Even if you are a book-book kind of person, this list of memoirs is guaranteed to turn you into an audiobook person. Memoirs allow us to learn a person’s story in their own words, but there’s truly nothing like hearing their stories in their own voice. The best audiobook memoirs add a level of emotion and connection that goes beyond the words on the page, taking the experience to the next level.
We’ve compiled a list of more than 20 of the best memoirs on audiobook.
They cover a wide variety of topics, from life in the shadow of the British Royal Family to life in the shadow of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; from a hilarious slice of life in 1950’s middle-America to life in outer space aboard the International Space Station; and from the intimate real-life stories behind some of the biggest names in American politics told in a non-political manner, to the experiences that have shaped the artists, musicians, and poets we know and love.
While this list does contain some of the best celebrity audiobooks read in the famous voices you’ll recognize, we’ve been selective about choosing only those celebrity memoirs that are very well written and that dive much deeper to offer something more than you might expect on the surface.
How to Listen to Audiobooks
If you haven’t yet forayed into the world of audiobooks, there are lots of options available. Every book on our must-listen memoir list is available immediately through Amazon’s Audible. Your first Audible audiobook is free, and then you can purchase audiobooks individually, or opt for a discounted membership plan, if you think you’ll listen more regularly.
Libro.fm is another option for buying audiobooks while supporting the local bookstore of your choice. Using the Audible or Libro.fm apps, you’ll be able to download and listen to your audiobooks directly on your phone or tablet.
Most libraries also offer a wide range of audiobook rentals through apps including Overdrive, Libby, and Hoopla. All you have to do is download the app and then connect to your local library using your library card number to sign in. Because each library system owns a limited number of licenses for each audiobook, you’ll often find waitlists for newer or more popular audiobook titles, just like you would for paper copies, but many of the books on our list of the best memoirs to listen to should be available without a waitlist.
The Best Audiobook Memoirs
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This memoir from singer-songwriter Ben Folds, the former frontman of the band Ben Folds Five, chronicles his 1970s North Carolina working-class childhood and his artistic coming of age. It digs deep into the experiences that shaped him, and imparting hard-earned wisdom about both art and life.
Although Folds reveals his embarrassing stories and hard-learned life lessons, compared to many musician autobiographies filled with sex and drugs, you'll find this one to be pretty tame. Instead, he has written a charming and honest memoir, filled with heart and life lessons that are as poetic as his lyrics.
If you love music, even if you aren't specifically a Ben Folds fan, you'll enjoy how he discusses the creative process and music theory. We highly recommend listening to this memoir rather that reading it so that you can hear the Ben's wry observations in his southern drawl, and you'll also be treated to bits of piano, bass, and singing throughout the book.
Astronaut Scott Kelly has traveled to the International Space Station four times, including spending a record-breaking year aboard the ISS. In this memoir, the chapters alternate between candid accounts of his 2016 year in space and his colorful childhood and years of training that lead him there, including his earlier career as a Navy Captain, a fighter pilot, and an engineer.
Scott Kelly and his identical twin, Mark, are both astronauts, and both have spent time at the ISS. When Scott agreed to spend a year in space - more than any other American - Mark stayed on Earth as a control subject, allowing medical experts to discover the effects of extended time in space on the human body.
Kelly - a true scientist at heart - writes and narrates in a very clear and straightforward manner, while still injecting plenty of humor and heart.
Even the juiciest Hollywood tell-alls have nothing on this royal memoir from Anne Glenconner, who was a friend and official Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret, and who The Guardian aptly describes as a "posh old lady who isn’t afraid to talk dirty."
In early 2019, Glenconner agreed to consult with Helena Bonham Conner and Nancy Carroll to help them prepare for their respective portrayals of Princess Margaret and Glenconner in Season 3 of "The Crown." These meetings prompted Anne to begin writing her memoir to tell the stories in her own words.
The book covers her full life to date, from her teenage years through her late 80s. While Princess Margaret is involved in some of the stories, the book is not directly focused on the royal family. Instead, it's all about the ups and downs of Anne's unbelievable life.
We highly recommend listening to this one as an audiobook because Anne Glenconner narrates it herself and her proper British voice adds magic to her often not-proper stories.
If you would have told us a year ago that Jessica Simpson memoir would be a five-star read and make our "best books of the year list," we would have scoffed.
But it's good. Really good.
