21 memoir topics with examples

Memoir topics are diverse and can cover many personal experiences and reflections. From self-discovery to family legacy, overcoming adversity, travel memoirs and career evolution, there are many topics to choose from when writing a memoir. Memoirs are a powerful way to reflect on one’s life experiences, preserve memories, find healing and closure, inspire and connect with others and leave a lasting legacy.

This article explores 21 memoir topics with examples to inspire you to start your memoir-writing journey. These memoir topics and examples of bestselling memoirs can help you delve deeper into your personal stories and share them with the world.

Journey to self-discoveryCultural awakening
Family legacyFrom struggle to success
Overcoming adversityFinding faith
Lessons from travelPower of friendship
Career evolutionRedefining success
ParentingRoad to recovery
Quest for purposeCulinary adventures
Love storyLiving off the grid
Navigating mental healthExploring identity
Inspirational figureHealing power of nature
Living with chronic illness

What is a memoir?

A memoir is a written account of one’s life experiences, focusing on personal reflections, memories, and significant events. It is often subjective, conveying the author’s emotions, perspectives and insights. There may be various reasons why people write memoirs:

  • Self-reflection: Writing a memoir allows individuals to reflect on their life journey. It can help them gain clarity on personal experiences and understand how past events have shaped them.
  • Preservation of memories: Memoirs preserve memories, stories and family history for future generations.
  • Healing and closure: Sharing personal stories can be therapeutic. It can help authors process trauma, find closure and accept challenging experiences.
  • Inspiration and connection: Memoirs can inspire others facing similar challenges, offering hope, empathy, and guidance through shared experiences.
  • Legacy and impact: Writing a memoir enables individuals to leave a lasting legacy, sharing wisdom and personal philosophies with others.

21 memoir topic ideas

#1 Journey to self-discovery

First memoir topic idea is self-discovery. Explore your journey of self-discovery, detailing the pivotal moments and experiences that shaped your identity and beliefs.

"Becoming" by Michelle Obama is a journey to self-discovery memoir, one of examples of memoir topics

Example of the journey to self-discovery memoir

In Becoming, Michelle Obama traces her evolution from a young girl from Chicago to becoming the First Lady of the United States. Shea navigates the complexities of identity, grappling with issues of race, gender and societal expectations. Ultimately, Obama finds empowerment in her voice and agency. Obama bravely shares her struggles with imposter syndrome and the pressures of balancing career aspirations with family responsibilities. As she recounts her experiences, readers witness her transformation as a public figure and a woman embracing her authenticity and purpose.

#2 Family legacy

Write about your family’s unique history, traditions and the impact they have had on shaping your values and sense of belonging.

Example of a family legacy memoir

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a family legacy memoir vividly portraying Walls’s unconventional upbringing. Walls recounts her experiences growing up in a nomadic and impoverished family led by her eccentric parents. She highlights the struggles, resilience and unorthodox values that defined their way of life. Through poignant storytelling, Walls delves into the complex dynamics of her family relationships, revealing moments of hardship and love. As she reflects on her upbringing and the lessons learned, Walls finds strength and understanding in embracing her family’s flaws.

#3 Overcoming adversity

Share your experiences overcoming significant challenges and how these struggles have shaped your resilience and outlook on life. They include battling illness, facing discrimination or coping with loss.

"Educated" by Tara Westover is a memoir about overcoming an adversity, one of examples of memoir topics

Example of a memoir on overcoming adversity

Educated by Tara Westover chronicles the author’s remarkable journey from a childhood in rural Idaho, marked by isolation and abuse, to earning a PhD from Cambridge University. Westover’s narrative vividly illustrates her challenges in breaking away from her family’s survivalist beliefs and gaining an education. Despite enduring physical and emotional hardships, Westover demonstrates resilience, determination and a thirst for knowledge. Her story is a powerful testament to the transformative power of education and the human spirit’s capacity to overcome adversity. Educated inspires readers to confront their obstacles and pursue personal growth and fulfilment.

#4 Lessons from travel

Lessons from travels are a popular memoir topic. Reflect on the transformative experiences and life lessons gained from your travels worldwide. For instance, delve into the people you have met, cultures you have encountered and the personal growth achieved through exploration.

Example of a travel memoir

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert chronicles the author’s transformative journey across Italy, India and Indonesia. Seeking solace from a painful divorce and a quest for self-discovery, Gilbert embarks on a year-long adventure. During this time, she explored the pleasures of food, the depths of spirituality and the intricacies of love. Gilbert invites readers to join her as she indulges in Italian cuisine, delves into meditation and prayer in an Indian ashram and finds unexpected love in Bali. Her memoir serves as a poignant reminder of the healing power of travel and the importance of embracing life’s adventures.

