14 Best Biographies Books [Updated 2021]
Below is the list of the top 14 best biographies books to read in 2021 –
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks ( Get this book )
- Alexander Hamilton ( Get this book )
- Into the Wild ( Get this book )
- Alan Turing: The Enigma ( Get this book )
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike ( Get this book )
- Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future ( Get this book )
- The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon ( Get this book )
- How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life ( Get this book )
- Sam Walton: Made in America ( Get this book )
- Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
- Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built ( Get this book )
- Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s ( Get this book )
- Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life without Losing Its Soul ( Get this book )
- Confessions of an Advertising Man ( Get this book )
Let us discuss each of the biographies books in detail along with its key takeaways and reviews.
#1 – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot
About the book
This biography tells the story of a lady who by sheer chance became one of the most important women in the history of medical science while she and her entire family were totally unaware of it.
This book is about Henrietta Lacks who is the source of the immortal cell line HeLa, which was taken from her cervical cancer cells after her death in 1951 without her or her family’s knowledge. HeLa cells have been instrumental in the development of polio vaccine, cancer treatment, virology and helped in making advances in the field of cloning, vitro fertilization, and gene mapping. However, nobody had any idea about the person behind all these because she was never acknowledged for her contribution (that too without her consent). Through this book, the author has presented the real face of “Hela” to the world and also revealed how science can easily do wrong to the poor. The author has placed scientific research, patient privacy, and racism in the historical context.
- It is a well-researched and crisply written complex saga of medical research, ethics, and racism in the US.
- It covers the life story of Henrietta Lack as well as the associated bioscience inventions that took place after her death.
- It is recommended for all, whether or not you belong to the field of medical science.
#2 – Alexander Hamilton
by Ron Chernow
About the book
This biography of Alexander Hamilton tells the fascinating story of a brilliant and charismatic man who beat the odds to shape and inspire the destiny of a newly born nation – America.
This book lucidly illustrates the splendid life of an enlightened federalist and one of the least appreciated founding fathers of America – Alexander Hamilton. The author has presented a vivid and captivating portrait of one of the greatest heroes of American history and at the same time, he has coherently explained the genesis of the American Republic. He is of the opinion that the credit for America that we see today doesn’t go to Jefferson’s democratic view but to Hamilton’s federalistic vision. Also, the author expressed his irreverence towards Jefferson and presented a critical review of his character, much to the surprise of many Americans. Overall, the book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the early years of the American Republic.
- It comprehensively covers every aspect of Alexander Hamilton’s life – his astounding achievements, controversies, and workaholism.
- In the book, Hamilton has been portrayed as the protagonist who overcame the odds to lay the foundation of America that we know today.
- It is another wonderfully researched book boosted by lucid writing.
#3 – Into the Wild
by Jon Krakauer
About the book
This book tells the story of a young man, named Christopher Johnson McCandless, who abandoned his family and belongings to hitchhike to Alaska into the wilds of Mt. McKinley.
The book tells the tragic story of a young man who was unhappy with most things around him, such as materialism and hunger in the world. He was also not very happy with his family and hence decided to cut off ties to his family to hitchhike and head into the wilderness of Alaska. Sadly, four months later in August 1992, this young man in his early 20s was found dead, probably from starvation. Although it is an unfortunate event, the author has managed to build a fascinating narration out of it by presenting all the facts without being judgmental in his tone. The narration is so engaging that even though you know about the inevitable end from the very start of the book, you will still be hooked until the last page. He has beautifully painted the complex personality of McCandless based on thorough research of the interviews, journal entries, and letters.
- The author has simply presented all the facts in a captivating way, but it is up to the reader to interpret McCandless’s character.
- It teaches you the need for smart balancing between isolation and indulgence
#4 – Alan Turing: The Enigma
by Andrew Hodges
About the book
This biography is about Alan Turing, a great English mathematician, who pioneered the design of the modern-day electronic computer. He made history by breaking the German U-boat Enigma cipher during World War II (WW2).
The book deals with Alan Turing’s personal life in an extremely interesting way. The author has created a captivating and passionate portrayal of the genius of the great man who wanted to tackle the large questions. As per the author, despite being impractical himself, Turing’s work always had some practical application. Further, it is undoubtedly a great book, but you should be prepared for some headache due to the sheer volume of mathematical concepts discussed exhaustively in it. A significant portion of the book is dedicated to covering the details of the mathematics projects that Turing was part of at different stages of his life. Overall, the book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in knowing this genius.
- It is an extremely well-written and meticulously researched book, which is slightly heavy of the mathematics part given that it is a biography about a genius mathematician.
- If you don’t have a mathematics or computer science background, then you might find to read through the book owing to the large volume of mathematical concepts discussed in the book.
#5 – Shoe Dog
A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
by Phil Knight
This biography book is a must-read if you want to know how Nike has become what it is now.
Success isn’t what it looks like – gorgeous on the surface. Success is chaotic, messy, perilous, and comes after a lot of struggles, hard work, heartbreak, and sacrifice. If you want to know what success is, pick this biography. You may have read a lot of many entrepreneurial theory books.
