40 Best Biography Books Of All Time For Non-Fiction Lovers

To the immortal souls!

Farihah Ali

Jun 21, 2021|14 min read


Biography books are speculum to the personalities we love, personalities we want to know about. Telling the true stories, the pursuit of the personality, that’s what biographies are.

It's a treat for non-fictional book nerds. Biography books are often loved by people looking to find motivation. They read it to get inspiration

A lot of times, we find many entrepreneurs reading these books as not only they inspire them, but also helps them to find out the answers they were looking for.

Biography is all about the resurrection of subjects. To resurrect those immortal souls, to know about them, to learn something from them, to ponder about them, and to learn some amazing facts about our favorite personalities.

Biography books are one of the most important ingredients in the recipe of the people who love to follow the footprints of someone they inspire.

So, here is a list of all the acclaimed, award-winning, and spell-binding biography books.

1. A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar - Biography Book

This biography book, written by Sylvia Nasar has perfectly personified the mathematician who is not among us now, John Forbes Nash Jr., 

Yes, the one who proposed game theory, the legend of mathematics.

A beautiful mind is one best biography books giving out all the details of the journey of the great mathematician, initiating from his intelligence, contributions to mathematics, and then the triumph of his madness over him, ultimately, the love he got. 

Basically, all the ups and downs of his roller-coaster life are mentioned in the book.

2. Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

Andrew Hodges didn’t fail to bring up the best biography book and a major historical book of all time, about the best coder, that history has given us.

The Enigma was the coding machine that was used by Nazi Germany during Second World War. Alan Turing came out as a hero and deciphered all the messages in the form of code. 

Alan Turing is also known as the father of modern computing.

3. Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert

Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert - Biography Book

Being an official biographer of Winston Churchill, Sir Martin Gilbert brought out the whole life cycle of a Former Prime Minister of British, as a one best biography book.

Sir Martin Gilbert just knew how to bring out the turns of his life, from a schoolboy to an active leader, to an elder statesman, and his role in Second World War. 

Overall, it’s a huge success as the best biography book.

4. Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario

It is the true story of a teenager from Honduras, who set out on a journey to find his mother who was forced to leave his family starving, to find a job in the U.S.

This biography book tells us the journey and obstacles in that journey of a boy to the U.S. and the courage of that boy to cross the border.

Sonia Nazario has bound all the words in an astonishing way to make this biography book unforgettable.

5. Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

A biography book, and a bestseller, inspired by true-life events of a graduate boy, Christopher Johnson Mc Candless, who gave up all his possessions to live a nomadic life. 

This book is all about the art of survival, despite, all the difficulties.

6. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

The best composition of words and tragic life events of Rosemary by Kate Clifford Larson.

This book is all about the tragic life events of a third child and the first daughter of Joe and Rose Kennedy, Kennedys were a well-known American family.

The book shows us how mental illness was a matter of embarrassment back then. Rosemary was not intellectual because of the tragedy that happened during her delivery, lack of oxygen, and how her family sent her away because of the embarrassment. 

Later on, the world came to know about her, through a diary of Rosemary, prescriptions of her doctor, and interviews of her family.

7. Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts

Andrew Roberts was one of the finest historians, what could be odds if he hasn’t written the biography of Napoleon. 

He traveled a lot to bring out all the facts of Napoleon’s life. And I must say, he succeeded in his work of bringing insightful, knowledgeable, and the best biography book of all time.

Napoleon plays a very vital role in European History, he was not only a leader or a good statesman but also a big multi-tasker, willing to forgive his enemies, at last, a good human being.

8. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson - Biography Book

An enthralling biography book by Walter Isaacson, based on 40 interviews of the co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, hundreds of interviews with family, friends, colleagues, and the people around.

This is the bestselling biography book on the personality, life down the lane, and the ambition of the entrepreneur revolutionized six digital industries.

9. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

This biography book is basically about the accident that happened in 1943, an Army Air Force bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean leaving only a gasoline, blood, and a debris, and yet a lieutenant managed to survive, Loius Zamperini.

Laura Hillenbrand has given out a legend’s story in a different way. How he survived a torture, resilience, and then eventually the redemption.

10. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This biography book is about a great milestone in the field of science and medicine.

Her name was Henrietta but according to science we all know her as HeLa, buried somewhere unknown. Her cells were taken from her without any consent and used for the medicine, her cells are still alive even after the 60 years of her death.

The best biography book, explaining the milestone of medicine and science, and yet consequences on the human.

11. Leonardo da Vinci: The Biography by Walter Isaacson

This biography work has brought up so much of Vinci’s life, about his desires, his intellect, his fantasies, and his obsession with science and mathematics.

We cannot deny the fact that this biography is actually a definition of best biography, as it brings up so much of the unknown facts of the life of da Vinci. 

Like why Vinci’s paintings of men are more erotic? Why women's paintings are less objectifying? Was there a point in da Vinci’s life when he was obsessed with a science? 

The best biography book of all time which makes people understand Da Vinci more clearly and make them wonder about so many facts.

12. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

Being a rebel and dissenter from childhood, how Einstein achieved the milestones of Science and solved the mysteries of the Universe. 

In this biography book, Isaacson tells us all the known and unknown facts of Einstein’s life.

13. The New Negro by Alain Locke

Best biography work to put light on the Renaissance period when African- Americans were not welcomed by the white people.

A biography telling us, how a tiny black man emerged from Philadelphia and achieved to mentor the young artists, authors of their age.

A unique and whimsical fiction work by Alain Locke.

14. The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts

This epic biography book by Randy Shilts gives us the facts about the rise of the gay community.

How the personal life, tragedies, and then assassination of Harvey Milk lead to the consolidation and rise of Gay community in the 1970s.

15. Virginia Woolf by Hermoine Lee

Virginia Woolf by Hermoine Lee - Biography Book

The best biography book of the best writer herself.

This biography book gives us all the vivid aspects of Virginia’s life, not only as a writer but as a human being.

This is a definitive, emotional, and honest biography book so far.

16. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Tad Hughes

This biography book is a non- biography so far. This is more like the investigation in the biography world, most provocative, the plot gives us such facts that we have never known the figure before.

This biography book is not about the life of Sylvia Plath but more about her afterlife and her husband, Hughes. 

17. The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi by Peter Popham

The story of a strong, determined, resolute, and implacable woman leader of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after her first experience in politics.

In this biography book, Popham brings so many fresh revelations and untouched testimonies.

18. Barbara Jordan: American Hero by Mary Beth Rogers

Barbara Jordan was the first African American woman to serve in a Texas Senate and to present the keynote address in a National party convention.

Yet her personal life remained veiled, Rogers is the one who brought out many unknown facts about Barbara, like how the illness of her kept her drowsed for quite two decades and ended up with Barbara Jordan herself.

This biography is quite a celebration of Barbara’s elegance, courage, and class.

19. John Adams by David McCullough

David McCullough has created an epic work, John Adams, a Pulitzer prize-winning best biography book.

An exhilarating, informative, and historical work by the historian for the history, John Adams, America’s founding father, and the second president.

20. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

The New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize-winning, the best biography book written by Ron Chernow

This book is an embodiment of the founding father of America, the prominent figure in American History.

21. E=mc2: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis

A little biography of the equation, the backbone of physics, a remarkable evolution.

Bodanis has made sure to involve all the personalities behind this remarkable discovery of Einstein. 

Bodanis initiates this biography by significantly putting all the characters of this equation i.e. energy, mass, speed of light, and the scientists behind the discovery of these characters.

22. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

This perfectly written biography book is about the doctor, Harvard Professor, Anthropologist, renowned infectious disease specialist, the recipient of the MacArthur genius grant, the one of its own Dr. Paul Farmer.

The book starts from Harvard to Haiti and takes us through Peru, Cuba, and Russia, as the Farmer came to the conclusion, the only cure to the world is humanity.

Tracy Kidder is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and the author of bestsellers, here, narrates the story of a one-man army, Dr. Paul Farmer, who was deeply in love with the world, through one of her best biography books.

23. The Black Rose by Tananarive Due

The Black Rose by Tananarive Due - Biography Book

This book about a black born in a slave’s family. 

It doesn’t fail to surprise its readers, how Madam C.J. Walker rose to America’s first black female millionaire, heading the successful beauty company and a leading philanthropist working for the cause of Africa and America from indignity and poverty.

24. Shelley: The Pursuit by Richard Holmes

This is the one biography book by which Holmes got to be famed.

Richard Holmes managed to bring out the more darker and crueler image of Shelley.

From the expulsion from college, disowned by his father, Shelley led a horrible life gravely rejected by society. 

Ultimately, he embraced rebellion and dishonor without thinking about the consequences.

So, here is the biography of an atheist and radical agitator but more of a brilliant and resolute poet who inspired many.

25. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

Shirley Jackson, the writer behind the epic works like The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House. 

Shirley Jackson had a different image, her readers were unable to understand her because of the kind of genres she liked to write, most haunting, witchcraft, and old traditions.

But Franklin decided to bring the real Shirley in front of the world, and so far she succeeded, by her biography book she brought out how Shirley always wrote about a Gothic woman. Basically, she was writing about the conservatism of that era.

The best biography book won so many awards. National Book Critic’s Circle Award in Biography, New York Times Notable book of 2016, A Kirkus reviews best book of 2016, and many more.

26. Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff

Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff - Biography Book

We all know a writer, Vladimir Nabokov, he once said, without my wife, I wouldn’t have written a single novel.

So, here is the love story of Mr. and Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov, more like a biography of Mrs. Nabokov, extremely romantic and monumental.

A Pulitzer prize-winning best biography book.

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

In this particular era, people like us, often want to escape the modern life that we are leading, but never act on it.

 This is the biography book, telling us, how a young boy, named Christopher Knight, left his home in Massachusetts and travel to Maine and isolated himself into the forest just to live on his own. 

28. Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis by Peter Guralnick

A well-researched and based on hundreds of interviews, a praised biography of Elvis Presley.

