20 of the Best Biographies and Memoirs in 2016

20 of the Best Biographies and Memoirs in 2016




Whether it’s a great artist who lived 100 years ago or a sporting star who has a heart breaking tale to tell, biographies and memoirs can make some of the best Christmas presents. They’re great to get your teeth into over the slow summer months and they make the perfect gifts for those hard-to-buy family members who prefer non-fiction and there are so many diverse subjects out there, you’re bound to find something to suit even the most fussy reader. So what are you waiting for? Get thee to a bookshop!

Here are just a few of our favourite biographies and memoirs of the last year:

A sporting biography like no other, in My Family’s Keeper Brad and Karina Haddin share their family’s story for the first time, from Brad’s rising career in Australian cricket to their young daughter Mia’s heartwrenching battle with cancer. Watch our live interview with Brad and Karina.

At six years old, Deng Adut’s mother was told she had to give him up to fight. He began a harsh, relentless military training that saw this young boy trained to use an AK-47 and sent into battle. Songs of a War Boy is an inspiring story of a man who has overcome deadly adversity to become a lawyer and committed worker for the disenfranchised, helping refugees in Western Sydney.

After a chance encounter in an auction house, William McInnes created Full Bore, an inimitable take on our sport-obsessed nation, Australian popular culture and the artefacts and memorabilia that both make us cringe with recognition and laugh with warm affection. Watch our interview with William McInnes.


It was a crime that had a nation on the edge of their seats, now there’s a book that will have you on the edge of yours. Roger Rogerson is the eye-opening account of Rogerson’s life of crime – policing it and committing it – from ex-policeman, journalist and author Duncan McNab. Check out our interview with Duncan here.

A powerful and personal contemplation on race, culture and national identity. Talking to my Country by Stan Grant talks to every Australian about their country – what it is, and what it could be. It is not just about race, or about indigenous people but all of us, our shared identity.An unforgettably and heart-breaking book about how to live, When Breath Becomes Air tells the story of Paul Kalanithi, who at the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird introduces us to Queen Victoria in an intimate and beautifully written biography. Fans of Memoirs of a Geisha and The Secret Chord will love this in-depth biography about a woman who changed the world. Watch our interview with Julia here.Ross King’s latest biography, Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies, is an intriguing insight into the world of the French Impressionist artist Claude Monet and his best-loved works.Nujeen Mustafa has cerebral palsy but this did not stop her going from Syria to Hungary in a wheelchair. She made her way to the Hungarian border in the hope of asylum in Germany and with the help of Christina Lamb, told her journey and created Nujeen, the story of our times through one brave girl.


Writer Lee Zachariah found his personal life crumbling around him and decided to focus on someone else’s turmoil: the government’s. The result is Double Dissolutiona witty and wistful book that is part memoir, part politics, part road trip.

An eye-opening real-life read that will have you gripped from its defiant opening scene – the author dashing through the streets of Tehran, dressed in heels and a mini skirt, feeling liberated and invincible “despite the danger.” Fashion Is Freedom by Tala Raassi offers an account of a woman’s relationship with fashion like no other.

It’s one of the most bizarre and intriguing stories to come out of rural Australia and it put Wagga Wagga on the world map. An overweight rough-looking butcher, known as Tom Castro, emerged from the bush to claim he was not the man people thought him to be. The Claimant by Paul Terry is at times sad, funny, and always fascinating.

Long before Cold Chisel and Barnesy, there was an working class boy whose family made the journey from Scotland to Australia in search of a better life. Working Class Boy is the story of how James Swan became Jimmy Barnes. We were joined by Jimmy Barnes in the office – watch our interview here.

It’s always fun to immerse yourself in someone else’s life – and a great escape – even more so when the subject is as fascinating as Céleste de Chabrillan, the 19th century French courtesan, dancer, writer, and wife of the first consul to Australia. Celeste by Roland Perry tells the timeless story of an unfortunate fallen woman made good with flair

Life of the Party by Bob Kealing tells the story of Brownie Wise, the charismatic Tupperware executive who converted postwar optimism into a record breaking sales engine powered by ordinary housewives.

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life Born to Run, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humour, and originality found in his songs.

Australian Midwives is a moving collection of real-life stories from Australian midwives working in remote areas of Australia. They share with author Paula Heenan their experiences of that most commonplace but miraculous event, the birth of a child

In her memoir, Life As I know It, Michelle Payne, an Australian jockey who won the 2015 Melbourne Cup,  reveals the full story behind her historic win.

Penguin Bloom is a truly original book – part photographic journal, part tragic story – and readers of all kinds will fall in love with the stunning images and be moved to the core by the heartrending narrative.

Can a murderer ever be truly redeemed? Redeemable by convicted double murderer Erwin James is provocative, confronting and will change the way you think about crime and punishment.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *