9 Best Memoir Writers You Must Read

Are you interested in the best memoir writers? If so, take a look at the list below, and consider learning about some of the lives of amazing authors and historical figures. 

There is nothing quite like reading a beautiful memoir. The best memoirs come from all over the world. Some authors are American, while others might be English, French, or Asian. You might be interested in a coming-of-age tale, or you might be interested in a memoir that recounts one’s own life. If you are looking for a list of must-read memoirs, take a look at the list of some of the best books below. 

Best memoir writers you must read

1. Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

Maya Angelou
Courtesy, William J. Clinton Presidential Library

If you are looking for a powerful memoir, look no further than Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist, memoirist, and African American poet. She published several poetry books, multiple plays, collections of essays, and autobiographies during her life. She also played a role in the development of movies and television shows. She received countless awards, dozens of honorary degrees and remained an influential figure in American Life.

She experienced many challenging, unique, and powerful events in her life. She worked as a sex worker, a fry cook, and was a cast member of Porgy and Bess. Even though there are countless beautiful books that you should read, you should consider picking up a copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Published in 1969, the book tells the story of her life from birth until the age of 17. This book brought her international stardom and acclaim, positioning her as one of the most influential civil rights activists of the 20th century. 

You might also enjoy our round-up of the best autobiographies.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Angelou, Maya (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 04/21/2009 (Publication Date) - Ballantine Books (Publisher)

2. Alison Bechdel, Born 1960

Alison Bechdel
Chase Elliot Clark. CC BY 2.0

If you are looking for a graphic memoir, you should check out some of the works by Alison Bechdel. She is a famous American cartoonist and positioned herself as one of the greatest writers with her comic strip, Dykes To Watch Out For. In addition, her graphic memoir titled Fun Home, brought her immediate commercial success in 2006. This work was subsequently adapted into a musical that earned a Tony Award in 2015. Since then, she has published multiple memoirs, which have added to her legacy. 

Many of her graphic Memoirs are based on her experiences as a lesbian. She came out at the age of 19, and gender nonconformity is at the center of many of her works. She has spent time in California and Vermont and continues to be a powerful advocate in the LGBT community. 

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
  • Bechdel, Alison (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 232 Pages - 06/05/2007 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books (Publisher)

3. Anne Frank, 1929 – 1945

Anne Frank
The last known photograph of Anne, taken in May 1942, was taken at a passport photo shoot. (Photo collection Anne Frank House, Amsterdam. Public Domain Work)

Anne Frank was a victim of the Holocaust and became an international star in 1947 when her diary was published. Titled The Diary of a Young Girl, it gave the world an inside look at what it was like to hide from the Germans during the Holocaust there in the 1940s.

And Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany. When Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power, Anne Frank moved with her family to Amsterdam. Similar to other Jewish individuals, she lost her citizenship in 1941. When the Germans occupied the Netherlands, she and her family worked to hide from them.

Eventually, they were discovered, and she and her sister were transported to Auschwitz. She was ultimately moved to Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, where she passed away just 14 days before the camp was liberated. Her mother and sister were also victims of concentration camp starvation. Her father, Otto Frank, survived the war and passed away in 1980, aged 91. 

Her diary was adapted into a play and a movie, with the former winning a Pulitzer Prize. 

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
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  • Frank, Anne (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

4. Frank McCourt, 1930 – 2009

Frank McCourt
Suhanri Simanullang – Own work. CC BY-SA 4.0

Frank McCourt was an Irish American writer and teacher. He was born in Brooklyn, New York City, in 1930. He was the oldest child of Irish Catholic immigrants. He also had four younger siblings. He grew up in the middle of the Great Depression. His family decided to move back to Ireland in 1934 to escape the depression devastating New York City.

His family could not find work in Belfast or Dublin, and his father suffered from alcoholism. Frank McCourt subsequently published a memoir called Angela’s Ashes. The book describes what it was like to grow up during one of the most challenging periods in human history. With vivid attention to detail, pointing at memories, and unforgettable stories, his memoir earned a Pulitzer Prize by telling the story of the squalor and misery of his childhood.

Angela's Ashes: A Memoir
  • 068484267X
  • Angela's Ashes A Memoir
  • Frank McCourt (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

5. Joan Didion, 1934 – 2021

Joan Didion
Joan Didion at the 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival in New York City. The photographer dedicates this photograph to Eleanor Silvers, mother of Jeffpw.

Joan Didion was an American writer. She wanted her career in the 1950s after winning an essay contest in Vogue magazine. During the 1960s and 1970s, she became one of the most celebrated writers in American history. She focused on the counterculture that rocked the 1960s as well as the Hollywood lifestyle. Her political writing was focused on social rhetoric, the lack of morals and politics, and the changes that needed to happen in society.

