8 Favorite Memoirs from Instagram’s @BooksandPolkaDots’s Bookshelf

Editor’s Note: Megan Gardner—the “bookstagrammer” behind @BooksandPolkaDots—loves to read, recommend, and repeat just as much as we do. That’s why we’re delighted that Megan shared some of her favorite memoirs with us. 


Telling our own stories gives life momentum and allows us to reflect on both the incredible and the awful moments we experience. What makes memoirs so crucial is their ability to help us understand the world and the people around us. While these 8 memoirs range from heartbreaking to hilarious, they all share in the idea that we can learn from each other’s mistakes, traumas, and fortunes—and that there is incredible power in perseverance and redemption.

by Koren Zailckas

In this memoir, Koren Zailckas shares her decade-long alcohol binge. While she did not consider herself an alcoholic, she relied heavily on drinking during her formative years to get by. Her story is a look back at her destructive behavior and what she learned.

Waiting to Be Heard
by Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox was arrested for murder in 2007 when her roommate in Italy was found dead in their apartment. Her memoir, WAITING TO BE HEARD, recounts her innocence, the anguish she was put through during 4 years of prison, her struggle to follow the continuous changes in court rulings, and the incredibly divisive media coverage throughout it all.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
by Mindy Kaling

This humorous memoir is a look at moments throughout Mindy Kaling’s life—from her career as an actress to her interesting dating life to having immigrant parents, she tells stories that many can relate to. She’s hilarious and this book reads like a page out of your friend’s diary.

Brain on Fire
by Susannah Cahalan

Susannah Cahalan awakes in a hospital room, strapped to the bed. Crazy? Psychotic? Mental breakdown? BRAIN ON FIRE is her story of a devastating autoimmune disease misdiagnosed over and over—all while it appears she is losing her mind.

You Deserve a Drink
by Mamrie Hart

YouTube sensation Mamrie Hart’s memoir is told through a series of drinking stories—and reads like you are reminiscing while out on a night of fun with your best friend. It is a hilarious look at the good and the bad—and even has some cocktail recipes to go alongside her retellings!

My Story
by Elizabeth Smart

In 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home in Salt Lake City and subjected to 9 months of rape, torture, and absolute fear. In this memoir, Elizabeth explains how she was able to persevere during this time and move on after her safe return home.

Finding Me
by Michelle Knight

After being abducted by a friend’s father, Michelle Knight spent more than a decade locked inside a Cleveland house being raped and tormented daily. Most assumed she ran away, which resulted in little effort to find her, but she never gave up hope that she would one day escape.

A Long Way Gone
by Ishmael Beah

What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Never before has there been a first-person account from someone who went through this hell and survived. In A LONG WAY GONE, Ishmael Beah recounts his story with heartbreaking honesty: how at the age of 12, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By 13, he’d been picked up by the government army and found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with urgent importance and literary force.