20 of My Favorite Memoirs and Biographies

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Reading is unlike any other experience in the world. In storytelling, you are transported into a time and place you would otherwise know nothing about. It’s a moment to walk in someone else’s shoes and to explore hidden worlds and long kept secrets.

Something about sitting in a chair with a blanket and a hot cup of tea, listening to the rhythm of the words in my head as they play out the scene is like air in my lungs. I crave stories.  I watch movies and read books and listen to podcasts while I drive or clean the house. My favorite is listening to true stories: stories of real people with real problems and real successes.

In the books below you’ll travel to India, England, Uganda, the Netherlands and rural US. You’ll fix a broken marriage, become a millionaire, escape the Nazis and fly a plane in the Royal Air Force.

Out of all the books I’ve read, these are my top 20 favorite memoirs and biographies.


1. Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis:

One that sticks with you long after you’ve read it, this book is the true story of a teenage girl who moves to Africa and is so full of passion for the hurting people she meets, that she ends up adopting over twenty girls. It’s a story of love and faith and stepping into the unknown to follow where God leads. A beautiful read with a sequel, Daring to Hope.

2. Educated by Tara Westover

I just finished this yesterday. And it was incredible. I kept stopping every few chapters to relay something crazy that happened in it to my husband. This wasn’t a story with one big thing that happened, but multiple, overlapping events. It’s about a girl raised in the mountains of Idaho who lives her life preparing for the end of the world because of her paranoid father. It was a quick read and I finished the book wishing it wasn’t over yet.

3. Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl

My favorite children’s author wrote a few autobiographies. Learn about all the things he was up to before he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. These are short illustrated stories of his time in the Royal Air Force and his very eventful childhood.

4. Twelve Clean Pages by Nika Maples

A beautiful book of a woman’s journey with lupus as she fights for her life after suffering a massive stroke. She inspired me by changing the direction of her life and accomplishing great things for the good of others…you won’t want to miss this ending!

5. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boome

My favorite book I read during 2018, this is a memoir of a woman who worked at her family’s watch shop during WWII in Holland. They joined the resistance hiding Jews in their home. I loved learning about the secret ways they communicated to get around the Nazis, but I especially loved the stories of their optimism and dependence on God’s goodness even after they were arrested. For a book that is about something so sad, I felt pumped up and empowered after I finished it.

6. Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff by Chip Gaines

After reading The Magnolia Story and loving it, I had to get my hands on this one. I was gifted two of these last Christmas after I’d bought one for myself. I had two friends borrow it after I read it. Surprisingly deep and insightful!

7. The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

This book was amazing. I loved the show so I had to read this when it came out to learn how it all started. What I loved the most was the fact that Chip took risks and started up multiple businesses. When Joanna had an idea, he told her to go for it, not fearful like most of us would be. It was so inspirational to see that great things can come if we have the courage to just jump right in and give them a try.

8. Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family by Kathy McKeon

I came across this book at the library and was immediately drawn into this story of a woman named Kathy who became the nanny for Jackie Kennedy’s children after the President’s assassination. You feel like a fly on the wall reading this book as you get to observe the “realness” of Jackie’s kindness and love.

9. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I have conflicting thoughts on this book. While I disagreed with much of the theology in the book, I enjoyed reading about the author’s transformation after her divorce and year long journey around the world by going to Italy, India and Indonesia. I loved reading about her thought processes and seeking healing from the pain in her life but I did get bored about halfway through as she was struggling with meditation in India. I found myself falling asleep trying to get through them! But the overall message and feeling of the book was of warmth and exploration and love so I enjoyed it.

10. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill

I read this before the Leah Remini series came out on TV, but I found it fascinating to hear from the niece of the leader of Scientology. It was not a story about how she joined, but how she was basically born into the religion, confined to living on the campus and trying to understand the dangers of the “outside world”.

11. Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words by Andrew Morton

Heartbreaking true story of Diana and her role as wife and princess in the public eye. I loved her bravery and passion for working with AIDS victims. Very detailed, well-paced novel about her impact on the world and personal struggles.

12. 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper

A thought-provoking book is about a minister who gets into an accident and dies and goes to heaven only to come back to life 90 minutes later with an interesting story to tell.

13. Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo

My mother in law died a few months before this book came out so I was very motivated to read what it said about heaven. My husband and I both read it in one day and it was like therapy for me. Beautiful story of a few “strange” conversations between a father and his son.

14. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli

A look into the life behind the scenes of actress Marilyn Monroe. While this isn’t a happy ending, it was inspiring to see her dream big and go for it. You also get a glimpse into her childhood, her marriages and her relationship with the President.

15.Option B by Sheryl Sandberg

This is an honest look at a woman’s journey after becoming a widow. She answer the question: What do you do when life wipes out your plans and lays a new path before you? She gives advice on how to embrace your new path and use it for good instead of trying to backtrack to a life you can never return to.

16. Love Does by Bob Goff

This was given to me when I was sick in the hospital and it was so inspiring. Short stories about bold and sometimes crazy things Bob Goff has done to show love to others. Easy to read, very entertaining.

17. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

I’m not a Stephen King fan but I loved this book. Great for aspiring writers, yet also interesting to learn about Stephen King’s personal road to becoming a writer.

18. Need You Now by Plumb

A very honest memoir about the struggles and triumphs in marriage. Beautiful. You’ll laugh and cry in this one.

19. The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

More than a book about decluttering and shopping less, the author takes you through her memoir of how her victory over alcoholism only emerged in new destructive habits. Throughout she learns how to deal with stress in ways that are healthier for her mind and body.Loved this book and was a great way to kick off the new year! Started my own version of the shopping ban from the book.

20. Anything by Jennie Allen

This tells the story of a woman who boldly prayed to God one night that she would do anything for him. I have prayed this prayer myself, and it’s not always what you had in mind, but I can’t deny that the results are worth it.


Is there anyone you want to learn more about? A celebrity or person from history that you admire?

This year I want to read the autobiographies of Martin Luther King, Jr., his wife, Coretta Scott King, along with Gandhi, who was Dr. King’s inspiration.

I also have an interest in the art world so I want to read about Vincent Van Gogh and Picasso.

Which people inspire you to be your best self? Your most compassionate, creative, intellectual self? Make your list. Find your books, or discover more in my Books of 2018 and 2019 posts. 

Happy Reading!


  1. Hi, I’m coming over from the Booknificent link-up!

    I love memoirs and biographies as well. I’ve read several of these and enjoyed them. I see a few I would be interested in, such as Plumb’s book. I love her music.

    I’m looking forward to reading Julie Andrews new memoir, ‘Home Work’ as well as a biography on Susie Spurgeon, Charles Spurgeon’s wife.

    Happy reading! : )

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