Riveting Audiobook Memoirs to Add to Your Listening Queue
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Audiobook memoirs are an excellent choice for any reader, whether you’re new to audiobooks or a seasoned listener. Hearing an author’s own words on audio–often narrated in their own voice–brings a memoir to life. Don’t miss these must-listen memoirs in audiobook format.
Listening to a great audiobook memoir can feel like sitting in an intimate confessional while the author tells you their story–especially when the audio version is narrated by the author, as many are in the book list below.
Memoirs are different from autobiographies because authors will often write memoirs focused on a particular aspect of their lives–a time frame, a relationship, a significant event, a career, etc.
In contrast, autobiographies tend to be the author’s complete telling of their life story. Some memoirs can be far-reaching, to be sure (Michelle Obama’s memoir, for example, covers much of her childhood and life through her years as first lady), and there is some overlap when discussing the genres.
But memoirs tend to interest me more as a reader because of the deep reflection that comes with a sharp focus. Rather than focusing on history and chronicling of life, the best memoirs bring out the raw honesty of an author.
Their reflections on their own experiences and lives more deeply reveal their humanity–and the reasons we find these people fascinating in the first place.
Whether the author chose the spotlight and had to deal with those consequences (as Jessica Simpson reflects on in Open Book) or the author was handed tragic circumstances that would forever transform them (as in Chanel Miller’s breathtaking memoir, Know My Name), the best memoirs are deeply personal and often intensely emotional.
And great audiobooks –with great narrators –often make you feel like you’re in the room, listening to the author tell their own story.
Here are some of the best audiobook memoirs to add to your listening queue (and if your book club is reading a memoir, try picking up the audio version–you may bring a new perspective to the discussion!).
The Best, Must-Listen Audiobook Memoirs
My Glory Was I Had Such Friends
Author: Amy Silverstein
Narrator: Erin Moon
Twenty-six years ago, when heart transplant surgery was in its infancy, Amy Silverstein received a new heart. Now in her fifties, that heart is failing, and she again waits for a new heart. Her wait requires a move to California with her husband, and with them, nine of Amy’s closest friends sign onto a schedule to keep constant vigil at her bedside, flying in from around the country to take their turns.
This is a brutally raw memoir of love, suffering, and friendship. Amy is unflinching her examination of herself and what it means to be a sick person, dependent on others, and what it means in such a situation to find the balance between caring for yourself and caring for those who surround you. More info
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Author and Narrator: Austin Channing Brown
In this memoir, Austin Channing Brown shares her experience growing up and living in a world that caters to whiteness. Her account is both personal and familiar, from the daily microaggressions to the more overt examples of racism and white supremacy.
She shares the daily, profound exhaustion from managing assumptions about herself and her race, from worrying about the safety of those she loves, and from the burdens of being both the Black voice in the room and the balm for white people’s guilt. Despite the exhaustion, she shares why it’s worthwhile to keep showing up and speaking truth, while acknowledging that she may never fully see the fruits of her labor. Excellent, eye-opening, and ultimately hopeful. More info
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir
Author and Narrator: Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl’s memoir of her time as editor of Gourmet introduces readers to the behind-the-scenes world of Condé Nast. Gourmet was an institution of the magazine world, known for its meticulous recipe-testing process and catering to the luxury eater. Its staff lived in a rarefied culinary world–upscale, filled with haute cuisine, and out of reach for most.
As editor, Reichl toed the line between maintaining the luxury brand and bringing it down to Earth for a new generation of socially conscious readers. Ultimately, Gourmet was undone by its owners’ reluctance to move it into fresh spaces (can you imagine a publication now resisting a website?). Still, Reichl’s unconventional journey to editor and her fight to keep the magazine alive made for fascinating listening. More info
Crying in H Mart
Author and Narrator: Michelle Zauner
Crying in H Mart is singer Michelle Zauner’s intimate memoir of her mother and Korean American upbringing. Growing up, she had a complicated relationship with her mixed-race identity and her exacting mother–both alternately embraced and rejected. After her mother’s death from cancer when Zauner was in her 20s, Zauner went on a journey of self-discovery and revisited the rich traditions and memories of life with her mother, especially related to food (as found in H Mart).
