Memoirs To Read In Your Lifetime

By Lynn Ann Lobash, Associate Director, Readers Services and Engagement
January 22, 2018

A memoir is a collection of memories. The author may focus on a particular period in their life, or an event, or a relationship,  but they are always reflective and often very candid. Beyond that, anything goes, and they are wide-ranging in style and tone. Here are a few you may enjoy.

The Argonauts

The Argonautsby Maggie Nelson

Thought-provoking and refelctive. At its center is a romance: the story of the author's relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes Nelson's account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, offers a firsthand account of the complexities and joys of family-making.


The Liar's Club

The Liar's Club by Mary Karr

Start at the beginning with this darkly humorous and candid author and poet as she recounts her difficult childhood growing up in a Texas oil town. 

The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Haunting and spare. This is a portrait of marriage and motherhood and the struggle to come to terms with illness and grief. 











Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala 

A heartwrenching yet (somehow) hopeful memoir from an author who survived the 2004 tsunami that killed her parents, husband, and two young sons. 











Just Kids

Just Kids by Patti Smith 


A gorgeous memoir about an extraordinary friendship between two artists set in New York in the late sixties and seventies. Patti Smith is one of the most natural writers we've ever read! 










A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs Of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah


Bleak, gritty, and sobering. This is a firsthand account of a former child soldier caught up in a civil war in Sierra Leone. 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

A hard, lyrical, inspiring recollection of the legendary author's childhood in Arkansas and her adolescence in northern slums. 

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeanettte Walls 

Witty and engaging. Walls discusses her nomadic upbringing during which her siblings fended for themselves while their parents tried to outwit bill collectors and the police.

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!