Anyone seeking to grow their platform, establish themself as a thought leader, build their brand, or simply tell a compelling story might require the help of a ghostwriter to bring their vision to life. If your time or writing expertise prevents you from writing a book, working with a ghostwriter can ensure that your message reaches the world as well-crafted, beautifully structured book. From memoirs and tell-alls to cookbooks and speeches, books written by ghostwriters are more common you might expect. So, how many of these that you’ve read or heard of were penned with the help of a ghost? Here are five bestselling books written by ghostwriters that may surprise you.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai survived a shot to the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, after blogging anonymously on behalf of female education. Her memoir, I Am Malala, documents her life prior to that near-fatal incident, political stance, family, faith, and hopes for the future. Malala employed foreign correspondent Christina Lamb to collaborate on the memoir; they spent a year developing the project, with Lamb meeting Malala’s family frequently and even traveling to Swat, Pakistan to visit Malala’s old school. Rather than portray I Am Malala as a biography, the narrative power of a memoir emphasizes Malala’s wise and youthful call for female education and world peace.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, released this memoir after her 2010 TED Talk. Lean In discusses her personal successes and failures, as well as gender differences, internal and external obstacles against women, and advice for women in the workforce. TV and magazine writer Nell Scovell, known for creating Sabrina the Teenage Witch, co-wrote the book with Sandberg. Scovell also reported on gender inequality in comedy; her cultural experience of gender bias in the office definitely complemented the self-hailed “feminist manifesto” of Lean In.
If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer by O.J. Simpson
Former athlete and actor O.J. Simpson’s name has become synonymous with his alleged murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1992. In 2007, he published If I Did It as both a narrative on his declining relationship with Brown and a hypothetical description of how he would have murdered Brown and Goldman. Shocking and highly controversial for its detailed honesty, the book was eventually canceled over its questionable profitability and later acquired by the Goldman family. Simpson was aided by ghostwriter Pablo Fenjves; the opportunity to examine an avowed murderer is difficult to turn down. Fenjves later admitted that he believed in Simpson’s guilt during an interview with The Early Show.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Becoming is the breakout story of former First Lady Michelle Obama, uncovering her roots and the journey to discovering her voice. Her reflections on education, activism, motherhood, and marriage have led to glowing reviews—meriting Becoming as a #1 New York Times Bestseller. Michelle is said — apparently by Barack Obama — to have worked with a ghostwriter on the book.
It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 1996 memoir analyzes the society in which children are nurtured into capable adults. The memoir reveals Clinton’s personal experiences as a parent and also examines the changing roles of parents and various individuals in a child’s life. Clinton did not directly thank the “village” that helped her produce It Takes a Village, but credited all namelessly. It was supposedly reporter Bob Woodward who revealed that ghostwriter Barbara Feinman Todd actually wrote the memoir.
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