Zauner deeply grieved her mother and struggled to find footing in her relationship with her father. Her lilting narration will resonate with anyone who has also lost and grieved a loved one. More info
Author and Narrator: Jessica Simpson
Not being a fan (or critic) of Jessica Simpson, I wasn’t sure if Open Book would be for me, but all of the positive reviews prompted me to try it, and I have to say: it’s worth the listen. Jessica lays it all out as she tells her life story, so if you want the gory details of her relationships (especially with Nick Lachey and Jon Mayer), you’ll get them. After years of tabloid speculation, she sheds light on what happened in her own words.
But she’s also thoughtful and reflective. She grew up sheltered, which lends itself to a naiveté that often translates as “ditzy,” but she’s quite self-aware and charming. She’s also a surprisingly savvy businesswoman. Celebrity memoirs aren’t usually on my reading list, but I enjoyed this one. More info
The Hiding Place
Author: Corrie Ten Boom
Narrator: Wanda McCaddon
Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsy, were spinsters living a quiet life in a watch shop with their elderly father until the Nazis invaded Holland. They soon became involved in the underground resistance, hiding Jews in a secret room above their shop. Ultimately, they were discovered and sent to prison and concentration camps. In this modern classic, Corrie tells their story.
While much of their story is grounded in their deep religious faith, non-religious readers will still appreciate the resilience, courage, and unending positivity they demonstrated in even the direst circumstances. An inspiring memoir of history and the enduring human spirit. More info
Author and Narrator: Hope Jahren
Hope Jahren is a scientist who studies trees, plants, seeds, and soil. In her memoir, Jahren reflects on her journey from childhood days playing under her father’s laboratory tables to leading her own labs and research. I was enthralled by Jahren’s writing, her keen and poetic observations of the natural world, and her grave, sometimes deadpan and sometimes dramatic narration.
Love of science is at the core of Jahren’s story, but human relationships also take center stage, particularly when it comes to Jahren’s eccentric colleague and close friend, Bill. They share a devotion to the work and each other that defines their professional lives. Their adventures in science are delightful and unexpected. Lab Girl is Jahren’s first memoir, and I look forward to listening to her most recent, The Story of More, which features reflections on climate change. More info
Author and Narrator: David Sedaris
David Sedaris’s offbeat humor has long made his books my favorite funny audiobook road-trip choices. Most of his essay collections have been pure entertainment with a hint of sharp observation, and while Calypso follows this path, it’s also darker and more poignant. The familiar Sedaris family is aging, and with age comes all the attendant self-reflection and life changes. In this collection, most of the family feel closer to one another than they ever have before–except for Tiffany, whose suicide shadows most of the essays here.
Sedaris has been writing about his family for so long that they may start to seem like characters, frozen in time on the pages, rather than real people for whom the years are passing. I anticipate an ongoing change in tone in the coming years, but I will continue to read and listen for as long as Sedaris writes. More info
Author and Narrator: Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama’s debut memoir is worth the hefty 19+ hour commitment (though you can comfortably speed up the pace a bit). Obama is an excellent writer who tells small but compelling stories of her youth on the south side of Chicago, her years at elite universities and as a fledgling lawyer, and her life with Barack Obama –before, during, and immediately after her time in the White House as the first lady.
She is highly relatable–focused on her kids, muddling through the ups and downs of motherhood, and indulging in HGTV over political roundtables. The pressure they were under as the first Black presidential family was enormous, and while she had no taste for political life, she conducted herself with grace and dignity that few can match. More info
Truth & Beauty
Author and Narrator: Ann Patchett
Author Ann Patchett and the late poet and author Lucy Grealy met in college and cemented their friendship in graduate school and the years that followed, as both pursued writing careers. Grealy, who in childhood battled cancer that left her without part of her lower jaw, endured ongoing health difficulties and reconstructive surgeries.
