Editors Recommend: 6 Rewarding Memoirs for Readers of All Types

September 26 2022
Share Editors Recommend: 6 Rewarding Memoirs for Readers of All Types

When you land on a good memoir, it can be one of the most thrilling reads. The narrative sequences have the momentum of fiction. The character development is so powerful that it has you thinking of your own life’s journey. And when you get the end, the emotional payoff is incredibly rewarding. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite industry-insider memoir recommendations from the Simon & Schuster editors who worked on them!

The Gift
by Edith Eva Eger

“Ninety-four years old and still a practicing psychologist, Edith Eger inspires us with her unique ability to find joy in every day, despite the horrors she faced in Auschwitz and more recently the challenges of the pandemic—a time she used to expand her audience via zoom, podcasts, and social media.” —Roz L., Associate Publisher

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The Gift
Edith Eva Eger

“I will be forever changed by Edith Eger’s story.” —Oprah

A practical and inspirational guide to stopping destructive patterns and imprisoning thoughts to find freedom and joy in life—now updated to address the challenges of the pandemic and a world in crisis.

World renowned psychologist and internationally bestselling author, Edith Eger’s, powerful New York Times bestselling book The Choice told the story of her survival in the concentration camps, her escape, healing, and journey to freedom. Readers around the world wrote to tell her how The Choice moved them and inspired them to confront their own past and try to heal their pain. They asked her to write another, more prescriptive book. Eger’s second book, The Gift, expands on her message of healing and provides a hands-on guide that gently encourages readers to change the thoughts and behaviors that may be keeping them imprisoned in the past.

Eger explains that the worst prison she experienced is not the prison that Nazis put her in but the one she created for herself: the prison within her own mind. She describes the most pervasive imprisoning beliefs she has known—including fear, grief, anger, secrets, stress, guilt, shame, and avoidance—and the tools she has discovered to deal with these universal challenges. These lessons are offered through riveting and inspiring stories from her life and the lives of her patients.

This new, revised edition of The Gift contains two new chapters that examine the invaluable insights and lessons Edie learned during the Covid-19 pandemic; a time she used to rediscover freedom even in lockdown and to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, including preparing and sharing meals with the ones we love. Edie includes recipes for some of her favorite dishes which have been updated and tested by her daughter Marianne Engle and explains how food can be a deep expression of love and connection.

As readers seek to find joy and some peace in these challenging times, Eger’s wisdom and heartfelt advice is as timely, and timeless, as ever and certain to resonate with Eger’s devoted readers and those who have not yet found her transformational wisdom.

Filled with empathy, insight, and humor, The Gift captures the vulnerability and common challenges we all face and provides encouragement and advice for breaking out of our personal prisons to find healing and greater joy in life.

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Editors Recommend: 6 Rewarding Memoirs for Readers of All Types

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 26, 2022

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Things My Son Needs to Know about the World
by Fredrik Backman

“If you’ve read Fredrik’s novels, you can already guess that the advice he has for his newborn son isn’t the far typically found in books like this. The voice is funny, completely honest, and full of heartfelt emotion. Fans will adore this book because it offers many of the same pleasures as his fiction—a mixture of humor and observations about the human condition that ring true.” —Peter B., Editor-in-Chief

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Things My Son Needs to Know about the World
Fredrik Backman

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Heartland
by Sarah Smarsh

"This is a book for everyone. Sarah's story will appeal to people from all political backgrounds and all parts of the country. It's her compassion and lack of judgment; it's the subtle way she lays down context about her family's history in Kansas, about the political state of play throughout her life, and the decline she witnessed. She provides real insight into how being poor feels. We are in need of Sarah's voice." —Kathryn B., VP, Executive Editor

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Heartland
Sarah Smarsh

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House of Glass
by Hadley Freeman

“The Glass siblings, and their various choices throughout the Holocaust, illustrate a broad range of human experiences. It is a story of survival—of courage, but also of cowardice, of compassion, but also of cruelty. In that way, it makes the reader ask: in uncertain and very scary times: what would I do?” —Emily G., Editor

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House of Glass
Hadley Freeman

Writer Hadley Freeman investigates her family’s secret history in this “exceptional” (The Washington Post) “masterpiece” (The Daily Telegraph) uncovering a story that spans a century, two World Wars, and three generations.

