3 min read

5 Autobiographies Worth Your Time

"Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Daaamn Dojo, back at it with another reading list 😎

For those who've never seen the appeal of non-fiction, autobiographies can act as a powerful gateway. As they're inherently narrative-driven, they feel enough like a novel to keep fiction fans engaged, all the while sneaking in profound wisdom bombs from the author's lived experience.

As your trusty nerd sidekick, we'll update our recommendations as we mow through more, so be sure to circle back to check out new additions.

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Full transparency: we're members of the Amazon Associates program. This means if you happen to pick up a book or two using the links below, a couple of cents will come to us (at no extra cost to you). Our thanks in advance for helping keep The Actor's Dojo up and running!

Open by Andre Agassi

We've read a shed tonne of sports memoirs, but this 2010 release is our fave.
Even if you have no interest in tennis or sport, Agassi's story is still worth a read. The no holds barred descriptions of his obsession with excellence and struggles with fame resonate just as strongly with those of us on the actor's path as those drilling their volleys and smashes.

Key highlights:

  • "I can't promise you won't be tired, he [trainer Gil Reyes] says. But please know this. There's a lot of good waiting for you on the other side of tired. Get yourself tired, Andre. That's where you're going to know yourself. On the other side of tired."
  • "I like Broadway. I find the ethos of the theater familiar. The work of a Broadway actor is physical, strenuous, demanding, and the nightly pressure is intense. The best Broadway actors remind me of athletes. If they don't give their best, they know it, and if they don't know it, the crowd lets them know it."
  • "That perfect blend of caring and not caring, the best preparation."

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Political memoirs, on the other hand, don't tend to be our jam. Becoming is the sole exception.

As you'd expect from the former First Lady, it's honest and inspiring, told in such a way that one feels an instant and intimate rapport with Obama. Also worth your while is the fun companion documentary on Netflix.

Key highlights:

  • "Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?"
  • "There's something innately bolstering about a person who sees his opportunities as endless, who doesn't waste time or energy questioning whether they will ever dry up."
  • "For every door that's been opened to me, I've tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let's invite one another in."

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

📢 Currently being updated 📢

Key highlights:

  • (We're working on it!)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Don't let the title throw you — this one is just as much about the discipline of writing as it is about running.

Equal parts playful and philosophical, Murakami's memoir is a comforting case study to those of us who've worked for their "talent" as opposed to rolling out of the womb with it. We recommend What I Talk About… to any and every budding writer.  

Key highlights:

  • "I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day's work goes surprisingly smoothly."
  • "Writers who aren't blessed with much talent … need to build up their strength at their own expense. They have to train themselves to improve their focus, to increase their endurance. To a certain extent they're forced to make these qualities stand in for talent. And while they're getting by on these, they may actually discover real, hidden talent within them."
  • "To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible."

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

If you have any affinity with nature, you'll feel this prose in your bones.  

Despite being written way back in 1854, Walden is one of our top five books of any kind, ever. We return to it frequently — each time with new key highlights — invariably clearer on the things that actually matter in life.  

Key highlights:

  • "I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour."
  • "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
  • "Let not to get a living be thy trade, but thy sport."

Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.

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