• Culture

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.
  • 1
    Jeannette Walls

    First Published2005

    SubjectsJeannette Walls, Maureen Walls, Rex Walls, Rose Mary Walls, Brian Walls

    Genres (Book)Memoir

    Original LanguageEnglish 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
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  • 2

    First Published1947

    SubjectsNetherlands in World War II, Otto Frank, World War II, Hannah Pik-Goslar, Sol Kimel

    Genres (Book)Children's literature, Biography, Autobiography, High fantasy

    Original LanguageDutch 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
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    #53 of 128 The Best Overall Books for Kids#131 of 300 The Greatest Children's Books That Were Made Into Movies#8 of 102 The Best Books for Teens

  • 3
    Elie Wiesel

    First Published1955

    SubjectsLiterary, Entertainment, Poland, Modern history, World War II

    Genres (Book)Children's literature, Biography, Fiction, Autobiography, Novel

    Original LanguageYiddish 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
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    #131 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time#11 of 126 The Best Autobiographies Ever Written#31 of 71 Required Reading That You Actually Ended Up Loving

  • 4
    Frank McCourt

    First Published1996-09-05

    SubjectsFrank McCourt

    Genres (Book)Biography, Memoir

    Original LanguageEnglish 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
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  • 5

    First Published1969

    SubjectsLiterary, Arkansas, Women, United States of America, 20th century

    Genres (Book)Biography, Autobiographical novel, Autobiography

    Original LanguageEnglish 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
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  • 6


    Genres (Book)Biography, Fiction

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  • 7

    First Published2000-10-03

    SubjectsCreative writing, Literary, Composition, Literature, Linguistics

    Genres (Book)Autobiography

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, published in 2000, is a memoir of the author's experiences as a writer, and also serves as a guide book for those who choose to enter the craft. In  ...more
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  • 8

    First Published1995-09-01

    SubjectsDave Pelzer, California

    Genres (Book)Children's literature, Biography

    Original LanguageEnglish Language, Spanish Language

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  • 9
    Augusten Burroughs

    SubjectsLiterary, Homosexuality, Massachusetts, 20th century

    Genres (Book)Biography, Autobiography, Memoir, Reference

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Running with Scissors is a 2002 memoir by American writer Augusten Burroughs. The book tells the story of Burroughs's bizarre childhood life after his mother, a chain-smoking aspiring poet, sent him  ...more
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    #13 of 20 20 Books That Deserve Much Better Adaptations Than They Got#19 of 41 The Best Autobiographical Novels

  • 10

    First Published1997

    SubjectsMorrie Schwartz, Literary, Education, Brandeis University, United States of America

    Genres (Book)Philosophy, Non-fiction, Biography, Biographical novel, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Tuesdays with Morrie is a memoir by American writer Mitch Albom. The story was later recreated by Thomas Rickman into a TV movie of the same name directed by Mick Jackson, which aired on December 17,  ...more
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    #76 of 103 The Best Selling Books of All Time#193 of 1,236 The Best Novels Ever Written#85 of 704 Books That Changed Your Life

  • 11

    First Published1995-01-01

    Genres (Book)Memoir

    The Liars' Club is a book by Mary Karr.  ...more
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  • 12

    First Published1994

    SubjectsCelebrities, Criminology, James Arthur Williams, United States of America, Espionage

    Genres (Book)Non-fiction novel, Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a non-fiction work by John Berendt. Published in 1994, the book was Berendt's first, and became a The New York Times bestseller for 216 weeks following its  ...more
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    #44 of 171 The Greatest American Novels#5 of 21 The Best True Crime Novels Ever Written#9 of 61 The Greatest Non-Fiction Novels

  • 13

    First Published2000-05-02

    SubjectsFrance, Paris

    Genres (Book)Humour, Essay

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Me Talk Pretty One Day, published in 2000, is a bestselling collection of essays by American humorist David Sedaris. The book is separated into two parts. The first part consists of essays about  ...more
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  • 14
    noiradelic addedTobias Wolff

    First Published1989-01-26

    SubjectsTobias Wolff

    Genres (Book)Memoir

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    This Boy's Life is a memoir by American author Tobias Wolff first published in 1989. It describes the author's adolescence as he wanders the continental United States with his travelling mother. The  ...more
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  • 15
    Susanna Kaysen

    First Published1993

    SubjectsInternal medicine, Medicine, Massachusetts

    Genres (Book)Memoir

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Girl, Interrupted is a best-selling 1993 memoir by American author Susanna Kaysen, relating her experiences as a young woman in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s after being diagnosed with  ...more
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  • 16
    Isak Dinesen
    Out of Africa is a 1985 American epic romantic drama film directed and produced by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. The film is based loosely on the autobiographical book  ...more
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    #23 of 1,195 Every Oscar Winning Film Ever#135 of 512 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked#104 of 557 The Best Film Scores Of All Time

  • 17
    Alex Haley, Malcolm X

    First Published1965

    SubjectsSecurity, African American, African American studies, Black, Islam

    Genres (Book)Biography, Autobiography

    The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965, the result of a collaboration between human rights activist Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley. Haley coauthored the autobiography based on a  ...more
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  • 18
    Frank McCourt

    First Published1999-09-21

    SubjectsLiterary, Frank McCourt, Local, Family, United States of America

    Genres (Book)Memoir

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    'Tis is a memoir written by Frank McCourt. Published in 1999, it begins where McCourt ended Angela's Ashes, his Pulitzer Prize winning memoir of his impoverished childhood in Ireland and his return  ...more
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  • 19
    Patti Smith

    First Published2010-01-19

    SubjectsRobert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith

    Genres (Book)Memoir

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Just Kids is a memoir by Patti Smith, published on January 19, 2010. In the book, Smith documents her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe.  ...more
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  • 20
    Marjane Satrapi

    SubjectsIran–Iraq War, Marjane Satrapi

    Genres (Book)Autobiographical comics

    Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. The title is a reference to the  ...more
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  • 21

    First Published2007-02-13

    SubjectsMilitary, Sierra Leone, History, Africa

    Genres (Book)Non-fiction, Biography, Autobiography, Memoir

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a memoir written by Ishmael Beah, an author from Sierra Leone. The book is a firsthand account of Beah's time as a child soldier during the civil war in  ...more
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  • 22

    First Published1995

    SubjectsRuth McBride Jordan, James McBride

    Genres (Book)Non-fiction

    The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother, is the autobiography of James McBride first published in 1995; it is also a tribute to his mother. The chapters alternate between James  ...more
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  • 23

    First Published2005-10-18

    SubjectsJohn Grogan, Donald Trump, Marley the Dog, The Last Home Run

    Genres (Book)Non-fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog is a New York Times bestselling autobiographical book by journalist John Grogan, published in 2005, about the thirteen years he and his family  ...more
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  • 24
    Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is a book written by Alexandra Fuller.  ...more
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  • 25

    First Published1997-03-06

    SubjectsLocked-in syndrome, Quadriplegia, Jean-Dominique Bauby

    Genres (Book)Autobiography, Memoir

    Original LanguageFrench Language

    The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly is a book by Jean-Dominique Bauby.  ...more
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