Open Book is full of heartfelt human self-examination with sides of juicy celeb gossip and humor. It's a true tell-all, and Jessica is bold enough to address the mistakes she has made, along with the mistakes of others when they directly impacted her.
She somehow found the perfect balance and speaking the reality of situations without bashing or only telling the negative. Each story has a purpose and depth.
Hearing her voice break at times adds more emotion, and listening to the audio version really makes you feel like you're listening to a friend.
Born a Crime is the true story of Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s childhood and into his early adulthood. His rise to success was unlikely based on his beginning. Trevor was born in South Africa in 1984 to a white father and black mother. His parents could have been imprisoned for five years - or worse - for conceiving him. He spent his early years largely hidden from life outside because his mother feared (with good reason) that he could be removed from her custody because of the apartheid rules of segregation.
When the era of white rule officially ended in the early 1990s, the family’s troubles evolved with the times. From attempted kidnappings and domestic violence to high school dating, you’ll find a mixture of relatable and shocking stories that keep you engaged with every page.
In true Trevor Noah fashion, you'll be entertained while also receiving an education on life in apartheid South Africa. You will laugh and cry as you listen to him narrate his own poignant and honest stories.
Additionally, Trevor speaks eight languages and draws upon each of them throughout his stories. The audiobook allows you to hear the correct sounds and pronunciations for each language.
Let us start by saying that Michelle Obama's memoir is not about politics - in fact, she is pretty blunt about her disdain for politics throughout this book. Of course, she does talk about her experience as the wife of a politician and as the First Lady of the United States of America, where she used her platform as an advocate for woman and girls around the world.
This memoir, however, is much more of an in-depth reflection about her early life experiences and the all-too-familiar struggle to find the right balance between career and family, especially under the microscope of the media.
The first of three sections in Becoming focuses on Obama's upbringing on the South Side of Chicago and her education at Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She speaks honestly about the experience of being a working-class black student at an elite, predominantly white campus. In the second section, she talks about her marriage and career before becoming First Lady. And in the final section, she shares about her life as a First Family living at the most famous address in the world.
Both a gifted writer and narrator, Obama has written a deeply personal memoir filled with humor, wit, emotion, and refreshing honesty about both her triumphs and disappointments - both public and private.
To most of the world, George and Barbara Bush were the President and First Lady of the United States, but to Jenna Bush Hager, they were something even more important - they were Gampy and Ganny. In this heartfelt and touching memoir, Jenna paints an intimate portrait of all four of her grandparents - the Bushes, who lived in the national spotlight, and the Welches, who lived a much quieter life as a home builder and a home maker in Midland, Texas.
Throughout this moving book, Jenna recalls her favorite memories of her grandparents and shares the lessons they taught her about respect, humility, kindness, living a life of passion, and appreciating the beauty in the smallest things.
The audiobook, read by Jenna herself, brings these stories to life. You experience both her joy and sorrow as she celebrates the memories of her grandparents and mourns their loss.
We knew Rob as a talented actor from his days on the West Wing and Brothers and Sisters, but we didn't know what to expect from his memoir. In short, we were blown away by his intelligence, his charm, and his ability to talk openly about his insecurities and his mistakes, as well and his successes.
The book begins with Lowe's early years in Ohio, where he discovered his love of acting. Then you'll hear about his teen years in wild counterculture of mid-seventies Malibu, California, where he spent his time making home movies with many not-yet-famous friends. His first big break came when he was cast in The Outsiders, but being thrust into stardom came at a price as he took part in the wild excesses of the 1980s. He speaks honestly about his quest for sobriety and his desire to build a solid family, and how his later career successes benefitted from both.
Lowe is a wonderful writer, but we highly recommend the audiobook because there is nothing better than hearing a storyteller tell his own stories - it's a much more personal and intimate experience. Not only is he a brilliant narrator, he also does wonderful impressions of his famous friends and acquaintances throughout the book.
In this memoir, Clint Hill reflects on his seventeen years on the White House Secret Service detail under Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, shedding light on the personalities of five of the most powerful men in the world, and giving a unique insider perspective on many historical events of the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Clint Hill also wrote another memoir - Ms. Kennedy and Me - about his time as Jackie Kennedy’s personal secret service agent throughout her years as First Lady. Both of Hill's memoirs are vivid and insightful without feeling gossipy, and he provides an in-depth look at the politics of the day without feeling political.
While Clint Hill did not narrate his own memoirs, the audio versions are very well done and make you feel as if you've been transported back in time to witness all of the events first hand.
