Histone deacetylases (HDACs) are promising therapeutic targets for neurological and psychiatric disorders that impact cognitive ability, but the relationship between various HDAC isoforms and cognitive improvement is poorly understood, particularly in mouse models of memory impairment. A goal shared by many is to develop HDAC inhibitors with increased isoform selectivity in order to reduce unwanted side effects, while retaining procognitive effects. However, studies addressing this tack at the molecular, cellular and behavioral level are limited. This study interrogated the biological effects of class I HDAC inhibitors with varying selectivity and assessed a subset of these compounds for their ability to regulate transcriptional activity, synaptic function and memory. The HDAC-1, -2, and -3 inhibitors, RGFP963 and RGFP968, were most effective at stimulating synaptogenesis, while the selective HDAC3 inhibitor, RGFP966, with known memory enhancing abilities, had minimal impact. Furthermore, RGFP963 increased hippocampal spine density, while HDAC3 inhibition was ineffective. Genome-wide gene expression analysis by RNA sequencing indicated that RGFP963 and RGFP966 induce largely distinct transcriptional profiles in the dorsal hippocampus of mature mice. The results of bioinformatic analyses were consistent with RGFP963 inducing a transcriptional program that enhances synaptic efficacy. Finally, RGFP963, but not RGFP966, rescued memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease. Together, these studies suggest that the specific memory promoting properties of class I HDAC inhibitors may depend on isoform selectivity and that certain pathological brain states may be more receptive to HDAC inhibitors that improve network function by enhancing synapse efficacy.