Grealy was a needy, all-consuming friend–talented, tortured, and plagued by addiction and her need for love. Patchett, for her part, basked in Lucy’s need for her, as well as their shared goals and talent. The two moved toward success together, and the journey must have felt magical and pre-destined, if not always healthy. Patchett’s writing shines, as always, as does her narration–this is one of my favorite books about friends. More info
A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy
Author and Narrator: Sue Klebold
Sue Klebold’s relentless examination of her life with Eric Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters, is heartbreaking. Having both lost her own son and faced the horror of what he had done, Klebold lays bare every fact of their lives, both before and after the shooting. She never excuses Eric’s actions, but she does try to understand, and her findings about teen mental health are important. More info
Talking As Fast As I Can
Author and Narrator: Lauren Graham
I’ve always found Lauren Graham charming in her roles, and I’ve watched Gilmore Girls more times than I can count. Hearing Graham narrate her unusual childhood and years as a struggling actor, along with her reflections on show business–especially Gilmore Girls and Parenthood–only added to the charm.
There’s very little dishy gossip on her co-stars here—she seems to have a genuine affection for them but is also open about her hard-won savvy about what to share with the public. What she does share with the public is a love for the families, locations, and stories she’s been privileged to inhabit as an actor, and she brings that nostalgia and affection to her writing and narration. More info
Mom & Me & Mom
Author and Narrator: Maya Angelou
When Maya Angelou was just three, her mother, Vivian Baxter, sent Maya and her brother away. They were reunited ten years later, but that abandonment shaped Angelou and her later relationship with her mother.
In this memoir, Angelou recounts her path from ambivalence to love and admiration of her mother. Baxter was a force, and she showed up for Angelou and others in ways that changed their lives. Narrated by Angelou, this is a lovely peek into a complicated pocket of her life. More info
Brown Girl Dreaming
Author and Narrator: Jacqueline Woodson
A beautiful, powerful memoir-in-poems about Woodson’s upbringing in South Carolina and Brooklyn in the 1960s. She feels torn between the two places and tells of their differences and her loyalties to both. We learn of her awakening to the civil rights movement, her love of her family, and her burgeoning drive to write. Wonderfully narrated by the author, both adults and children will enjoy her inspiring story. More info
Know My Name
Author and Narrator: Chanel Miller
One January night, Chanel Miller joined her sister and a friend at a party at Stanford. She was drinking and being goofy–and that’s the last she remembers. She woke up in the hospital the following day and learned of her sexual assault. The perpetrator, Brock Turner, had been stopped and chased down by two men.
This event changes Miller’s life. Known by the public as “Emily Doe,” the case consumed her for several years as she navigated a criminal justice system that seemed designed to implicate her and traumatize her all over again. Finally, from the veil of anonymity, Miller emerges with her own voice and shares this gut-punch of a memoir.
Miller is an extraordinary writer–her writing is deeply personal and achingly raw. She puts to words how the assault and ongoing violations affected her in ways that feel both intimate and universal to so many women. More info
Author and Narrator: Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy is Bryan Stevenson’s memoir about his early years as a young lawyer in the deep south when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, which defends death row inmates, the poor, and others trapped by an unjust criminal justice system, including children. Stevenson recounts numerous cases in which he is stonewalled by a system stacked against his clients, bound by red tape, and filled with corruption.
Stevenson’s story enthralled me–his relentless dedication in such frustrating, impossible circumstances, as well as the cases and often horrifying lives that some of his clients were sentenced to, even when they were children or almost certainly innocent. More info
I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home
Author: Jami Attenberg
Narrator: Xe Sands
In author Jami Attenberg’s first foray in memoir and nonfiction, she reflects on her nomadic life in pursuit of her art. Years of crashing on couches, funding her own book tours, and taking odd jobs while doggedly persisisting in her writing were largely satisfying. But as a single woman moving through life in a non-traditional way, she often faced criticisms and questions from those who chose a more traditional path–forcing her to grapple with whether her own was valid.
Whether you chose a nomadic life or not, Attenberg’s journey is relatable: at some point, all of us must face what we do and don’t want in life, and decide on the big and small things that are important to us–and those things may be different at every stage. Her growing comfort with her own wants and needs is satisfying and insightful. More info
Where to Get Audiobooks
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What are your favorite audiobook memoirs?