25 Inspiring Biographies Everyone Should Read
Reading about people’s lives from different generations and backgrounds is always eye-opening. The world has seen some pretty impressive individuals that lead fascinating lives. From Gandhi to Steve Jobs, all of these individuals are noteworthy for contributions they made to the world as we know it today.
These stories are not only entertaining and keep you up wanting for more, but they might also teach you something. At the very least, they are informative.
We cannot talk about every single biography that was ever written, so we narrowed down the list to the ones we consider the most notable at the moment.
Here are 25 inspiring biographies that you will surely enjoy reading, take our word for it. Or don’t, but still grab the ones that capture your interest, you won’t regret it.
- 25. The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography by Miriam Pawel
- 24. John Adams by David McCullough
- 23. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation by Kate Bornstein and S.Bear Bergman
- 22. Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama by Diane Carol Fujino
- 21. John Brown by W.E.B. Du Bois
- 20. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
- 19. Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
- 18. Prince: A Private View by Afshin Shahidi
- 17. Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton
- 16. Alice Walker: A Life by Evelyn C. White
- 15. A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
- 14. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
- 13. Gandhi: The Years That Changed The World by Ramachandra Guha
- 12. Hidden Figures: The American Dream by Margot Lee Shetterly
- 11. Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff
- 10. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
- 9. Napoleon: A life by Andrew Roberts
- 8. Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang
- 7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- 6. Frida: A Biography Of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera
- 5. Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario
- 4. Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert
- 3. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
- 2. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt
- 1. Elizabeth the Queen: the Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith
25. The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography by Miriam Pawel
One of the best written biographies of all times, this fairly recent work depicts the life of Cesar Chavez, one of the most influential Latinx figures in American history.
The author writes about the man’s journey from migrant worker to his rise as a movement leader. His remarkable mind and life story makes for a great read.
24. John Adams by David McCullough
The portrait of the second president of the United States is painted with an in-depth look into Adam’s early life and through his presidency. His marriage to Abigail is also given its own merit, which shifts the bookès focus from being a solely political review.
Their love story was based on loyalty and respect, and the book was made into an HBO series by the same name.
23. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation by Kate Bornstein and S.Bear Bergman
The follow-up to Kate Bornstein’s groundbreaking memoir that talked about her transformation from man to woman, this is a collection of biographies worth a read. The book includes essays and stories of many creatives and artists from across the trans spectrum.
A touching book that is eye-opening and teaches us about gender identity.
22. Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama by Diane Carol Fujino
We’ve all heard of Malcolm X. But not many heard of Yuri Kochiyama, the woman who was by his side when he was assassinated. Her life story is intriguing, and the author did extensive research that portrays her experiences.
We also learn what led her to become one of the most involved activists that tried to build solidarity between Asian and Black communities in the US.
21. John Brown by W.E.B. Du Bois
There’s more to American history than you learn in history class. John Brown was a white activist that fought for black people’s rights and fought against the institution of slavery.
While the book was originally published in 1909, it was ahead of our times. Browne fought to abolish slavery based on his own personal values. An interesting biography worth a read.
20. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
Presented in a different format than your average biography, you get a glimpse of the powerful mind the former US Supreme Court Judge possessed. A well-researched tale, the book contains quotes from one of the best justices the US has ever encountered.
It is not only very informative, but makes a very entertaining read as well.
19. Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady who contributed more to the country than party-plan and stood by her man. The book talks about her early years as a child born in a wealthy family that was destroyed by alcoholism and the early death of both her parents.
Her struggles early on in life made her what she became later on. Up to today, she is still considered the greatest First Lady the country has seen.
18. Prince: A Private View by Afshin Shahidi
Written by the superstar’s private photographer after his untimely death back in 2016, this biography is mostly a compilation of the best photographs taken since 2000. Prince’s personality can be noticed through the photographs, which speak a thousand words.
This snapshot of his public and private life is a great book to own, especially if you were a great fan of the artist’s music.
17. Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton
The most controversial and popular member of the British royal family, Princess Diana is the first to openly speak of the British Monarchy. With the cooperation of Andrew Morton, she opened up about her unhappy marriage, her hopes she had going into the royal family, and her unique relationship with the Queen.
If you love anything to do with the most popular family in the world, this book is an eye-opener.
16. Alice Walker: A Life by Evelyn C. White
Award-winning author Alice Walker is the first black woman to ever win a Pulitzer Prize in literature for her masterpiece The Color Purple. The biography, written by Evelyn C White, is an extensive description of Walker’s life and her brilliant works.
The author portrays her early years, her struggles as a black woman in a mostly white and male-dominated culture, and the brilliant writer that she became. A must read.
15. A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
If you’re not familiar with the 1998 Pulitzer Prize finalist mathematician John Nash, you should grab this biography and devour it. The movie adaptation with the same name is based on this book, which portrays the man’s prestigious career and his battle with schizophrenia.
Beautifully written, this moving story will show you a glimpse into a mastermind’s interior battles, both professionally and personally.
14. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
From the author who also wrote Steve Jobs’ biography comes another great read, that of the man behind the genius that was Albert Einstein. The book focuses on the man as a human, not mainly as a physicist, and talks at length about his rocky interpersonal relationships.
