Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir Books

PDF Version of Book Recommendations

Autobiography: An account of a person’s life written by the person.

Title Author

Description

I Am Malala

 

352 Pages

Malala Yousafzai When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.
Breaking Through

 

208 Pages

Francisco Jimenez At the age of fourteen, Francisco Jiménez, together with his older brother Roberto and his mother, are caught by la migra. Forced to leave their home in California, the entire family travels all night for twenty hours by bus, arriving at the U.S. and Mexican border in Nogales, Arizona. In the months and years that follow during the late 1950s-early 1960s, Francisco, his mother and father, and his seven brothers and sister not only struggle to keep their family together, but also face crushing poverty, long hours of labor, and blatant prejudice. Without bitterness or sentimentality, Francisco Jiménez finishes telling the story of his youth.
Diary of a Young Girl

 

283 Pages

Anne Frank A young girl’s journal records her family’s struggles during two years of hiding from the Nazis in war-torn Holland.
Long Walk to Freedom

 

558 Pages

Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s antiapartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule
Into Thin Air

 

378 Pages

John Krakauer Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer’s book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end.

 Biography: An account of a person’s life written by someone else.

Title

Author

Description

Thomas Jefferson: Man on a Mountain

 

274 Pages

Natalie Bober Natalie Bober’s critically acclaimed biography of Thomas Jefferson brings a human dimension to this president. This comprehensive biography includes a wealth of helpful supplemental material.
To Life

 

240 Pages

Ruth Sender When Russian soldiers liberate Grafenort, the Nazi labor camp where she is a prisoner, nineteen-year-old Riva discovers that liberation doesn’t mean the end of her hardship and suffering. Strengthened by her mother’s credo, as long as there is life, there is hope, and by the promise of a new love and a new life, Riva endures the long years of waiting for real freedom and a real home. Picking up where her acclaimed memoir The Cage leaves off, Ruth Minsky Sender has written another inspirational document of the power of hope and love over unspeakable cruelty.
Amelia Earhart: Flying Solo

 

208 Pages

John Burke Earhart grew up at a time when many believed that men alone had the right to experience the thrill of adventure—but, from the moment she saw her first airplane, she knew it was her destiny to fly. She made record-setting flights across America, the oceans, and, ultimately, around the world, earning more fame and admiration with every boundary she broke. Even today, her tragic and mysterious disappearance over the Pacific remains one of the great unsolved mysteries. This fascinating biography captures Amelia Earhart’s grit and unwavering determination to chart her own path.
Harper Lee: Up Close

 

236 Pages

Kerry Madden Nelle Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 and became an instant bestseller. Two years later it was an Academy Award– winning film. Today, it remains standard—and beloved—reading in English classes. But Lee never wanted “the book” to define who she was, which explains her aversion to any kind of publicity. Kerry Madden conducted extensive research for this Up Close biography, which reveals Lee to be a down-to-earth Southern woman who enjoys baseball games and playing golf.
The Longitude Prize

 

208 Pages

Joan Dash In a handsome book with wonderfully light illustrations, Dash tells the complex story of an invention by an equally complex man, clockmaker John Harrison, who invented the device to measure longitude.

 

Escape: The Story of the Great Houdini

 

240 Pages

Sid Fleishman Harry Houdini remains the gold standard of illusionists. Why is this Midwestern boy so well-remembered today? Discover his secrets here.
The Greatest: Muhammad Ali

 

172 Pages

Walter Dean Myers An introduction to Ali’s life from his childhood to the present day, focusing on his career and the controversies surrounding him. Both his talent in the boxing ring and his showmanship earned him international fame, while his refusal to accept the stereotypical role of a black athletic star in the 1960s and his membership in the Nation of Islam brought him notoriety. Myers interweaves fight sequences with the boxer’s life story and the political events and issues of the day. Myers’s writing flows while describing the boxing action and the legend’s larger-than-life story.-Michael McCullough, Byron-Bergen Middle School, Bergen, NY

Memoir: A memoir is a special kind of autobiography. A memoir is different from an autobiography because it usually focuses on ONE portion of an author’s life.

