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The Best Biography Books You Must Read: Updated 2019

Updated 2019

They are the people who both thrill and inspire us. Special individuals who led such a life that someone else decided it was worth it to write a book about them. Biographies are incredible pieces of art and memorials for great people who left their mark on the human race. Biographies will always be a lasting legacy of others who show their appreciation for all that person meant to us all. In this article, we’ve compiled the best biography books just for you!

What Did These Biography Books Do To Qualify For This List

Any time you are ranking the best of something the results are usually somewhat subjective but we have did our best to come up with a list the seekers of the best biography books will truly like. To come up with this list we took into account:

  • quantity and quality of user reviews
  • sales data
  • public perception
  • opinions of readers of this genres
  • commercial success
  • and of course personal opinion

Take a look at the best Biography Books you can read right now:

Table of Contents
• Best Biography Books

Best Biography Books

Here are the best biography books by the experts:

1)Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

  • Best Biography BooksBook Summary:In this instant and tenacious bestseller, Nike founder and board chairman Phil Knight “offers a rare and revealing look at the notoriously media-shy man behind the swoosh” (Booklist, starred review), illuminating his company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands.Bill Gates named Shoe Dog one of his five favorite books of 2016 and called it “an amazing tale, a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like. It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey, riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. Phil Knight opens up in ways few CEOs are willing to do.”Fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and launched a company with one simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the trunk of his car in 1963, Knight grossed eight thousand dollars that first year. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion. In this age of start-ups, Knight’s Nike is the gold standard, and its swoosh is one of the few icons instantly recognized in every corner of the world.But Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always been a mystery. In Shoe Dog, he tells his story at last. At twenty-four, Knight decides that rather than work for a big corporation, he will create something all his own, new, dynamic, different. He details the many risks he encountered, the crushing setbacks, the ruthless competitors and hostile bankers—as well as his many thrilling triumphs. Above all, he recalls the relationships that formed the heart and soul of Nike, with his former track coach, the irascible and charismatic Bill Bowerman, and with his first employees, a ragtag group of misfits and savants who quickly became a band of swoosh-crazed brothers.Together, harnessing the electrifying power of a bold vision and a shared belief in the transformative power of sports, they created a brand—and a culture—that changed everything. Definitely one of the best biography books ever created.
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2)The Power Broker by Robert Caro

  • Best Biography BooksBook Summary:Everywhere acknowledged as a modern American classic, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest books of the twentieth century, The Power Broker is a huge and galvanizing biography revealing not only the saga of one man’s incredible accumulation of power, but the story of the shaping (and mis-shaping) of New York in the twentieth century.Robert Caro’s monumental book makes public what few outsiders knew: that Robert Moses was the single most powerful man of his time in the City and in the State of New York. And in telling the Moses story, Caro both opens up to an unprecedented degree the way in which politics really happens—the way things really get done in America’s City Halls and Statehouses—and brings to light a bonanza of vital information about such national figures as Alfred E. Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt (and the genesis of their blood feud), about Fiorello La Guardia, John V. Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller.But The Power Broker is first and foremost a brilliant multidimensional portrait of a man—an extraordinary man who, denied power within the normal framework of the democratic process, stepped outside that framework to grasp power sufficient to shape a great city and to hold sway over the very texture of millions of lives. We see how Moses began: the handsome, intellectual young heir to the world of Our Crowd, an idealist. How, rebuffed by the entrenched political establishment, he fought for the power to accomplish his ideals. How he first created a miraculous flowering of parks and parkways, playlands and beaches—and then ultimately brought down on the city the smog-choked aridity of our urban landscape, the endless miles of (never sufficient) highway, the hopeless sprawl of Long Island, the massive failures of public housing, and countless other barriers to humane living. How, inevitably, the accumulation of power became an end in itself.Moses built an empire and lived like an emperor. He was held in fear—his dossiers could disgorge the dark secret of anyone who opposed him. He was, he claimed, above politics, above deals; and through decade after decade, the newspapers and the public believed. Meanwhile, he was developing his public authorities into a fourth branch of government known as “Triborough”—a government whose records were closed to the public, whose policies and plans were decided not by voters or elected officials but solely by Moses—an immense economic force directing pressure on labor unions, on banks, on all the city’s political and economic institutions, and on the press, and on the Church. He doled out millions of dollars’ worth of legal fees, insurance commissions, lucrative contracts on the basis of who could best pay him back in the only coin he coveted: power. He dominated the politics and politicians of his time—without ever having been elected to any office. He was, in essence, above our democratic system.Robert Moses held power in the state for 44 years, through the governorships of Smith, Roosevelt, Lehman, Dewey, Harriman and Rockefeller, and in the city for 34 years, through the mayoralties of La Guardia, O’Dwyer, Impellitteri, Wagner and Lindsay, He personally conceived and carried through public works costing 27 billion dollars—he was undoubtedly America’s greatest builder.This is how he built and dominated New York—before, finally, he was stripped of his reputation (by the press) and his power (by Nelson Rockefeller). But his work, and his will, had been done. One of the best biography books we truly recommend!
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3)Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

