As members of the human race we all seek to connect in a deep, authentic way. Reading a memoir can feel as intense as sinking into a good novel. You might be introduced to another culture, experience the challenge of living with chronic illness or addiction, learn about your idol’s childhood, witness grief and healing in new ways, be humbled by another’s strength, laugh your butt off at someone’s antics, and discover new facets of yourself. So dust off your lounge chair, grab something cold to drink, and chill out with one of these fantastic life stories.
I’ve loved Samantha Irby since I first read her genius and gritty blog, Bitches Gotta Eat
, and her memoir is just as raw, real, and uproariously funny. Whether the subject is sex, food, bodily functions, or childhood, Irby is always honest, vulnerable, and smart. You’ll want to be her BFF, although she probably wouldn’t have you.
I’ve loved Samantha Irby since I first read her genius and gritty blog, Bitches Gotta Eat, and her memoir is just as raw, real, and uproariously funny. Whether the subject is sex, food, bodily functions, or childhood, Irby is always honest, vulnerable, and smart. You’ll want to be her BFF, although she probably wouldn’t have you.
Born to Run
You might think you know The Boss through his prolific music and lyrics, but there’s so much more to learn and love beyond “Pink Cadillac” and “Thunder Road.” In his own words, “Writing about yourself is a funny business... But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind. In these pages, I’ve tried to do this.” He succeeds.
During his 8 years in office, the former president didn't kept his love of The Boss a secret. Bruce Springsteen sang his hit song “The Rising” at the first inauguration, and “The Land of Hope and Dreams” closed out President Obama’s farewell address. And while he was in office, Obama awarded Springsteen both a Kennedy Center Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones
Charles Blow has been called the James Baldwin of our times, and for very good reason; this man can WRITE. With unflinching introspection, and without sentimentality or a wasted word, Blow’s brutally authentic, courageously detailed, and unforgettable memoir of redemption will leave you spellbound.
How do love and marriage survive the twists, turns, and foibles of the human experience? In her thought-provoking and intimate marital memoir, Dani Shapiro shines light on the tender underbelly of her own happily-ever-after. “There is no other life than this,” she writes. “You would not have stumbled into the vastly imperfect, beautiful, impossible present.”
My Salinger Year
Back when the publishing industry still used typewriters and Dictaphones, Joanna Rakoff had the enviable opportunity to work with J.D. Salinger himself as an assistant to his agent. MY SALINGER YEAR is Rakoff’s nostalgic walk through her first “real” job, as a young, ambitious woman trying to make it in the city that never sleeps.
As young woman, Joanna Rakoff worked as the assistant to the literary agent for J. D. Salinger and was tasked with processing Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. Impulsively, she stopped sending the agency’s form response to the heart-wrenching letters and began writing back, to humorous and moving results.
I’m not sure there is a more of-the-moment book than J.D. Vance’s HILLBILLY ELEGY, and I can’t count the number of people who have told me that reading this book opened their eyes to a way of life in America that they should have known about, and are very sorry they didn’t. Vance’s story of growing up poor in the Rust Belt and making his way out is humanizing, riveting, and important. A movie adaptation is in the works from Ron Howard, but you’ll want to read it first.
Part of John’s allure is his need to live off the grid in the small town of Woodstock, Alabama. The podcast shines a spotlight on rural America that can be both fascinating and at times shocking. In J.D. Vance’s memoir of small town life he offers another peek behind the curtain of working class people living in near poverty and trying to navigate where they fit into America’s modern tapestry.
How to Murder Your Life
Those familiar with Cat Marnell from XO Jane
, or her stint at Vice magazine will recognize her drug-fueled, eating-disordered, wildly kinetic writing; and those who’ve never heard her name before might have to put this memoir down between chapters and take a breather. Either way, Marnell’s viscerally unglamorous glamorous life of privileged addiction is laid bare in her trademark brutally honest, self-deprecating, name-dropping way. You’ll be rooting for her.
Those familiar with Cat Marnell from XO Jane, or her stint at Vice magazine will recognize her drug-fueled, eating-disordered, wildly kinetic writing; and those who’ve never heard her name before might have to put this memoir down between chapters and take a breather. Either way, Marnell’s viscerally unglamorous glamorous life of privileged addiction is laid bare in her trademark brutally honest, self-deprecating, name-dropping way. You’ll be rooting for her.
Lindy West’s memoir will open your eyes; she’ll also make you cry, both with laughter and poignancy. From internet trolls to body acceptance, feminism to rape culture and what it’s like to be a female comedian, this is a memoir in which you’ll probably see yourself, no matter who you are.
You have to be careful about what you read when you’re writing, or you can end up in total despair, thinking, “This is what I wanted to say, only she got there first and said it better.” But here’s the thing—there can never be too many stories about growing up as a big girl in a world that wants its women small. And Lindy’s defense of Ursula the Sea Witch as a role model gives me life, as the kids say.
Tibetan Peach Pie
You may know Tom Robbins’s wildly imaginative writing style from his numerous internationally acclaimed fiction titles. His insightful memoir is equally entertaining. Whether writing about growing up in depression-era Appalachia, enjoying the trippy West Coast of the 1960s, or traversing the globe, this highly amusing, candid account of what makes Robbins tick is a mesmerizing ride.
As a teen bride in an ultra-strict Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaisim, Deborah Feldman gave birth to her son and knew she must escape her dysfunctional life of severe rules and oppression. Without judgment, Feldman brings you into a closed community in America you might not know exists. A brave story of loss, love, and reinvention.
A rich and harrowing memoir of a young woman’s escape from the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism in Brooklyn in order to give herself and her newborn son a brighter future.
If your only exposure to Carole Radziwill is her role on The Real Housewives of New York, prepare to be surprised. The tragedy of the plane crash that claimed the lives of John F. Kennedy, Jr., and his wife, Carolyn Bessette, was shocking to many; for Radziwill, whose husband, Anthony, was Kennedy’s cousin and whose best friend was Carolyn Bessette, it was personal. Three weeks after the crash, Anthony succumbed to cancer. Radziwill shines bright and strong in this beautifully complex memoir of love, grief, and strength.
The Man Who Couldn't Eat
I love food: growing it, reading about it, shopping for it, cooking it, and eating it. I cannot fathom not being able to eat, so John Reiner’s unforgettable memoir of exactly that inability (due to severe Crohn’s Disease) was an uncomfortable trek. Reiner lays bare the harrowing medical aspects of living with chronic illness, and explores the social and psychological impact on himself and his family when he is no longer able to eat, and share, food.