The immune system can remember a previously experienced pathogen and can evoke an enhanced response to reinfection that depends on memory lymphocyte populations. Recent advances in tracking antigen-experienced memory B cells have revealed the existence of distinct classes of cells that have considerable functional differences. Some of these differences seem to be determined by the stimulation history during memory cell formation. To induce rapid recall antibody responses, the contributions of other types of cells, such as memory T follicular helper cells, have also now begun to be appreciated. In this Review, we discuss these and other recent advances in our understanding of memory B cells, focusing on the underlying mechanisms that are required for rapid and effective recall antibody responses.