The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano was one of the first widely read slave narratives. Eight editions were printed during the author's lifetime, and it was translated into Dutch and German. The structure and rhetorical strategies of the book were influential and created a model for subsequent slave narratives. The different kinds of aspects and ideas in his narrative, such as travel, religion, and slavery, cause some readers to debate what kind of narrative his writing is: a slavery narrative, a spiritual narrative, or a travel narrative.
The work has proven so influential in the study of African and African-American literature that it is frequently taught in both English literature and History classrooms in universities. The work has also been republished in the influential Heinemann African Writers Series.