Reading a memoir about an author’s personal life is often the best way to learn about the person. Biographies may cover their achievements and most of their life but only memoirs can tell us how the person feels. That is why we decided to list the best memoirs of all time to see which ones are the best of the best.
Finding great memoirs to read is not always an easy task. But when an author does write a good memoir, it makes for some amazing reading. Many. Memoirs are often from famous people but anyone can write one. The ones that do become popular that aren’t from famous people have to be great to win the adoration of the public.
The Best Memoirs of All Time
- Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
- The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
- Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward
- Just Kids by Patti Smith
- Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
- Night by Elie Wiesel
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
- Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
- Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
- Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
- This Boy’s Life: A Memoir by Tobias Wolff
- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
- H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
- A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
- Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson
- A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
- Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
- The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
- Hunger by Roxane Gay
- I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
- Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller
- Life by Keith Richards
- Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
- Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
- Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
- Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
- The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
- Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
- Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
- Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
- The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
- Giving up the ghost by Hilary Mantel
- In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
- Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
Many Great Memoirs to Read
The list contains a lot of great memoirs and provides a lot of reading material. There are books by Former president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama that are great reads. But the list contains many books by non celebrities that are also worth checking out.
That is all for our best memoirs of all time list. What books should have made the list but didn’t? Let us know in the comments below. Until next time, happy reading!
7 thoughts on “The Best Memoirs of All Time ”
You really overlooked the Best Memoir of all-time…Ulysses S. Grant.
A Classic that has stood the test of time.
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
I’m sorry you didn’t think to include Maya Angelous “I KNOW WHY THE CAGE BIRD SINGS” which is required reading in NYC Public schools!
One you left off was “Harpo Speaks.” Covers totally unique territory. I fell in love with Harpo – his intelligence, humility, and humor. Not to miss.
This may not be the most popular memoir but I had the opportunity to listen to Tim O’Brien speak at Virginia Tech in 2015 about his book ‘The Things They Carried.’ It is listed as fiction which is the intent except that’s only because he said he believes that memories are unreliable so therefore he shouldn’t be the authority of what happened during the Vietnam war.
Hearing Tim O’Brien tell war stories made almost everyone in the auditorium cry, laugh, feel anger, feel disgust and then right back to laughing as if everyone was there with him. He’s a powerful storyteller so although it’s written as fiction, the truthfulness is transparent.
One more novel I recently read that is a touching memoir that was Oprah’s Book Club Pick in 2018 is ‘The Sun Does Shine’ by Anthony Ray Hinton. In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested, charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. On April 3, 2015, Anthony Ray Hinton was released from prison after spending 30 years in solitary confinement on Alabama’s death row. He grew up poor and black in rural Alabama. He learned to be a keen observer of the cruel Jim Crow laws and the way racial bias constrained the lives of people of color. A foreword from his attorney that finally helped prove his innocence says, “Mr. Hinton presents the narrative of a condemned man who is trapped by racism, poverty, an unreliable criminal justice system but he found the will to forgive.”