The most recommended memoirs

Who picked these books? Meet our 1,701 experts.

1,701 authors created a book list connected to memoirs, and here are their favorite memoirs books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of memoir?

Loading...
Loading...

Book cover of Between the Woods and the Water

Jonathan Meiburg Author Of A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World's Smartest Birds of Prey

From my list on taking you to another world.

Why am I passionate about this?

If you’re curious about the world, you can find secret doors that open onto sudden vistas. For me, exploring the lives and origins of the caracaras unveiled an astonishing story about life on Earth—and though the books in my list are mostly nonfiction, they all explore real worlds as absorbing as any fantasy. 

Jonathan's book list on taking you to another world

Jonathan Meiburg Why did Jonathan love this book?

This book is the second in a trilogy about a long journey Fermor made—mostly on foot—from Holland to Istanbul in 1934, when he was nineteen years old. Fermor wrote the books from memory many years afterward, so their veracity is open to question, but his imagination and skill aren't: he might resent the comparison, but his books gave me the same thrills as an adult that I remember from my parents reading The Lord of the Rings to me as a child. Though all three are astounding, Between the Woods and the Water is my favorite— it begins as he crosses the Danube into Hungary from the west, follows him across Romania, and ends up in the Balkans, a region that would soon be transformed (and, in part, erased) by World War II. Fermor knows that too, but he doesn't mention it: he lets the places he walks through and…

By Patrick Leigh Fermor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Between the Woods and the Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The acclaimed travel writer's youthful journey - as an 18-year-old - across 1930s Europe by foot began in A Time of Gifts, which covered the author's exacting journey from the Lowlands as far as Hungary.

Picking up from the very spot on a bridge across the Danube where his readers last saw him, we travel on with him across the great Hungarian Plain on horseback, and over the Romanian border to Transylvania.

The trip was an exploration of a continent which was already showing signs of the holocaust which was to come. Although frequently praised for his lyrical writing, Fermor's…


Book cover of Here If You Need Me: A True Story

Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney Author Of Saint Death's Daughter: Volume 1

From my list on I want to be when I grow up.

Why am I passionate about this?

With every book we read, we engage in a complex act of telepathy and empathy. We are entering another human’s thoughts, interpreting them with our own, and come out changed from this colossal encounter. These five books I mentioned, with their extraordinary kindness, insight, humor, wisdom, warmth, compassion, and wholeness—many of them fantasies, many of them focusing on communities—have informed the writer I am today: a World Fantasy Award Winner. But I wouldn’t be without all the books that helped make me. These books are some of the best that built me, and keep building in me: the kind of books I try to write myself.

Claire's book list on I want to be when I grow up

Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney Why did Claire love this book?

Here If You Need Me is a non-fiction memoir I read years ago on a whim. It still sticks with me. A woman with four children is happily married to a State trooper training to be a minister. When he dies suddenly, she goes on to become a minister herself, working with search and rescue missions in the Maine woods while raising her children. Her intimate knowledge of grief, her vulnerability, and compassion, coupled with a life of service and family, moved me so deeply that I often call upon the memory of this book in my life to metaphorically “get down on the floor with those who weep, and give them tea if they want it.”

By Kate Braestrup,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Here If You Need Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

HERE IF YOU NEED ME is the story Kate Braestrup's remarkable journey from grief to faith to happiness - as she holds her family together in the wake of her husband's death, pursues his dream of becoming a minister, and ultimately finds her calling as a chaplain to search-and-rescue workers. It is dramatic, funny, deeply moving, and simply unforgettable--an uplifting account offinding God through helping others, and of the small miracles that happen every day when a heart is grateful and love isrestored.


Book cover of Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

Carl F. Nathan Author Of An Arrow's ARC: Journey of a Physician-Scientist

From my list on a life in science or medicine.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up, I experienced “otherness.” My family was hard up amidst affluence. Typecast as Jewish, where that was a rarity, we were met with suspicion and unease. Being a woman held my mother back from her preferred profession. Racism was rampant; my growing appreciation of it and efforts to intervene added to “otherness.”  My childhood was shadowed by illness, including my mother’s cancer. These influences drew me to medicine and science. Both are a way to overcome “otherness” and to protect one’s family, even as my sense of family expanded. Medicine forges extraordinary bonds between doctor and patient. Science brings people together from diverse backgrounds to share goals. These connections make meaningful stories. 

Carl's book list on a life in science or medicine

Carl F. Nathan Why did Carl love this book?

I love how Simard weaves her life story together with the story of what she discovered.

I empathize with her standing up to rejection, even ridicule, to overcome being an “outsider,” both for her discoveries and for being a woman in science. I admire that she is equally attuned to the details of how trees and the fungi beneath them collaborate and communicate as she is to the industrial, societal, and climatological implications.

