The Best Memoirs Ever Written

The best memoirs throughout literary history have managed to both educate and entertain readers over the years. They have introduced characters as compelling as any work of fiction - the world is able to know Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, David Sedaris, and Maya Angelou through the pages of their famous memoirs. What are the best memoirs of all time? This list of popular memoirs includes literary works of art that provide historical accounts and biographies that were written from personal knowledge of historical accounts.

The thing that sets a top memoir apart from other literary works such as biographies or autobiographies is that it includes the personal experiences and first-hand accounts of the author. For example, Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl only discusses key experiences she lived through during the Holocaust, and the effects it had on her as a child.

In contrast, an autobiography will cover the entire span of the author’s life, such as The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams. Such works of literary will be a broader-focused perspective of an author’s life experiences instead of a more narrowed, single approach to a historical event. Both memoirs and autobiographies are true because they discuss true events that the author experienced or were a part of in some way. There are many different genres of memoirs that discuss a variety of topics. For a lighthearted read, Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom is one of reader’s top picks. If you’re looking for a more serious approach, consider Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.
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Ranked by
  • The Glass Castle
    Jeannette Walls
    375 votes
    • First Published: 2005
    • Subjects: Jeannette Walls, Maureen Walls, Rex Walls, Rose Mary Walls, Brian Walls
    • Genres (Book): Memoir
    • Original Language: English Language
    The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls. The book recounts Walls' and her siblings' unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents. The ...more
  • The Diary of a Young Girl
    269 votes
    • First Published: 1947
    • Subjects: Netherlands in World War II, Otto Frank, World War II, Hannah Pik-Goslar, Sol Kimel
    • Genres (Book): Children's literature, Biography, Autobiography, High fantasy
    • Original Language: Dutch Language
    The Diary of a Young Girl is a book of the writings from the Dutch language diary kept by Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the ...more
  • Night
    Elie Wiesel
    187 votes
    • First Published: 1955
    • Subjects: Literary, Entertainment, Poland, Modern history, World War II
    • Genres (Book): Children's literature, Biography, Fiction, Autobiography, Novel
    • Original Language: Yiddish Language
    Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–45, at the height of the Holocaust toward the end of the ...more
  • Angela's Ashes
    Frank McCourt
    243 votes
    • First Published: 1996-09-05
    • Subjects: Frank McCourt
    • Genres (Book): Biography, Memoir
    • Original Language: English Language
    Angela's Ashes is a 1996 memoir by the Irish author Frank McCourt. The memoir consists of various anecdotes and stories of Frank McCourt's impoverished childhood and early adulthood in Brooklyn, New ...more
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
    166 votes
    • First Published: 1969
    • Subjects: Literary, Arkansas, Women, United States of America, 20th century
    • Genres (Book): Biography, Autobiographical novel, Autobiography
    • Original Language: English Language
    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the 1969 autobiography about the early years of African-American writer and poet Maya Angelou. The first in a seven-volume series, it is a coming-of-age story that ...more
  • All Creatures Great and Small
    100 votes
    • Subjects: Animal
    • Genres (Book): Biography, Fiction