10 Best Biographies/Memoirs of 2023

10 Best Biographies of 2023

It’s been a big year for biographies, with everything from Prince Harry to Britney Spear delivering their own books. There have been a lot of excellent books in this category this year .

In this curated list, we delve into the best biographies that captivated us this year. As usual, the books below are listed in no particular order but of course, do let us know your favourites in the comments below!

So join us as we celebrate the narratives that have defined 2023, each a unique testament to the enduring power of storytelling.

The Woman in Me – Britney Spears

The Woman in Me is an intimate and courageous memoir that chronicles the remarkable journey for one of pop music’s most iconic figures, Britney Spears. This deeply personal narrative unfolds against the backdrop of her historic June 2021 court testimony, a moment that not only altered Britney’s trajectory in life, but also resonated with people around the globe. Spears’s story is one of resilience and transformation, capturing the essence of freedom, motherhood, and survival.

Spears opens up about her life in this book with honesty and humor that is both refreshing and profound. She shares her experiences in the limelight, detailing the struggles and triumphs that have defined her career and personal life. Her account goes beyond the sensational headlines, offering readers a glimpse into the heart and soul of an artist who has captivated millions.

Spears’s narrative is more than a memoir; it’s a powerful testament to the strength and resilience inherent in her character. “The Woman in Me” is a celebration of the healing power of music and love, and the vital importance of autonomy in storytelling. Britney’s voice—clear, unfiltered, and unapologetic—echoes throughout the pages, emphasizing the significance of a woman taking control of her narrative and speaking her truth.

This book is not only a milestone in Spears’s life but also an inspiring tale of hope and empowerment, making it a must-read for her fans and supporters of women’s rights alike.

A Memoir of My Former Self – Hilary Mantel

A Memoir of My Former Self is a rich collection of Hilary Mantel’s finest journalistic and personal writings, spanning four decades. Known for her distinguished career as a novelist, Mantel brings her keen insight and eloquent prose to a variety of subjects, offering readers a glimpse into both her life and the broader world as she sees it. Embracing her belief that “ink is a generative fluid,” she crafts essays that resonate with intention and depth.

Mantel’s work traverses a wide array of themes. She reflects on nationalism and her own sense of identity, delves into the interplay between our dreams and waking life, and revisits the enduring mythos of Princess Diana.

From her unique childhood to her obsession with Thomas Cromwell, which culminated in the acclaimed Wolf Hall trilogy, this memoir presents the evolution of Hilary Mantel’s life and thoughts. A Memoir of My Former Self is a wonderful book and certainly one of the best released this year.

The Forgotten Girls – Monica Potts

In this poignant and revealing book, an accomplished journalist revisits her roots in a small Arkansas town to unravel the stark contrast between her life and that of her childhood best friend, Darci.

Growing up in the economically declining Ozarks, both Monica and Darci were bright, working-class girls with dreams that stretched far beyond the confines of their troubled community. United by their love for reading and learning, they faced the harsh realities of their town: broken homes, alcoholism, and the gradual decay of local businesses and factories.

While Monica managed to break free, attending college and pursuing her dreams, Darci’s story took a tragically different turn. Years later, as Monica covers poverty and its impacts, she learns of the alarming decrease in life expectancy among women in rural areas like her hometown. 

Darci represents a harrowing statistic: a single mother battling meth and prescription drug addiction, struggling with unemployment and near homelessness. Through her narrative, she sheds light on the critical issues affecting poor, rural white women in America, offering an intimate and eye-opening look at the realities often overlooked in national discourse.

Abroad in Japan – Chris Broad

In Abroad in Japan, Chris Broad shares his adventurous journey into Japan in his often humorous journey of adapting to life in rural northern Japan. Arriving with no experience in teaching and little command of the Japanese language, Chris wonders if his stint as an English teacher might be short-lived. Instead, what unfolds is a decade of rich experiences in one of the world’s most intriguing and complex cultures.

This is a captivating narrative that spans all forty-seven prefectures of Japan, from tranquil rice fields to the vibrant streets of Tokyo. Chris recounts a variety of extraordinary experiences, including a nerve-wracking North Korean missile scare, an embarrassing encounter in a love hotel, and an unforgettable week with Japan’s biggest movie star. His stories are not just entertaining; they offer a deep dive into the heart of Japanese culture.

Chris’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of travel and the value of embracing the unknown with an open mind and heart.

Strong Female Character – Fern Brady

Strong Female Character is a ground-breaking memoir by Fern Brady that confronts the intersection of sexism and neurodiversity. Brady, a neurodivergent, working-class woman from Scotland, offers an eye-opening exploration of how societal expectations clash with the realities of being an autistic woman. The book challenges the preconceived notions of both autism and femininity, highlighting the unique struggles and triumphs that come with navigating these identities.

Brady’s narrative is unflinchingly honest, delving into deeply personal experiences such as sex work, abusive relationships, and her time in teenage mental health units. She critically examines the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype, a trope often misleadingly associated with neurodiverse women, and dismantles it with the force of her lived experience.

