10 Intimate Celebrity Memoirs That Make Terrific Beach Reads

Molly Bagshaw
May 30 2022
Share 10 Intimate Celebrity Memoirs That Make Terrific Beach Reads

Each summer, I eagerly anticipate my annual August vacation on Cape Cod with my family. We slurp oysters, play lawn games, and spend hours with our toes in the sand as we get lost in our books. We’re all fast readers, so our collective stack is laughably huge, but the best part is swapping books throughout the week—we have our own mini book club!

I love bringing celebrity memoirs to the beach, because there’s something for everyone—you can read a salacious exposé, an intimate look into an actor’s craft, an inspirational guide, or just some good ole plain fluff. Here’s a list of celebrity memoirs that make the best beach reads, from Hollywood legends like Betty White to rising stars like Tunde Oyeneyin. Grab your sunscreen and a flavored seltzer water and dig in.

Here We Go Again: My Life in Television
by Betty White

My job here is to simply remind you that Betty White’s memoir, HERE WE GO AGAIN, exists. Surely I don’t need to convince you to read it: IT’S BETTY WHITE! With a career that spanned over 70 years, Betty White really did it all—she had her own radio show, starred in several hit television shows (all iconic), was an all-star panelist on classic game shows (including Password, hosted by her husband), and had some of the funniest appearances on the silver screen, too (I will never not watch The Proposal). She even timed her death perfectly, prompting millions of champagne toasts in her honor on New Year’s Eve 2021. All of that success and she remained one of the most universally beloved figures in television. In her cheery and charming HERE WE GO AGAIN, you get to know Betty behind the screens and gain a greater sense of what made her so special. 

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Here We Go Again: My Life in Television
Betty White

Here We Go Again is a behind-the-scenes look at Betty’s career from her start on radio to her first show, Hollywood on Television, to several iterations of The Betty White Show, and much, much more. Packed with wonderful anecdotes about famous personalities and friendships, stories of Betty’s off-screen life, and the comedienne’s trademark humor, this deliciously entertaining book will give readers an entrée into Betty’s fascinating life, confirming yet again why we can’t get enough of this funny lady.

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Born a Crime
by Trevor Noah

I had heard incredible things about Trevor Noah’s memoir BORN A CRIME, but it honestly exceeded expectations. Unlike other comedian memoirs, it doesn’t discuss Trevor’s rise in comedy or path to hosting The Daily Show but rather focuses on his childhood in Johannesburg. The title itself refers to an apartheid-era law that criminalized interracial relationships: as the son of a white man and a Black woman, Trevor was quite literally born a crime. I learned a lot about apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa and gained a greater understanding of colonialism and racism across the globe. I was simultaneously amused and entertained by Trevor’s childhood antics. The heart of the story, however, is Trevor’s relationship with his mother. I really cannot recommend this vibrant and insightful memoir enough and would wager that the audiobook is fantastic.

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Born a Crime
Trevor Noah

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The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
by Issa Rae

Before she became a household name with her hit HBO show, Insecure, Issa Rae dominated a corner of the Internet with her award-winning web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. It ran for two seasons on YouTube (you can still watch it), and each episode focuses on an awkward situation while also moving the larger story line along. Similarly, this collection of essays humorously catalogs what it’s like to navigate the world as an awkward person. It’s full of fun anecdotes, but the central message really is about how to embrace your whole nerdy self and love what you love about it without any reservations. It’s such an enjoyable read, both for the quality and originality of the essays and because it’s rare to have the chance to read the voice of a singular talent on the cusp of greatness. It’s no wonder Issa has the career she has, but it’s extra special to hear her voice from the past with the reader’s knowledge of what’s to come. 

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The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
Issa Rae

The “brilliantly wry” (Lena Dunham) and “lovably awkward” (Mindy Kaling) New York Times bestseller from the creator of HBO’s Insecure.

In this universally accessible New York Times bestseller named for her wildly popular web series, Issa Rae—“a singular voice with the verve and vivacity of uncorked champagne” (Kirkus Reviews)—waxes humorously on what it’s like to be unabashedly awkward in a world that regards introverts as hapless misfits and black as cool.

I’m awkward—and black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. That someone was right. Where do I start?

Being an introvert (as well as “funny,” according to the Los Angeles Times) in a world that glorifies cool isn’t easy. But when Issa Rae, the creator of the Shorty Award-winning hit series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, is that introvert—whether she’s navigating love, the workplace, friendships, or “rapping”—it sure is entertaining. Now, in this New York Times bestselling debut collection written in her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cybersexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself—natural hair and all.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a book no one—awkward or cool, black, white, or other—will want to miss.