#5 Career evolution

"Bossypants" by Tina Fey is a memoir on career evolution, one of examples of memoir topics

Trace the evolution of your career path, from your earliest aspirations to the challenges and triumphs encountered along the way, offering insights into the lessons learned and the wisdom gained.

Example of a memoir on career evolution

Bossypants by Tina Fey offers an insightful glimpse into the comedian’s career evolution. Fey recounts her journey from a young, aspiring comedian to a groundbreaking writer, actress and producer. From Saturday Night Live to 30 Rock, Fey shares candid anecdotes and valuable lessons learned along the way. With sharp observations and self-deprecating humour, she navigates the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. Ultimately, Fey offers inspiration and laughs to aspiring creatives everywhere.

#6 Parenting

Parenting is among often explored-memoir topics. It involves sharing the joys and challenges of parenthood, recounting memorable moments and humorous anecdotes. It can also touch upon profound lessons learned from raising children.

Example of a memoir on parenting

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott is a raw and heartwarming memoir chronicling the joys and struggles of early parenthood. Lamott shares candid reflections on the challenges of single motherhood. From sleepless nights and diaper changes to moments of profound love and connection with her son, Sam — she shares it all. With honesty and humour, she navigates the rollercoaster of emotions that come with raising a child. By doing so, Lamott offers insights into the complexities and universal experiences of parenthood. Lamott’s poignant storytelling resonates with readers, providing comfort and solidarity to parents navigating their journeys.

#7 Quest for purpose

"Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin is a memoir on the quest for purpose, one of examples of memoir topics

Documenting quest for purpose and meaning in life is among frequently explored memoir topics. For instance, it can involve narrating the various paths you have taken, the mentors who have guided you and the insights you have gained along the journey towards fulfilment.

Example of a memoir on the quest for purpose

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin documents the author’s year-long experiment to increase her overall happiness and sense of fulfilment. Feeling stuck despite external success, Rubin begins a quest for purpose, meticulously researching and implementing strategies to enhance various aspects of her life. She shares the ups and downs of her journey, from decluttering her home to cultivating gratitude and fostering stronger relationships. In sum, Rubin’s memoir serves as a practical guide for readers seeking meaning and joy in their lives.

#8 Love story

Love is among popular memoir topics. To explore it, chronicle the ups and downs of your most significant love relationship, from the initial spark to the challenges faced and the growth experienced together. You can also offer insights into love, commitment and personal development. But love does not have to be romantic love. For instance, you can write about the loving relationship with a parent, child or friend.

Example of a love story memoir

Wild by Cheryl Strayed is a captivating love story, albeit unconventional. As Strayed embarks on a solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, she reflects on her tumultuous past and profound love for her late mother. She vividly chronicles her physical journey through rugged terrain, paralleling her emotional journey towards self-discovery and healing. Along the trail, Strayed grapples with grief, forgiveness and ultimately, self-love. In turn, she finds solace in the vast wilderness and embraces the unconditional love she holds for her mother. Wild is a poignant testament to the enduring power of love in all its forms.

Reflect on your journey with mental health, including struggles with anxiety, depression or other conditions. Write about the coping mechanisms, therapies and support systems that have helped you thrive.

"An Unquiet Mind" by K. R. Jamison is a memoir on navigating mental health, one of examples of memoir topics

Example of a memoir on navigating mental health

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison offers a raw and intimate glimpse into the author’s life with bipolar disorder. Jamison eloquently navigates the highs and lows of her mental health journey, from manic episodes filled with boundless energy to crippling bouts of depression. Candidly, she sheds light on the complexities of living with mental illness, the stigma surrounding it and the challenges of seeking treatment. Jamison’s memoir serves as a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. Moreover, it highlights the importance of compassion and understanding in navigating mental health.

#10 Inspirational figure

Inspirational figures can be noteworthy memoir topics. To realise this topic idea, write about the influential figures who have shaped your values, beliefs and aspirations. Share the lessons learned from their wisdom and guidance.

Example of an inspirational figure memoir

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom centres on the author’s weekly visits with his former college professor, Morrie Schwartz, who is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Through their heartfelt conversations, Morrie imparts invaluable life lessons on love, forgiveness, acceptance and the meaning of life. As Morrie faces his mortality with grace and wisdom, he becomes an uplifting and transformative figure for Albom and readers alike. Morrie’s unwavering spirit and profound insights serve as a guiding light. He inspires readers to embrace the beauty of life, cherish meaningful connections and live with purpose and authenticity.

#11 Living with chronic illness

Share your experiences living with a chronic illness or disability. For instance, discuss the challenges faced, the adaptations made and the resilience cultivated in the face of adversity.

