22 excellent memoirs reviewed here

Red Notice is one of the excellent memoirs reviewed here.Far too frequently, memoirs are nakedly self-justifying. Often so much so that even a casual reader can pick up on the author’s agenda without difficulty. This is especially true of memoirs by politicians and entertainers. In fact, a large proportion of those books about politics and entertainment are written by ghostwriters. (To the best of my knowledge, that is not true of any of the memoirs I’ve reviewed.) In selecting autobiographical books to read and review, I’ve attempted to find books that offer insight and historical perspective, not just a personal story. The 21 excellent memoirs listed here all do that. A few are truly outstanding examples of the genre.

These books are listed in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. Each is followed by a link to my review.

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill BrowderA true story of high finance and murder in Putin’s Russia

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesA brilliant analysis of racism today

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner by Daniel Ellsberg – Daniel Ellsberg’s dramatic second act

Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox—Life undercover in the CIA chasing suitcase nukes

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken – Al Franken’s memoir is revealing, insightful—and funny

The Secrets of the Notebook: A Woman’s Quest to Uncover Her Royal Family Secret by Eve Haas—One woman’s obsessive quest to learn how her grandmother died in the Holocaust

Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant: Undercover & Overwhelmed as a CIA Wife and Mother by Lillian McCloy—Under deep cover in the CIA during the Cold War

Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris—A peek inside the editorial process at The New Yorker

Becoming by Michelle Obama—The Michelle Obama memoir is an extraordinary story

The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John PerkinsUpdating colonialism

My Journey at the Nuclear Brink by William J. PerryA cold, hard look at the enduring nuclear threat

Indonesia Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation by Elizabeth PisaniA brilliant, muIti-dimensional picture of Indonesia today

Combat and Other Shenanigans: Tales of the Absurd from a Deployment to Iraq by Piers PlattOne soldier’s front-row seat on the war in Iraq

From Kraków to Berkeley: Coming Out of Hiding by Anna Rabkin“Survival is sweet revenge”: The odyssey of a Holocaust survivor

The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House by Ben RhodesThe Ben Rhodes White House memoir

Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory by Elizabeth RosnerThe Holocaust, mass trauma, inherited PTSD, and genetics

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson – A searing look at America’s broken criminal justice system

Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary ShteyngartFrom the gifted novelist Gary Shteyngart, a hilarious memoir

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. VanceHillbilly? Redneck? White trash?

A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren – Speaking truth to power

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover – A remarkably candid memoir about growing up survivalist

For further reading

In addition to these excellent memoirs, you might also check out Great biographies I’ve reviewed: my 10 favorites and 20 top nonfiction books about history.

And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.

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