Why is reviewing autobiographies so difficult?

I review most of the books I read. Some, however, I can’t seem to find the right words for. These are most likely to be autobiographies, particularly those of famous people. I’ve read several of these this year and enjoyed them, so why are they so difficult to review? I think it’s because I’m the kind of reviewer who prefers to separate art from the artist. It’s not possible to do that with an autobiography, because the author and the subject are the same thing. I feel as if I’m reviewing the person as much as the book, as they can’t be separated. Biographies are easier to review, as there is a distance between the reader and the subject, with the author between them. They are also objective (or at least, they should be), which is helpful for a reviewer.

Some famous people’s autobiographies I’ve enjoyed and not reviewed are: Berserker! by Adrian Edmondson, What Are You Doing Here? by Floella Benjamin, This Much Is True by Miriam Margolyes, Just Sayin’ by Malorie Blackman, and Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry (RIP). Some I have reviewed are: Thanks A Lot, Mr Kibblewhite by Roger Daltrey, Beyond the Wand by Tom Felton, Will by Will Smith, Who I Am by Melanie C, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Eric Idle and The Storyteller by Dave Grohl.

Autobiographies of Adrian Edmondson, Matthew Perry, Malorie Blackman and Miriam Margolyes.

5 thoughts on “Why is reviewing autobiographies so difficult?”

  1. This is something I completely agree with- it’s virtually impossible to make a review “not personal” when it’s literally talking about personal things that happened in a person’s life. It’s rare for me to review a lot of autobiographies I don’t like. I made the exception with Spare, for reasons I stated in my review, including the fact he thinks British taxpayers should still be giving him money. In that case, I thought there was a broader conversation worth having. But it’s hard to decide when it’s a good idea to add your voice or not. There are some autobiography reviews I drafted, but didn’t publish, because I didn’t want to get too personal (in one case, I regret not publishing my review, because the person perpetuates harmful stereotypes and I could’ve added to the conversation by pointing out her dishonesty in her biography). In other cases, I regret talking about the book at all, because they didn’t mean any harm/didn’t do any harm.

    1. Great points! Also with someone famous I don’t feel like I have much to offer when there are 1000s of reviews already. I’ll only read memoirs of people I’m interested in and as I’m not interested in Prince Harry I didn’t bother.

  2. I agree! I read Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry earlier this year and decided not to review it for the exact same reasons.

    1. Thanks, yes I did get as far as writing the title of the review and realised there wasn’t anything adequate I could say, and besides so many people have reviewed it already.

Leave a Reply