Elvis was an enduring myth for ages, but this biography book is the which brings out the real person who Elvis was, creating a completely different depiction of the man.

He brought a great evolution in the field of music.

Winner of the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award.

29. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford

The best embodiment of the most famous poet of the Jazz Age, and the best biography book to take some pride in women empowerment to some limits.

Somehow, Millay captivated the nation, smoking in the streets, took many lovers, men, women don’t matter married or unmarried, disregarded the rules and principles so boldly, hence, the savage beauty.

30. Will In the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare by Stephan Greenblatt

The walking lane of how Shakespeare became Shakespeare, best incarnation by Stephan Greenblatt.

How a young man in the late fifteenth century moved to London and became the greatest Playwright, not only of his era but of all time.

What could be better to explain such achievement to the world than in the form of the bestselling biography book?

31. Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera

Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera - Biography Book

This clamorous work of biography, hailed by the readers, is basically about the Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, her ambitions, her love life, her association with the Communist Party, her absorption in Mexican culture, every event is described with a correct set of words.

32. Barracoon: The Story of the Last Slave by Zora Neal Hurston

A true story of the last survivor of the Atlantic Slave Trade. 

Barracoon was a fight of a one-man army, Cudjo Lewis, who was captivated for six years before his emancipation. 

Best biography book so far, narrating someone’s struggle and survival. 

33. Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer who took down America’s most Powerful Mobster by Stephen L. Carter

As the name suggests, it is actually a forgotten story of a black woman lawyer, she was a slave, she was black and she was a woman, what combination could be the worse combination to survive.

Stephen L. Carter, the grandson of the woman, Eunice Carter, brought her into the light of the world with his biography, which didn’t fail to mesmerize people with her courage, how she never accepted defeat and eventually she managed to convict the Mafia boss of that time, Lucky Luciano.

34. Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss

Lauren Redniss's magniloquent biography book of the known couple, in the field of science, Marie and Pierre Curie. A finalist for the National Book Award.

A combination of ambitions, love, companionship, and the achievements of milestones in the field of science, this is the whole story of this meritorious couple.

35. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff - Biography Book

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, Stacy Schiff has written the biography of the most shrewd and intriguing woman of the history, Cleopatra, the last Queen of Egypt. 

Her court was jeweled with onyx and gold, richer in politics, and sexually intriguing. Cleopatra has gone down in the history because of all the wrong reasons, though, her life span was fewer than forty years.

This informative and ponderous biography book of Stacy Schiff has done complete justice to the character of the last Queen of Egypt.

 36. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of Black Women who helped win the Space Race

A biography book telling some hidden facts of the period when women were treated as only a figure, only an existence.

This great biography work gives credibility to the women, who were mathematicians, who helped in a major space mission, just by using pencil, using slide rules, and calculating the numbers which could be used in a launch of the rocket. 

Afterward, those women were included in the major meetings of NASA which were never attended by the woman in history.

This book has got so many awards:

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Communication Award, NAACP Image Award Best Nonfiction Book, and many more.

37. The Passage of Power by Robert A . Caro

This informative book follows Lyndon Johnson through both of his periods, the most frustrating, deteriorating, and the most triumphant, victorious period.

Caro has put all the details in a system, how Lyndon Johnson made it to the power, senate, and the ultimate goal of Presidency. This book not only narrates about Johnson but its vivid narration is also about, how a strong leader, determined and with vision can lead a nation to an unprecedented path.

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, The American History Book Prize, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

The acclamation of  Times of London for this book as " one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age. A masterpiece.”

38. The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes

The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes - Biography Book

The epic work, on the biography of Billy Milligan, a man, who was fighting for the triumphant on his mind with twenty-four different personalities in his mind. 

Culmination took place when Milligan woke up in jail for the kidnap and rape of three girls.

This work easily draws us to Milligan's tormented world and makes us dive into that and experience it.

The best biography book with the best illustration.

39. Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson

The illustration of Sylvia Plath's life before she met Ted Hughes.

This enthralling book reclaims the instability and unsettling mind of the literary icon,  before she met a Ted, she was leading a complex and disturbing life. 

How she pursued writing to stabilize her mind and bring peace to her life?

40. Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda

Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda - Biography Book

A story of an extremely maligned and despot queen of France.

Leonie Frieda brings out her veiled image as a skilled ruler, battling her own odds and fighting for her own son's crown.

This epic book is an account based on thousands of personal letters of her which clearly brings out her as a courageous woman who ever wore a crown in the history of France.

Frieda rendered all the rights of this phenomenal biography book.

So this concludes the list of all-time best biography books which are a must-read for all the book nerds out there.

The purpose of this article is to persuade the knowledge of one of the genres of literature i.e. biography and to bring on some good authors, personalities, and their best biographies of all time.

I believe reading is the key to know someone or to incite some things.

Keep moving, reading, and analyzing! Comment down your favorite book from the list above.

Also, do like and share with your reading partner. Happy Reading!

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Farihah Ali

On the monotonous canvas of life, trying to fill color, through dripping of my fingers.



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