What is the Difference Between a Biography and a Memoir?

The non-fiction genre of text is popularly associated with books without a story or plot-line to follow, similar to the fictional genre, mostly consisting of educational textbooks, recipe books, critical essays, etc. However, a sub-section of the genre combines both non-fiction and the story element of fiction into one – true stories of one’s life. And the most popular types of this are shown through biographies and memoirs whether printed onto text or represented through television, yet people seem to be unaware of understanding what sets a biography and a memoir apart.

Learn about the features of both biographies and memoirs and their similarities and differences, as well as a varioius choices of such ebooks from this very site. 

What is a Biography?

A biography is a non-fiction piece of text where the author writes about the life of someone other than their own self, commonly a celebrity and/or prominent figure in history. The narration of the story runs through the person’s entire lifespan in chronological order which can follow the structure of a traditional fictional novel with a plot. Rather than focusing on the emotions felt during the real experience, the writing focuses on the shifts and movements of the person’s life and their actions and impact.  

What is a Memoir?

Unlike biographies being written from a third person, a memoir is a recollection of the writer’s own memories to compile together into a piece of text, which then classifies as a memoir.  The text is not required to have a chronological structure as to remain non-fictious it must be purely as far as the writer can remember, focusing heavily on the emotions felt during the described experience which the reader can emphathise with, whether positive or negative. 

Recommended Biographies and Memoirs

Here is a list of recommended biographies and memoirs – can you tell the difference of which is which type?

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Native Country of the Heart by Cherrie Moraga

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Frida Kahlo: An Illustrated Life by Maria Hesse


Whether the given list appeals to your taste or not, there are much more available to read (or even listen to!) on this website with a simple click.

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