10 Memoirs by Female Authors That Will Shift Your Perspective

And open your heart.

By Sacha Strebe
best memoirs by female authors

There is nothing quite like a book to open your eyes (and your heart) to new possibilities. You can be transported into another world or experience someone else’s lived experience at the turn of a page. That feeling of being deeply engrossed in a book is addictive and when it’s good, you never want it to end—if you know, you know! So, naturally, in honor of Women’s History Month, we asked our editorial team to share the best memoirs they’ve read by female authors.

These moving stories not only captured our hearts, but also shifted our perspective, and changed our lives in the process—add these books while you’re at it too. Ready to find out which 10 tomes made the cut? Keep reading.

best memoirs

I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying by Bassey Ipki

Riley Reed | Contributing Editor

Why I Recommend It:
I couldn’t write any words here that would suffice. Bassey Ikpi’s memoir moved me deeply. She explores her life as a Nigerian-American immigrant, a Black woman, a slam poet, an artist, and certainly not last, a mother and a daughter. The words she so effortlessly shares are gifted to us through the lens of her mental health and diagnosis of bipolar II and anxiety. Ikpi completely uproots our societal, conditioned notions of the mind. This book is incredibly honest, intimate, and raw. Ikpi leaves nothing unturned. You will leave having learned what it means to discover the self through an exploration of stories.

Favorite Quote/s:
“I give them the suggestion Allow yourself morning. I tell them it means that today may have been a rolling ball of anxiety and trembling, a face wet and slick with tears, but if you can get to morning, if you can allow yourself a new day to encourage a change, then you can get through it. Allow yourself morning.”

“You are proud of the way the night loved you so much it offered you stars for your face.”

best memoirs by female authors

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Suruchi Avasthi | Food Editor

Why I Recommend It:
Anyone who knows me knows that I love Mindy Kaling with my whole heart. I read this book when it first came out in 2012 and recently listened to the audio version on my 20-hour drive from Minnesota to Texas. Best. Decision. Ever. Not only is this book filled with wildly funny anecdotes and quotes (who doesn’t want a sneak peek into what it was like being in The Office writers room?), there were also little gems of wisdom tucked in throughout the book as Mindy takes us along her journey that felt like advice coming from a best friend who believes in you so much. I laughed and teared up multiple times in this book, and it truly is just a wonderful dose of joy.

Favorite Quote/s:
“I will leave you with one last piece of advice, which is: If you’ve got it, flaunt it. And if you don’t got it? Flaunt it. ’Cause what are we even doing here if we’re not flaunting it?”

“If I’m at a party where I’m not enjoying myself, I will put some cookies in my jacket pocket and leave without saying good-bye.”

best memoirs 2021

Woman of Color by Latonya Yvette

Brandy Joy Smith | Motherhood Contributor 

Why I Recommend It:
It’s a look into the life of an everyday black woman, her life growing up in Brooklyn, and her relationship to beauty and style as defined through her blackness. She is vulnerable, honest, and insightful. Touching on topics from style to motherhood. 

Favorite Quote/s:
“Stare in the mirror at your reflection; touch what you love and hug what you don’t. Sometimes we need to love and mother ourselves.”

best memoirs by women

Educated by Tara Westover

Lourdes Avila Uribe | Writer

What It’s About and Why I Recommend It:
Educated is a fascinating and oftentimes shocking look at author Tara Westover’s intense and complicated childhood. Raised by fundamentalist Mormon survivalist parents, Westover and her siblings grew up in an isolated mini-cult led by her father, who believed himself to be a prophet. Despite having never set foot in a classroom, Tara’s desire for a different life led to a quick self-education that eventually landed her at Harvard and Cambridge University. Her beautiful and rich prose is infused with compassion for her family, even while parsing through painful and abusive experiences. It’s an inspiring and unique story that touches on universal themes of love, family, and acceptance.

Favorite Quote:
“Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were.”

best memoirs to read

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Sacha Strebe | Deputy Editor

Why I Recommend It:
If you’re a fan of Patti’s music then you will love hearing her story. Her memoir, Just Kids is like reading one giant poem. Every detail of her life is inspiring. It moves you, stirs up the creative spirit, and compels you to create, to be curious, to free your mind from the shackles of modern thinking. I loved diving into her world and experiencing early New York City that became a melting pot for so many incredible artists, singers, poets, and writers. I read the book, then bought the hardcover edition, and then listened to the audio version in which Patti reads her own story to you—I highly recommend it. 

Favorite Quote/s:
“Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”

“What will happen to us?” I asked. “There will always be us,” he answered.”

“We went our separate ways, but within walking distance of one another.”

“I had no proof that I had the stuff to be an artist, though I hungered to be one.”

memoirs by women

The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane Von Furstenburg

Camille Styles | Editor-in-Chief

Why I Recommend It:
Diane von Furstenberg shares the story of her fascinating life, starting with a suitcase full of jersey dresses and a determination to be an independent woman. It’s one of those lives that feels like many rolled into one: from becoming a princess to achieving status as a fashion industry icon; from nearly losing her business to bankruptcy to surviving cancer—this is a true page-turner from which every woman, entrepreneur, or otherwise, will glean something valuable about what it means to live the life of your dreams.

Favorite Quote/s:
“My definition of beauty is strength and personality.”

“Landscapes change, people come and go, but all the landscapes, all the experiences, all the people weave into your life’s fabric. Love is not just about people you had affairs with. Love is about moments of intimacy, paying attention to others, connecting. As you learn love is everywhere, you find it everywhere.”

memoirs by female authors

Malala: My Story for Standing Up for Girls’ Rights by Malala Yousafzai

Anne Campbell | Contributing Editor

Why I Recommend It:
This abridged chapter book edition of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai’s full-length memoir is an inspirational tale of heroism and courage (and even hope) against all odds. Malala’s moving story of bravery and defiance is accessible to young readers and is a brilliant choice for adults to read together alongside children. 

Favorite Quote/s:
“Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country—this is my dream. Education for every boy and every girl in the world.”


Becoming by Michelle Obama 

Michelle Nash | Senior Producer 

Why I Recommend It:
Every woman should read this book. Michelle takes us through her personal journey, one that led her eventually to the White House as the First Lady of the United States. She shares stories from growing up in Chicago and how those roots shaped her, and the highs and lows that determined the course of her future. From going to Princeton to meeting Barack, she walks us through the experiences that shaped her. As a sister, daughter, wife, mother, and First Lady, her account is honest, wise, and inviting—inspiring us all to find our own voice and defy expectations. 

Favorite Quote/s:
“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”

memoirs by women

More than Enough by Elaine Welteroth

Suruchi Avasthi | Food Editor

Why I Recommend It:
I just read this one for a monthly book club (that I’ve been doing with two best friends for almost three years now) and when I say this book gave us one of the best discussions, laughs, and thought-provoking moments, I mean it. Welteroth, the first Black EIC of Teen Vogue and now a co-host on CBS’s The Talk shares her story with lessons on race, identity, and success. While I loved getting a behind the scenes peek at what it really takes to get what you want and the honesty she shares about how hard the work was in order to make her dreams a reality, Welteroth shares the lessons that also come with the struggles of being a barrier-breaker in so many areas in her life, and what it can mean to be the first in many spaces and places. Her writing is incredibly personal and relatable, and at times, we almost felt like we were reading a novel rather than an autobiographical piece. I left this book on my shelf feeling inspired, hopeful, and with an extra spark of belief in all that we’re capable of doing and that we truly all are enough.

Favorite Quote/s:
“Sometimes just being yourself is the radical act. When you occupy space in systems that weren’t built for you, your authenticity is your activism.”

“If we aren’t vigilant, we can move through our entire lives feeling smaller than we actually are—by playing it safe, by unconsciously giving away our power, by dimming our radiance, by not recognizing there is always so much more waiting for us on the other side of fear. But when we are brave enough—to go there, to grab what we want, to tap into who we are—damn, it feels so good.”

memoirs to read

Drinking: A Love Story by Carolyn Knapp

Chris Styles (Camille’s Mom!)


Why I Recommend It: 
As a lover of memoirs, I had a hard time settling on one to recommend. The one I finally chose, Drinking: A Love Story, by Carolyn Knapp, is a book that I still think about after reading it years ago. The writing is beautiful and honest and enlightening and reading it gave me a new understanding of the insidious nature of addiction. I read this book in two days because I had to find out if the author reclaimed her life after losing so much to alcoholism.   

Favorite Quote/s:
“Anyone who’s ever shifted from general affection and enthusiasm for a lover to outright obsession knows what I mean: the relationship is just there occupying a small corner of your heart, and then you wake up one morning and some undefinable tide has turned forever and you can’t go back. You need it, it’s a central part of who you are.”

Is there a memoir we missed? Share the best memoir by a female author you’ve read (and loved) in the comments below!

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