Memoirs are like autobiographies but they range much more widely than that. Memoirs, especially about celebrities or public figures, take readers through a broad spectrum of a person’s life to show readers how they became who they are and are where they are in life. Some memoirs can just be about a particular moment in time, that spans just a few weeks or even a single day. Memoirs can be essay collections, include snippets of poetry, photos, drawings or be in the form of a novel. Here is the list of 20 best memoirs of all time.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami is a memoir about the entrancing meditation of running. In this memoir Murakami credits the repetition of his daily exercise for inculcating the mental and physical discipline needed to write novels. Murakami sold his jazz bar in 1982 to devote himself to writing and he began running to keep fit. A year later, he completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon. After dozens of such races, triathlons and critically acclaimed books, in this memoir he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and on his writing.

The memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and takes readers to different places, ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who are faster than him. The memoir recounts moments such as, when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is funny, spirited and philosophical.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway


A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is a memoir about his life as an unknown writer living in Paris in 1920s. The memoir is personal, affectionate, and full of wit.In the memoir he recounts the time when he was poor, happy, and writing in cafes and he discovered his vocation. Hemingway was a correspondent for the Toronto Star when he arrived in Paris in 1921. He also talks about meeting James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Braque and Picasso, Gertude Stein and T. S. Eliot. It was during his time in Paris that Hemingway gathered the material for his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. A Moveable Feast is a remarkable memoir about a writer’s life in Paris.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou wrote seven autobiographical works in her life, and ‘I Know Why The Caged Birds Sings’ is the first installment of the series. The memoir follows Angelou through her early life from living with her grandmother to later living in San Francisco. The memoir is about her struggle to break away from the shackles of racial oppression and sexism. ‘I Know WHy The Caged Bird Sings’ offers a message of strength and hope. The memoir is beautiful and inspiring.

On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King


On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King is part memoir and part master class. Stephen King in this memoir reveals his practical view of the writer’s craft and contains the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King talks about his memories from childhood through his rise as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999. The memoir is empowering and entertaining.

Reading Lolita In Tehran: A Memoir In Books by Azar Nafisi

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Reading Lolita In Tehran by Azar Nafisi is a memoir of eight women, including Nafisi herself who met every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran to read forbidden Western Classics. Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden books. While Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor suppressed artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi’s living room risked removing their veils and engrossed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. Soon the girls share their own stories, dreams and hopes with each other, and, for a few hours, taste freedom. Reading Lolita in Tehran is an extraordinary memoir that celebrates the transformative power of literature.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures In The Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain


Kitchen Confidential is a memoir by New York chef Anthony Bourdain. In the memoir chef and novelist talks about everything, sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine. He talks about his first oyster in the Gironde, about his lowly position as a dishwasher in a honky-tonk fish restaurant in Provincetown; about the kitchen of the Rainbow Room atop the Rockefeller Center and drug dealers in the East Village. He takes readers on a journey from Tokyo to Paris and back to New York again. Bourdain’s stories of the kitchen are passionate, unpredictable, and funny.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

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Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen is a memoir that encompasses horror and our perception of sane, insane, and mental illness recovery. In 1967, eighteen year old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital after a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before. She spent most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital, renowned for its famous clients that include Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles. The memoir provides evocative portrait of Kaysen’s fellow patients and their keepers.

The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion


The Year of Magical Thinking is a memoir from an iconic writer, Joan Didion. In her memoir Joan Didion explores marriage and a life, in both good times and bad. In 2003, several days before Christmas Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne’s daughter Quintana fell ill. At first it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock and then she was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. The night before New Year’s Eve while their family was just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second the partnership of forty years was over. The Year of Magical Thinking is a stunningly powerful book filled with honesty and passion.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

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Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling is a collection of essays. She shares her ongoing journey to find fulfillment and excitement in her adult life. She talks about falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, trying to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior change whatsoever, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re continuously reminded that no one looks like you. In her book Why Not Me? Mindy talks about the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations in life.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai


I Am Malala is a powerful and inspiring memoir by Malala Yousafzai. Malala began writing a blog on BBC Urdu in 2009 about life in the Swat Valley as the Taliban gained control, and banned girls from attending school. Malala began to appear in both Pakistani and international media, advocating the freedom to pursue education for all after her identity was discovered. A gunmen boarded Malala’s school bus and shot her in the face in October, 2012, The bullet passed through her head and into her shoulder and Malala remarkably survived the shooting.

