This year, my reading list was stacked with juicy, shock-worthy, tear-jerking, and inspiring memoirs. While novels are a great escape from reality, there is something so entertaining about reading the true events behind an author’s life. Whether it’s a drama-packed tale or a series of inspiring essays, memoirs definitely helped to get me through my year of reading. Here are a few of my favorites to add to your TBR.
The relentless social buzz around this memoir by the former Nickelodeon child star Jennette McCurdy was certainly justified. This was one of the best books I read in 2022. Through dark humor and impressive storytelling, Jennette gets raw and real about the abuse she faced at the hands of her mother as her own acting career soared to stardom. From eating disorders to addiction to friendships with fellow stars to her complicated relationship with her overbearing mother, Jennette recounts it all in this memoir. I laughed, I cried, I gasped at the terrible struggles she endured, but most of all I was inspired by Jennette’s resilience as she embarks on a new life of recovery and independence. If you haven’t yet picked up this memoir, what are you waiting for?
A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life.
Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.
In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.
Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.
MOTHER NOISE is a memoir told in a series of essays and graphic shorts. Cindy House illustrates what life as a mother looks like at twenty years in recovery from addiction. She asks the important question of whether we are required to share our past with our children, including when the details are painful to recount. How much of the real world are we able to protect them from? This is a book of hope. It is raw and tender but packed with dark humor and honesty.
A poignant, “raw[,] and tender” (The New York Times Book Review) memoir told in essays and graphic shorts about what life looks like twenty years after recovery from addiction—and how to live with the past as a parent, writer, and sober person—from a regular opener for David Sedaris.
In the opening of this “unexpectedly uplifting...masterfully crafted memoir” (Shelf Awareness, starred review) Cindy, twenty years into recovery after a heroin addiction, grapples with how to tell her nine-year-old son about her past. She wants him to learn this history from her, not anyone else; but she worries about the effect this truth may have on him. Told in essays and graphic narrative shorts, Mother Noise is a stunning memoir that delves deep into our responsibilities as parents while celebrating the moments of grace and generosity that mark a true friendship—in this case, her benefactor and champion through the years, David Sedaris.
This is a powerful memoir about addiction, motherhood, and Cindy’s ongoing effort to reconcile the two. Are we required to share with our children the painful details of our past, or do we owe them protection from the harsh truth of who we were before?
With dark humor and brutal, clear-eyed honesty, Mother Noise is “a full-throated anthem of hope, [that] lends light to a dark issue” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
WILD GAME is a daughter’s tale that recounts how she helped her mother through an epic, very involved affair. From the moment her mother first kissed another man, Adrienne became her sole confidante. With this sudden onset of attention, Adrienne felt useful and seen by her mother, leading to a complicated secret that she helped to orchestrate. WILD GAME discusses boundaries, lies, and the ways parents can break our hearts. This is a powerful and timeless memoir. Adrienne also writes fiction—her newest release, LITTLE MONSTERS, comes out this summer—so you know that the prose in her memoir will be top-notch and beautifully capture reality.
Christie Tate has a knack for memoir writing. After reading her first book, GROUP, about her inspiring experience in group therapy, I knew I had much to learn from her. So, when I heard her newest memoir, B.F.F., was preparing to hit the shelves, I did everything in my power to get my hands on a copy. This memoir chronicles Christie’s various female friendships, and the heavy process of breaking her own toxic habits and learning how to build healthy boundaries. While Christie is going through these emotions, one strong friendship remains a constant tie in her life—Meredith. But when Meredith gets sick, Christie is forced to face her deepest fears of losing yet another friend. I truly feel that every woman should read this explorative memoir about seeking and maintaining lasting connections. This book publishes on February 7.
From the author of Group, a New York Times bestseller and Reese’s Book Club Pick, comes a moving, heartwarming, and powerful memoir about Christie Tate’s lifelong struggle to sustain female friendship, and the friend who helps her find the human connection she seeks.
After more than a decade of dead-end dates and dysfunctional relationships, Christie Tate has reclaimed her voice and settled down. Her days of agonizing in group therapy over guys who won’t commit are over, the grueling emotional work required to attach to another person tucked neatly into the past.
Or so she thought. Weeks after giddily sharing stories of her new boyfriend at Saturday morning recovery meetings, Christie receives a gift from a friend. Meredith, twenty years older and always impeccably accessorized, gives Christie a box of holiday-themed scarves as well as a gentle suggestion: maybe now is the perfect time to examine why friendships give her trouble. “The work never ends, right?” she says with a wink.