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Miss Memory Lane
by Colton Haynes

Although I’ve never seen an episode of Teen Wolf or Arrow, Colton Haynes’s new memoir MISS MEMORY LANE is at the top of my vacation reading pile. In this insider account of the seedy underbelly of Hollywood, Colton recounts his tumultuous rise in La-La Land, from his start as a teen model to star of two hit TV shows. Though Colton achieved great professional success, he was struggling deeply in his personal life as a closeted gay man with a severe drug addiction. What comes next is an amazing story of perseverance. In a New York magazine article he penned last year, I was really astounded by his thoughtful and vulnerable prose. He wrote, “Now that I’m older and sober, I’m trying to square who I am with the inauthentic version of myself I invested in for years. I often wonder how different things would’ve been if I were allowed to be who I was when I moved to town: a hopeful kid confident in his sexuality.” I’m so thrilled for him that he has become his true, authentic self, and that we’re able to witness it on the screen and off. I’m rooting for him and can’t wait to read more in MISS MEMORY LANE.

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Miss Memory Lane
Colton Haynes

A brutally honest and moving memoir of lust, abuse, addiction, stardom, and redemption from Arrow and Teen Wolf actor Colton Haynes.

Four years ago, Colton Haynes woke up in a hospital. He’d had two seizures, lost the sight in one eye, almost ruptured a kidney, and been put on an involuntary psychiatry hold. Not yet thirty, he knew he had to take stock of his life and make some serious changes if he wanted to see his next birthday.

As he worked towards sobriety, Haynes allowed himself to become vulnerable for the first time in years and with that, discovered profound self-awareness. He had millions of social media followers who constantly told him they loved him. But what would they think if they knew his true story? If they knew where he came from and the things he had done?

Now, Colton bravely pulls back the curtain on his life and career, revealing the incredible highs and devastating lows. From his unorthodox childhood in a small Kansas town, to coming to terms with his sexuality, he keeps nothing back.

By sixteen, he had been signed by the world’s top modeling agency and his face appeared on billboards. But he was still a broke, lonely, confused teenager, surrounded by people telling him he could be a star as long as he never let anyone see his true self. As his career in television took off, the stress of wearing so many masks and trying to please so many different people turned his use of drugs and alcohol into full-blown addiction.

A lyrical and intimate confession, apology, and cautionary tale, Miss Memory Lane is an unforgettable story of dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled; of a family torn apart and rebuilt; and of a man stepping into the light as no one but himself.

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Redefining Diva
by Sheryl Lee Ralph

If you’re not watching Abbott Elementary, what are you doing with your life? It’s hilarious, full of heart, and features an incredible cast, including the absolute legend Sheryl Lee Ralph. Considering Ralph’s credits, it’s almost unbelievable to see how far-ranging her career has been. Regardless of your age, you’ve likely seen her in something iconic, whether it was as Deena in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, as Lauryn Hill’s mom in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (so good), or as Dee in one of my favorite shows to watch after school, Moesha. Part memoir and part advice book, Sheryl Lee Ralph’s REDEFINING DIVA shares and advises on what it means to be a true Diva: a person of strength and character, and of a beauty that radiates from within. What could be more perfect to read at the beach?

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Redefining Diva
Sheryl Lee Ralph

Secrets about love, life, and Hollywood from the Tony Award-winning actress from the Broadway production of Dreamgirls in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the original Broadway show.

You may think that Sheryl Lee Ralph earned a legion of devoted fans and the title of Ultimate Diva by being a star of Broadway, film, and television, but Sheryl Lee believes a Diva is something far more special.

• A Diva loves the woman she sees in the mirror.

• A Diva owns her talent and her strength.

• A Diva knows the first step on the road to fame is respecting herself.

SHERYL LEE RALPH’S superstar performance as the original Deena in Broadway’s groundbreaking musical Dreamgirls didn’t happen overnight. First came a grueling Hollywood apprenticeship, where roles for young black women at the time were often offensive and demeaning. Sheryl Lee, however, held stubbornly to the values of her mother and grandmother: she wouldn’t take any part she couldn’t be proud of. Even after joining Dreamgirls—where she helped create a role that grew from her own life story—she would invest years of sweat and tears before the play finally opened to instant acclaim.

In these highly personal reflections, Sheryl Lee Ralph reveals her take on her supposed feuds with Diana Ross and Jennifer Holliday, on auditioning for Sidney Poitier, on why she exited so controversially from the TV series Moesha, and how she signed away her rights to Dreamgirls for a dollar. She uses her life story to illustrate her vision: black, white, or any other color of the rainbow, a true Diva is a person of strength, character, and a beauty that radiates from within. Not just a memoir, Redefining Diva will inspire every woman (and man) who reads it to examine the potential in their own life.

