Looking for a good autobiography? Here are the 10 best memoirs we've ever read.

There's something about a good memoir that makes you feel as though you personally know the author.

A good memoir takes you on a journey, is reflective and candid, hopefully, humourous in parts, and tells a story you feel better for having read. 

Recently in the Mamamia office, we were discussing our all-time favourite memoirs. And there were a select few that kept being brought up time and time again. 

Watch: book recommendations. Post continues below.

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From Eddie Jaku to Jennette McCurdy, here are our top 10 memoir recommendations.

The Happiest Refugee, by Anh Do.

Whenever I am asked 'What is your favourite memoir?' or even 'What is your favourite all-time book?' my answer is the same every single time. The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do. 

And there's a good reason why the memoir has won the top prize at Australia's top book awards.

Image: Booktopia.


Anh Do is a comedian, actor, screenwriter, author and keynote speaker. He's found significant success throughout his career, but he nearly didn't make it to Australia.

Anh and his family escaped war-torn Vietnam by boat in search of a safer life. But the journey to seeking refuge was fraught, their boat facing murderous pirates, terrifying ocean conditions, and threats of death by hunger, disease and dehydration.

Although managing to make it to Australia, Anh's family continued to face a series of challenges, from poverty to his dad leaving their family, and countless sacrifices in between. 


In The Happiest Refugee, Anh manages to detail the struggles he has faced while also weaving in comedic relief, making it a book filled with humour, heartache and determination. There's nothing quite like it.

I'm Glad My Mom Died, by Jennette McCurdy.

Image: Booktopia.

Jennette McCurdy is an American actor best known for her role in Nickelodeon's iCarly

It's a role that catapulted her to fame. But it turns out that being an actor was something Jennette had never envisioned for herself - rather it was a life she was forced into by her controlling mother. 


It's fair to say this book's title is pretty provocative - but for anyone who has read this memoir, the title makes complete sense and matches Jennette's tone of voice used throughout. 

Jennette speaks about the toxic relationship she had with her mum, the pain it caused her, and how she managed to break free and find a path towards recovery. There are parts to this memoir that are quite confronting and parts that are desperately sad. But Jennette's dark humour and candour make it a complex, sometimes-funny, powerful read. 

The Uncaged Sky: My 804 days in an Iranian prison, by Kylie Moore-Gilbert.

Image: Booktopia.


Academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert's name might not immediately come to mind, but when you hear her story, it will likely ring a bell in your mind.

On September 12, 2018, Kylie was arrested at Tehran Airport by Iran's feared Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Convicted of espionage in a shadowy trial presided over by Iran's most notorious judge, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Incarcerated in Tehran's Evin and Qarchak prisons for 804 days, her memoir The Uncaged Sky is the full and gripping account of her harrowing ordeal. On November 25, 2020, Kylie was finally released in a high-stakes three-nation prisoner swap deal orchestrated by the Australian government. 

Kylie was on Mamamia's No Filter podcast, where she also spoke about her experience. 

When Kylie returned to Australia, her mother was the one to tell her the truth: that Kylie's then-husband was having an affair with her PhD supervisor.

"It was a double betrayal," she told Mia Freedman. "And the nature of it was quite strange... two people I would never have put together, to be honest. It was quite a head f**k. As I said, I knew the marriage was over."


Kylie's book is incredibly poignant and maps out her ordeal in vivid detail - including how she managed to survive. It's a story of remarkable resilience, highlighting what it really means to be free.

This Much is True, Miriam Margolyes.

Image: Booktopia.

After listening to Miriam Margolyes on Mamamia's No Filter a few years back, I decided to simply had to read her memoir. And it was everything I wanted and more.


There's no one as unflinchingly candid as Margolyes, so you can imagine it makes for a few juicy stories - particularly when it comes to her encounters with other celebrities. 

One of the most beautiful parts is how she speaks about her long-term partner, Heather Sutherland. 

