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Memoir vs. Biography: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 22, 2023
A memoir is a personal account of one's own experiences, while a biography is a detailed account of someone else's life.

Key Differences

Memoir and biography both fall under the umbrella of non-fiction literature, but they approach the subject of life from different perspectives. A memoir is a personal narrative where the author recounts specific experiences, feelings, and events from their own life. It's subjective and may focus on a particular theme or period. Memoirs are deeply personal, reflecting the author's emotions, perspectives, and interpretations of events.
In contrast, a biography is a comprehensive account of another person's life, written by someone other than the subject. Biographies aim to provide a detailed and objective representation of a person's life events, accomplishments, challenges, and legacy. They're typically based on extensive research, interviews, and various sources to ensure accuracy and comprehensiveness.
While memoirs might only cover certain phases or aspects of the author's life, biographies tend to offer a full life story, from birth to death. Memoirs can also employ a more artistic or narrative flair, allowing the author to explore their emotions, while biographies usually maintain a more factual and chronological approach.
While both genres aim to enlighten readers about life experiences, memoirs provide an intimate window into the author's personal journey, whereas biographies offer a third-person perspective on the life and significance of the subject.

Comparison Chart


A personal account of one's own experiences.
A detailed account of someone else's life.

Point of View

First person (subjective).
Third person (objective).


Specific experiences or periods of author's life.
Full life story of the subject, from birth to death.


Based on personal memory and perspective.
Based on extensive research, interviews, and sources.


Emotions, personal interpretations, and experiences.
Facts, events, and the subject's impact and legacy.

Memoir and Biography Definitions


An introspective account of personal growth and understanding.
Her memoir explores her journey from grief to acceptance.


A book that explores the impact and legacy of its subject.
The biography highlights her significant contributions to the field of medicine.


A narrative recounting the author's personal experiences.
Her memoir paints a vivid picture of her childhood in rural Alabama.


A factual recounting of an individual's life events and achievements.
The new biography on the scientist delves into both his discoveries and personal challenges.


A personal story emphasizing emotions and reflections.
The memoir delves deep into her struggles with identity and belonging.


A researched narrative of a person's life, often with citations.
His biography is well-researched, with numerous interviews and archival materials included.


An autobiographical account focusing on specific events or periods.
His memoir of the war years is both harrowing and inspiring.


A detailed account of someone's life, written by another.
The biography of Abraham Lincoln provides a comprehensive look at his life and presidency.


A literary work based on memory, often with artistic flair.
His memoir, filled with poetic language, captivates readers from the first page.


A third-person account detailing the life of its subject.
The biography paints a vivid picture of the artist's tumultuous life.


An account of the personal experiences of an author.


An account of a person's life written, composed, or produced by another
A film biography of Adlai Stevenson.
An oral biography.


Often memoirs An autobiography.


Is it essential for biographies to be objective?

Ideally, biographies should be objective and based on factual information, but they can sometimes reflect the author's interpretations.

Are memoirs always factual?

While memoirs are based on real experiences, they are influenced by the author's perspective and memory, which can be subjective.

What's the main difference between a memoir and a biography?

A memoir is a personal account of one's experiences, while a biography is an account of someone else's life.

Do memoirs cover an entire life like biographies?

Not necessarily; memoirs often focus on specific experiences or periods in the author's life.

Can a biography be written without the subject's involvement?

Yes, biographies are often written posthumously or without direct input from the subject.

Can a person write a memoir about someone else?

Technically, that would be a biography since memoirs are personal accounts of the author's own experiences.

How are memoirs and autobiographies different?

While both are personal accounts, autobiographies typically cover the author's entire life, whereas memoirs focus on specific experiences or periods.

How are memoirs different from personal essays?

While both share personal experiences, memoirs usually offer a broader scope or longer period, while essays often focus on a single event or insight.

Why might someone choose to write a memoir instead of an autobiography?

They might want to delve deeper into specific events, emotions, or periods of their life rather than providing a full life account.

Can a biography be unauthorized?

Yes, unauthorized biographies are written without the subject's permission or involvement.

Is it easier to write a memoir than a biography?

It depends; memoirs require introspection and emotional depth, while biographies require extensive research and fact-checking.

Who typically reads biographies?

Readers interested in the life, impact, and legacy of the subject, or those researching specific historical or cultural figures.

Do memoirs need to be chronological?

Not necessarily; memoirs can be structured around themes, emotions, or events rather than strict chronology.

How do biographers verify the information in their books?

They use sources like letters, documents, interviews, and other records to ensure accuracy.

Can fiction books be based on memoirs or biographies?

Yes, many fictional works are inspired by real-life accounts, blending fact with creative interpretation.

Do memoirs have to be written by famous people?

No, anyone can write a memoir; it's the story and insights that matter, not just the author's fame.

Why are memoirs popular?

They offer intimate insights into real-life experiences, emotions, and challenges, allowing readers to connect on a personal level.

Are memoirs considered non-fiction?

Yes, though they are influenced by the author's personal perspective and memory.

Do all biographies have to be book-length?

No, biographies can be shorter pieces, like essays or articles, detailing aspects of someone's life.

Can a biography be written in the first person?

It's uncommon; biographies are typically written in the third person to maintain objectivity.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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