So what is Autobiography?  And we don’t mean the new Range Rover Autobiography! (hint that’s a car)

The definition of autobiography is it’s an account of a person’s life, written by that person.  If the story is written by someone else it is a Biography.  Sometimes an autobiography is co-written by a journalist or other experienced writer.  If the story is written without the approval or permission the subject, it is an un-authorised biography

The benefits of reading autobiographies are many and perhaps unexpected.  The opportunity to look into other people’s lives in different times, different places can be more exciting than any fiction, with real people portrayed in real events and real experiences.  We can learn from others experiences, making their lessons our own; without the pain.  We can appreciate other points of views, develop compassion and empathy.

This list of best autobiographies covers five extraordinary men who have done extraordinary things from very different beginnings in very different arenas of life.

We all need hero’s to look up to, to encourage us and uplift us by their examples.  You may not be able to hang out with these men, but through their autobiographies you can get to know them, learn from them and learn their values, potentially transform yourself into a better you through their ‘mentorship’.  Add them to your list of hero’s to draw on in your personal mastermind.

1. Autobiography of a Yogi – Paramahansa Yogananda

Reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s autobiography feels like receiving a crash course in eastern mysticism, exemplified by the exceptional life experiences of an acclaimed yogi and spiritual teacher. While some of Yogananda’s talks of miraculous and extraordinary happenings may come across as bizarre, even unfathomable to some, his views provide good food for thought when approached and taken into consideration with an open mind. Plus, there is also a consistency and confidence to his tone that makes reading the autobiography somewhat provocative to the intellect, if not life-altering.

2. The Autobiography of Malcolm X

How can a kid who grew up in poverty and was once a hustler became one of the most respected human rights activists in the history of America? This book is an enlightening read, presenting Malcolm’s aggressively uncompromising – though at times, troubling – views on religion, society, race and African-American rights. From reading his unapologetic and candid thoughts, one can’t help but become more aware of the innate racism in our world and how it affects our daily lives.

3. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

There is something fascinating about getting a glimpse of what goes inside the minds of brilliant individuals who had led extraordinary lives; to find out what drove them to excellence. When someone as multi-faceted as Ben Franklin writes his life story, you know it will make for an interesting read. His autobiography, called a memoir by Franklin, is unfinished, initially written with his son in mind, to be a sort of guide. Even so, it paints a picture of a remarkable man who grew up in poverty, and invented himself through an unending thirst for knowledge and persistent effort to improve himself.

4. Toward- Freedom: An Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru

Written almost entirely during his imprisonment, the autobiography of India’s first Prime Minister offers a gripping personal insight on his outlook in various aspects of life. Jawaharlal Nehru was a freedom fighter and a prolific political figure, jailed for anti-government activities. In his autobiography, his views on marriage, religion, politics, colonialism and even nature are eloquently and sincerely documented. It is a reflection of his tenacity, wisdom and passion. Such a book by a remarkable individual is not to be missed!

5. Autobiography of Mark Twain

Writers have always sparked our imagination with their work. One has to wonder what really goes on in their active imaginations. The only way we can ever find out is if they even bother leaving behind a piece of writing about themselves, such as what Mark Twain did. The great American writer’s three-volume autobiography is filled with observations and accounts of his own life, peppered with the familiar wit and humor. Literature buffs who enjoyed Twain’s novels will find it a delight to get an overview of the writer’s world, from his own perspective. There is a curious fact to this lengthy autobiography; Twain specifically instructed that it was to be published 100 years after his death, for fear of offending some of the people whom he vented about in the book.

For women autobiographies, see our Best Ever list here