But this biography book is full of innate wisdom and hard-earned lessons. Every entrepreneur must read this book and learn how to take the leap. From constant struggle to finance a company to the positives and negatives of going public, from business relationships to turning around the entire management, from innovation to beat the odds, you will learn havoc in this mammoth 400-page book.
- Preachers are everywhere. This biography book is not about preaching. It’s coming from the mouth of someone who had been there, who had built a fortune, and who had struggled hard to make his dreams a reality.
- For both left-brainers and right-brainers, this book would be invaluable; you will find both logic of making a business work and a story of an entrepreneur in this book.
#6 – Elon Musk
How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future
by Ashlee Vance
If you would like to experience two constant themes – “nothing is impossible” and “change the world”, read this book.
This edition will help you peep into the brain of the most celebrated and driven entrepreneur of the world today. It’s not only a biography; it’s a book that teaches you how to think like Musk, how to dream like him, and how to set targets that take you to a different level altogether. This biography book is very well written and will give you an account of Elon Musk in minute details.
How he started his first start-ups, Zip2, X.Com, and how he built his empire using his vision and insane work-ethic will grab your attention. This is the only book where Elon Musk got involved in. And the author has interviewed over 300 people to come up with a detailed account of Elon Musk’s life and entrepreneurship.
- This book is very well written. You will not feel that you’re reading 400 pages of complex materials.
- If you’re curious about Elon Musk, this is the only book you should read.
- You will learn how Elon changed the world with his insatiable urge to solve the world’s problems.
#7 – The Everything Store
Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
by Brad Stone
Amazon has taken over the world of e-commerce. To know how read this edition.
This is a great account of how Amazon has become the best bet on the internet. The only glitch of this biography book is that Jeff Bezos wasn’t involved in this book. The entire biography book is written on secondary data, and as a result, there are few errors (unforeseeable to the general public). Other than these few errors, this book is one to read, reread, and to apply the wisdom.
This book has won the prestigious “Winner of the 2013 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award”. If you ever want to start a business or want to grow an already running business, this book will be your aid. You will learn what to do, what not to do during horrid times in business.
- If you’re ever wondering how Amazon manages to become so big, this biography book is a must-read.
- From the old days when Amazon just got started to now, you will know how Jeff Bezos has become the fearless leader of the century. As a beginning entrepreneur, Jeff Bezos’s story will inspire you to become a world-class leader.
#8 – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
Kind of the Story of My Life
by Scott Adams
This is the wittiest memoir you will ever read. After reading this book, you will never be the same again.
This is the book that entertains you, educates you, and challenges your thinking like an entrepreneur/individual. For example, he talked about having a system instead of setting goals. The system helps you regulate your activities daily; whereas, goals are something future-oriented (and in most cases, goal setting is worthless for that reason).
And this biography book will also teach you to be pragmatic. Instead of going after “everything you can become,” we should follow our own inherent capacity and work on them to become something worthwhile. Other than these, you will also learn about how to create a product that can be scaled instead of putting in your time on sale, how to understand patterns, how to manage luck, what core skills to build, and so on and so forth.
- This book is a light read, but don’t take its wisdom lightly. If you apply its wisdom, you may create a great life (Scott Adams did).
- Failures are inevitable if you want to move up in life. You can’t get to success without stumbling on to something.
- The best lesson is, of course, the “system approach” over the “goal approach.”
#9 – Sam Walton: Made in America
by Sam Walton & John Huey
Every entrepreneur, small, big, new, old should read this biography book.
If you are in business, especially in retail, grab this biography book. In this, you will learn how Wal-Mart, as an underdog, had made its mark. There are four things that are worth considering –
- You will get to learn the whole life of an entrepreneur who has started pretty small and won big. If you can imbibe the lessons, you can do the same.
- Most entrepreneurs don’t want to compete on price. Sam Walton built a business just by concentrating on a low price model.
- Every MBA curriculum should have this biography book. It’s a real piece of advice from someone who had seen it all and made it at the end.
- To Sam Walton, his people were everything. Thus, he paid extremely high wages, and the employees took care of the customers.
- If you want to the distilled version of entrepreneurship in a single volume and under 368 pages, this is a must-read for you.
- This book is a “re-issue” edition. That means you will get to hear directly from Sam Walton.
- “Customers are king,” and if you value your customers first, you can’t help but win big.
#10 – Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
by Walter Isaacson
This is a complete account of Steve Jobs’ life, entrepreneurship, and how he made a dent in this world.
This biography book is an assimilation of over 40 interviews with Steve Jobs and 100+ interviews with family members, near and dear ones, friends, colleagues, adversaries, and more. So everything that’s written is distilled and written on the ground of first-hand facts and not based on fiction. Through this biography book, you will be able to see a man like himself, a selfish, mean, and sometimes a jerk. But he had some great qualities which had made him the man for which he has been revered all over the world.
One of the best qualities of Steve Jobs was the ability to lead forward. Criticism never bothered him and never quivered him in implementing his vision for the companies he built. For that, he could bend the reality as per his vision and had become the most prominent entrepreneur of this century.
- The writing of the book is the best takeaway. You will be able to vividly experience every scene, every story, and every minute detail of Steve Jobs’ life.