Malala Yousafzai at a very young age, has become a worldwide symbol of courage and hope. Her shooting sparked a wave of solidarity across Pakistan and globally, for the right to education, freedom from terror and female emancipation. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate. I Am Malala is the remarkable story of a family that was uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, and of a father who, himself a school owner encouraged his daughter to write and attend school.

The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank

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The Diary Of A Young Girl is a riveting personal account of the Holocaust by Anne Frank. In 1942, the Nazis occupied Holland, and thirteen-year-old Jewish girl, Anne Frank and her family had to fled their home in Amsterdam and hide in an attic. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, the Franks and another family lived confined in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Isolated from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank wrote of her impressions of her experiences during this period. Anne Frank: Diary Of A Young Girl is a thoughtful, moving, and sometimes shockingly humorous account that offers commentary on human courage and fragility.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle


Untamed by Glennon Doyle is an intimate and motivating memoir. This memoir is about how Glennon decided to let go of the world’s expectations of her and reclaim her true untamed self. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not someone who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to live fully, how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, value our anger and heartbreak, and set free our truest and wildest instincts to become untamed. Untamed by Glennon Doyle tells readers how to be brave.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls 

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The Glass Castle is a profoundly moving memoir by Jeannette Walls. It is a story of resilience and redemption, of a family that is dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant and lived life of nomads. Jeannette’s father was an alcoholic, when he was sober he was charismatic and he captured his children’s imagination, taught them physics, geology, and told them how to embrace life fearlessly. However, when he was drunk, he was dishonest and destructive.

Jeannette’s mother was a free spirit who hated the idea of family life and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children became successful. Two decades after hiding her roots, Jeanette Walls tells her story in this tender memoir, The Glass Castle.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert


Eat, Pray, Love is a compelling memoir of a year in the life of Elizabeth Gilbert. When Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early midlife crisis. She had everything, a successful career, loving husband and home. However, instead of feeling happy, she felt panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the decimation of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be. Gilbert decided to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted. So she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world alone. She visited three places, Rome, India and Bali. Eat, Pray, Love is about self-discovery and what happens when you claim responsibility for your own happiness and stop trying to live by following society’s ideals.

The Good Girl’s Guide To Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman

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The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost is a travel memoir by Rachel Friedman. Rachel had always been the good girl who does well in school and plays it safe. When she was around twenty she surprised herself more than anyone when, on an impulse and to escape impending life decisions, she bought a ticket to Ireland, a place she had never visited. There she forms an unlikely bond with a free-spirited Australian girl, who is a born adventurer. She encourages Rachel on to a yearlong odyssey that takes her to three continents. As Rachel’s journey takes her to Australia and South America, she discovers and embraces her love of travel and she learns more truths about herself than she ever realized she was seeking.

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson


Why be Happy When You Can be Normal? is a memoir by Jeanette. The memoir is about life’s work to find happiness. The book is full of stories about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother and about growing up in a north England industrial town that is now changed beyond recognition; and about the Universe as a Cosmic Dustbin. Why be Happy When You Can be Happy? is a memoir of search for love, identity, home, and a mother.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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When Breath Becomes Air is a medical memoir by Paul Kalanithi. Paul at the age of thirty-six was on the verge of completing his decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon,when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He went from treating the dying to being a patient struggling to live.When Breath Becomes Air narrates Kalanithi’s story from a medical student to a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain and to a patient and new father tackling his own mortality.

My Story by Kamala Das


My Story is Kamala Das’s sensational memoir. The memoir shocked readers with its total disregard for mindless conventions and its fearless expression on subjects that are still considered taboo. My Story depicts the Das’s personal experiences in her course to womanhood and sheds light on the hypocrisies that are informed by traditional society. My Story by Kamala Das is a feminist classic and was ahead of its time when it was first published in 1973.

A Dutiful Boy by Mohsin Zaidi


A Dutiful Boy is an excellent coming-of-age memoir by Mohsin Zaidi. The memoir is about growing up queer in a strict Muslim household. Mohsin is between family, faith and freedom. Its about Mohsin Zaidi’s journey of self-discovery that reveals something deeper about humanity as a whole. Mohsin’s story takes distressing turns but it is full of life and humor, and is inspiring.

Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall by Spike Milligan

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Adolf Hitler: My Part on His Downfall by Spike Milligan is volume one of the author’s hilarious, legendary War Memoirs. In this, Spike Milligan writes about his recollections of life in the army, he takes readers from the outbreak of war in 1939 through his attempts to avoid enlistment and his gunner training in Bexhill to the landing at Algiers in 1943. Spike Milligan’s accounts on war are as funny and disdainful as Yossarian from Catch-22.

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