Through it all, she expresses the message that life is sustained and shaped by a web of interactions within species and among them.

By Suzanne Simard,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Finding the Mother Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From the world's leading forest ecologist who forever changed how people view trees and their connections to one another and to other living things in the forest—a moving, deeply personal journey of discovery

“Finding the Mother Tree reminds us that the world is a web of stories, connecting us to one another. [The book] carries the stories of trees, fungi, soil and bears--and of a human being listening in on the conversation. The interplay of personal narrative, scientific insights and the amazing revelations about the life of the forest make a compelling story.”—Robin Wall…


Book cover of The Twins of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele's hell

Lisa Rojany Author Of The Twins of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele's hell

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have published over 50 books, including award-winning and bestselling titles. I am also a publishing executive and editor with 20+ years of professional experience. My latest The Twins of Auschwitz: The Inspiring True Story of  Young Girl Surviving Mengele’s Hell, with Eva Kor, got a stellar review by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and is an international bestseller. As well as spearheading four publishing startups, I have run my own business, Editorial Services of L.A. I was Editorial/Publishing Director for Golden Books, Price Stern Sloan, Intervisual Books, Hooked on Phonics, and more. I am also the Publisher & Editor in Chief of NY Journal Of Books, the premier online-only book review site.

Lisa's book list on picture books for all ages

What is my book about?

This is the Inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele’s hell. This is an incisive, harrowing, and touching memoir of Eva Mozes Kor and her twin sister Miriam, who are sent to Auschwitz only to be torn from their parents and given to Josef Mengele, "The Angel of Death," for his evil and damaging experiments on human subjects.

In the voice of the ten-year-old Eva, we learn about what life was like in the death camps and how a child survives when food, water, comfort, and care are absent. At times heartbreaking and at other times a triumph of the will of a child to survive, this is a memoir that is not easily forgotten.

By Lisa Rojany, Eva Mozes Kor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Twins of Auschwitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

The Nazis spared their lives because they were twins.

In the summer of 1944, Eva Mozes Kor and her family arrived at Auschwitz.

Within thirty minutes, they were separated. Her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, while Eva and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man who became known as the Angel of Death: Dr. Josef Mengele. They were 10 years old.

While twins at Auschwitz were granted the 'privileges' of keeping their own clothes and hair, they were also subjected to Mengele's sadistic medical experiments. They…


Book cover of My Garden

Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit Author Of How to Window Box: Small-Space Plants to Grow Indoors or Out

From my list on designing your dream garden.

Why are we passionate about this?

We’re Chantal Gordon and Ryan Benoit — the cofounders of gardening/design/DIY blog The Horticult. Our site shows you how to create handsome yet effective habitats for your plants. That includes a collection of mounted staghorn ferns under our citrus trees, a vertical garden for your herbs, and a sleek bog for carnivorous pitcher plants. One of our most popular DIYs is how to build an outdoor theater behind your rosemary hedge. We show people how to create outdoor spaces they can deeply enjoy — whether it’s a patio, balcony, or yard. A key to welcoming someone is good design. The more you like hanging out outside, the better care you’ll take of your plants.

Chantal and Ryan's book list on designing your dream garden

Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit Why did Chantal and Ryan love this book?

Now that you know what plants to put where, it's time to explore how those plants will never stop playing with your emotions. Kincaid writes with incredible emotional precision about the gardens she’s designed and planted — evoking specific hybrids of buddleia and aster that’ll send you googling and giving words to the anxiety of a wisteria that’s blooming more than two months late. The pages of My Garden are peppered with Latin names and inspiring combos, like a banana tree in a pot “looking happy amid a background of plants alien to it” including evergreens and monkshood. These plants and design elements like ponds take us on flashbacks to Kincaid’s childhood and young adulthood, and yes, into the scourge of colonization that even the dahlia can’t escape.

By Jamaica Kincaid,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of our finest writers on one of her greatest loves. Jamaica Kincaid's first garden in Vermont was a plot in the middle of her front lawn. There, to the consternation of more experienced friends, she planted only seeds of the flowers she liked best. In My Garden (Book) she gathers all she loves about gardening and plants, and examines it generously, passionately, and with sharp, idiosyncratic discrimination. Kincaid's affections are matched in intensity only by her dislikes. She loves spring and summer but cannot bring herself to love winter, for it hides the garden. She adores the rhododendron Jane…


Book cover of Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

Susan C. Conley Author Of Landslide

From my list on boy moms and their connection to teenage boys.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a fourth-generation “Mainer” and the mother of two boy “wolves,” and I have a deep well of respect for boys and their imaginations in the masculinized culture we swim in. I've seen how much rich thinking is going on in the inner lives of boys. The teenage boy rendered in literature can be a stock character, and I was determined to give them more respect on the page and to explore what’s not said between boy moms and their sons that deeply connects them. I teach widely and write non-fiction as well as fiction and am a founder of a creative writing center in Portland, Maine for kids called the Telling Room. 