- Every man has virtues and vices. The author didn’t hide the vices to promote the virtues, which made this work believable.
- From entrepreneurship to life, Steve Jobs’s account will make you emotional and, at the same time, pumped up to create your own utopia and your own dent in the world.
#11 – Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built
by Duncan Clark
Can an English teacher build a multi-million dollar business? If it seems like a fairy tale, grab this book to know what’s possible.
Alibaba isn’t a small company. It has been competing with the world’s largest companies, like Wal-Mart and Amazon. This book will teach you the possibility of what one can do. From very humble beginnings, Jack Ma became an English teacher. And then he built Alibaba. After a decade and a half, it’s now throbbing like a giant and has changed the world’s economy to a large extent.
The author met Jack Ma in 1999 in a small apartment where this future giant was built. The author is not only an early advisor of Alibaba, but he has also witnessed Alibaba’s progress and Jack Ma’s leadership. From exclusive interview materials and personal experience, this biography book is written. This biography book not only includes Jack Ma’s account in building Alibaba, but it also paints a true picture of the socio-political situations of China at that time.
- Jack Ma’s life and leadership lessons are inspiring. The price of the book will suffice just for this only.
- The book is a short read, just over 300 pages, which helps you get an account of Alibaba within a few hours of reading.
- If you ever thought that the Chinese economy revolves around emulation, this book will open your eyes.
#12 – Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s
by Ray Kroc
If you start a business at the ripe age of 52, can you make it successful during your life? This book will make you believe that it’s possible.
It should be read for two particular reasons. Firstly, it will give you an insider look into the food chain McDonald. Secondly, this book is an autobiography, which means that we would be able to experience a great story on the American dream. It is important to read because it will give you the false rumours you would hear about McDonald’s. And it is also a person’s account on what’s possible if you have a great strategy and you know where to build a franchisee.
Ray Kroc’s business became successful because of one particular reason – location. Location was McDonald’s competitive advantage, and Ray Kroc agreed that his business is not a food-chain business, but is a business of the real estate. Moreover, when Ray started McDonald’s, he was 52 years old, he had diabetes, he suffered from gallbladder surgery, and he also had rheumatoid arthritis. His story is not only inspirational but also reminds us of what’s possible when you have a burning desire to achieve success.
- Grinding is winning. If you have it in you, you will do it. This book will show you how. That’s why this biography book is a must-read for every entrepreneur.
- In this story, you would not only learn about how to go from rags to riches; you will also learn how to remain genuine in your desire to help people and actually help them grow. Ray Kroc helped his franchisees win. Irrespective of whatever money they were making, Ray was always ready to provide assistance to his franchisee.
- It will teach you that you can start late, with numerous diseases and with no backup, and still win big if you have the willingness and desire to succeed. Success is, after all, a mindset.
#13 – Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life without Losing Its Soul
by Howard Schultz
This is a story of how a CEO came back to the company restored its horrid financial health during the toughest time of American history.
If you have ever started a company and have run your business for a few years, you would know keeping it going is tougher than getting started in the first place. This story revolves around the comeback of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz during 2008 when the company was in great financial danger. It was not easy to micro-manage every customer’s experience to ensure that the customers are getting the greatest service, and every customer is satisfied when they visit Starbucks.
Moreover, when every personal finance expert recommends skipping $4 latte, the actual loss was of Starbucks. Howard Schultz saw that the vision of his successor would not help the company in the long run, so he came back and changed the whole culture of the company. But every company wouldn’t be so fortunate to do that. This book will show you how to run a company when your successor fails to run the company well.
- Every entrepreneur who has already started a business must read this biography book to understand and implement a turn-around strategy for their companies.
- Many entrepreneurs run on the risk of growing too fast. This book will show you that “growth for the growth’s sake is a losing proposition.”
- If you don’t know how to lead your employees, they won’t be able to take care of your customers. After reading this biography book, you will learn to lead well and to lead forward.
#14 – Confessions of an Advertising Man
by David Ogilvy and Sir Alan Parker
If you are in advertising industry or want to go in, this biography book is for you.
This top biographies book is coming from a man who has been called “the father of advertising.” You would find a lot of information about the advertising world and on the man himself. Ogilvy has broken down all the chapters in such a way that you would get a series of lists on advertising on various sub-topics.
You will also learn about how a man has become the father of advertising, the stories of his careers, how one should manage an advertising agency, and so on and so forth. This biography book was originally written in 1963, and Ogilvy updated it in 1988 with an additional chapter, “The Story Behind This Book,” where he mentioned that he wrote this book to attract new clients to his advertising agency – we must say that the man was honest.
- Before you ever market/advertise your business and products/services, this book should be read first. It will prevent you from making so many mistakes (one of which is not valuing copywriting as much as your products/services).
- The book is short and written in easy-to-understand language. This top biographies book will teach you how to write copy its truest sense.
- This book is an autobiography of a man who has risen from being an employee in an advertising company to become “the father of advertisement.”
Choose which one among these 14 you like most and grab it, read it, and implement the wisdom inherent within. Books are the only friends that always leave you better than you were before reading them.
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