32 Memoir Examples That Offer a Thought-Provoking Read

Sarah Rexford
August 29, 2023 | 7 mins

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As an aspiring author, it’s likely you’re an avid reader. And, if you already have dreams of sharing your story with the world, it’s important to read and learn from other memoir examples that have resonated with readers.

But we don’t suggest just picking up any book.

If you want to learn how to write a memoir, we recommend checking out a book that has been written by an author with whom you have a shared lived experience, who has a similar style or writing tone to your own, or who writes about a similar topic. While the intention is never to copy someone else’s work, reading memoirs that might show up in the same category as yours could be immensely helpful.

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While reading, take note of how vulnerable the author gets, how much they share, how they relate to the reader, what details impact you the most, and what about the delivery makes it so moving.

Our top 32 memoir examples

From famous best-sellers to the lesser-known reads on this list, the following memoir examples include common universal literary themes, very intimate glimpses into the writers’ lives, hard-earned life lessons, and a variety of topics and tones to inspire your own memorable memoir.  

1. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Memoir Examples: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings By Maya Angelou

This is a classic memoir example – one that captures childhood, pain, and longing in all its nuanced forms.

2. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Memoir Examples: The Glass Castle By Jeanette Walls

Resilience and redemption co-star in this bestseller about Jeanette Walls’ life.

3. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Memoir Examples: The Hiding Place By Corrie Ten Boom

An evangelist and survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps, the life of Corrie Ten Boom stands among the best memoir examples. 

4. The Puma Years by Laura Coleman

Memoir Examples: The Puma Years By Laura Coleman

This story stands out among memoir examples for its personal look at the illegal pet trade industry, the impact of deforestation, and the bond between humans and animals.

5. Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Memoir Examples: Walden By Henry David Thoreau

You may not think documenting a life of seclusion would count as a memoir example, but Walden is considered one of the most compelling books in American literature.

6. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Memoir Examples: Born Standing Up By Steve Martin

This memoir shares why Steve Martin started – and stopped – his stand-up comedy. 

7. Life by Keith Richards

Memoir Examples: Life By Keith Richards

Written by the very one who founded The Rolling Stones, this one stands out among memoir examples. Ready to take a deep dive into Keith Richards’ life?

8. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Memoir Examples: The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

This semi-autobiographical, memoir-esque story shares the key points in Esther Greenwood’s neurosis. It is known as a haunting story while solidifying itself as an American classic.

9. All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg

Memoir Examples: All Over But The Shoutin’ By Rick Bragg

Known for its expert prose, this memoir example tells of a life headed for the cotton mills, culminating in a career as a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter.

10. The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

Memoir Examples: The Yellow House By Sarah M. Broom

One hundred years covered in one story, The Yellow House is unique among memoir examples. 

11. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Memoir Examples: Hunger: A Memoir Of (My) Body By Roxane Gay

Bestselling author Roxane Gay invites readers into a behind-the-curtain look at self-image, food, safety, and the dependent role each plays in correlation to the others. 

12. God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew

Memoir Examples: God'S Smuggler By Brother Andrew

At first glance, Brother Andrew’s story fits in the thriller book genre – except for the fact that it’s all completely true. His dedication to smuggling Bibles to those who did not have any makes for a riveting read.

13. The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke

Memoir Examples: The Long Goodbye By Meghan O'Rourke

Memoir examples that artfully address grief and how to grieve well are few and far between. Meghan tackles this topic from a personal angle with a story only she could tell.

14. Her by Christa Parravani

Memoir Examples: Her By Christa Parravani

Imagine losing a sibling, a twin, and knowing that you yourself only have a 50% chance at survival. This memoir example covers a unique look at love and survival. 

15. South Island Tiny House by Corianne Holmes

Memoir Examples: South Island Tiny House By Corianne Holmes

While many of our memoir examples cover large periods of time or even an author’s entire lifetime, this is a story about a pivotal, life-changing season in a person’s life. Written by one of our very own Self Publishing students, Corianne shares her experience of moving to a new country and into a tiny home – divulging plenty of lessons learned.

16. Fullness by Azure Moyna 

Memoir Examples: Fullness By Azure Moyna

Azure shares her story of surviving her brilliant yet sociopathic father, her struggle with bulimia, and her hunger for love.