  • best biography booksBook Summary:This engaging series of childhood recollections tells about an ideal school in Tokyo during World War II that combined learning with fun, freedom, and love. This unusual school had old railroad cars for classrooms, and it was run by an extraordinary man-its founder and headmaster, Sosaku Kobayashi–who was a firm believer in freedom of expression and activity.In real life, the Totto-chan of the book has become one of Japan’s most popular television personalities–Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. She attributes her success in life to this wonderful school and its headmaster.
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4)All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt by John Taliaferro

  • best biography booksBook Summary:From secretary to Abraham Lincoln to secretary of state for Theodore Roosevelt, John Hay remained a major figure in American history for more than half a century. His private life was as glamorous and romantic as it was privileged. This first full-scale and best biography book since 1934 is a reflection of American history from the Civil War to the emergence of the nation as a world power as Woodrow Wilson is about to take office.If Henry James or Edith Wharton had written a novel describing the accomplished and glamorous life and times of John Hay, it would have been thought implausible—a novelist’s fancy. Nevertheless, John Taliaferro’s brilliant biography captures the extraordinary life of Hay, one of the most amazing figures in American history, and restores him to his rightful place.John Hay was both witness and author of many of the most significant chapters in American history— from the birth of the Republican Party, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, to the prelude to the First World War. Much of what we know about Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt comes to us through the observations Hay made while private secretary to one and secretary of state to the other. With All the Great Prizes, the first authoritative biography of Hay in eighty years, Taliaferro has turned the lens around, rendering a rich and fascinating portrait of this brilliant American and his many worlds.Hay’s friends are a who’s who of the era: Mark Twain, Horace Greeley, Henry Adams, Henry James, and virtually every president, sovereign, author, artist, power broker, and robber baron of the Gilded Age. As an ambassador and statesman, he guided many of the country’s major diplomatic initiatives at the turn of the twentieth century: the Open Door with China, the creation of the Panama Canal, the establishment of America as a world leader.Hay’s peers esteemed him as “a perfectly cut stone” and “the greatest prime minister this republic has ever known.” But for all his poise and polish, he had his secrets. His marriage to one of the wealthiest women in the country did not prevent him from pursuing the Madame X of Washington society, whose other secret suitor was Hay’s best friend, Henry Adams.With this superb work, Taliaferro brings us an epic tale.
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5)Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

  • best biography booksBook Summary:In this extraordinary volume, Jean Edward Smith presents a portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower that is as full, rich, and revealing as anything ever written about America’s thirty-fourth president. Here is Eisenhower the young dreamer, charting a course from Abilene, Kansas, to West Point and beyond. Drawing on a wealth of untapped primary sources, Smith provides new insight into Ike’s maddening apprenticeship under Douglas MacArthur. Then the whole panorama of World War II unfolds, with Eisenhower’s superlative generalship forging the Allied path to victory. Smith also gives us an intriguing examination of Ike’s finances, details his wartime affair with Kay Summersby, and reveals the inside story of the 1952 Republican convention that catapulted him to the White House.Smith’s chronicle of Eisenhower’s presidential years is as compelling as it is comprehensive. Derided by his detractors as a somnambulant caretaker, Eisenhower emerges in Smith’s perceptive retelling as both a canny politician and a skillful, decisive leader. He managed not only to keep the peace, but also to enhance America’s prestige in the Middle East and throughout the world.Unmatched in insight, the best biography book of Eisenhower in War and Peace at last gives us an Eisenhower for our time—and for the ages.
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6)Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram

  • best biography booksBook Summary:John Boyd may be the most remarkable unsung hero in all of American military history. Some remember him as the greatest U.S. fighter pilot ever — the man who, in simulated air-to-air combat, defeated every challenger in less than forty seconds. Some recall him as the father of our country’s most legendary fighter aircraft — the F-15 and F-16. Still others think of Boyd as the most influential military theorist since Sun Tzu. They know only half the story. Boyd, more than any other person, saved fighter aviation from the predations of the Strategic Air Command. His manual of fighter tactics changed the way every air force in the world flies and fights. He discovered a physical theory that forever altered the way fighter planes were designed. Later in life, he developed a theory of military strategy that has been adopted throughout the world and even applied to business models for maximizing efficiency. And in one of the most startling and unknown stories of modern military history, the Air Force fighter pilot taught the U.S. Marine Corps how to fight war on the ground. His ideas led to America’s swift and decisive victory in the Gulf War and foretold the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. On a personal level, Boyd rarely met a general he couldn’t offend. He was loud, abrasive, and profane. A man of daring, ferocious passion and intractable stubbornness, he was that most American of heroes — a rebel who cared not for his reputation or fortune but for his country. He was a true patriot, a man who made a career of challenging the shortsighted and self-serving Pentagon bureaucracy. America owes Boyd and his disciples — the six men known as the “Acolytes” — a great debt. Robert Coram finally brings to light the remarkable story of a man who polarized all who knew him, but who left a legacy that will influence the military — and all of America — for decades to come. ..
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7)Edison: A Biography by Matthew Josephson

  • best biography booksBook Summary:Regarded as the classic standard and best biography book on Thomas Edison. It is the only biography written in the last 40 years to be recommended by the official voice of the caretakers of the Edison Laboratory National Monument in New Jersey which houses all of Edison’s original records, sketches, notes, correspondence and memoranda. Depicts Edison as a pivotal figure in America’s economic and industrial revolution success and at the same time as a human being, including his exploitative and, at times, crude qualities.
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8)The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King by Rich Cohen

  • best biography booksBook Summary:The fascinating untold tale of Samuel Zemurray, the self-made banana mogul who went from penniless roadside banana peddler to kingmaker and capitalist revolutionaryWhen Samuel Zemurray arrived in America in 1891, he was tall, gangly, and penniless. When he died in the grandest house in New Orleans sixty-nine years later, he was among the richest, most powerful men in the world. Working his way up from a roadside fruit peddler to conquering the United Fruit Company, Zemurray became a symbol of the best and worst of the United States: proof that America is the land of opportunity, but also a classic example of the corporate pirate who treats foreign nations as the backdrop for his adventures.Zemurray lived one of the great untold stories of the last hundred years. Starting with nothing but a cart of freckled bananas, he built a sprawling empire of banana cowboys, mercenary soldiers, Honduran peasants, CIA agents, and American statesmen. From hustling on the docks of New Orleans to overthrowing Central American governments and precipitating the bloody thirty-six-year Guatemalan civil war, the Banana Man lived a monumental and sometimes dastardly life. Rich Cohen’s brilliant historical profile The Fish That Ate the Whale unveils Zemurray as a hidden power broker, driven by an indomitable will to succeed.
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9)Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office by Zack O’Malley Greenburg

