Happy belated Women’s Day! In honor, I thought I’d share my favorite autobiographies written by women. When I was younger, I was purely into fiction (especially fantasy and science fiction), but in recent years, I’ve gotten more into non-fiction. My favorite class of non-fiction is autobiographies, especially by successful women. I love learning about the “origin story” of these women and how they got to where they are today. I believe that some traits necessary for success can be seen or are formed from childhood, so it’s interesting to know more about their early lives. I usually end up feeling pretty inspired after reading these books, and I hope you will too!
- My Beloved World – Sonia Sotomayor is a judge on the Supreme Court. This book is my favorite out of the lot. It talks about her formative experiences growing up in New York, her grandmother’s influence, and her determination to go into law. I once mentioned this book to my more conservative friend, and he instantly shot it down because of her political leanings, but the book is actually pretty broad and mostly talks about her experiences before turning 18 and going to college.
- An Autobiography – Agatha Christie is a famous mystery novelist. I loved her novels growing up, and more recently found this autobiography. Although this isn’t a very well-known autobiography compared to the others in this list, I loved it because it gave an image of a different time – old British style, when the world was bigger and traveling was more exotic. It talks about her struggles as a writer in a time when women didn’t always have independent careers, and later going on archaeological digs with her husband.
- Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling is a comedy writer who was on the television show The Office. This is more a lighthearted collection of essays that are really fun to read through, rather than a true autobiography. The best one is about building confidence through hard work, and you can read the excerpt here.
- Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes is the showrunner behind the television shows Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder. Although I haven’t actually watched these shows, I enjoyed reading about how pushed herself beyond her natural inclinations to seize the opportunities. What inspired me about her story is that although she wasn’t the most extroverted child, she had a great imagination, which she was eventually able to translate that into a great career. It’s nice to hear an introvert’s story in today’s world, which seems to be full of brash-talking extroverts.
There are a couple more books that make the Honorable Mention list:
- Lab Girl – Hope Jahren is a geochemist and discusses her academic career and some of her struggles with mental health. Her professional struggles definitely touched home for me, being in a similar situation.
- Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. This book has personal excerpts interspersed with more general analysis drawn from scientific studies. The whole Lean In movement has definitely had a welcome positive impact in our field. I recently went a Lean In circle organized at my school, where everyone answered a random question about their personal challenges. There were students, alumni, and faculty present, and it was inspiring to see that each of us faced similar issues in slightly different contexts.
- What Happened – Hillary Clinton is – well, you know who she is. I didn’t love this book because I think writing it later would’ve helped the perspective be more balanced. However, it was interesting to learn about the thought process behind her campaign, and she candidly admits to some of the personal weaknesses that influenced her campaign.
OK, that’s the end of this book report! Do you have any other autobiography or book recommendations?