Sally Field is one of the most celebrated, beloved, and enduring actors of our time. Thanks to her infectious charm and captivating personality, and the fact that we've seen her on tv and big screen for most of her life, it's easy to feel like we know her. But in this memoir, Fields opens up about the highs and lows or her star-studded career, but also about her difficult childhood that was marked with both abuse and neglect. She speaks with raw honesty and humility, but never with self-pity.
In Pieces is an inspiring story of life as a woman in the second half of the twentieth century, and it's made all the more powerful by hearing it in her own voice.
Many of us know Anthony Bourdain as the cynical, harshly honest, and always entertaining host of numerous television shows where he traveled the world sharing stories of food. First on the Food Network, then the Travel Channel, and finally on CNN's Parts Unknown. But before beginning his television career, Bourdain - a Vassar College dropout turned Culinary Institute of America graduate - spent two decades working in restaurant kitchens throughout New York City.
In this 2000 memoir, Bourdain gives a no-holds-barred account of life in the culinary trade. Narrated in his trademark brash-yet-loveable manner, this book is filled with stories of his early professional life - including all the sex, drugs, and haute cuisine. Bourdain also shares lots of insider advice for those looking to enjoy the best restaurant dining experience, and tons of tips for home chefs looking to improve their skills.
Mendek Rubin Narrated by Myra Goodman (co-author) and Jason Vande Brake
Mendek Rubin was born into a Hassidic Jewish family in Poland in 1924, and he survived three horrific years in concentration camps while nearly his entire family was murdered in Auschwitz. He arrived in America in 1946 with no money or professional skills, but he was a brilliant inventor and ultimately achieved great business success.
After Mendek passed away in 2012, his daughter, Myra, found an unfinished manuscript in which he shared intimate details about his journey to emotional healing after the war. While this book will appeal to those interested in WWII history, it's very much a story for our time - one filled with insights about how to find joy amid the darkness, how to feel safe in a dangerous world, and how to choose forgiveness.
This memoir is a work of posthumous father-daughter collaboration that tells Mendek's story, and portions of the audio are narrated by his daughter.
Growing up in Gaza on a farm located beside an Israeli settlement military base, Yousef was a young Palestinian boy who loved soccer. He was 11 years old when Israeli soldiers ordered his family to leave their home, but his father refused, even when the soldiers moved in and seized the top two floors. For the next five years, three generations of Yousef's family lived as prisoners in their own home, but his father insisted that they coexist peacefully.
At the age of 15, Yousef was already questioning his father's belief in peace when he was shot in his own front yard by an Israeli soldier, leaving him in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down for the next year. But it was also Israeli doctors who saved his life and eventually helped on his road to recovery.
Through this experience, Yousef was forced to grapple with the empathetic words of his father, who believed so strongly in peace over retribution, that he eventually also became an outspoken activist for peace.
Hearing Yousef tell his story in his own voice makes his powerful tale even more compelling.
Each of Dolly Parton's songs tells a story of her real-life experiences, and in this book she shares those stories behind her lyrics and the journey she was on when she wrote them. This includes her insights about her poor upbringing in house the was rich with love, her long marriage, her faith, and her remarkable career as a country music and pop culture legend.
While we highly recommend listening to Dolly narrate her own memoir, because you really can't beat hearing her stories and listening to her sing the lyrics in her own iconic voice, keep in mind that the format of the audiobook doesn't follow the printed book exactly. The audio uses an interviewer/interviewee style of narrative, while the text of the book is more concise but contains lots of never-before-seen photos and rare memorabilia from Parton's personal archives. For this one, we highly recommend getting both formats, and listening to the audio as you follow along in the book.
Even a therapist needs someone to talk to! Lori Gottlieb is a Los Angeles therapist who helps patients through a myriad of life's challenges, but when a crisis causes her world to come crashing down, she seeks the help of a therapist of her own.
In this very candid and personal memoir, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both a clinician and a patient. She breaks down many of the stigmas about mental health, sheds light on the benefits of therapy, and paints a vivid and funny portrait of what it means to be human.
Born in St. Louis in 1928, Maya Angelou grew up to become one of the most influential voices of the 20th century - a poet, educator, civil rights activist, historian, actress, filmmaker, and much more. In this memoir, first published in 1969, Maya recounts her childhood from the ages of three through sixteen.