In 1991, she again rose to stardom when she published an article suggesting the Central Park five were innocent. In 2005, she won a national book award for her work, The Year of Magical Thinking. Many of her works have been turned into plays, movies, and documentaries. She was the focus of a documentary that aired on Netflix in 2017, titled The Center Will Not Hold. 

The Year of Magical Thinking
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  • Didion, Joan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 227 Pages - 02/13/2007 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

6. Malala Yousafzai, Born 1997

Malala Yousafzai
This file has been extracted from another file, CC BY 4.0

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. She is the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Prize, and she is the second Pakistani to earn this award. She advocates for human rights, female education, and the eradication of violence along with world hunger. She has generated an international movement and shone a light on many of the issues plaguing the Middle East, Pakistan, and India.

Malala Yousafzai was also the target of a murder attempt. She received medical treatment, spoke about her experiences, and even sent a petition to the United Nations to put an end to the violence in the Middle East. She continues to be an advocate for girls’ education while also fighting for human rights. She has been interviewed by some of the top journalists in the United States, including late-night show hosts such as Jon Stewart and David Letterman. She subsequently published a memoir titled I Am Malala.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Yousafzai, Malala (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 289 Pages - 10/08/2013 (Publication Date) - Little, Brown and Company (Publisher)

7. Mary Karr, Born 1955

Mary Karr
Kara Hayes Smith – St. Louis County Library – St. Louis County LibraryCC BY-SA 2.0.

Mary Karr is an American essay writer and poet from East Texas. She is also the Jessie Truesdell Peck Professor of English literature at Syracuse University. She was interested in writing from an early age, but it was her Memoir published in 1955, titled The Liars’ Club, that put her on the map. The book was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year and was named one of the year’s top books.

The memoir takes the reader inside a deeply troubled childhood. She spent a lot of her time growing up in the industrial section of Texas in the 1960s. Her friend encouraged her to write a personal history of her childhood, but she only decided to do so after her marriage ended in divorce. She then followed up the first memoir with several others to paint a more complete picture of her life.

The Liars' Club: A Memoir
  • Karr, Mary (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 05/31/2005 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

8. Michelle Obama, Born 1964

Michelle Obama
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy – P021213CK-0027 (direct link). Public Domain.

Michelle Obama is an American attorney and former first lady who is married to former US President Barack Obama. Barack Obama was in office from 2009 to 2017. Michelle is the first African-American woman to hold the position of first lady, and she is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Early in her legal career, she worked at the law firm of Sidley Austin. There, she met Barack Obama. After that, she worked for numerous nonprofit organizations until her husband was elected president.

Michelle Obama is one of the most admired and respected women in United States history. She gave readers an inside look at her life when she published her memoir, titled Becoming, which walks the audience through many of the initiatives that she has led during her life. Now, she spends her time encouraging national service, fighting for military families, and advocating for education. 

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  • Hardcover Book
  • Obama, Michelle (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 448 Pages - 11/13/2018 (Publication Date) - Crown (Publisher)

9. Ernest Hemingway, 1899 – 1961

Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Lloyd Arnold for the first edition For Whom the Bell at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, late 1939. Public Domain.

Ernest Hemingway was a novelist, short story author, and journalist from the early 20th century. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954. He published a wide variety of short story collections and novels, many of them telling stories from his life. He served on the Italian front in World War I. His novel A Farewell To Arms, was primarily based on his experience fighting during the First World War. 

He went on to publish a wide variety of bestsellers, including The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea.

In addition, he was present on the beaches of Normandy when the allies invaded Mainland Europe in 1944 on D-Day. He had many houses in Cuba and Key West. Following a plane crash in 1954, he developed chronic pain. In 1959, he bought a house in Idaho and lived on the plains. He subsequently died by suicide in 1961.

A Farewell To Arms
  • Hemingway, Ernest (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 332 Pages - 06/01/1995 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

Final Word on Best Memoir Writers

These are just a few of the top memoirists of recent history. Many people love reading memoirs because they give people a real-life look inside some important and interesting historical figures for the first time. Regardless of whether you are interested in civil rights, World War II, or something else entirely, there is a good chance that someone has published a memoir about that topic. Furthermore, you might be able to learn a lesson about yourself by taking a look at the lives of other people. 

Consider picking up a copy of one of these memoirs on Amazon. Even though you might be able to read a history book and look at some statistics, it is entirely different to look at these experiences through the eyes of someone who was actually there. 

If you are considering writing your memoirs, ensure you use the best memoir writing software to help you on the journey. 

FAQs About Best Memoir Writers

Why do people decide to publish memoirs?

People decide to publish memoirs because they believe people are interested in what they have to say or what their lives were like. People who publish memoirs hope that the lessons of their lives can inspire the next generation. 

Are memoirs the same as autobiographies?

There are a lot of similarities between the two. Usually, an autobiography is written at the end of someone’s life. In contrast, many memoirs are written when the person is still relatively young. An autobiography tends to focus on someone’s entire life, while a memoir focuses on a smaller piece of it. 

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