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A biography is the history of a person's life. Biographies are usually written, although there are other forms as well, such as oral history, audio (sound) recordings and film. In modern times, biography has developed into its own genre. The subject of a biography is almost always a sentient being and usually human, although the term is sometimes more generally applied and there are biographical works on entities comprising humans, such as a musical band, and sometimes inanimate objects, such as the history of a building. In addition, there may be biographical accounts of only one period in a person's life. When a person writes about her own life, it is called an autobiography.

There are many considerations in writing biographies. First, is a biography merely a chronicle, that is, a narrative written more or less in historical sequence, or are the events in a person's life open to interpretation? Are there limits to what should be exposed about a living person? Biographers must pay particular attention to laws concerning privacy concerns and libel issue.

In fact, most biographies are not merely chronicles, but give important insight into the the subject's qualities of character—and even into the broader human condition. This was true from Plutarch's Lives, through Augustine's autobiographical Confessions, and James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson. In the political arena, however, biographies of presidents and presidential candidates are frequently written to advance a political cause.

Not all works with the word biography in the title are in fact biographies, and not all biographies are titled "biography". For example, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is actually a work of fiction, while My Dog Skip is an autobiography.