  • best biography booksBook Summary:Some people think Jay-Z is just another rapper. Others see him as just another celebrity/mega-star. The reality is, no matter what you think Jay-Z is, he first and foremost a business. And as much as Martha Stewart or Oprah, he has turned himself into a lifestyle.You can wake up to the local radio station playing Jay-Z’s latest hit, spritz yourself with his 9IX cologne, slip on a pair of his Rocawear jeans, lace up your Reebok S. Carter sneakers, catch a Nets basketball game in the afternoon, and grab dinner at The Spotted Pig before heading to an evening performance of the Jay-Z-backed Broadway musical Fela! and a nightcap at his 40/40 Club. He’ll profit at every turn of your day.But despite Jay-Z’s success, there are still many Americans whose impressions of him are foggy, outdated, or downright incorrect. Surprisingly to many, he honed his business philosophy not at a fancy B school, but on the streets of Brooklyn, New York and beyond as a drug dealer in the 1980s.Empire State of Mind tells the story behind Jay-Z’s rise to the top as told by the people who lived it with him- from classmates at Brooklyn’s George Westinghouse High School; to the childhood friend who got him into the drug trade; to the DJ who convinced him to stop dealing and focus on music. This book explains just how Jay-Z propelled himself from the bleak streets of Brooklyn to the heights of the business world.
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10)No Hiding Place: An Autobiography & Asylum: An Alcoholic Takes the Cure by William Seabrook

  • Book Summary:This dramatic memoir recounts an eight-month stay at a Westchester mental hospital in the early 1930s. William Seabrook, a renowned journalist and explorer, voluntarily committed himself to an asylum for treatment of acute alcoholism. His sincere, self-critical appraisal of his experiences offers a highly interesting look at addiction and treatment in the days before Alcoholics Anonymous and other modern programs.
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Best Biography Movies

If you enjoyed the best biography books, why stop there? Take a look at our list of best biography movies and witness these marvelous films from the big screen.

1)The Death of Stalin

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine
Directed by: Armando Iannucci

Movie Summary:The internal political landscape of 1950’s Soviet Russia takes on darkly comic form in a new film by Emmy® Award winning and Oscar® nominated writer/director Armando Iannucci.

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2)Frost/Nixon

Starring: Toby Jones, Rebecca Hall, Oliver Platt
Directed by: Ron Howard

Movie Summary:From Academy Award-winning director, Ron Howard, comes the electrifying, untold story behind the unforgettable battle of wits that changed the face of politics forever.

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3)Control

Starring: Samantha Morton, Sam Riley, Alexandra Maria Lara
Directed by: Anton Corbijn

Movie Summary:Starring Samantha Morton (Minority Report) and Alexandra Maria Lara (Downfall) and featuring an incredible performance from newcomer Sam Riley (24 Hour Party People) as Ian Curtis, Control documents the relationship with both his wife and his girlfriend, his battle with epilepsy and the road to success with this band, Joy Division.

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4)A Royal Affair

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel

Movie Summary:The true story of an ordinary man who wins a queen’s heart and starts a revolution. Foreign language movie with subtitles

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5)The Impossible

Starring: Naomi Watts
Directed by: Lionsgate

Movie Summary:Nominated for an Academy Award (Best Actress, Naomi Watts) and based on the true story of one family’s survival, THE IMPOSSIBLE is an epic journey to the core of the human heart.

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Best Biography Books in Audio

Now that you’ve seen our list of the best biography books and movies, I’m sure you’ll be interested in trying out more of the best biography books in audio!

1)Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Book Summary:The author of the acclaimed best sellers Benjamin Franklin, Einstein, and Steve Jobs delivers an engrossing biography of Leonardo da Vinci, the world’s most creative genius.

Leonardo da Vinci created the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and engineering. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history’s most creative genius.

Now Walter Isaacson brings Leonardo da Vinci to life, showing why we have much to learn from him. His combination of science, art, technology, and imagination remains an enduring recipe for creativity. So, too, was his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His relentless curiosity should remind us of the importance of instilling, in both ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it – to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different. The best biography book of Leonardo da Vinci now in audio.

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2)Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

Book Summary:In the spirit of Steve Jobs and Moneyball, Elon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs – a real-life Tony Stark – and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new makers.

Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his Internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’ life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Vance uses Musk’s story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: Can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk – one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history – is a contemporary, visionary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists, including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-
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3)Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder

Book Summary:November 2009. An emaciated young lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, is led to a freezing isolation cell in a Moscow prison, handcuffed to a bed rail, and beaten to death by eight police officers. His crime? To testify against the Russian Interior Ministry officials who were involved in a conspiracy to steal $230 million of taxes paid to the state by one of the world’s most successful hedge funds. Magnitsky’s brutal killing has remained uninvestigated and unpunished to this day. His farcical posthumous show-trial brought Putin’s regime to a new low in the eyes of the international community.

Red Notice is a searing expose of the wholesale whitewash by Russian authorities of Magnitsky’s imprisonment and murder, slicing deep into the shadowy heart of the Kremlin to uncover its sordid truths. Bill Browder – the hedge fund manager who employed Magnitsky – takes us on his explosive journey from the heady world of finance in New York and London in the 1990s, through his battles with ruthless oligarchs in the turbulent landscape of post-Soviet Union Moscow, to his expulsion from Russia on Putin’s orders. Browder’s graphic portrait of the Russian government as a criminal enterprise wielding all the power of a sovereign state illuminates his personal transformation from financier to human rights activist, campaigning for justice for his late lawyer and friend.

With fraud, bribery, corruption, and torture exposed at every turn, Red Notice is a shocking but true political roller-coaster that plays out in the highest echelons of Western power.
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4)Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon by Larry Tye

Book Summary:From the New York Times best-selling author of Satchel comes an in-depth, vibrant, and measured biography of the most complex and controversial member of the Kennedy family.

History remembers Robert F. Kennedy as a racial healer, a tribune for the poor, and the last progressive knight of a bygone era of American politics. But Kennedy’s enshrinement in the liberal pantheon was actually the final stage of a journey that had its beginnings in the conservative 1950s. In Bobby Kennedy, Larry Tye peels away layers of myth and misconception to paint a complete portrait of this singularly fascinating figure.

To capture the full arc of his subject’s life, Tye drew on unpublished memoirs, unreleased government files, and 58 boxes of papers that had been under lock and key for the past 40 years. He conducted hundreds of interviews with RFK intimates – including Bobby’s widow, Ethel; his sister, Jean; and his aide, John Siegenthaler – many of whom have never spoken to another biographer. Tye’s determination to sift through the tangle of often contradictory opinions means that Bobby Kennedy will stand as the definitive one-volume biography of a man much beloved – but just as often misunderstood.

Bobby Kennedy’s transformation from cold warrior to fiery liberal is a profoundly moving personal story that also offers a lens onto two of the most chaotic and confounding decades of 20th-century American history. The first half of RFK’s career underlines what the country was like in the era of Eisenhower while his last years as a champion of the underclass reflect the seismic shifts wrought by the 1960s. Nurtured on the rightist orthodoxies of his dynasty-building father, Bobby Kennedy began his public life as counsel to the red-baiting senator Joseph McCarthy. He ended it with a noble campaign to unite working-class whites with poor blacks and Latinos in an electoral coalition that seemed poised to redraw the face of presidential politics. Along the way he turned up at the center of every event that mattered, from the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis to race riots and Vietnam.

Bare-knuckle operative, cynical White House insider, romantic visionary – Bobby Kennedy was all of these things at one time or another, and each of these aspects of his personality emerges in this powerful and perceptive new biography.
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5)Being Nixon: A Man Divided by Evan Thomas

Book Summary:What was it really like to be Richard Nixon? Evan Thomas tackles this fascinating question by peeling back the layers of a man driven by a poignant mix of optimism and fear. The result is both insightful history and an astonishingly compelling psychological portrait of an anxious introvert who struggled to be a transformative statesman.
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Conclusion

What do you think about our list of best biography books? If you have another genre that you prefer to read we have probably compiled a list of our favorites for that genre too. So if you are looking for something other than the best biography books you can find other genres here.

 

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