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Speak
by Tunde Oyeneyin

Over the last couple of years, I have become a full-fledged Peloton convert. Each of the instructors are tough yet motivating, but none more so than Tunde Oyeneyin. From the outside, Tunde seems otherworldly—she’s gorgeous, extremely fit, exudes boundless energy—but she’s also so genuine and authentic. She inspires and leads from a place of total optimism, inner strength, and positivity. As she discusses in her just released memoir, SPEAK, she’s overcome some real challenges in her life, but chooses to view adversity as opportunity. Regardless of your affinity for Peloton cycling, this is a remarkable memoir-manifesto-guide and, from it, you’ll learn how to “live a life of purpose, on purpose.”

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Speak
Tunde Oyeneyin

From Tunde Oyeneyin, the massively popular Peloton instructor, fitness star, and founder of SPEAK, comes an empowering, inspiring book that shows how she transformed grief, setbacks, and flaws into growth, self-confidence, and triumph—for fans of Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle.

On any given day, thousands of devoted people clip into their bikes and have their lives changed by Tunde Oyeneyin. From her platform in a Peloton studio, she encourages riders with her trademark blend of positivity, empathy, and motivational “Tunde-isms,” to push themselves to their limits both on and off the bike. Now, fans and readers everywhere can learn about her personal journey, and discover how they too can “live a life of purpose, on purpose” with Speak, a memoir-manifesto-guide to life inspired by her immensely popular Instagram Live series of the same name.

Taking us through each step of the SPEAK acronym—Surrender, Power, Empathy, Authenticity, and Knowledge—Oyeneyin shares the lessons she has learned about loss, love, body image, and how she has successfully created an intentional, joyful life for herself, offering an accessible blueprint for anyone looking to make a positive change in their lives.

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This Will Only Hurt a Little
by Busy Philipps

I am a longtime Busy Philipps fan, from Freaks and Geeks and Dawson’s Creek to Cougar Town and Girls5Eva. I love her comedic talent and am awed by her ability to make you feel like you truly know her. In her New York Times bestselling autobiography THIS WILL ONLY HURT A LITTLE, Busy shares stories from her childhood through her career (and career pivots) in Hollywood, showing strength through vulnerability and an admirable tenacity. It’s one of the best celebrity memoirs I’ve read. Busy has already done so much more in her career and life since her memoir was published in October 2018, including her criminally short-lived late night talk show, Busy Tonight, her excellent podcast, Busy Philipps is Doing Her Best, the hilarious show Girls5Eva, and her growing involvement in LGBTQIA+ activism. I can’t wait to see what she does next, and I hope it includes a second memoir!

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This Will Only Hurt a Little
Busy Philipps

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A hilarious, heartfelt, and refreshingly honest memoir by the beloved comedic actress known for her roles on Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek, and Cougar Town who has become “the breakout star of Instagram stories...Imagine I Love Lucy mixed with a modern lifestyle guru” (The New Yorker).

“You guys!! Busy is a legit writer with a voice as clear as a bell. This book is honest, funny, intimate, and well-observed by a person who has observed some sh*t.” —Tina Fey

“Judy Blume meets Karl Ove Knausgaard meets one brave woman from Arizona. On the page, Philipps’ toughness shines through—a rare and feminine ethical code; devoted and blunt. It’s a thrill to watch her stumble right up until the very moment she storms the f*cking gates.” —Miranda July

There’s no stopping Busy Philipps. From the time she was two and “aced out in her nudes” to explore the neighborhood (as her mom famously described her toddler jailbreak), Busy has always been headstrong, defiant, and determined not to miss out on all the fun. These qualities led her to leave Scottsdale, Arizona, at the age of nineteen to pursue her passion for acting in Hollywood. But much like her painful and painfully funny teenage years, chasing her dreams wasn’t always easy and sometimes hurt more than a little.

In this stunningly candid memoir, Busy opens up about chafing against a sexist system rife with on-set bullying and body shaming, being there when friends face shattering loss, enduring devastating personal and professional betrayals from those she loved best, and struggling with postpartum anxiety and the challenges of motherhood.

But Busy also brings to the page her sly sense of humor and the unshakeable sense that disappointment shouldn’t stand in her way—even when she’s knocked down both figuratively and literally (from a knee injury at her seventh-grade dance to a violent encounter on the set of Freaks and Geeks). The rough patches in her life are tempered by times of hilarity and joy: leveraging a flawless impression of Cher from Clueless into her first paid acting gig, helping reinvent a genre with cult classic Freaks and Geeks, becoming fast friends with Dawson’s Creek castmate Michelle Williams, staging her own surprise wedding, conquering natural childbirth with the help of a Mad Men–themed hallucination, and more.

Busy is the rare entertainer whose impressive arsenal of talents as an actress is equally matched by her storytelling ability, sense of humor, and sharp observations about life, love, and motherhood. Her conversational writing reminds us what we love about her on screens large and small. From film to television to Instagram and now to the page, Busy delightfully showcases her wry humor and her willingness to bare it all.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life to write this book. I’m just so grateful someone asked. Otherwise, what was the point of any of it??”

