Top Ten Biographies and Autobiographies
I’ve decided to start a new book series on my blog, sharing my top ten reads in a certain genre or format of book.
To kick it off I thought I would share my top ten biographies and autobiographies. Biographies are books written about others by a so-called expert. An autobiography is a book written by the author, or through a ghost-writer, about their own lives.
I love a good music autobiography, as you’re about to find out. Phil Collins was the lead singer of Genesis and a fantastic drummer. He’s still kicking around, and is even about to start touring again as my mother was thrilled to announce. I loved his book because it was raw and funny and was ‘warts and all’. He does not paint himself as a good bloke or a good father, in fact it’s the opposite. While he may be a problematic character in his personal life, I have great respect for him as a musician and as a man.
This biography of Kathleen Kennedy, JFK’s favourite younger sister, really touched me. I had no idea who she was, or that she was a massive Anglophile, or that she was tragically killed in a plane crash at just 28 years old. She married to the heir of Chatsworth, who was sadly killed in the second world war just five months later. She had to leave her family, who she adored, and was a beloved young woman. Yet now she is forgotten. I have a real soft spot for forgotten women, particularly some as lovely as Kick Kennedy seemed to be.
Speaking of forgotten women, Hallie Rubenhold is the queen of brining ladies to the forefront. This book is incredible. And I don’t say that lightly. I learnt so much about the women involved in the Jack the Ripper cases in London, and I was utterly humbled by Hallie’s insightful and well-thought argument behind the book. Brilliant.
Another heartbreaking read. Todd Fisher is the son of Debbie Reynolds and younger brother of Carrie Fisher. In this wonderful autobiography he documents his entire life with his mother and sister. It’s beautiful and funny, full of lovely anecdotes and packed with love. Their lives were not perfect, and he explains that, but no matter what happened they were a family of love.
Anna Kendrick is brilliantly funny. Her autobiography is chock-a-block with anecdotes and stories that had me laughing out loud. I loved hearing about her rise to fame, from treading the boards at local theatre productions to making it big in Twilight and later Pitch Perfect. I had no idea, before reading this book, that she was a musical theatre actress first, film star second. A down-to-earth, funny autobiography.
Another hilarious read. There was a one chapter in this book that had me laughing, crying and calling my mother. Whilst the last two chapters were disappointing the rest of this book was genius. Sue is one of my favourite people, I went to see her speak about her book and she was fantastic – even when someone gave her the middle finger (something I’m still ashamed of witnessing!).
Mara Wilson was a large part of my childhood. She was Matilda, and Matilda was a my childhood heroine. This autobiography documents her childhood stardom, her crazy family life, the awful loss of her mother and the later decision to give up acting for the sake of her mental health and private life. She is still a heroine to me, but now simply as a person and not as Matilda Wormwood.
This was the first autobiography I ever read, and I didn’t even realise it was an autobiography. I had obviously read a few Jacqueline Wilson books growing up but I can’t say I was enamoured with them. I preferred the TV series’. But Jacqueline Wilson’s autobiography grabbed me. I remember reading it for a second time only a few weeks after I finished it the first time. A great way to get young children into non-fiction.
My most recent musical autobiography and this book is blooming phenomenal. I highly recommend you listen to the audiobook adaptation for the full experience. I laughed, I cried and I wanted to listen to it again the moment I finished it.
And finally, another forgotten woman: Anne Bronte. Samantha Ellis writes brilliant biographies about books and authors, but this is my favourite. Anne Bronte is the youngest Bronte sister who wrote Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She was the true feminist of the Bronte sisters, who wrote stories with women at the heart of the story regardless of romance or gothic horror. There’s not much documentation or imagery about her life but Samantha Ellis piece what there was to come up with a beautiful and well-deserved portrayal of Anne Bronte’s life.
There we have. What would be your top ten biographies or autobiographies? Let me know in the comments below. I’m always after more non-fiction reads.