Example of a memoir on living with chronic illness

The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs reflects on Riggs’s experiences living with metastatic breast cancer, a terminal illness she was diagnosed with at the age of 37. Riggs beautifully articulates the complexities of navigating life with a chronic illness. Moreover, she explains balancing moments of hope and despair, love and loss. Through her lyrical prose and candid storytelling, she offers profound insights into the fragility of life. In addition, she sheds light on the importance of cherishing each moment and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

#12 Cultural awakening

Document your exploration and embrace of a new culture and the insights gained about identity and belonging. This could involve experiences with studying abroad, joining a multicultural community or marrying into a different cultural background.

Example of a memoir on cultural awakening

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas shares the author’s experiences of growing up as an Iranian in the US. Through a series of delightful anecdotes, she navigates the challenges of assimilating into American culture while preserving her Iranian heritage. From humorous misunderstandings to poignant reflections on identity, Dumas’ memoir offers a candid and insightful exploration of cultural differences and family dynamics. Moreover, it highlights the universal quest for belonging. Funny in Farsi is a touching tribute to the richness and resilience of multicultural identity.

#13 From struggle to success

The journey from struggle to success is among the popular memoir topics. To leverage this memoir topic, detail your journey from humble beginnings or challenging circumstances to success. Highlight the perseverance, sacrifices and support systems propelling you forward.

Example of a from-struggle-to-success memoir

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance traces the author’s journey from a turbulent childhood in Appalachia to success as a Yale Law School graduate. Vance candidly depicts the struggles of growing up in a working-class family plagued by poverty, addiction and dysfunction. Despite facing numerous obstacles, Vance perseveres through adversity with the help of supportive mentors and his determination. His memoir is a poignant exploration of the American Dream and the resilience required to overcome socioeconomic barriers. Through Vance’s narrative, Hillbilly Elegy inspires readers to believe in the possibility of upward mobility and self-improvement.

#14 Finding faith

Finding faith is another great idea on the list of best memoir topics. So explore your spiritual journey. In particular, discuss moments of doubt, revelation and faith and how your beliefs have shaped your perspective on life, purpose and morality.

Example of a memoir on finding faith

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis is a profound exploration of faith and spirituality based on the author’s journey from atheism to Christianity. Through logical arguments and insightful reflections, Lewis offers a compelling case for the existence of God. He also discusses the universal moral principles underlying Christianity. Drawing from his struggles and doubts, Lewis provides a relatable perspective on the search for meaning and truth. His memoir serves as a transformative guide for readers seeking to deepen their faith or explore spirituality. It offers wisdom, clarity and profound insights into the nature of belief and the quest for spiritual fulfilment.

#15 Power of friendship

Celebrate the bonds of friendship that have sustained you through life’s trials and triumphs. Among others, recount memorable adventures, shared experiences and the invaluable support of your closest companions.

Example of a memoir on the power of friendship

The Pact by Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt, with Lisa Frazier Page, recounts the inspiring true story of three African-American men from Newark, New Jersey. They formed a powerful bond as childhood friends and made a pact to support each other in achieving their dreams of becoming doctors. Through the trials of poverty, violence and academic challenges, their friendship is a source of strength and motivation. Ultimately, it propels them to overcome obstacles and fulfil their shared aspirations. The Pact is a testament to the transformative power of friendship in overcoming adversity and achieving success.

#16 Redefining success

Reflect on your journey of redefining success on your terms, breaking away from societal expectations and finding fulfilment in unconventional paths or alternative achievement measures.

Example of a memoir on redefining success

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson is a refreshingly honest memoir that challenges traditional notions of success and happiness. Manson shares his journey of redefining success by focusing on values aligned with personal growth and fulfilment. Rejecting the pursuit of external validation and material wealth, Manson advocates for embracing life’s inevitable challenges and prioritising what truly matters. In sum, his memoir is a provocative exploration of self-discovery and empowerment. It inspires readers to let go of societal expectations and find meaning in living authentically rather than striving for society’s narrow definition of success.

#17 Road to recovery

Document your journey of recovery from addiction, whether it is substance abuse, gambling, or another form of dependency, exploring the turning points, relapses, and strategies for maintaining sobriety.

Example of a road-to-recovery memoir

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey chronicles the author’s harrowing journey of addiction, despair and, ultimately, redemption. Frey recounts his struggles with substance use disorder and the destructive behaviours that nearly cost him his life. His raw and unflinching honesty portrays the depths of his addiction and the painful process of recovery. A Million Little Pieces is a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of seeking redemption.

#18 Culinary adventures

Chronicle your culinary adventures, from childhood memories of family recipes to exploring new cuisines. This memoir topic encourages sharing the cultural significance of food in your life and the joy of cooking and sharing meals.

