I recently read Ann Best's memoir In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets. I just added it to my Shelfari shelf of memoir-type books I have read.
What makes a good memoir? First, the cover. This is a wonderful cover because you can stare at it at length wondering about the people before you even crack open the book. Then while you're reading, you can flip back to it and recall how Ann and Larry looked on their wedding day. And you can ponder this photo with their children and think about how things are not always as happy as it seems when a family gathers for a smiling group shot.
Which brings me to another important element of memoir-- story! There needs to be a beginning, middle and end; conflict; memorable, identifiable characters; resolution of conflict; real life situations that the reader can connect with; and don't forget-- good writing!!
There's the autobiography someone might write for family and posterity with particulars and photos from one's life. These have a place in personal and family history and kudos to anyone who is able to write one. And then there's the publishable memoir such as Ann wrote-- something that connects with a large demographic of readers who will pay for the privilege of reading her story.
I like to think the genre is called "memoir" because it's "memorable." Not simply a collection of "memories" but a story that stays in your heart and mind long after. That's the kind of memoir that Ann Best wrote. Not an easy task. I hope on her blog that she will delve into what, why and how she managed to write her book.