Ingrid Steeger, actress

Do you like autobiographies?

March 23, 2017
  • Yes
  • No

Ah, autobiographies! Those book-length selfies that people either absolutely cherish or decidedly disdain. This article dives deep into the polarized views on autobiographies, focusing on why people in the USA might answer with a resounding “Yes” or a dismissive “No” to the question: Do you like autobiographies?

Before you rush to the comment section to voice your unfiltered opinions, let’s explore both sides of the coin, shall we?

The “YES” Camp: A Window into Minds and Lives

Intellectual Stimulation

Autobiographies often serve as a source of inspiration, imparting life lessons without setting foot in a classroom or lecture hall. The philosopher Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Autobiographies allow readers to examine not just one but often multiple lives in detail.

Historical Perspective

For the history buffs out there, autobiographies provide a unique firsthand account of historical events. Remember reading Anne Frank’s Diary in school? That wasn’t just a book; it was a window into World War II from a young girl’s perspective.

Fan Base

Think about the joy of being a die-hard fan of someone and then discovering they have an autobiography. It’s like Christmas came early, minus the ugly sweater your Aunt Edna knits every year. Whether it’s a sports icon, a movie star, or a social activist, autobiographies allow unprecedented access to the lives of people we admire.

“Autobiography is the most fascinating of all writing, as all life worth the living is romance, and an autobiography is a life, and necessarily must be a romance.”

– Mark Twain

Fun Facts and Statistics

  • As per the Pew Research Center, nearly 76% of U.S. adults have read at least one book in any format in the past year, and autobiographies make up a sizable chunk of non-fiction sales.
  • Did you know Benjamin Franklin wrote one of the first widely-read autobiographies in America? Talk about a founding father of the genre!

The “NO” Camp: Just Another Ego Trip?


Critics argue that autobiographies often lack originality. How many rags-to-riches or overcoming-adversity stories can one read before it all starts to blend into a vanilla smoothie of life lessons?

Truth Stretching

In an autobiography, the author controls the narrative, often casting themselves as the hero, the victim, or the misunderstood genius. Mark Twain once commented, “Autobiography is a book a person writes about himself, and it is usually full of all sorts of bragging and humbug.”

Time Commitment

In an era of tweets and text messages, some people find it hard to commit to a 400-page tome about someone’s life. Only some have the time to wade through chapters dedicated to someone’s childhood love for tree climbing or their passionate affair with linguini.

“Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is usually Judas who writes the biography.”

Oscar Wilde

Fun Facts and Statistics

  • A study published in the journal “Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts” suggests that reading fiction increases empathy more than non-fiction does. Sorry, autobiographies!
  • Believe it or not, the term “autobiography” was first used by William Taylor in 1797 in the English periodical ‘The Monthly Review.’

Some popular autobiographies

  • “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank
    Though not American, this book has had a significant impact globally and is often taught in American schools as a firsthand account of life during the Holocaust.
  • “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
    This is the first in a seven-volume series, focusing on Angelou’s childhood, including her experiences with racism and trauma.
  • “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert
    A memoir of self-discovery, Gilbert’s book became a bestseller and was adapted into a film starring Julia Roberts.
  • “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls
    This memoir describes Walls’ nomadic childhood with her dysfunctional family and her eventual escape to New York City.
    “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi
    Written by a neurosurgeon diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, this book explores themes of life, death, and what makes life worth living.

To Read or Not To Read: That Is The Question

Like any genre, autobiographies come with their own sets of joys and pitfalls. While they offer a rich insight into another person’s world, they can also be tedious and self-serving. It’s like being on a date; you’re either captivated by every word, or you’re mentally swiping left, wondering when your Uber will arrive.

So, do you like autobiographies? Whatever your answer, you’re not alone. A poll by Gallup showed that Americans are pretty evenly split when it comes to this genre. According to the survey, 45% said they enjoy reading autobiographies, while 42% said they do not, and the rest were too busy taking selfies to answer.


The world of autobiographies is as varied as those who write them and the audiences they captivate or repel. Whether you’re reaching for the latest memoir from a political figure or dodging your friend’s recommendation of a self-help guru’s life story, remember that each side has its merits and drawbacks.

So the next time someone asks, “Do you like autobiographies?” perhaps the real question should be, “Why or why not?” Ultimately, whether you’re an autobiography fan or a skeptic, what matters most is what you’re looking to get out of the book you pick up next.

Happy reading, America!

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