Christie isn’t so sure, but she soon realizes that the feeling of “apartness” that has plagued her since childhood isn’t magically going away now that she’s in a healthy romantic relationship. With Meredith by her side, she embarks on a brutally honest exploration of her friendships past and present, sorting through the ways that debilitating shame and jealousy have kept the lasting bonds she craves out of reach—and how she can overcome a history of letting go too soon. But when Meredith becomes ill and Christie’s baggage threatens to muddy their final days, she’s forced to face her deepest fears in honor of the woman who finally showed her how to be a friend.
Poignant, laugh-out-loud funny, and emotionally satisfying, B.F.F. explores what happens when we finally break the habits that impair our ability to connect with others, and the ways that one life—however messy and imperfect—can change another.
Dolly Alderton’s memoir, EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT LOVE, is about all the trials and turmoil that come along with growing into adulthood. From relationship woes to financial struggles to friendships and loss, this memoir touches on it all. Packed with witty prose and heartfelt insight, EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT LOVE helped me feel a lot less alone as I navigated my own growing pains and heartache. Dolly’s collection of essays is a must-read for anyone looking for a relatable and honest memoir.
I’ve clearly been on a humor kick because the next memoir I want to recommend is BAD VIBES ONLY by Nora McInerny. This collection of essays comes from a raw and honest voice. Nora McInerny, the bestselling author and host of the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking, writes about the aggressive optimistic culture that is constantly being shoved down our throats. Nora invites us into her own chaos as she steers into her rapidly approaching early middle-age life. This book is full of authenticity and lough-out-loud stories to help Nora’s fellow strugglers see through the blind positivity.
From the host of the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking—called “a gift” by The New York Times—a raw and humorous essay collection in the spirit of Jenny Lawson and Samantha Irby.
Nora McInerny does not dance like no one is watching. In fact, she dances like everyone is watching, which is to say, she does not dance at all. A bestselling author and host of the beloved podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking, she has captured the hearts of millions with her disarming and earnest approach to discussing grief and loss. Now, with Bad Vibes Only, she turns her eye on our aggressively, oppressively optimistic culture, our obsession with self-improvement, and what it really means to live authentically in the online age.
In essays that revisit her cringey past and anticipate her rapidly approaching, early middle-aged future, McInerny lays bare her own chaos, inviting us to drop the façade of perfection and embrace the truth: that we are all—at best—slightly unhinged. Socrates claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living. Bad Vibes Only is for people who have taken that dictum a bit too far—the overthinkers, the analyzers, the recovering Girl Bosses, and the burned-out personal brand—reminding us that a life worth living is about more than just “good vibes.”
Mary Laura Philpott is another memoirist that I have come to love after reading her bestselling book I MISS YOU WHEN I BLINK. This year, she followed her success with a new powerful memoir, BOMB SHELTER. This book tackles life, death, fear, and hope as Philpott navigates her family’s new normal beyond one tragic morning. This intimate book about the author’s existential fear brings readers an intimate look at her family life, while also providing inspiring hope and humor to those who may be feeling similarly anxious and lost.
From the bestselling author of I Miss You When I Blink and “writer of singular spark and delight” (Elizabeth Gilbert, #1 New York Times bestselling author) comes a poignant and powerful new memoir-in-essays that tackles the big questions of life, death, and existential fear with humor and hope.
A lifelong worrier, Philpott always kept an eye out for danger, a habit that only intensified when she became a parent. But she looked on the bright side, too, believing that as long as she cared enough, she could keep her loved ones safe.
Then, in the dark of one quiet, pre-dawn morning, she woke abruptly to a terrible sound—and found her teenage son unconscious on the floor. In the aftermath of a crisis that darkened her signature sunny spirit, she wondered: If this happened, what else could happen? And how do any of us keep going when we can’t know for sure what’s coming next?
Leave it to the writer whose critically acclaimed debut had us “laughing and crying on the same page” (NPR) to illuminate what it means to move through life with a soul made of equal parts anxiety and optimism (and while she’s at it, to ponder the mysteries of backyard turtles and the challenges of spatchcocking a turkey).
Hailed by The Washington Post as “Nora Ephron, Erma Bombeck, Jean Kerr, and Laurie Colwin all rolled into one,” Philpott returns in her distinctive voice to explore our protective instincts, the ways we continue to grow up long after we’re grown, and the limits—both tragic and hilarious—of the human body and mind.
Photo credit: iStock / Premyuda Yospim