Barbara P
Barbara P

Autobiography vs. Memoir - Differences & Similarities

8 min read

Published on: Sep 26, 2019

Last updated on: Nov 22, 2023

Autobiography vs. Memoir

Have you ever thought of yourself as an unwritten book? Well, you're not alone! 

As Thomas M. Cirignano puts it, 'Each of us is a book waiting to be written, and that book, if written, results in a person explained.'

Memoirs and autobiographies are like time capsules of someone's life. They're both these first-person stories that paint a picture of who the author is. But what's the difference between autobiography and memoir? 

Sounds a bit tangled, right? 

In this blog, we'll look at the differences and similarities between these two literary writings.
So without further delay let’s explore the autobiography vs memoir in detail!

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Autobiography vs Memoir - Detailed Comparison

Here's a detailed comparison table for Autobiography vs Memoir:

Feature

Autobiography

Memoir

Focus

Entire Life

Specific Aspect or Time Period

Scope

Comprehensive, covering major life events

Selective, focusing on personal experiences

Narrative Perspective

First-person, narrated by the subject

First-person, narrated by the author

Purpose

Objective, providing a detailed life account

Subjective, exploring personal reflections and emotions

Timeline

Chronological order

Non-chronological, may jump back and forth in time

Audience

Wider audience, often public figures

More personal, may target a niche or specific readership

Emphasis on Reflection

May include reflection, but often objective

Emphasizes personal reflection and insights

Style

Formal and structured

More informal and flexible

Events and Facts

Focuses on historical accuracy and facts

Allows for creative interpretation and personal truths

Themes

Broader themes related to the person's life

Specific themes or lessons learned from personal events

Common Usage

Politicians, public figures, historical figures

Writers, celebrities, individuals with unique experiences

Now that we've scratched the surface of autobiography and memoir, it's time to zoom in and examine each of them more closely.

What is a Memoir?

The word ‘memoir’ is extracted from the French word mémoire, which means reminiscence or memories. The memoir is a life story of the author’s life written by themselves. It is a collection of memories written by the authors themselves.

The memoir presents one specific part of the author’s life. While writing a memoir, the author chooses a particular part of his life to share with people. They present greater emphasis on emotional experience and the writer’s soul. It is a type of autobiography that gives a glimpse into a particular part of the writer’s life.

Characteristics of the Memoir

Here are the few characteristics that a memoir possess:

  • The memoir focuses on the relationship between the author and a particular place or person.
  • They particularly explain the significance of the relationship.
  • They present only a particular or specific part of the author’s life.
  • They are limited to a specific time period, a particular phase, or recurring behavior.

Expert Tip

If you need a detailed memoir writing guide check out our blog on ‘how to write a memoir

Memoir Examples

Wondering what are some best-selling or famous memoirs? We have got you covered. Here is a list of some all-time popular memoirs:

  • "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert: A journey of self-discovery and healing after a difficult divorce.
  • "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls: A memoir detailing Walls' unconventional and challenging upbringing.
  • "Educated" by Tara Westover: Chronicles Westover's journey from a strict and abusive household to earning a PhD.
  • "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt: McCourt's memoir about his impoverished childhood in Ireland.
  • "Night" by Elie Wiesel: Wiesel's harrowing recollection of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps.
  • "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" by William Kamkwamba: A memoir depicting Kamkwamba's determination to bring electricity to his village in Malawi.
  • "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed: Strayed's transformative journey of self-discovery through hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson: A biography and memoir that delves into the life of Apple's co-founder, Steve Jobs.
  • "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou: Angelou's powerful memoir, the first in a series, exploring her childhood and adolescence.

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What is an Autobiography?

An autobiography presents the life history or the story of the author’s life written by the author himself. They focus on the chronology of the author’s entire life. They cover the whole life of the author up to the point of writing. Autobiography portrays the achievements and personal experiences of the author. 

Therefore, they are written later in the author’s life. They begin during early childhood by telling where the author was born and brought up. The author chronologically presents the key events that occur throughout the author’s life. 

For a deeper insight read our autobiography examples blog which features autobiographies from famous persons and historical figures.

Characteristics of an Autobiography

Here are the characteristics of an autobiography:

  • They cover the entire life of the author.
  • They are about and written by a famous person.
  • They present a greater emphasis on history.
  • They present the author’s real-life story in chronological order.

Autobiography Examples

Here are some famous autobiographies:

  • "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank: Anne Frank's intimate diary detailing her life in hiding during the Holocaust.
  • "The Story of My Experiments with Truth" by Mahatma Gandhi: Gandhi's exploration of his life, principles, and experiments with nonviolent resistance.
  • "The Long Walk to Freedom" by Nelson Mandela: Mandela's autobiography covering his life, struggles, and leadership in the fight against apartheid.
  • "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" by Malcolm X with Alex Haley: Malcolm X's compelling narrative, tracing his transformation from a criminal to a civil rights leader.
  • "Becoming" by Michelle Obama: Michelle Obama's memoir detailing her life from childhood to becoming the First Lady of the United States.
  • "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin" by Benjamin Franklin: Franklin's classic autobiography provides insights into his life, inventions, and political contributions.
  • "Out of My Life and Thought" by Albert Schweitzer: Schweitzer's autobiographical work exploring his philosophy and humanitarian efforts.
  • "The Story of My Life" by Helen Keller: Helen Keller's autobiography narrating her inspiring journey as a deaf-blind individual.

Autobiography vs. Memoir: Difference and Similarities

The chart provided below offers a comprehensive overview of both the autobiography vs memoir differences and similarities :

differences between autobiography and memoir

Biography vs. Autobiography vs. Memoir Comparison Chart

Just look at the comparison chart given below to understand the similarities and differences between memoir, autobiography, and biography. 

BiographyAutobiographyMemoir
An account of a person’s complete lifeAn account of the author’s own lifeAn account of a specific time in the author’s life
Objective in natureSubjective in natureSubjective in nature
Written in the third personWritten in the first personWritten in the first person
Written to informWritten to informWritten to explore emotions
Written at any time in lifeWritten near the end of lifeWritten at any time in life

Expert Tip

For a more in-depth understanding of the difference give our ‘Autobiography vs. Biography vs. Memoirs’ blog a read!


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Tips for writing an Autobiography and Memoir

An autobiography or memoir is a story about your life. You should follow these tips:

  • Use fiction writing techniques.
  • Write in an engaging way.
  • Mention the specific dates of the events and focus on facts and dialogues that sound natural, not journalistic.
  • Do in-depth research and start with a strong hook.
  • Pick a strong theme to focus on the main events of your life.
  • Read renowned autobiography and memoir books for inspiration and guidance.

Wrapping it up!

We hope this blog has made it clear for you to understand how autobiographies and memoirs are different and similar. Now, you can easily see how each of them tells a story in its own unique way. 

If you find yourself needing assistance with your writing, whether it's for a memoir or an autobiography, don't hesitate to reach out to MyPerfectWords.com. 

Our team of expert writers is available around the clock to guide you through your writing journey. Begin sharing your story with our expert online writing service today!

Frequently Asked Question

Can an autobiography be a memoir?

Yes, an autobiography can be considered a type of memoir. Both genres involve personal reflection and storytelling, but an autobiography typically covers a person's entire life, while a memoir focuses on specific experiences or themes.

How long should memoir chapters be?

Memoir chapters can vary, but a common range is 2,000 to 5,000 words per chapter. Focus on maintaining a balance between narrative flow and reader engagement.

 
Barbara P

WRITTEN BY

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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