I know whyI’m often asked, “What’s your favorite memoir?” That’s a tough question; it’s like asking someone to choose between their children. I have many favorite memoirs, and usually the one I like best is the one I’m currently reading, but I do have some I revisit often, ones that bring a smile to my face just seeing their covers, old friends I never get tired of passing time with.

Many of the memoirs that line my bookshelves I’ve not yet read, and that’s okay, even though my husband can’t understand why I buy another book when I haven’t read all the ones I already have. I look at my unread book collection like a big party full of interesting people, and I just haven’t yet made it around the room to say hello to everyone. Hopefully, I will before the party ends, but if not, I’ve had the pleasure of their company and energy anyway.

I can’t say I’ve read many bad memoirs. Some are better written than others, and I simply enjoy certain types of stories, but in the end, I love reading about other people’s experiences.

Authors who write memoirs are special people. For the most part, I don’t believe they write their life stories to get rich and famous. Those who take the months and years to painstakingly arrange thousands of words into an interesting story do so because they have a message they want to share. They often want readers to know they are not alone, that someone else has endured similar difficulties. They love their mothers or fathers and want others to know them, too. They grew up in a magical time or place and long for it to exist forever in people’s memories. Sometimes, authors write memoirs to help them make sense of what has happened in their own lives.

So, with that said, below is a list of memoirs that are worth reading. Now, I know, as soon as I publish this, I’m going to remember ten other memoirs I want you to know about, so check back because I’ll keep adding to the list. How many of these have you read? What memoirs would you add to the list? Do you have a favorite memoir? Share your thoughts in the comments section following the list, and here’s the memoir reading list you can print out for your next visit to the bookstore. Happy reading.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Russell Baker, Growing Up (Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir)

Martha Beck, Expecting Adam

Rick Bragg, All Over But the Shoutin’

Rick Bragg, Ava’s Man

Rick Bragg, The Prince of Frogtown

Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods

Bill Bryson, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid…A Memoir

Frank Conroy, Stop – Time (considered the forerunner of modern memoir)

Annie Dillard & Cort Conley (editors), Modern American Memoirs

Michael Gates Gill, How Starbucks Saved My Life

Mikal Gilmore, Shot in the Heart

J.T. Glisson, The Creek

Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments

Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face

Patricia Hampl, A Romantic Education

Patricia Hampl, Virgin Time…In Search of the Contemplative Life

Homer Hickam, Rocket Boys

River Jordan, Praying for Strangers

Carolyn Jourdan, Heart in the Right Place

Mary Karr, The Liar’s Club

Tracy Kidder, My Detachment

Haven Kimmel, A Girl Named Zippy

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek

Caroline Knapp, Drinking…A Love Story

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

Mike Leonard, The Ride of Our Lives

Steve Lopez, The Soloist

Jacki Lyden, Daughter of the Queen of Sheba

Nancy Mairs, Voice Lessons

James McBride, The Color of Water

Mary McCarthy, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood

Mary McCarthy, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood

Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes:  A Memoir

Frank McCourt, Teacher Man

Frank McCourt, Tis

Paula McLain, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses

Kathleen Norris, Dakota

Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography

Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk

Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father

Michael Pollan, A Place of My Own

Michael Pollan, A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

Barbara Robinette Moss, Change Me Into Zeus’ Daughter

Barbara Robinette Moss, Fierce

Will Schwalbe, The End of Your Life Book Club

Alice Sebold, Lucky:  A Memoir

Rachel Simon, Riding the Bus with My Sister

Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge…An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Stephen Tobolowsky, The Dangerous Animals Club

Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle

Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings

Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance

E. B. White, Essays of E.B. White

Neil White, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

Tobias Wolff, This Boy’s Life:  A Memoir


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