Title Author

Description

My Life in Dog Years

 

154 Pages

Gary Paulsen Gary Paulsen has owned dozens of unforgettable and amazing dogs. In each chapter he tells of one special dog, among them Cookie, the sled dog who saved his life; Snowball, the puppy he owned as a boy in the Philippines; Ike, his mysterious hunting companion; Dirk, the grim protector; and his true friend Josh, a brilliant border collie.
Boy

 

176 Pages

Roald Dahl In Boy, Roald Dahl tells the story of his adventures and misadventures as a child: his involvement in the Great Mouse Plot of 1924; his first automobile ride, in which he nearly lost his nose; his many canings by Headmasters; and his vacations at home in Wales with his big family.  From his years as a prankster at boarding school to his envious position as a chocolate tester for Cadbury’s, Roald Dahl’s boyhood was as full of excitement and the unexpected as are his world-famous, best-selling books.
127 Hours

 

354 Pages

Aron Ralston Hiking into the remote Utah canyonlands, Aron Ralston felt perfectly at home in the beauty of the natural world. Then, at 2:41 P.M., eight miles from his truck, in a deep and narrow slot canyon, an eight-hundred-pound boulder tumbled loose, pinning Aron’s right hand and wrist against the canyon wall. Through six days with scant water, food, or warm clothing, and the terrible knowledge that no one knew where he was, Aron eliminated his escape option one by one.
Tasting the Sky

 

193 Pages

Ibtisam Barakat In this groundbreaking memoir set in Ramallah during the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, Ibtisam Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war. With candor and courage, she stitches together memories of her childhood: fear and confusion as bombs explode near her home and she is separated from her family; the harshness of life as a Palestinian refugee; her unexpected joy when she discovers Alef, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. This is the beginning of her passionate connection to words, and as language becomes her refuge, allowing her to piece together the fragments of her world, it becomes her true home.
Breaking Night

 

352 Pages

 

Liz Murray Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard.
Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books

 

162 Pages

Guess what — Gary Paulsen was being kind to Brian. In Guts, Gary tells the real stories behind the Brian books, the stories of the adventures that inspired him to write Brian Robeson’s story: working as an emergency volunteer; the death that inspired the pilot’s death in Hatchet; plane crashes he has seen and near-misses of his own. He describes how he made his own bows and arrows, and takes readers on his first hunting trips, showing the wonder and solace of nature along with his hilarious mishaps and mistakes. He shares special memories, such as the night he attracted every mosquito in the county, or how he met the moose with a sense of humor, and the moose who made it personal. There’s a handy chapter on “Eating Eyeballs and Guts or Starving: The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition.” Recipes included. Readers may wonder how Gary Paulsen survived to write all of his books — well, it took guts.
Episodes: My Life as I See It

 

304 Pages

Blaze Ginsberg Debut writer Blaze Ginsberg offers a unique perspective on his life as a highly functioning autistic twenty-one-year-old. Inspired by the format of the Internet Movie Database, Blaze organizes his life events as a collection of episodes. Some episodes are still running, some are in syndication, and some have sadly come to an end. With an innovative style and approach that is all its own, Episodes reinvents the traditional memoir; and it will inspire young readers to see the world as they’ve never seen it before.  (from us.macmillan.com)  More information about the book available at blazeginsberg.com
Warriors Don’t Cry

 

240 Pages

Melba Beals In 1957, Melba Pattillo turned sixteen. That was also the year she became a warrior on the front lines of a civil rights firestorm. Following the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, “Brown v. Board of Education,” Melba was one of nine teenagers chosen to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School.

Other Websites/ Resources to Find Memoirs/ Autobiographies/ Biographies:
www.amazon.com
If you look in the “Biography” section of Young Adult books, you can get a number of descriptions and ideas for biographies and autobiographies.
http://www.cityofpuyallup.org/library/page.php?id=150
This website provides a list of biographies for middle school students with summaries of each book.
https://sites.google.com/a/berkeleycarroll.org/middle-school-reading/book-lists/memoirs-and-biographies
This website also provides a list of memoirs and biographies specifically for middle school students.

 

One thought on “Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir Books

  1. Pingback: Non-Fiction Reading Recommendations for Middle School Students | Teaching the Writers: 7th Grade English Curriculum

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