania USA

    I read two biographies in 2011 written by historian Paul Johnson. They were biographies of Jesus Christ and Winston Churchill.

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    JoshK47 5 years ago

    I do love a good biography - great work on this lens!

  • Fizza555 profile image

    Fizza555 5 years ago

    Nice lens. Add voting module, please. I want to know which one is Squidoo's top biography.

  • Fizza555 profile image

    Fizza555 5 years ago

    Nice lens. Add voting module, please. I want to know which one is Squidoo's top biography.

  • dvdmoviereviews profile image

    dvdmoviereviews 5 years ago

    Just reading my way through Ace Frehley's autobiography. Very interesting. After that I'm going to read Steve Job's.

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    Travis_C 5 years ago

    I am currently reading "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy." So far, so good.

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    anonymous 5 years ago

    what about a boy called it by dave pelzer that book should be on here

    it was powerful and sad, it one of the best biographies iv ever read

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @Diana Wenzel: Ah, the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - I'm considering reading that one soon.

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @creativeinc lm: I'd love to read the Gandhi biography!

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @paperfacets: He was a fascinating president!

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @PlethoraReader: Sorry to hear that "Three Cups of Tea" became that controversial. I think any memoir writer struggles with what details to include and what to fictionalize a bit - since often we want to disguise details that could be humiliating to others we're writing about.

  • PlethoraReader profile image

    Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

    I have read #1 (although there is now all kinds of controversy and lawsuits that he has made up major parts of this book) and just ordered #2. Thank you for sharing all of them to add to my reading list.

  • Diana Wenzel profile image

    Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

    I've read #1 and #6 on your list of biographies. I'm currently reading #2. I truly appreciate a well-written and compelling biography. Thanks for this list.

  • creativeinc lm profile image

    creativeinc lm 6 years ago

    I love biographies, Gandhi, John F. Kennedy etc. etc.

    Nice list here!

  • paperfacets profile image

    Sherry Venegas 6 years ago from La Verne, CA

    I am still impressed with my reading of John Adams by McCullough.

  • OhMe profile image

    Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

    Thanks for this list of Top Ten Best-Selling Biographies

  • Mary Crowther profile image

    Mary Crowther 6 years ago from Havre de Grace

    My son's fifth grade teacher always promoted reading biographies for inspiration and motivation! Nice lens!

  • verymary profile image

    Mary 6 years ago from Chicago area

    These make great gifts. Excellent topic!

  • indigomoth profile image

    indigomoth 7 years ago from New Zealand

    I just read the Life and Time of the Thunderbolt Kid, which was good... I've alo read Into the Wild, but I can't help thinking that kid was a twit.

  • ZablonMukuba profile image

    ZablonMukuba 7 years ago

    i haven't read any of them, that is awesome

  • Timewarp profile image

    Paul 7 years ago from Montreal

    It would be interesting to read Into the Wild after having seen the movie.

  • italianizeyours profile image

    italianizeyours 7 years ago

    That's an interesting list. I might have to give the Karen Carpenter bio a read. Her story seems interesting.

  • EditPhotos profile image

    Edit Photos 7 years ago from Earth

    Some books I would not have expected! interesting list and lens.