A good memoir turns a life into literature.

Memoirs and autobiographies can illuminate all manner of endeavors, encompassing the full range of human experience. Whether the author is a notable historical figure or a lesser-known person with an eventful story to tell, memoirs provide detailed accounts of momentous events, extraordinary achievements, everyday struggles, and everything in between. 

The rich language that makes memoirs compelling and believable can also pose a challenge to students, so it's helpful to prep them for their reading by explicitly teaching the specific words they'll encounter in the text.

Vocabulary.com offers curated lists for popular and classic memoirs and autobiographies that will appeal to the range of readers in your classroom.

Implementation Ideas

Prep students for closer reading with text-based vocab practice.

  1. Before students tackle their reading, search for the book in our List Library to pair the title with our curated vocabulary lists.
  2. Assign a Practice activity based on the list you selected. It's easy to create a series of assignments for an entire book and adjust the due dates.
  3. Have students independently complete the Practice assignment. They'll learn the most relevant vocabulary words from the book, presented in usage examples from the source text.

Encourage independent, self-selected reading. Our ready-made resources make it easy for you to support independent reading. Have students select their book choice from our recommended titles below, and then complete the Practice activity on Vocabulary.com.

Support genre-based book clubs. Genre study is a perfect match for student book clubs. Have students create their own vocabulary list to share with their group. Encourage them to note the words that they found the most challenging, intriguing, or relevant, and discuss their lists with their peers.

Recommended Reading

The following recommendations are a great place to start. Bear in mind that the titles below are just a sample of our memoir and autobiography titles. Search our List library for thousands of other curated lists and collections.

Becoming Kareem by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
March Forward, Girl by Melba Pattillo Beals
Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Courage to Soar by Simone Biles
A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl
Lost Boy, Lost Girl by John Bul Dau and Martha Arual Akech
Taking Flight by Micheala DePrince
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipović
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Homesick by Jean Fritz
Apple by Eric Gansworth
Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
My Life with the Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall
The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
October Sky by Homer Hickam
Ugly by Robert Hoge
Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston
Incidents in the Life of Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang
All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
A Mighty Long Way by Carlotta Walls LaNier
The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
The Color of Water by James McBride
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad
Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Free Lunch by Rex Ogle
Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez by Richard Rodriguez
Americanized by Sara Saedi
When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook
The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
Guts by Raina Telgemeier
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Educated by Tara Westover
Night by Elie Wiesel
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Black Boy by Richard Wright
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

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