Best Autobiographies Books

1. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

I am an avid reader and this book has completely changed the perspective of my life. Whosoever has read this book will agree with me that it has come into our lives with some special purpose. Different people will get different learning from this book, but what I liked most about this book is:

  • You don’t need to go to Himalayas to follow the spiritual path — When Paramahansa Yogananda wanted to go to Himalayas and Sri Yukteswar explained him that it is not necessary to go to Himalayas by saying “Many hillmen live in Himalayas, yet possesses no God-perception. Wisdom is better sought from a man of realization than from an inert mountain”.
  • You can be a family man and still attain enlightenment — When Lahiri Mahasaya wanted to stay with Babaji, he asked him to continue his family life and be an example for everyone who are encumbered by family ties and heavy worldly duties, that highest yogic attainments are not barred to the family man.
  • Materialism limits us and our spiritual journey — As quoted by Paramahansa Yogananda’s father “Why be elated by material profit? The one who pursues a goal of even-mindedness is neither jubilant with gain nor depressed by loss. He knows that man arrives penniless in this world, and departs without a single rupee”.
  • Sole purpose of life is to know God — Paramahansa Yogananda has beautifully explained the purpose in this book as “Many people may doubt that finding God is the purpose of life; but everyone can accept the idea that the purpose of life is to find happiness. I say that God is Happiness. He is Bliss. He is Love. He is Joy that will never go away from your soul. So why shouldn’t you try to acquire that Happiness? No one else can give it to you. You must continuously cultivate it yourself”.

2. Man’s search for meaning — victor frankl

“It is what we make of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one man from another.”

In Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl advocated that while we are unable to avoid sufferings, we do have the freedom on how we deal with it. He developed a technique called Logotherapy, which will assist us to deal unpleasant times.

“Some books you read. Some books you enjoy. But some books just swallow you up, your heart and soul”.

3. The Last Lecture — Randy Pausch.

The book belongs to non-fiction genre. It is based on the life of a computer scientist who is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and how he lives the last days of his life. It’s a simple book with simple messages about how to live your life and achieve your childhood dreams.

He narrates every possible instance from his life while giving his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon university.

The book is a reader’s treat and through it we also get to know the technological advancements of US in the decade of 90’s.

4. Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh

  • This book provides a comprehensive story of Gautama Buddha’s life from his birth to death. Buddha is shown as human as possible.
  • It touches upon almost every important teachings taught by Buddha.
  • The writing and language used in book is not monotonous. you will feel as if you are reading some interesting novel.
  • One point should be noted though, this book uses mixed Theravada and Mahayana concepts at many places. This may create some confusion if you compare sayings of Buddha from this book to the suttas from pali canon.

5. Learning How to Fly: Life Lessons for the Youth

‘Learning How to Fly- Life lessons for the youth’ is a compilation of talks delivered by the great man himself at various occasions. He asks the youth to be creative and innovative. His knowledge equation -Knowledge=Creativity +Righteousness +Courage- is a cosmopolitan observation. I find it puerile reviewing the Pointe he put forth and citing the merits and demrits (which doesn’t exist)

6. Dreams From My Father

“All men live in the shadow of their fathers — the more distant the father, the deeper the shadow. Barack Obama describes his confrontation with this shadow in his provocative autobiography, Dreams From My Father, and he also persuasively describes the phenomenon of belonging to two different worlds, and thus belonging to neither.

Now in his mid-30’s, Mr. Obama is the son of a white American mother and a black Kenyan father who met and married as students at the University of Hawaii. His father returned to Kenya when Mr. Obama was still young. Mr. Obama charts his journey through adolescence into manhood with the familiar type of anecdotes, but adds to them a bewildering combination of races, relatives and homelands, from Hawaii to Indonesia to Africa to Chicago.

“His father’s sudden death after the two have re-established contact prevents Mr. Obama from confronting anything but the man’s legacy. He travels to Kenya, where he and his newly found siblings visit their father’s Luo tribal lands.

