100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime

LifeWe're a quixotic lot, we Amazon Books editors. I mean, we knew it was an impossible task to boil down literature to 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime, but we gave it a shot. Then we did it again with Children's Books and Mysteries & Thrillers. We knew that all of these efforts would, by our own restrictions, omit books that deserve to make the cut, and that not everyone will agree with our selections. That's OK: talking about books is fun, and we enjoy the debate. But it's enough to leave you feeling like the guy at the right of this page*.

Our latest list takes a stab at nonfiction: 100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime. Honestly and obviously, it would take many lifetimes to read even a small fraction of the best life stories ever written. But after the dust settled, we found ourselves with a hundred stories of our greatest artists, seekers, and iconic leaders, as well as a host of other iconoclasts, athletes, and adventurers. Many of these read like great novels; some technically are, their authors shrouding their experiences within the cloak of fiction (but we all know better). Whether you're coming to these books for the first time or revisiting them, we hope you'll find at least a single lifetime's worth of inspiration and discovery.

By the numbers (or some numbers, anyway):

  • One is an "autobiography" written by someone other than its subject. Guess which.
  • Two are graphic novels
  • Three subjects are non-human: a horse, a machine, and a bit of math
  • Four books are about sports or athletes, if you count the one about the horse
  • Five Presidents of the United States are represented

Because we're not completely insane, these books are presented in alphabetical order by titles, not ranked. Tell us what we left out: Channel your outrage and indignation by voting for your own favorites over at Goodreads. We'll post the results after two weeks.

* Wouldn't it be funny if that were Mick Jagger's hand?

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