This memoir is not just a personal account; it’s a powerful statement on the complexities of being a neurodivergent woman in a world that often misunderstands and overlooks such experiences.

Friendaholic – Elizabeth Day

In Friendaholic: Confessions of a Friendship Addict, Elizabeth Day delves into the oft-overlooked yet vital world of friendships, challenging the societal emphasis on romantic love.

Growing up with few friends, Elizabeth equated the number of friendships with being loved and secure. As an adult, she prides herself on being a Good Friend, only to realize that this pursuit sometimes comes at the cost of her own boundaries and mental health.

The onset of the global pandemic in 2020 sees Elizabeth re-evaluate her understanding of friendship. Confronted with the reality that her closest friends weren’t necessarily those she spent the most time with, she begins to question the nature of these relationships. This introspection leads to broader inquiries: Is there such a thing as having too many friends? How well does one truly understand the role they play as a friend?

The Strength of Love – Kate Garraway

Kate Garraway’s The Strength of Love offers a profound and moving account of resilience and hope amidst life’s most challenging circumstances. This deeply personal narrative unfolds in the wake of her husband Derek’s battle with the severe impacts of Covid, a struggle that has dramatically altered their family life, requiring 24-hour care and frequent hospitalizations.

Kate’s journey is one of constant uncertainty and daily challenges, testing her strength and that of her family at every turn.

Garraway’s book delves into universal themes that resonate with many: the nature of trauma, the critical role of resilience and adaptability, and the power of staying curious and positive in the face of adversity. She candidly discusses the concepts of identity and purpose, offering insights into how to embrace uncertainty and regain control in times of turmoil. Her experiences and reflections provide solace and wisdom to those grappling with loneliness, loss, or fear of the unknown.

Spare – Prince Harry

Much has been made of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, with opinion swinging like a pendulum between outright hatred to incredulous disbelief. Following their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey and the subsequent fall-out with the Royal Family, Harry and Meghan have attempted to lift the curtain and explain exactly what’s happened and what’s led them to where we are today.

Spare is a revealing and deeply personal memoir in that respect, ghost-written by J.R. Moehringer but written in first-person perspective to authenticate the feel of what’s in here. Prince Harry’s book is split across three parts in this 410 page book. After a brief prologue starting at Prince Philip’s death, we cut back to just before Princess Diana’s death, leading through Harry’s years growing up as the “Spare” to Prince William (the “heir”) along with his time in the military and up to the Queen’s death.

The writing itself is mostly reserved to short and snappy sub-chapters, which are split into three parts, the first focusing on the past and growing up, the second on Harry’s time in the military and the third on Harry’s love life and meeting Meghan Markle.

It’s a book that reveals far more about the underbelly of the Royal Family than you’re likely to see anywhere else. Quite how this story will eventually end is anyone’s guess but for anyone remotely interested in the Royal Family, this is an absolute must-read.

Elon Musk – Walter Isaacson

In his latest biography, the acclaimed author of “Steve Jobs” presents an intimate and compelling portrait of Elon Musk, one of the most enigmatic and influential figures of our time. This book delves deep into Musk’s journey from a bullied child in South Africa to a visionary entrepreneur reshaping the future with electric vehicles, private space exploration, and artificial intelligence. It also explores his dramatic takeover of Twitter, a platform that symbolizes both a personal and professional battleground for him.

Author Isaacson provides an unprecedented look into Musk’s world, having shadowed him for two years, witnessing first-hand the workings of his mind and operations. Through extensive interviews with Musk, as well as those who know him best—family, friends, co-workers, and rivals—the biography paints a vivid picture of a man who is as complex as he is visionary. It raises probing questions: Are the very traits that make Musk a relentless innovator also the sources of his deepest struggles? This biography offers a fascinating exploration of Musk’s life, achievements, and the inner demons that drive him, making it a standout addition to the best biographies of 2023.

Seventeen – Joe Gibson

Seventeen is a shocking and eye-opening memoir, written by Joe Gibson. In this revealing book, we’re whisked back to 1992. Like every other seventeen-year-old boy, Joe has one eye on his studies, the other on his social life. He’s looking ahead to a gap year full of travel and adventure before university. Only, there’s a problem. When Joe’s teacher – attractive, mid-thirties – takes an interest in him, it seems like a fantasy come true.  

For his final two years at school, Joe is bound to her, a woman twice his age, in an increasingly tangled web of coercion, sex and lies. Their affair, a product of complex grooming and a shocking abuse of authority, is played out in the corridors of one of Britain’s major private schools, under the noses of people who suspected, even knew, but said nothing. 

With a heady dose of nostalgia for the 90’s, and the perfectly captured mood of those final months at school, Joe charts the legacy of deceit and indelibility of decisions made at seventeen. 

Closing Thoughts

2023 has been a big year for biography fans. There have been some great selections this year and above our just our favourite picks!

What will 2024 have in store for us? Hopefully more of the same!

So, there we have it, our picks for the best biographies of 2023! Let us know what you think of our choices in the comments below and remind us of any others you enjoyed this year above all others!

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