11 of the Best Political Audiobooks – Memoirs and Biographies

More often than not, just the word “political” is charged with meaning. Regardless of your political affiliation, whether you love politics or hate them, politics elicit a reaction.  

As with all great books, listening to political memoirs and biographies provides the opportunity for us to listen to, think about, learn from, and reflect on a wide variety of perspectives and narratives different from our own.

If we look at these books through the lens of learning, they can teach us about history, leadership, and character and offer knowledge we might not otherwise have gained.

In that spirit, listed below, in no particular order, are 11 of the best political audiobooks that invite you to expand your experiences and explore a more diverse world. 

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

While Mandela’s memoir covers territory you will likely be somewhat familiar with, including his imprisonment and eventual release, that covers only a fraction of his story. Writing honestly and candidly, he acknowledges his own flaws and mistakes as a human. Perhaps it is in recognizing his flaws that he can forgive others with an open heart instead of holding on to bitterness. This memoir covers his early life, his education, his fight for equality and to end apartheid, his imprisonment for over 25 years, his release, and the time leading up to his becoming President of South Africa. Long Walk to Freedom is an inspiring memoir of forgiveness, perseverance, and triumph. The audiobook also includes accompanying reference material. 

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My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsberg

My Own Words is less a memoir of Ginsberg’s life, and more about her thoughts about life, how she makes decisions, and many opinions on the Supreme Court and landmark cases. She offers background on influential landmark cases and her thought process on her decisions. Before each chapter, her biographers provide some historical and biographical context, so the audiobook includes both narration and actual recordings of some of Ginsberg’s speeches. My Own Words is a fascinating compilation of writing and speeches on numerous topics, from gender equality to her friendship with Justice Scalia. There are also recordings that include her husband, which adds an even more personal touch to a fascinating, insightful, and introspective memoir.

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Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert F. Kennedy

In October 1962, the U.S. was confronted with the reality that the Soviet Union was building nuclear missile sites in Cuba. Thirteen Days provides an almost hour-by-hour documentation of the U.S. response and the ensuing negotiations with the Soviet Union. As President Kennedy’s brother, Robert Kennedy delivers not only an in-depth look behind the scenes in the Oval Office but also offers insight into the thoughts and actions of his brother. There is also added perspective from the Soviet point of view, which makes for a fascinating look at both sides of one of the key political and global events of the 20th century. 

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

At the age of 15, Malala Yousafzi was fighting against the Taliban for her right to an education in her home country of Pakistan. For it, she was shot in the head on the bus on her way home from school. In true fighter fashion, Malala not only survived but brought her fight to the global stage, becoming the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yousafzi’s inspiring story shines a light on how one voice can make a difference, no matter how hard others try to silence it. In a culture where boys are frequently valued more than girls, Malala’s parents valued their daughter and her education. In addition to telling her story, Yousafzi also provides some fascinating history on Pakistan and the area she grew up in. Her writing is positive and inspiring and will leave you full of hope.

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Becoming by Michelle Obama

Chronicling Obama’s life from her childhood on the South Side, her family life, education, and journey through law school to meeting her future husband and their eventual life in the White House, Becoming covers it all in fascinating detail. As a mother, wife, and First Lady, she is both iconic and also relatable, struggling to balance all of her roles in the same way so many women do. Regardless of your political affiliation, everyone can learn something from her introspection and wisdom. The audiobook is beautifully narrated, and hearing her story in her voice truly brings this memoir to life. 

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Grant by Ron Chernow

Chernow, one of the great political and historical biographers of our time, goes into great detail chronicling and bringing to life the triumphs and failures of a key political and military figure in U.S. history. While most of us know General Ulysses S. Grant and his role in the Civil War, what we are taught about him barely scratches the surface of a fascinating, flawed, and critical figure in U.S. history. Fans of Alexander Hamilton will appreciate the depths of detail and painstaking research that Chernow puts into his biographies, bringing historical figures to life. Grant also includes unique historical documents, including newspaper articles, diaries, and war correspondence, all wonderfully narrated by Mark Bramhall. 

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Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For by Susan Rice

In Tough Love, former National Security Advisor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice shares some of the most insightful lessons she’s learned as a woman of color in the highest levels of the U.S. government. She served as an Assistant Secretary of State under the Clinton administration, eventually becoming a trusted advisor to President Obama. Rice chronicles numerous struggles from her youth and early life in Washington D.C. to lessons learned from her family and virtues instilled in her from an early age that helped her to succeed where others might fail. Honest and insightful, she shares incredible behind-the-scenes stories of many key political and historical moments from over 30 years of U.S. and global history, including the Ebola epidemic and the war against ISIS. 

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Leadership by Doris Kearns Goodwin

In Leadership, Goodwin asks essential leadership questions (“Where does ambition come from?”, “Are leaders born or made?”), and examines the answers through the lens of four American Presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. By examining these four very different men through four very different periods in history, Goodwin examines what guided them, motivated them, and how they overcame adversity to rise above. Leadership showcases what makes great leaders at their core at a time when we’re all looking for inspired leadership. The audiobook is fantastic, as each of the presidential sections is narrated by four different excellent narrators.

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The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Published in 1965, Malcolm X’s autobiography is still as relevant today as it was then, continuing to be at the top of political memoir charts nearly 60 years after its publication. Whether or not you always agree with him, there is still much to be learned from his perspective and the historical accounting of his life. As he says towards the end of his autobiography, he hopes that if his memoir is “read objectively it might prove to be a testimony of some social value.” The audiobook is masterfully narrated by Laurence Fishburne. 

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Churchill: Walking With Destiny by Andrew Roberts

While many books have been written about Winston Churchill, Walking with Destiny goes beyond the story of his life, asking and answering insightful questions about the man himself. 

Using exclusively accessed material, including diaries and transcripts of War Cabinet meetings, Roberts offers a deep understanding and insight into one of the most important political figures of the 20th century. While the time periods in the book are split between Churchill’s life before and after 1940, Roberts demonstrates how many of the issues that Churchill faced are still relevant and plague leaders today. This is a biography for history and political buffs alike, with exceptional narration by Stephen Thorne.

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A Full Life: Reflections At Ninety by Jimmy Carter

Candid, frank, and insightful, Reflections lives up to its name. President Carter shares and reflects on his life growing up in Georgia, his military service, almost dying (twice) on a submarine, and his entry into politics. He shares his thoughts on other world leaders and presidents that succeeded him. He reflects on all the good and the bad, from his proudest moments to what he could change if given a chance. A Full Life is a fascinating listen, narrated by Carter himself, from a leader who accomplished so much that being President is only part of his unique story. 

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What are your favorite political audiobooks? Please let me know in the comments section below.

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