Susan's book list on boy moms and their connection to teenage boys

Susan C. Conley Why did Susan love this book?

This is the Mother of all boy mom books. It’s required reading for anyone learning to speak boy. Equal parts despair—Lamott is a single mom who sometimes wants to leave her crying boy outside on the stoop—and equal parts gut punches of hilarious wisdom and ardor about boy life and mom devotion.

By Anne Lamott,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Operating Instructions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the journal of the birth of Anne Lamott's son Sam, and their first year together. Coping with being a recovering alcoholic and a single mother, Anne had to face the fact that her best friend since childhood was dying of cancer.


Book cover of Pretend I'm Not Here: How I Worked with Three Newspaper Icons, One Powerful First Lady, and Still Managed to Dig Myself Out of the Washington Swamp

Andrew Crofts Author Of Ghostwriting

From my list on ghostwriting and ghostwriters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a ghostwriter for over thirty years, publishing more than a hundred books under other people’s names, as well as those under my own name. It has allowed me to live a hundred different and varied lives and it is a profession I like to encourage all writers to consider. Several of my own novels have featured ghostwriters as central characters, including Secrets of the Italian Gardener and What Lies Around Us.

Andrew's book list on ghostwriting and ghostwriters

Andrew Crofts Why did Andrew love this book?

Barbara Feinman Todd is a top-level Washington ghostwriter and journalist. In this memoir, she gives a shocking, and entertaining insight into her relationships with clients such as Hillary Clinton, as well as explaining the dynamics of political journalism at the very highest level. When she accidentally confides one of Hillary’s secrets to an editor, whose discretion she thought she could trust, her professional world is blown apart.

By Barbara Feinman Todd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pretend I'm Not Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An accomplished former ghostwriter and book researcher who worked with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee, and Hillary Clinton goes behind-the-scenes of the national’s capital to tell the story of how she survived the exciting, but self-important and self-promoting world of the Beltway.

Barbara Feinman Todd has spent a lifetime helping other people tell their stories. In the early 1980s, she worked for Bob Woodward, first as his research assistant in the paper’s investigative unit and, later, as his personal researcher for Veil, his bestselling book about the CIA. Next she helped Carl Bernstein, who was struggling to finish his…


Book cover of A Girl's Story

Catherine Cusset Author Of Life of David Hockney

From my list on by French women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a French novelist, the author of fifteen novels, many of which are memoirs, so I am considered a specialist of "autofiction" in France, of fiction written about oneself. But I also love writing about others, as you can see in my novel on David Hockney. Beauvoir, Sarraute and Ernaux were my models, Laurens and Appanah are my colleagues. Three of the books I picked would be called memoirs in the States, and the other two novels. In France, they are in the same category. All these women write beautifully about childhood and womanhood. I love their writing because it is both intimate and universal, full of emotion, but in a very sober and precise style. 

Catherine's book list on by French women

Catherine Cusset Why did Catherine love this book?

In A Girl’s Story Annie Ernaux – the author of many memoirs about her parents, her lower-class background, and her sexual life – revisits the summer when she was 18 and a summer camp counselor. For the first time away from home, she was so eager for love that she ended up pursuing a man who dumped and humiliated her. Ernaux has a unique way to find lost time again. She scrutinizes the past with such a precise scalpel that it allows us to identify with the lost young girl and to share her confusion and shame. 

By Annie Ernaux, Alison L. Strayer (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Girl's Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I too wanted to forget that girl. Really forget her, that is, stop yearning to write about her. Stop thinking that I have to write about this girl and her desire and madness, her idiocy and pride, her hunger and her blood that ceased to flow. I have never managed to do so.' In A Girl's Story, her latest book, Annie Ernaux revisits the summer of 1958, spent working as a holiday camp instructor in Normandy, and recounts the first night she spent with a man. When he moves on, she realizes she has submitted her will to his and…


Book cover of I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced: A Memoir

Robert Uttaro Author Of To The Survivors: One Man's Journey as a Rape Crisis Counselor with True Stories of Sexual Violence

From my list on sexual violence, hope and healing.

Why am I passionate about this?