As she said on No Filter: "We've been together over 50 years. We have separate [homes] in separate countries. I am busy, she is busy, and we speak to each other at least once a day. Every relationship is very dependent on the other person - it's the deal you make between you. It works for us." 

Know My Name, Chanel Miller.

Image: Booktopia.


This book is one of the most raw and sobering accounts from a survivor's perspective.

In 2015, Chanel Miller was sexually assaulted. The man, Brock Turner, who raped her behind a garbage bin after a college frat party at Stanford University, spent just three months in prison for the assault. 

For years, Chanel Miller was only known as 'Emily Doe' in media reports and within the legal system. 

Her victim impact statement was posted, where it instantly went viral. It was soon after this that Chanel decided to reclaim her identity, tell her story of trauma. The memoir delves deeply into how the criminal justice system often fails the most vulnerable. 

Know My Name is difficult to read in some parts, but it's those aspects of the memoir that make it so incredibly important for all to read.

Becoming, by Michelle Obama.

Image: Booktopia.


There's a reason this is one of the top best-selling memoirs in the world. 

It's an intimate and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States, the one and only Michelle Obama. Readers get to hear about her childhood, how she met Barack, their rise to living at the world's most famous and prestigious address, and her reflections on the whole experience. 

How she speaks on motherhood in particular has been praised by critics, and the dichotomy between trying to have a private family life while raising her two daughters amid the President's spotlight is super interesting. 

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi.

Image: Booktopia.


Alrighty, you will definitely need a box of tissues handy when reading this one.

When Breath Becomes Air is a really unique memoir in that it's noted from the very start that the author died while writing it. 

At the age of 36, on the verge of completing a decade's training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. This memoir chronicles Paul's thoughts on mortality and his answers to what makes life worth living in the face of death.


Although the subject matter is of course very sad, it's not an incredibly heavy read that leaves you feeling low at the end. After Paul's death, his wife Lucy managed to finish the book and publish it - and it's a memoir that went on to be a bestseller. 

Butterfly on a Pin, Alannah Hill.

Image: Amazon.

Alannah Hill is an Australian fashion designer who has led a very colourful life - and her memoir Butterfly on a Pin documents it beautifully. 


Growing up in a milk bar in Tasmania, Alannah's childhood involved a lot of hardship and abuse. Just like Jennette McCurdy's memoir, this one too deals with a very troubling mother/daughter dynamic. 

As a young teen, Alannah ran away from home with eight suitcases of costumes and a fierce determination to succeed. And she did exactly that, starting her eponymous clothing brand.

Alannah's story is all about reinvention, life chapters and how she managed to metamorphise into the true original she is today.

Gotta Get Theroux This: My life and strange times in television, Louis Theroux.

Image: Booktopia.


In true Louis Theroux style, this memoir is both insightful and hilarious. 

Just like with his documentaries, Louis has a fantastic way of exploring topics without placing his own prejudices and bias, so that opinions can form organically and individually. 

This book is a stimulating, easy read, that answers all the questions you may have about the legendary documentary maker's thought process, feelings and how he was able to tackle some of the most controversial topics and bring them to our screens.

The Happiest Man on Earth, Eddie Jaku.

Image: Booktopia.


Last but certainly not least, we have Eddie Jaku

Eddie's memoir is in a very similar vein to Anh Do's in that both speak of such trauma but also detail how their unwavering sense of optimism helped them through their toughest times. 

On the 10th of November 1938, Eddie's world changed forever when a group of Nazis knocked on his front door.

Eddie was a Jew living in Germany, and for years following he was in and out of concentration camps, including Auschwitz. He lost his mother and father and escaped and was caught countless times.

He faced unimaginable horrors during World War II. But somehow, amid it all, he vowed to smile every day for the rest of his life, no matter what - making him the happiest man on earth. 

What is your favourite memoir? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Booktopia/Mamamia.

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