Autobiography vs. Memoir

An autobiography generally covers the author’s entire life to date and is presented as a factual, usually chronological account. Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, for example, takes us from Martin’s childhood and early jobs to the beginning of his career and professional success. In contrast, a memoir covers a distinct time in the author’s life, such as her time in law school or backpacking through Peru. The title of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence helpfully identifies the work as a memoir.