My pick of some of the best autobiographies.
I had the idea for this blog when I was looking through my bookshelf for something to read. I received comedian Jo Brand’s autobiography ‘Look back in Hunger’ years ago for Christmas when I asked for it after I had heard her speaking about it on television, she used to work in a psychiatric ward which I thought would be really interesting reading. But I haven’t yet read it, I feel like autobiographies are always left until there is no fiction left for me to read.
My copy of Jo Brand’s autobiography
To get my interest going and maybe persuade me to read a bit more non-fiction I decided to take a look at some of the best autobiographies. I complied this list by googling ‘The best autobiographies ever’ and having a look through the lists. These are the titles that appeared the most:
Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl
This is one I have been meaning the read for a few years. In 2015 I visited Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam and in a way it made me quite glad I hadn’t read the book before visiting as I had intended to. Walking around the house was sad enough without having read the poor girls thoughts and fears before wandering round.
But since visiting I do want to know more, the original diary is housed in a glass case in the house. If you don’t know the story it is a Dutch diary written by Anne Frank during the 2 years her family were in hiding after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The family was eventually found in 1944 and Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camps from Typhus at 15 years old.
Nelson Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom
Nelson Mandela was a South African president between 1994 and 1999, he sadly died in 2013 aged 95. The book profiles his early life, adolescence and his 27 years in prison on the infamous Robben Island. Under the apartheid government at the time of his arrest, he was regarded as a terrorist and jailed.
After his time in prison he achieved international recognition for rebuilding South Africa’s once segregated society during his time as president.
Malala Yousafzai – I am Malala: The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban.
Since I heard about Malala I have been wanting to read this book – this girl is brave beyond belief! The selflessness she has shown to pave the way for other girls in her country to have the right to an education is astounding and it has won her the Nobel Peace Prize and she is only 19 years old! The youngest recipient of the award. Her autobiography also won the Goodreads Choice awards for Best memoir and autobiography in 2003.
Her autobiography is about a time when the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Malala refused to be silenced and fought for the right for herself and other girls to have an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, aged 15 Malala was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school by a member of the Taliban. Instead of silencing her, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her from Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York.
Gerald Durrell – My family and other animals
My mum loves Gerald Durrell, she has spoken to me about his books on many occasions so when I saw his autobiography crop up in a few of the lists I had to include him. Gerald Durrell was a British naturalist, zookeeper and conservationist. He founded the Jersey Zoo, now named the Durrell Wildlife Park on the Channel Island of Jersey. He wrote a number of books based on his life as an animal enthusiast and collector.
‘My Family & Other Animals’ is the first and most well-known of the ‘Corfu trilogy’ which also includes ‘Birds, Beasts and Relatives’ and ‘The Garden of the Gods’, which are credited with stimulating the development of tourism in Corfu. ‘My Family & Other Animals’ tells of the years that he lived as a child with his siblings and widowed mother on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. It describes the life of the Durrell family in a humorous manner, and explores the island of Corfu.
The book is a comic exaggeration of his family, especially his eldest brother Lawrence Durrell, who became a celebrated novelist and poet and a heartfelt appreciation of the natural world which made it very successful.
There is also a TV series based on Gerald Durrell’s family during the time they lived in Greece. The new series starts this April on ITV.
How do you feel about autobiographies? Do you read them a lot or leave them until last? Do you have a favourite that you have read? Let me know in the comments!