God gave me a life-long calling to help anyone affected by sexual violence. Words often fail when I try to describe the pain that results from sexual abuse and what it truly means to me to make a positive difference in the lives of survivors. My heart and soul break for those who are suffering from evil crimes, and yet I continuously see people disclosing, expressing, growing, and healing. From my many years working as a counselor and advocate, I've learned that very often people just need someone to be with them and listen. I'm committed to supporting others in this area for as long as I can be helpful.

Robert's book list on sexual violence, hope and healing

Robert Uttaro Why did Robert love this book?

Where does one begin to write about forced child marriage and childhood sexual abuse?

In her own words, Nujood writes, “I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no.

Nujood Ali was sold by her family to a man who married her and continuously raped her before she even hit puberty. It is truly disturbing to read about the hell that Nujood endured, yet it is also astonishing and inspirational to see that she escaped and became Yemen’s first child bride to win a divorce. Nujood continues to be an international activist for Yemen and young girls all over the world, spreading light over evil. 

By Nujood Ali, Delphine Minoui, Linda Coverdale (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

“I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no.”
 
Nujood Ali's childhood came to an abrupt end in 2008 when her father arranged for her to be married to a man three times her age. With harrowing directness, Nujood tells of abuse at her husband's hands and of her daring escape. With the help of local advocates and the press, Nujood obtained her freedom—an extraordinary achievement in Yemen, where almost half of all girls are married…


Book cover of Where the Light Fell

Neta Jackson Author Of The Yada Yada Prayer Group

From my list on friendship across racial and cultural barriers.

Why am I passionate about this?

During college, I attended an inner-city black church during the years of the civil rights movement—and it changed the course of my life. My husband and I have lived in diverse neighborhoods and attended multicultural churches for most of our 56 years of marriage, realizing we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters of color. But the biggest influence that caused me to write the Yada Yada Prayer Group novels was/is the prayer group of sisters of color that I’ve been part of for over 25 years. As we spent time together every week for years (!), these sisters helped turn my life and my faith upside down—or maybe “right side up.”

Neta's book list on friendship across racial and cultural barriers

Neta Jackson Why did Neta love this book?

I’ve known Phil Yancey as an author-friend for many years. But I’d never heard his personal story in such a poignant, powerful way as this memoir. Yancey grew up in the racist south, absorbing the common prejudices and racist attitudes that permeated the culture, even his religious teaching. But then he worked one summer with Dr. Cherry, a Black scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Says Philip: “Here was the smartest man I’d ever met, and it just blew away all the categories I’d been taught”—especially the lie that blacks are innately inferior. From that point on, Philip discovered what I discovered in my life journey—relationships with people different than you enriches your life. Each person, each culture, has gifts to share.

By Philip Yancey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where the Light Fell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Not until college days do I discover the shocking secret of my father's death.'

With a journalist's background Philip Yancey is widely admired for taking on the more difficult and confusing aspects of faith. Now in Where the Light Fell he shares, for the first time, the painful details of his own origins - taking us on an evocative journey from the backwoods and Bible-belt pockets of the South to the bustling streets of Philadelphia; from trailer parks to church parking lots; from dark secrets and family oddballs to fire-and-brimstone preachers and interminable church services. Raised by their impoverished single…


Book cover of Fat Girl: A True Story

Barbara Boehm Miller Author Of When You See Her

From my list on plus-sized protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being overweight presents an intriguing paradox: being physically large and hard to miss, but also being essentially invisible and easy to ignore. Having struggled with weight for my entire life, I’m very familiar with this juxtaposition of opposites. I wanted to write a novel with a plus-sized protagonist set in a different time, the late 1970s in this case, before the notions of size positivity and body diversity had come to life in society’s collective imagination. For me, this was a way of making fat people more visible in books, especially as main characters. I put together this list of books for the same reason. 

Barbara's book list on plus-sized protagonists

Barbara Boehm Miller Why did Barbara love this book?

This book is a memoir of the childhood and early adulthood of a woman overshadowed by her own weight.

The writing in this book is beautiful and evocative, particularly the descriptions of food and eating. That being said, this work is, otherwise, a tough read. The author feels unwanted and alone. She never achieves self-love or the sense of belonging she desires. Moore grew up long before size positivity existed and so she focused her energy and strength on changing rather than accepting herself. 

Though it is, at times, an excruciating chronicle of pain, this memoir is an important work because it reminds us how destructive anti-fat bias was in the past, highlighting, as well, how it continues today.

By Judith Moore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fat Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A angst-filled memoir of one woman's obsession with food and one's body offers a poignant coming-of-age story that sets the author's love/hate relationship with food against her painful longing for a family, love, and a sense of belonging. By the author of Never Eat Your Heart Out. 35,000 first printing.