As a young child, Maya and her brother are "shipped" to Stamps, Arkansas to live with their paternal grandmother where they endure both the pain of abandonment and prejudice. At 8-years-old, the two return to live with their mother in St. Louis, where Maya is raped by her mother's boyfriend. After returning to Arkansas, Maya is so traumatized by the abuse she endured that she stops speaking for several years.
Read in Maya's distinctive deep and lyrical voice will transport you back in time to the Jim Crowe south where you'll feel like you're walking alongside her.
Alex Trebek Narrated by Ken Jennings and Alex Trebek
For more than three decades, Alex Trebek hosted Jeopardy! His presence on television brought him into the homes of millions of Americans each and every night, making him feel like a close friend. But throughout this time, Trebek resisted countless appeals to write a book about his life.
After announcing his diagnosis with stage four pancreatic cancer, Trebek was so overwhelmed with gratitude for the outpouring of love and well wishes he received from fans that he finally decided to write a book about his life. He said "I want people to know a little more about the person they have been cheering on for the past year."
In his memoir, Trebek shares his thoughts on a wide range of topics, including marriage, parenthood, education, success, and philanthropy. He also answers some of the questions he was asked most often by fans of the show.
Trebek wanted to narrate as much of his own audiobook as possible, but because of his illness he worried that his voice would give out, so he called on Ken Jennings - the most successful contestant in the history of Jeopardy! - to narrate other portions of the book for him.
(most read by Ken Jennings, with portions narrated by Alex Trebek throughout)
Since his teenage years in Texas, Matthew McConaughey has kept journals not only to capture his life but to evaluate what works and how he could be his best. His notebooks spanned everything from his foreign exchange year abroad in Australia through his first acting gig, wild travels to rural Africa after an intense dream, and every major life decision.
To write Greenlights, McConaughey set out to the wilderness again, armed with only these journals to keep him company. The result is an honest and raw look at an unbelievable life. He’s extremely intelligent, spiritual, and unconventional in ways that may inspire you to be a bit bolder in your own life.
That said, this book isn’t a great option if you avoid books with crude languages or scenes. It’s truly a tell-all about his life and he doesn’t hold back in sharing moments others may avoid.
We highly recommend the audiobook narrated by McConaughey himself because, well, who wouldn't want to listen to that voice telling you his life story? This is another memoir where you might want to read along in the hard copy of the book as well, because the pages are also filled with lots of his handwriting as well as photos of some events that you truly might have to see to believe.
Bill Bryson is famous for his humorous travel writing, but in this nostalgic and hilarious memoir he reflects on growing up in middle-America in the 1950s in the middle of the baby boomer generation. Using his childhood imaginary super-hero persona to tell his story, he tells his story of growing up in Des Moines, bringing to life his loving but eccentric family.
If you've never read a Bill Bryson book before, then we'll just warn you that you'll get both a great book and an ab workout from laughing so hard, especially when listening to Bryson's deadpan narration.
Regarded as a pioneer in television, seven-time Emmy winner Betty White has enjoyed a more than seven-decade career in Hollywood. She has written numerous memoirs over the years, and in her most recent - published in 2011 when she was 89 years old - she shares stories of her life and career with an emphasis on her life after the age of 75.
In If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) she tackles topics including friendship, romantic love, aging, television, fans, love for animals, and the world of celebrity - all in her signature upbeat style. She shares funny stories from her life in Hollywood, takes on rumors, chats about her beauty regimen ("I have no idea what color my hair is and I never intend to find out"), and reveals how a Facebook campaign finally persuade her to host Saturday Night Live despite her having declined the hosting job three times already.
There's no way you can pass up listening to the delightful and hilarious Betty narrate her own memoir (the audiobook even won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album). But the book does include lots of photos, so you might want to pick up a copy to flip through the pages after you finish listening.
As a young attorney in Montgomery, Alabama, Bryan Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit law office dedicated to helping poor, incarcerated, and wrongly condemned defendants.
One of EJI's first clients was Walter McMillian, a young Black man who was wrongly convicted of, and sentenced to death for, the murder of a young white woman.
Author and attorney Bryan Stevenson's compassion and conviction surrounding the pursuit of true justice is made all the more powerful by hearing the stories of the EJI in his own voice.
After performing at the 2009 Superbowl, Bruce Springsteen was so exhilarated that he wanted to document the experience in writing. That instinct triggered 7 years of work documenting his life from childhood through the roaring success of his E Street Band.
The book is written with the words of a songwriter and the wisdom of a man who has thought deeply about his experiences.