Trying to figure out how to write a memoir? These books help teach the craft of writing memoir so you can tell the stories of your life.

Depending on how much information you like to consume, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. By “must-read,” I don’t mean you have to read every title, but if you’re going to read a book about writing memoir, these are the ones to go to first.

The idea isn’t to read everything that’s been published on how to write a memoir, but to get a few doses of inspiration so you can do what matters most: writing.

Five memoir-writing books on a wooden table.

Reading Tips

  • Maintain your daily writing practice (or start one, if you haven’t already) while you’re reading these books.
  • Take a peek inside each book below and choose 1-3 books to read. Don’t buy a book just because someone is recommending it — see if you connect with it first.
  • Look at the Table of Contents and read a few paragraphs — make sure you like the author’s voice, and how they treat you as a writer.
  • If they offer a writing exercise, give it a try. You might uncover a story you’ve forgotten about.
  • If getting through a book stats to feel boring or difficult, put it aside. It may not be the right book for you.
  • If you purchased a book, mark it up! Underline or highlight helpful sections.
  • If you borrowed the book from the library or a friend, use sticky tabs (I use these) to mark the pages you like.
  • When you finish the book, review your highlights or tabbed pages. Write down key thoughts or processes into your journal. Write inspirational quotes onto index cards and tape them up where you can see them daily.
  • Remember: all memoir writers were readers first. In addition to reading books about the craft of writing a memoir, read memoirs written by authors you love or who write on similar themes and topics. Read twice: once as a reader, then again as a writer. How did they do what they do? What was their narrative arc? What did you think of their voice and writing style? In your opinion, what makes this author a good writer?

The Writer-ish Top 10 Books That Teach You How to Write a Memoir

Following are my top 10 books (with previews!) that teach you how to write a memoir. If you’re already a seasoned writer, they’ll help you hone your craft and shape your writing. All of these books are on my shelf or e-reader, and they’ve formed the foundation for how I write and teach memoir. You can find the full list at the Writer-ish Bookstore on Bookshop.

Looking for more places to buy this book?
Buy The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr on Bookshop.
Looking for more places to buy this book?
Buy Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart on Bookshop.
Looking for more places to buy this book?
Buy Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington on Bookshop.
Looking for more places to buy this book?
Buy The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith on Bookshop.
Looking for more places to buy this book?
Buy Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature, edited by Meredith Maran, on Bookshop.
Looking for more places to buy this book?
Buy Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg on Bookshop.
Looking for more places to buy this book?
Buy Your Life as Story: Discovering the “New Autobiography” and Writing Memoir as Literature by Tristine Rainer on Bookshop.
Looking for more places to buy this book?
Buy Writing Hard Stories: Celebrated Memoirists Who Shaped Art from Trauma by Melanie Brooks on Bookshop.
Looking for more places to buy this book?
Buy Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay by Adair Lara on Bookshop.
Yep, this is my book!
The advice and exercises will help you at any stage in your memoir writing journey, regardless of where you live.

More memoir Writing Resources ⚡️