Hadley Freeman knew her grandmother Sara lived in France just as Hitler started to gain power, but rarely did anyone in her family talk about it. Long after her grandmother’s death, she found a shoebox tucked in the closet containing photographs of her grandmother with a mysterious stranger, a cryptic telegram from the Red Cross, and a drawing signed by Picasso.

This discovery sent Freeman on a decade-long quest to uncover the significance of these keepsakes, taking her from Picasso’s archives in Paris to a secret room in a farmhouse in Auvergne to Long Island to Auschwitz. Freeman pieces together the puzzle of her family’s past, discovering more about the lives of her grandmother and her three brothers, Jacques, Henri, and Alex. Their stories sometimes typical, sometimes astonishing—reveal the broad range of experiences of Eastern European Jews during the Holocaust.

This “frightening, inspiring, and cautionary” (Kirkus Reviews) family saga is filled with extraordinary twists, vivid characters, and famous cameos, illuminating the Jewish and immigrant experience in the World War II era. Reviewers have asked: “is there a better book about being Jewish?” (The Daily Telegraph) Addressing themes of assimilation, identity, and home, House of Glass is “a triumph” (The Bookseller) and a powerful story about the past that echoes issues that remain relevant today.

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How We Fight for Our Lives
by Saeed Jones

“An unforgettable coming-of-age story, of a bookish, black, gay teen from Texas as he learns to see himself and his dreams—and as he learns how his world sees him…and throughout, he reflects his nation back on itself, writing profoundly…with a gorgeous, intimate style that’s half-prose and half-poetry. It’s a book that takes your breath away, that you race through in a single sitting and then flip right back to page one.” —Jon C., Editor

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How We Fight for Our Lives
Saeed Jones

WINNER OF THE 2019 KIRKUS PRIZE IN NONFICTION

WINNER OF THE 2020 STONEWALL BOOK AWARD-ISRAEL FISHMAN NONFICTION AWARD

ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES’S 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2019

One of the best books of the year as selected by The Washington Post; NPR; Time; The New Yorker; O, The Oprah Magazine; Harper’s Bazaar; Elle; Kirkus Reviews; Publishers Weekly; BuzzFeed; Goodreads; School Library Journal; and many more.

“A moving, bracingly honest memoir that reads like fevered poetry.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Jones’s voice and sensibility are so distinct that he turns one of the oldest of literary genres inside out and upside down.” —NPR’S Fresh Air

“People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The ‘I’ it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, ‘I am no longer yours.’”

Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir. Jones tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.

An award-winning poet, Jones has developed a style that’s as beautiful as it is powerful—a voice that’s by turns a river, a blues, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one-of-a-kind memoir and a book that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time.

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The Escape Artist
by Helen Fremont

“Helen Fremont’s first book, the national bestseller After Long Silence, focused on her parents’ experiences as survivors of the Nazi occupation of Poland during the Second World War. In The Escape Artist, she revisits the terrain of family, focusing on her tumultuous relationship with her older sister and her strenuous efforts to keep the upheaval in their household at bay. Although the details of her story are unique, the universal landscape of childhood will have those of us with families—I’m pretty sure that covers all of us—nodding our heads in grateful recognition.” —Jackie C., Senior Editor

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The Escape Artist
Helen Fremont

A luminous new memoir from the author of the critically acclaimed national bestseller After Long Silence, The Escape Artist has been lauded by New York Times bestselling author Mary Karr as “beautifully written, honest, and psychologically astute. A must-read.”

In the tradition of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and George Hodgman’s Bettyville, Fremont writes with wit and candor about growing up in a household held together by a powerful glue: secrets. Her parents, profoundly affected by their memories of the Holocaust, pass on to both Helen and her older sister a zealous determination to protect themselves from what they see as danger from the outside world.

Fremont delves deeply into the family dynamic that produced such a startling devotion to secret keeping, beginning with the painful and unexpected discovery that she has been disinherited in her father’s will. In scenes that are frank, moving, and often surprisingly funny, She writes about growing up in such an intemperate household, with parents who pretended to be Catholics but were really Jews—and survivors of Nazi-occupied Poland. She shares tales of family therapy sessions, disordered eating, her sister’s frequently unhinged meltdowns, and her own romantic misadventures as she tries to sort out her sexual identity. Searching, poignant, and ultimately redemptive, The Escape Artist is a powerful contribution to the memoir shelf.

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Photo credit: iStock / DmitriiSimakov

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