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Wishful Drinking
by Carrie Fisher

“Oh! I’ve been looking for a red suede pump!” is a Carrie Fisher line that I quote all the time. What could easily have been a throwaway phrase in When Harry Met Sally is made iconic by Carrie’s comedic sensibilities. No one had a voice like hers, nor the ability to turn a phrase so cleverly; the punch line hits before you recognize the setup. WISHFUL DRINKING, based on her one-woman show of the same name, is not an exhaustive memoir but rather more narrowly focuses on her issues with alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as her bipolar diagnosis. It’s a quick read but jam-packed with astute observations and hilarious one-liners. It’s in this book where she famously requested that her obituary announce she “drowned in moonlight, strangled by [her] own bra.” This is also the perfect choice if you tend to struggle to finish a book while on vacation—you’ll tear through it in a day or two while marveling at Carrie’s genius.

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Wishful Drinking
Carrie Fisher

Reading this laugh-out-loud memoir makes you realize that no matter how messed up everything is, there’s always vodka and then of course—the repercussions. — Chris

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You Can't Be Serious
by Kal Penn

Kal Penn has cultivated one of the most unique and multifaceted careers in the public eye. Before you scoff, just think: Did you ever think Harold would go from searching for White Castle to working for the White House under President Obama? I didn’t think so. In his candid memoir, YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS, Kal recounts his journey so far, as the son of immigrant parents, accomplished actor, and political activist. It’s hilarious, smart, and more than meets the eye: just like Kal himself.  

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You Can't Be Serious
Kal Penn

In this refreshingly candid memoir, Kal Penn recounts why he rejected the advice of his aunties and guidance counselors and, instead of becoming a doctor or “something practical,” embarked on a surprising journey that has included acting, writing, working as a farmhand, teaching Ivy League University courses, and smoking fake weed with a fake President of the United States, before serving the country and advising a real one.

You Can’t Be Serious is a series of funny, consequential, awkward, and ridiculous stories from Kal’s idiosyncratic life. It’s about being the grandson of Gandhian freedom fighters, and the son of immigrant parents: people who came to this country with very little and went very far—and whose vision of the American dream probably never included their son sliding off an oiled-up naked woman in a raunchy Ryan Reynolds movie…or getting a phone call from Air Force One as Kal flew with the country’s first Black president.

With intelligence, humor, and charm on every page, Kal reflects on the most exasperating and rewarding moments from his journey so far. He pulls back the curtain on the nuances of opportunity and racism in the entertainment industry and recounts how he built allies, found encouragement, and dealt with early reminders that he might never fit in. And of course, he reveals how, after a decade and a half of fighting for and enjoying successes in Hollywood, he made the terrifying but rewarding decision to take a sabbatical from a fulfilling acting career for an opportunity to serve his country as a White House aide.

Above all, You Can’t Be Serious shows that everyone can have more than one life story. Kal demonstrates by example that no matter who you are and where you come from, you have many more choices than those presented to you. It’s a story about struggle, triumph, and learning how to keep your head up. And okay, yes, it’s also about how he accidentally (and very stupidly) accepted an invitation to take the entire White House Office of Public Engagement to a strip club—because, let’s be honest, that’s the kind of stuff you really want to hear about.

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You Can't Touch My Hair
by Phoebe Robinson

All three of Phoebe Robinson’s New York Times bestselling books are worth your time, but I recommend starting with YOU CAN’T TOUCH MY HAIR. Phoebe’s debut collection of essays about race, gender, and pop culture are told with her singular voice and signature comedic flair. If you’re unfamiliar with the comedian, actress, and podcaster, know that she expertly balances poignant commentary with the most shallow of topics (in the best way). I love that in this collection Phoebe plays around with formats, including essays, letters, and lists, and that her subjects range from lighthearted and slightly absurd topics, such as her obsession with U2 and Bono, to a heartfelt and serious letter written to her newborn niece. It’s a book that’s easy to read in chunks, but you may also find that once you start you won't want to put it down. A perfect summer read that you’ll be reciting to your friends, poolside.

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You Can't Touch My Hair
Phoebe Robinson

If you’ve listened to Phoebe Robinson’s podcast, “2 Dope Queens,” which she cohosts with “Daily Show” alum Jessica Williams, you know that Robinson tells it like it is—and always does it with a good dose of humor. In her memoir YOU CAN’T TOUCH MY HAIR, Robinson uses her trademark wit and a wealth of pop-culture references to brilliantly delve into the historical foundations of many of the microaggressions (and overt racism) black women experience today.

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Photo credit: iStock / Mike_Sheridan

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