12 Must-Read Inspiring Autobiographies For Teens

Teenage boy reading an autobiography.

As they become more independent, teenagers may listen less to their parents, but may be inspired by other people they admire.

As they get ready to head out into the big wide world, learning about other people's lives, their successes and even more importantly, their failures, is a great way to prepare teens for what lies ahead. And if your teen is a bit of a reluctant reader, they may find it easier to immerse themself in a real-life story rather than a work of fiction.

Find more ways to entertain your teen during lockdown with the best YouTube channels and these debate ideas to encourage critical thinking.

The Diary of Anne Frank

Anne Frank was a Jewish teenager living in Amsterdam during the Second World War. She was given a diary for her 13th birthday. For any teens who are getting cabin fever, reading Anne Frank's account of how she and her family hid in a tiny secret annexe may help them to appreciate how well off they really are! The teenager's diary accounts in some detail how her family lived, and the fear of being arrested and taken away by the Nazis.  Anne and her family were sent to concentration camps, where Anne died at the age of 16.  For a 21st century version, teens can watch The Anne Frank video diaries.

All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto

George M. Johnson is a  journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist. This personal tale takes us through his childhood, teen and college years in the states of New Jersey and Virginia, from being bullied at the age of five to embarking on sexual relationships. Suitable for older teens as it deals with some tough topics such as toxic masculinity, gender identity and consent, being black and gay,  it will appeal to teens who are exploring their own sexuality, black teens who are looking for role models and readers who want to stand up for themselves and fight for equality.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

Growing up in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai was taught to stand up for what she believes in. So when the Taliban took control of the area, and dictated that girls were not allowed to go to school, the 10-year-old resolved to fight for her rights. It led to her being shot and nearly dying, as she rode the bus back from school. Readers can discover how she came to have such strong views, what happened on the day she nearly lost her life, and how she has proven that one person - even a 10-year-old girl - can make a big difference. It will inspire readers to stand up for their rights and stick to their beliefs.

I will always write back

Proving how some school assignments can go further than just getting you a good grade, this story tells how 12-year-old  Caitlin Alifirenka's assignment to write to an unknown student in a far-off place turned into something life-changing. When Caitlin first began corresponding with Martin Ganda in Zimbabwe, she began to learn about the poverty that he and his family lived in, and it opened her eyes to how other people lived, and helped to change Martin's future. Teens will be inspired by Martin's determination to study his way out of poverty, and Caitlin's determination to help him.

Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board

Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer, who returned to the world of elite surfing after she lost her arm in a shark attack. In this moving story, Bethany describes how she survived that attack and found the determination and faith to continue with the sport she loved. The books details how she adjusted her surfing style to compensate for her injury, and how her belief in God and her will power saw her putting in an impressive performance at the World Surfing Championships. Teens will be inspired by Bethany's faith and resolve, especially young athletes who are struggling with injury or self-doubt.

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen

Jazz Jennings already has her own hugely popular reality TV show on TLC. Jazz transitioned to life as a girl at the very young age of five and now she is one of the most recognised activists for transgendered kids, teens and adults. In her memoir, Jazz describes how growing up in the public eye has helped to shape how the public see the transgender community. She also describes the discrimination and bullying that she has to endure. Teens will be fascinated by how Jazz navigates adolescence, having started her life as a boy.

The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism

Autistic teen Naoki Higashida wrote this autobiography at the tender age of 13. It's not always easy to understand why some people with autism behave the way they do, so a book written from their perspective offers a rare insight that is not only fascinating, but will help teens understand and accept the behaviour of autistic friends and family. Naoki explains why he talks loudly, what causes his panic attacks, and why he likes to jump.  This book will inspire teens to be more considerate and understanding of the people around them.

Mud Sweat and Tears Junior Edition

Bear Grylls is the ultimate adventurer.  A former SAS serviceman, he is also a survival instructor, and has found fame as a writer and TV presenter. In this memoir, he describes how he learned to sail and climb with his dad, and spent his teenage years practising mountaineering and martial arts. But when he broke his back in a terrible parachuting accident, he defied expectation and learned to walk again, eventually climbing Everest at the age of 23.. His story will inspire teens who love the outdoor life.

Kian and Jc: Don't Try This at Home!

Entertainers Kian Lawley and Jc Caylen have 7 million subscribers on YouTube alone. Their fans will enjoy discovering how the pair of comedians found fame and huge success online with their unique offering of pranks. This book will inspire any teens who have dreamed of being an entertainer - or a YouTube star!

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance

Olympic gold medallist Simone Biles appeared to somersault onto our screens from nowhere when she became the darling of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. But the gymnast, like all successful athletes, had spent many years perfecting her craft and overcoming a less-than-perfect start to her life. Taken from her drug-addict mother, she was fostered and eventually adopted. So it is even more remarkable that she managed to make her way into the highly-competitive arena of competitive gymnastics.  Her story will inspire gymnasts, teens with ADHD or those who have been fostered or adopted.

Jamie Vardy From Nowhere. My Story

Jamie Vardy has made it from being an ordinary boy in Sheffield to the soccer player who led underdogs Leicester City to the top of the Premier League and won himself a place on the England team, despite early career disappointment. His autobiography describes his childhood in Sheffield, how he was dropped from Sheffield Wednesday and found himself playing for £30 a match and his subsequent rise to the top of his profession. His tale will be inspiring to all football fans and sportspeople.

May I Have Your Attention Please?

James Corden has achieved the dream of many a British entertainer, by becoming a huge success on the other side of the pond. His Carpool Karaoke TV show has an almost cult following. Yet at school, he wasn't cool, or clever - in fact, he was pretty disruptive. But he never gave up, forming a boy band and going to hundreds of auditions. It was only when he co-wrote Gavin and Stacey that his life changed. His story will be particularly inspiring for teens who haven't yet found their 'thing'.



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Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.

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