Mr. Obama anticipates this homecoming optimistically, equating it with scenes in Alex Haley’s popular book Roots. But on his arrival the myth of Africa and the folkloric tales of his father are quickly replaced by a more sober reality. The scenes describing Mr. Obama’s bewilderment at seeing a land he has known only through stories, and at learning of his father’s drinking habits, his arrogance and his decline from successful academic to object of pity, are finely written. Mr. Obama’s final judgment on his father, however, had come much earlier. ‘I realized how even in his absence his strong image had given me some bulwark with which to grow up, an image to live up to or disappoint.’ What his African sojourn teaches Mr. Obama is that he cannot wait for such a judgment to be passed upon himself, because the only man who can deliver it is dead.

“Whether Mr. Obama has at last made peace with himself remains unclear, but he has at least stepped out of the paternal shadow. He does this, as all sons must, by achieving and surpassing the lofty goals set for him by the father: ‘You are an Obama. You should be the best.’

At a young age and without much experience as a writer, Barack Obama has bravely tackled the complexities of his remarkable upbringing. But what would he have us learn? That people of mixed backgrounds must choose only one culture in which to make a spiritual home? That it is not possible to be both black and white, Old World and New? If this is indeed true, as Mr. Obama tells it, then the idea of America taking pride in itself as a nation derived of many different races seems strangely mocked. America will always be part of the Old World and part of the New, part dream and part reality — that truth is integral to the greatness and the possibility from which Mr. Obama has so richly profited.”

7. The diary of young girl: ANNE FRANK

“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but that doesn’t stop you from having your own opinion.”

This book was actually written as a diary while World War 2 was going on. Anne Frank was a Jew, and this book portrays the struggle she and her family had to face for being Jewish.

During that horrific time, the Germans — led by Hitler, were constantly targeting and assassinating the Jewish people. Realizing it as a threat, Anne’s family moved away from their home to live at a hideout inside her father’s office. It provided some protection as no one except a few knew about its existence. However, even there it wasn’t completely safe. They couldn’t make any sound or open curtains throughout the day as it carried the risk of being caught.

The Franks had to fit in one more family with them in that cramped place. They rarely got together though — constant quarreling and arguments between the families, which intoxicated their relationships.

The other family residing with the Franks had a boy child who was approximately Anne’s age — the two got along quite well. Anne mentioned that it was practically the only good thing happening for her at that time.

“You can be lonely even when you are loved by many people since you are still not anybody’s one and only.”

8. The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi.

An immortal book and a legacy for ages to come. This book is an autobiography of Gandhi.

It is a detailed account of Gandhi’s consisting of Gandhi’s self penned essays (105 essays in all) on his experiments and covers all aspects of the Mahatma’s spiritual life.

This Autobiography is divided in five parts starting from his childhood days, his experience in South Africa where he experimented with the powerful weapon of Satyagraha and his transformation from Mohan to Mahatma, his various experiments on fundamental principles of Truth and God, till the year 1921, after which his life was so public that he felt there was hardly anything to write about.

Gandhi’s Non-violent struggle in South Africa and India had already brought him to such a level of notoriety, adulation and controversy that when asked to write an autobiography mid way through his career, he took it as an opportunity to explain himself.

Accepting his status as a great innovator in the struggle against racism, violence and colonialism, Gandhi felt that his ideas needed deeper understanding. Gandhi explains that he was after truth rooted in devotion to God and attributed the turning point, success and challenges in his life to the will of God.

Gandhi says that his attempt to get closer to this divine power led him seek purity through simple living, dietary practices (he called himself a fruitarian), celibacy and ahimsa- a life without violence. It is in this sense that he calls his book “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”, offering it also as a reference for those who would follow his footsteps.

Gandhi’s Autobiography is one of the best sellers and is translated in nearly all languages of the world. Perhaps never before on so grand scale has any man succeeded in shaping the course of history while using the weapon of Peace — Ahimsa (Non-violence).

To many it will have the value of a new Bible or a new Gita; for here are words that have come out from the depth of truth, here is tireless striving that stretches its arms towards perfection. “Autobiography” in a way is a “confession of Gandhi’s faith, a very basic document for the study of his thought”

9. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

MicroSummary: “Long Walk to Freedom” is the 1994 autobiography of Nelson Mandela, detailing his ascent from an anti-apartheid activist and Robben Island-jailed terrorist, to ANC leader and a cultural icon. The only memoir published during Mandela’s life, the book is a testament to the greatness of the first black president of South Africa.

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