10 Inspiring Biographies for Young Adults

10 Inspiring Biographies for Young Adults

10 Inspiring Biographies for Young Adults
10 Inspiring Biographies for Young Adults

Being a young adult is hard! A lot is going on - changes in bodies and emotions, so many hormones, friendships, dating, the future (including parents asking every other week what you are going to do with your life). Sometimes you need to feel that there's someone like you or a bit of reassurance that you can make it. What you need is a great biography or autobiography.

We've picked 10 biographies by international and New Zealand authors who have been there and done it, whether it's overcoming health problems, standing up for what they believe in, or just putting themselves out there.

Local Heroes

  1. Straight up by Ruby Tui and;

  2. You Can't Stop the Sun From Shining by Sonny Bill Williams
    Ruby Tui and Sonny Bill Williams are two of the biggest names in their respective rugby arenas. But more than just fierce athletes, they are also two huge figures off the field. In their autobiographies, the pair explore their challenging childhoods, how sport helped to shape their lives and how the support of key people helped them to excel.

  3. Willie Apiata VC: The Reluctant Hero by Paul Little (younger readers version available)

    SAS soldier Willie Apiata was awarded the Victoria Cross, for bravery under fire, rescuing a wounded comrade in Afghanistan. This book charts his life from growing up in small-town East Coast, New Zealand, to joining the Army and his actions in conflict. But it's Apiata's humble nature that shines through - just a normal Kiwi doing his job. It's a great example of how anyone can show up and be a hero.

  4. Impossible by Stan Walker
    Since winning Australian Idol, Kiwi/Aussie singer Stan Walker has been through a lot by anyone's standards. His book is unflinching at times, covering addiction, violence and serious health issues, but it is also one of hope and a tale of never forgetting where you come from.

  5. The Boy from Gorge River by Chris Long
    Chris Long grew up on the South Island's West Coast, two days hike from the nearest road. He spent his idyllic childhood surrounded by nature, but once a teenager, Chris began to wonder what was further afield and whether he could survive it. Years later and he has travelled to over 50 countries on 6 continents. This book will appeal particularly to teenage boys who love the adventurous tone and any teenager wondering what's beyond New Zealand's borders. It might even inspire them to get out there and try it.

  6. Still Standing by Jess Quinn
    New Zealand-born Jess Quinn is a model and influencer. And she does it all with only one good leg - the other one was amputated due to cancer when she was just 9-years-old. As a teen, she didn't wear shorts. Today she is an ambassador for Nike. Jess tells a tale of overcoming adversity and learning to love yourself and how being different rather than being a handicap can actually be a superpower.

International Inspiration

  1. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (young readers version available)
    When Malala was 15 she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman as she was coming home from school on the bus. In 2014 she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In between times, she co-authored the book I Am Malala, a story of her life before and during Taliban rule and her activism to further female education. In a country like New Zealand, where we take things like the right to education for granted, her story is an eye-opener of how things aren't always so easy.

  2. Mud Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls (young readers version available)
    You've probably seen Bear Grylls on television, putting himself, members of the public and celebrities through their paces in the wilderness (and generally making them eat something gross). Looking at him swing from trees, leap boulders and cross rivers, you might not know he once broke his back in three places and was told he might never walk again. Mud, Sweat and Tears is a thrill-a-minute romp through adventures with a healthy dose of overcoming adversity and how grit and determination can see you through.

  3. I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings
    American Jazz Jennings knew when she was a child that she didn't want to be a boy. She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at the age of just five-years-old, becoming one of the youngest people ever to be documented as transgender. Since then, she's become an activist and spokesperson for the trans community. Written when she was 15, I Am Jazz covers her teenage years, a complicated time anyway, candidly discussing dating, friendships, bullying and gender identity. This book is an inspiration to all teens struggling with their bodies or their feelings.

  4. Becoming by Michelle Obama (young readers version available)
    When Michelle Obama and her husband, Barack Obama returned to the White House to unveil their official portraits, she said: "If the two of us can end up on the walls of the most famous address in the world, then, again, it is so important for every young kid who is doubting themselves to believe that they can, too." The idea that anyone can succeed with hard work and determination is a recurring theme in her first book, Becoming, which charts her life from younger days to becoming a wife, mother and the First Lady.

A Bonus Classic

No list of inspiring biographies would be complete without the classic The Diary of Anne Frank. Even though it was first published in 1952, it is still widely read. The book covers the frightening situation the family was in, but also the emotions and feelings of a teenage girl about friendships, love and the future, which will resonate with teenagers even today.

We hope that you (or the young adult in your life) have found some inspiration among our choices. If you'd like regular inspiration in the shape of a fabulous book sent directly to your door each month, sign up for one of our subscriptions. Our monthly book subscriptions are available for adults and young adults. Just sign up, let us know your interests and favourite authors and genres, and we'll start sending you great reads.

- Words by Arwen Hann

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