Skip To Content

    23 Fascinating Memoirs You Probably Haven't Read Yet, But Should

    Because other people's lives are so much more interesting than your own.

    1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is the Daily Show host's honest, incisive narrative of growing up in a mixed-race family in apartheid South Africa — an actual crime, as the title implies.

    2. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman is her whirlwind tale of travel, sex, and self-discovery during her 20s and 30s, while the rest of her friends were getting married and having children.

    3. Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More chronicles Janet Mock's life as a multiracial trans woman and her quest to understand and accept herself against the complicated political backdrop of trans rights.

    4. A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz intertwines the history of Israel with his story of growing up there — from his childhood in a cramped apartment in Jerusalem to his adulthood as a political activist.

    5. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty delves into her fascinating career as a mortician, and all of the people she's met — both living and deceased.

    6. Insomniac City is photographer and writer Bill Hayes's deeply moving meditation on his move to New York in his 40s that led to a powerful relationship with writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks.

    7. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal whimsically combines the format of an encyclopedia with a memoir to create a random, engrossing, and poignant look at her life.

    8. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is The Slits' lead guitarist and songwriter Viv Albertine's raw, in-depth telling of her life in the male-dominated music scene during the rise of punk and beyond.

    9. Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth is Richard Wright's gripping personal tale of childhood in the Jim Crow South.

    10. So Sad Today: Personal Essays translates poet Melissa Broder's Twitter feed about her struggles with anxiety into an existential story of sex, addiction, and self-discovery.

    11. The Folded Clock is comprised of Heidi Julavits' diary entries, which offer an intimate look at her thoughts on aging, friendships, and everything in between.

    12. Autobiography of a Face is Lucy Grealey's candid account of losing a third of her jaw to cancer at 9 years old, her ensuing struggle with bullying and self-acceptance, and ultimately, the emergence of an unshakeable strength.

    13. My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary centers on the author's young adult life during the Great Depression and WWII as she went to college, became a librarian, and began to hatch the ideas that turned into her now-classic books.

    14. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman follows Lindy West's life as a women who's "too" everything — too loud, too big, and, as her memoir shows, too spot-on and hilarious.

    15. Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips wittily recounts her unusual childhood growing up in New York City's iconic Chelsea Hotel with her eccentric family and equally entertaining neighbors.

    16. A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York is Anjelica Huston's roller-coaster ride of a life story through Irish estates and posh hotels, mixed in with heaps of fascinating celebrity encounters during the '60s and '70s.

    17. Negroland is Margo Jefferson's study on growing up in Chicago's titular, exclusive society that considered itself a third race between whites and "the masses of Negros."

    18. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti revisits the sexism she experienced throughout her teen and young adult years to show the effects it has on all women's lives.

    19. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is about Ishmael Beah's harrowing experience as a child soldier in Sierra Leone who learned how to shoot an automatic gun before he became a teenager.

    20. Hunger by Roxane Gay shares the author's relationship with her "wildly undisciplined" body, through bracing, vivid stories from her past and present.

    21. The Black Notebooks by professor and poet Toi Derricotte thoughtfully examines life as a light-skinned black woman through two decades of journal entries.

    22. The Kids Are All Right alternates between siblings Diana, Liz, Amanda, and Dan Welch's perspectives of growing up, getting separated due to tragedy, and finally coming back together as adults.

    23. Brain on Fire details Susannah Cahalan's terrifying experience waking up in a hospital bed unable to speak or move, and figuring out how she got there in the first place.

    Reviews have been edited for length and/or clarity.

    Do your holiday shopping with BuzzFeed. Check out all our gift guides here!