It mentions his insolent personality and attitude, which at the time was considered weird, and how he related to his colleagues, friends, and loved ones.
13. Gandhi: The Years That Changed The World by Ramachandra Guha
This revolutionary man is somewhat of an enigma to many, even though he did so many amazing things in his life. While we may be aware of his remarkable achievements, it is eye-opening to learn about his personal life.
Historian Ramachandra Guha depicts not only the great man’s life, but also illuminates us on India’s complex social structures we all should learn about. A fascinating read!
12. Hidden Figures: The American Dream by Margot Lee Shetterly
The movie based on the group of African American mathematicians that played an important role in Nasa’s history was inspired by this book written by Margot Lee Shetterly.
Before the story was told, not many were aware of the importance these three women played in the space program. They were the ones that calculated the flight paths by hand, which earned them the nickname “The Human Computers”.
11. Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff
Whether you read Lolita or not, you’ve surely heard of the novel that is one of the most controversial books of all time. He became famous because of this book, but what about his wife, the woman behind the famed author?
She is portrayed in this biography as one of the best humored women that was Nabokov’s partner, editor and translator. She played an important role in the writer’s life, as many incredible women behind powerful men are known to be.
10. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
This is a gripping biography of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini and the ordeal he went through when he was twenty-six. His US Army bomber crashed and burned in the middle of the Pacific ocean.
Along with two other men, he survived the disaster for forty-seven days afloat a raft. After all that, they were captured as prisoners of war by the Japanese Navy and were tortured for over two years. A heart wrenching story, but one that shows his recovery and redemption.
9. Napoleon: A life by Andrew Roberts
Napoleon is notorious for being a tyrant, yet this biography is truly fun to read. The author decided to tell the story with deference, so you see a more positive side to him.
As a decorated scholar, Andrew Roberts studied Napoleon’s life extensively, which can be noticed in this work. Napoleon’s confusing and complicated relationship with his wife is something many didn’t learn from history books, but it compliments his sharp and near flawless military instincts.
8. Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang
The power-hungry emperor Mao Zedong made history because he founded the People’s Republic of China as we know it today. There’s more to his story than we learned in history books, and this biography depicts the emperor’s desire to preserve communism at all costs.
Although he was also responsible for more than 70 million deaths that occurred during peaceful periods, he also did some good for the country. His ideologies and motivations are explained in a story that is worth a read.
7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta Lacks is one of the first African-American women who left an important mark on the modern medical world. Her story is fascinating, and you’ll have a hard time putting the book down.
Her cancer cells were taken without her knowledge by her doctors and used for medical testing. The HeLa cell line research changed the trajectory of modern medicine. It is a very downhearted story that will surely move every reader.
6. Frida: A Biography Of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera
One of the most recognizable names in modern art, Frida Kahlo was a brilliant artist who had a pretty hard life. From her accident when she was only 18 years old through the numerous affairs her husband had, her pain is evident.
But that’s only part of her fascinating life. The mark she left due to her artistic brilliance is the main focus of the book. The self-taught artist explored issues of race, gender, and class in Mexican society. A very interesting read, especially if art is one of your favorite subjects.
5. Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario
Young boy Enrique marked history with his courage and determination he achieved by following his mother from Honduras to the United States. Although many might have not heard of him, his story is so interesting and captivating.
When he was only five years old, his mother went to the United States in search of a better life for them with the promise she’ll return soon. He was sixteen when he decided to go in search of her.
It is a devastating account of devotion and love that many immigrant families face every day in the United Stated even today.
4. Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert
The UK’s most popular and greatest prime minister ever was a colorful character, to say the least. Winston Churchill left quite a legacy that up to this day no other prime minister that followed ever measured up.
The book contains in-depth research into his life from the time he led Britain through World War II all the way to his death. A mercurial man, he was one of the most prominent and important men you will enjoy reading about.
3. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
The co-founder and CEO of Apple was a creative genius that changed our lives forever. The legend, as many people in the world think of him, was a very flawed man. While extremely intelligent, his social skills left something to be desired.
Isaacson portrayed a true picture of the myth behind the man. From his early days working from his garage to becoming the leader of the largest tech companies in the world, the book is an interesting read.
The author divulges some details of Jobs’ childhood that were previously unknown, which gives readers an insight into the person behind the public eye.
2. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt
Shakespeare is a bit of a mystery that not many succeeded in uncovering. Although he is one of the most famous and popular authors to have ever lived, many details of his life are still unknown today.
Stephen Greenblatt made it his life work’s mission to learn as much about the man as possible, and he does an incredible job relating what he’s learned.
From insights on how political and social ideals of the time influenced him to reenactments of his writing process, it is a book anyone should read.
1. Elizabeth the Queen: the Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith
While many believe the Monarchy might not be as great as the media portrays it, Queen Elizabeth’s life as the longest reigning monarch to have ever lived makes for a very interesting read.
The biography is written by Sally Bedell Smith, who already wrote two previous biographies of members of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II was a legend who was constantly in the public eye.
She was a woman who had one of the most important jobs in the world from a very young age, and that alone is impressive to read about in its own right.
We hope we influenced you to pick up any of these 25 biographies we know you’ll enjoy reading. Which one of these figures are the ones that inspired and intrigued you the most? Let us know in the comments section below.
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