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Descriptions, titles, images of book covers, and links to biographical books and databases available from the Thurgood Marshall Library. Also includes autobiographies and some memoirs.


"There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy."                                  - Mark Twain

The Oxford English Dictionary defines biography as the "personal history; the events or circumstances of a person's life, viewed collectively" and we study the genre for numerous reasons.  Like fiction, biography can take us to another place or time, it can illuminate famous (or infamous) historical figures, and it can show us a personal and social context for some of the most important events in the world's history.  Reading an autobiography, a biography written by the subject themselves, can provide an even more personal account of the most significant moments in the life of a person, country, or social movement.  This guide will offer you information about the biographical resources available through the Thurgood Marshall Library and the best ways for you to use them in service of your academic studies.

Autobiography and Memoir

Throughout this guide you'll also see information about autobiographies and memoirs.  An autobiography is a biography written by the subject themselves, and a memoir is a kind of sub-category of autobiography.  A memoir generally has a more specific focus than a biography or autobiography, narrowing in to tell specific stories from the subject's life, rather than a complete account.

While studying biography, you may also encounter "ghost writers."  Sometimes celebraties, politicians, or other well known people will hire a "ghost writer" to edit their own manuscript or even to completely write a book which will ultimately be considered an autobiography and will be credited to the subject.  

If you're looking for a biography to satisfy a class assignment, check with your professor to make sure that an autobiography or memoir is acceptable.