memoirs, biographies and autobiographies banner

When you think back on the story of your life, do you ever think about writing a book? The beauty of reading memoirs and autobiographies is that, no matter how interesting a person’s life may be, everyone comes from different cultures, backgrounds and experiences, so there is always something to learn. Some give us something to laugh about, some can make us cry, and many do both.  Learning the trials and tribulations others have gone through can open our eyes and our hearts to the experiences of others. This type of book can also teach us about other places and cultures all over the world and throughout time. So, what’s the difference between a memoir, an autobiography and a biography? While all are stories of someone’s life, there are a few differences between the three, and you can find examples of all of these books at your local Thunder Bay Public Library.

cover of Barracoon

 A biography is a book written by an author about the life of someone else. An example of a biography is Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo’ by Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston wrote her novel by interviewing Cudjo Lewis, who, at the time of their interviews, was the last man alive who remembered first-hand the experience of being captured in Africa and being shipped and sold into slavery in America. In Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, Hodges tells readers the story of Turing, who was not only a famous mathematician and engineer who created the Turing test to test a machine’s intelligence, but also a gay man living in a time when homosexuality was persecuted by law.  Some other notable biographies available at TBPL include: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (the inspiration for the Broadway musical), Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

cover of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

An autobiography is an account of a person’s life written by that person. Autobiographies are often written later in the person’s life, in order to tell the reader about their achievements and life experiences, but there are exceptions, of course. Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom is an example of an autobiography. Mandela tells readers about his life, starting as a young boy in South Africa to his 27 years behind bars fighting for racial freedom in his country. Another famous autobiography is Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Angelou tells her traumatic story of abuse, prejudice, abandonment, and ultimately love and belief in herself. Other autobiographies that can be found at TBPL include Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

cover of In the Dream House

Finally, a memoir is very similar to an autobiography, but focuses on only certain parts of the author/subjects life, as opposed to their life as a whole. The idea is that memoirs focus on memories of the life, not one’s entire life. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado is a uniquely written memoir that tells Machado’s story of the abuse she faced in a same-sex relationship, a topic that is rarely discussed in modern society. As well, Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood is a memoir that educates the reader about life in South Africa, including the fall of apartheid and being born of mixed-race parents, something which was illegal at the time. Noah also discusses classic coming-of-age problems such as prom night and a first crush.  Wab Kinew’s The Reason You Walk tells the story of the Canadian radio broadcaster after learning of his father’s terminal illness, and his attempt to reconnect with his Anishinaabe father before it was too late. Kinew also shares his story of growing up with mixed parentage and experiencing two different cultures throughout his life. Other memoirs of interest at TBPL include Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle, and How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones.

All of these stories and more can be found at the Thunder Bay Public Library. Call us at 345-8275 or head to to place holds and pick up your items curbside at your chosen branch. We can also help you sign up for a new library card, renew your existing card, create book bundles for you, and more!

Lindsay – If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: