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Though fiction novels can make us laugh and bring us to tears, perhaps no literary genre is as powerful as the autobiography. Narrating the stories of their own lives, autobiographical writers have the opportunity to depict the human experience in its most authentic form.
Are you in the mood to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Pick up one of these timeless autobiographies to begin an unforgettable literary journey.
1.) Night - Elie Wiesel
Perhaps no piece of writing so plainly captures the horrors of the Holocaust as well as Elie Wiesel’s autobiography Night. Shipped off to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp as a teenager, young Wiesel was exposed to death, destruction, and despair so extreme that he began questioning God himself.To gain a sobering new perspective on life, death, and the beyond, pick up a copy of Elie Wiesel’s Night.
2.) Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China - Jung Chang
Detailing her life story as well as those of her mother and grandmother, author Jung Chang offers a fascinating look at the lives of three generations of strong Chinese women. Yu-fang, Chang’s grandmother, endures a challenging life as a wealthy general’s concubine; De-hong, Chang’s mother, dedicates the years of her youth to the Communist Party of China. Jung herself watches as her family is caught up in the tumult of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, in which she and her parents are punished for their dissident political beliefs.
Wild Swans will take you on a powerful journey through Chinese history. You’ll never forget the stories of these three remarkably strong women.
3.) The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch
Professor Randy Pausch couldn’t come up with a topic for the “Last Lecture” speech he was scheduled to present at his university. The week he was informed that he must choose a subject, his doctors told him that his pancreatic cancer was terminal. This book, based on Pausch’s speech, details Pausch’s dreams, life story, and the moral lessons he wished to impart to his children.Moving and exceptionally inspiring, Pausch’s The Last Lecture is a parting gift that is sure to leave you reminiscing and drying your eyes.
4.) A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway’s classic autobiography details his life as a young news correspondent in Paris in the years following the First World War. Hemingway offers many fascinating snapshots into the era’s creative vibrancy and cultural metamorphosis, detailing his encounters with prolific artists and writers ranging from Pablo Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald to James Joyce and Gertrude Stein. Readers follow the author on his journey from a young, starving artist to a larger-than life, internationally-acclaimed author.
If the creative sphere of 1920s Paris excites you, pick up a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.
5.) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
Abandoned by her own parents, young Maya Angelou and her brother Bailey are sent to live with their grandparents in Stamps, Arkansas. Growing up in the racist hotbed of the Depression-era Deep South, Maya is subjected to endless acts of discrimination and abuse. Further traumas soon leave the young girl silent and shattered. Despite her many struggles, Maya ultimately survives, learning lessons and discovering her true identity.
Emotionally shattering and narratively beautiful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a quintessential tale of triumph in the face of unspeakable adversity.
6.) "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" - Richard Feynman
From working on the atomic bomb to developing the field of quantum computing, theoretical physicist Richard Feynman was among the most revolutionary scientists of the 20th century. Transcribed from spoken anecdotes, "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!” is packed with reminiscences from Feynman’s fascinatingly unique life. From describing his preoccupation with safe-cracking and samba music to detailing his more sobering involvement with the Manhattan Project, this book offers a glimpse into the life of a charismatic and multi-talented genius.
Fans of funny anecdotal tales are sure to love Feynman’s light and thought-provoking autobiography.
These unforgettable autobiographies are sure to stick with you for years to come. If, however, these titles don’t speak to you, consider exploring the biography section of your local library. History buffs may wish to read the reminiscences of St. Augustine, Benjamin Franklin, or Helen Keller, for instance. Those who are interested in modern pop culture can choose from a wide selection of celebrity titles. Wherever your interests may lie, there’s guaranteed to be an autobiography that interests you!
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