17. My Mother’s Daughter by Perdita Felicien

Memoir Examples: My Mother'S Daughter By Perdita Felicien

Opportunity, suffering, faith, perseverance and grit, Olympics, and nannying – each one of these topics shows up within the pages of this book that’s based on a true story.

18. Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction By David Sheff

Memoir Examples: Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction By David Sheff

This memoir, written by a father about his son, is such a compelling memoir example that it was turned into a major motion picture. Addiction takes many faces, but when it appears on the face of your son, it’s that much more personal. 

19. Cowboy in a Corporate World by Ray Marxer

Memoir Examples: Cowboy In A Corporate World By Ray Marxer

If you are a historical nonfiction lover or enraptured by the American West, read this memoir (by another SP student!) for a modern take about life on the ranch.  

20. Personal History by Katharine Graham

Memoir Examples: Personal History By Katharine Graham

Presidents, mental illness, wealth, suicide, deep loneliness…the life of Katharine Graham will keep you turning pages.

21. Let’s Take The Long Way Home: A Memoir Of Friendship By Gail Caldwell

Memoir Examples: Let’s Take The Long Way Home: A Memoir Of Friendship By Gail Caldwell

A Pulitzer Prize winner, Gail Caldwell invites readers into an intimate look at friendship, life’s highs and lows, and the power of women when facing it all. 

22. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Memoir Examples: When Breath Becomes Air By Paul Kalanithi

From the New York Times bestseller list, this is a memoir of a 36-year-old who goes from being a neurosurgeon to being a patient. 

23. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Memoir Examples: Angela’s Ashes By Frank Mccourt

This story chronicles the life of Irish immigrants, their resilience, and the details of surviving daily life. 

24. Ain’t That a Miracle? by Jeremy Occhipinti

Memoir Examples: Ain'T That A Miracle? An Unlikely Journey Into Music And Meditation By Jeremy Occhipinti

Funny and frank, while addressing some of the extremes of human emotion, this is another one of our favorite memoir examples written by one of our authors! 

25. Educated by Tara Westover 

Memoir Examples: Educated By Tara Westover

Tara was 10ths 7 when she stepped into her first-ever classroom. Somehow, she made it to Harvard and Cambridge. This is her story.

26. Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Story by David Payne

Memoir Examples: Barefoot To Avalon By David Payne

This deeply personal memoir example is one of two brothers, their rivalries and love, and the tragedy that cut through their lives far too early. 

27. Heart Berries By Terese Marie Mailhot

Memoir Examples: Heart Berries By Terese Marie Mailhot

This memoir example shares the story of Terese’s dysfunctional past, a life-changing diagnosis, and, ultimately her journey toward overcoming it all. 

28. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Memoir Examples: Yes Please By Amy Poehler

Candid but also hilarious (I mean, would we expect less?) Amy’s story belongs among the top comedic celebrity memoir examples. 

29. Pawprints On Our Hearts by Kerk Murray

Memoir Examples: Pawprints On Our Hearts By Kerk Murray

Any book about a man’s best friend is always worth the read. This international bestseller was a huge Amazon self-publishing success story, creating a legacy far bigger than just one book.

30.  Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell

Memoir Examples: Homage To Catalonia By George Orwell

This is a memoir example of personal ideas and the conflict when realities arrive on the war front. George Orwell recounts his time fighting the Fascists.

31. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Memoir Examples: Wave By Sonali Deraniyagala

Written by the sole surviving family member of a massive tsunami, Sonali writes about a very serious topic: grief and the aftermath of tragedy. 

32. What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo

Memoir Example: What My Bones Know By Stephanie Foo

This one covers some major triggers: childhood abuse and trauma followed by a lifetime of mis- or undiagnosed PTSD and, finally, the healing she’s always needed. Stephanie doesn’t hold back in this memoir that may help others on their own journey.

What’s next? Include your story in memoir examples

You now have a versatile list of various memoir examples as well as snippets of why these stories stand out among memoirs. 

Now it’s your turn! Take some time to consider your own life story, the themes that stand out, and how they could help your readers. Then, create a memoir outline and get to writing.

Your story could change people’s lives – don’t wait any longer to publish it! 

While it may feel intimidating to write a book that’s raw and vulnerable and your story, starting your memoir is often the most difficult part. Editing, publishing, and book marketing, including permission marketing, all come long after you’ve got an initial manuscript in your hands. And, if you claim your free copy of Published (just click below) or join our Author Advantage Accelerator, you’ll have a dedicated coach to help you with each step of your author journey.

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