Example of a culinary adventures memoir

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell is a delightful culinary adventures memoir that follows the author’s ambitious quest to cook every recipe from Julia Child’s iconic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in just one year. Powell’s witty and engaging narrative takes readers on her whirlwind journey through the ups and downs of mastering French cuisine in her cramped New York City kitchen. Through humorous anecdotes and mouthwatering descriptions, she shares the joy, frustration and triumphs of her culinary escapades, inspiring readers to embark on their delicious adventures in the kitchen.

#19 Living off the grid

Living off grid — in a cabin in the woods, a sailboat at sea or a sustainable community — is the penultimate idea on the list of the memoir topics. It involves detailing your experiences of living off the grid or in remote locations and the lessons you learned about self-sufficiency and simplicity.

Example of a memoir on living off the grid

Off Grid and Free by Ron Melchiore shares the author’s experiences of leaving behind the conveniences of modern life to live off the grid in the Canadian wilderness. Melchiore builds their log cabin with his wife, generates their own power and grows their own food, detailing the challenges and rewards of self-sufficiency in a remote environment. Through vivid descriptions and practical advice, Melchiore offers insight into the joys of living in harmony with nature and the profound sense of freedom that comes from disconnecting from mainstream society.

#20 Exploring identity

Try exploring your identity as a memoir topic. Discuss your exploration of identity, whether it is grappling with questions of race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality and the resulting process of self-discovery and acceptance.

Example of a memoir on exploring identity

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is a powerful memoir that delves into the complexities of identity, race and self-discovery. Angelou candidly recounts her experiences growing up as a Black girl in the segregated South, grappling with racism, trauma and the search for belonging. She explores the impact of societal expectations and personal struggles on her sense of self through poignant storytelling and lyrical prose. Angelou’s memoir is a poignant exploration of the resilience of the human spirit and the journey towards embracing one’s identity, inspiring readers to confront their truths and celebrate the beauty of diversity.

#21 Healing power of nature

Healing power of nature is commonly explored among memoir topics. It entails sharing the transformative experiences of connecting with nature. Moreover, it discusses solace and renewal found in natural landscapes through wilderness adventures, gardening or simply spending time outdoors.

Example of a memoir on the healing power of nature

Wilderness Essays by John Muir extols the healing power of nature. Through vivid descriptions and passionate prose, Muir shares his profound experiences exploring the wild landscapes of America’s wilderness. He eloquently depicts the therapeutic effects of immersing oneself in the natural world, highlighting the tranquillity, beauty and spiritual nourishment in untamed environments. Muir’s writings serve as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness between humanity and the natural world. It inspires readers to seek solace and renewal in embracing nature’s boundless wonders.

How to prepare a memoir for publication?

Preparing a memoir for publication involves several key steps, and enlisting the help of professional editing services can be crucial in ensuring your memoir is polished and ready for the market. Here is a guide on how to prepare your memoir for publication with the assistance of professional editing services:

Developmental editing: A developmental editor provides high-level feedback on the overall structure, pacing, plot development, character arcs, and thematic coherence of the memoir. They help identify areas for improvement and suggest revisions. Moreover, developmental editors offer guidance on strengthening the narrative to enhance its impact and readability.

Line editing: A line editor focuses on refining the language, style and flow of the memoir at the sentence and paragraph level. They address issues such as awkward phrasing, repetition, clarity and coherence, ensuring that the prose is polished and engaging while maintaining the author’s voice and tone.

Copyediting: A copyeditor reviews the manuscript for grammar, punctuation, spelling and consistency in usage and style. They correct errors, clarify ambiguous passages and adhere to editorial guidelines and industry standards. Copyediting helps improve the overall professionalism and readability of the memoir.

Proofreading: A proofreader performs a final review of the manuscript to catch any remaining errors or typos before publication. They meticulously check for errors in spelling, punctuation, formatting and typographical mistakes, ensuring the manuscript is error-free and ready for publication.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, writing a memoir can be a transformative experience, enabling individuals to explore their personal stories and share them with the world. In turn, memoir topics are limitless and offer a powerful way to reflect on one’s life experiences, preserve memories, find healing and closure, inspire and connect with others and leave a lasting legacy. Journey to self-discovery, a family legacy, overcoming adversity, travel memoirs or career evolution — there is a memoir topic for everyone. By exploring the 22 memoir topics and examples provided in this article, you can delve deeper into your personal stories and share them with the world. As a result, you will be able to leave a lasting legacy. So pick up your pen and start writing your memoir today.

Contact me for a free sample edit of your memoir manuscript (and remember to use my early bird discount). I am an experienced editor working with non-fiction, academic and business texts. I can help prepare your text for publication, from a big-picture analysis through highlighting your authorial voice to ensuring the correctness and consistency of the language.

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Magda

I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).