11 of My Favorite Memoirs

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


I didn't start reading again, not really, until 2015, & when I did, I started with the one genre of books I knew I loved: memoirs. Though I've since branched out, it's still my favorite genre, & I try to read at least one memoir a month. I thought I'd round them up here for you, should this be a genre you happen to love, too. Happy reading!

1. In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

Proving she's more than a pretty Hollywood face, the Orange is the New Black actress puts pen to paper to tell the devastating, painful story of her family's real-life immigration struggles. When she was 14, Guerrero's parents were deported to Colombia, leaving her - a born-and-raised Bostonian - to grow up fast &, eventually, to try to take on the broken system that failed her family. Well-written, spunky, heartbreaking, honest, inspiring - a real must-read.

2. You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

I usually like to read the memoirs of people who are very different from me: people who have escaped cults, celebrities who say funny things on TV, women who have fled war-torn countries, etc. But Jessi Klein's memoir felt like reading the story of myself. Sure, I'm not a fortysomething mother & comedy writer, but man... her sense of humor feels exactly like mine. I listened to it on audiobook & laughed out loud so often.

3. How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

Sandra & her family, members of the African Banyamulenge tribe, lived a normal life in the Congo until they were forced to relocate to a displaced persons camp in Burundi. One night, the camp was raided by armed combatants who set fire to the tents & murdered their inhabitants. Sandra, who escaped unharmed, watched her mother & sister get shot - & returned the next day to find her sister's skull. Her traumatized family eventually relocates to the U.S., where Sandra is an activist dedicated to telling her tribe's stories & holding their killers responsible.

4. One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

Indian-American Buzzfeed writer Scaachi Koul is a twentysomething with stories to tell & the perfect voice for telling them. Her collection of personal essays are deep & powerful, but she manages to tell them with a cleverness & wit that keep the book from feeling too painfully heavy, even when she's addressing subjects that are. Bonus: The bright pink & yellow cover art is of the feel-good variety, especially on dreary days.

5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book should be a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand racial tension in America, whether you're a POC who's living that reality every day or a white person who seeks deeper understanding in order to become a better ally. Truly, Coates' writing - a memoir & social commentary in the form of a letter to his son - is a work of art, & I believe this book will long be looked upon as a classic in its genre.

6. I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron

This is a quick, easy read of short essays by the late Nora Ephron, the brilliant & insightful writer of You've Got Mail & other such gems. Topics touch on stereotypically female elements of life, like vanity, housekeeping, dating - all from a witty, feminist perspective. Ephron was in her late 60s when she wrote this, so don't expect it to be as progressive as you'd like, but it's still a wonderful, charming book.

7. I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors

This is the memoir of a Cleveland journalist who was raped on a college campus in 1984 &, more than two decades later, begins delving into the life of her attacker. Though he has died in prison, she seeks out his friends & family in an effort to learn more about him & what drove him to violence. This book, while at time heartbreaking, terrifying, & difficult to read, is ultimately one of the most powerful memoirs I've ever encountered.

8. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

This is the true story of every hypochondriac's worst nightmare. Susannah is young, successful, & living a snazzy NYC life when she starts to lose her grasp on reality, devolving into a full-scale psychosis. Cahalan, a trained journalist & adept storyteller, uses her own scarce memories, along with those of her family, friends, & doctors, to piece together the month she lost & the recovery that has followed.

9. Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock

Mock's memoir tells the story of her childhood in Honolulu, son of a broken family who grew up to be a beautiful, strong woman - a journalist, an activist, an overall role model. She is a powerful writer & a fascinating person, & I might've fan-girled out when she responded to me on Twitter.

10. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology & My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill

I've always been fascinated by Scientology, in a sort of "Isn't this so quirky & bizarre?!" kind of way - until I read this book. Miscavige Hill is the niece of the head of Scientology, the controversial & secretive David Miscavige. Reading the true stories & perspectives of someone who grew up in this cult-like church was, frankly, horrifying. How can anyone support or be a part of this lifestyle is beyond me.

11. Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

I didn't know much about the Scottish stage actor & Good Wife star, but when I saw this memoir getting rave reviews, I had to pick it up]. Cumming writes of a tumultuous & abusive childhood & his adult relationship (or lack thereof) with his father, interwoven with his quest to learn more about his late maternal grandfather, a war hero who died in Malaysia. Emotional & worthwhile.

What are your favorite memoirs? I'm always looking for good recommendations!

My book posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Don't feel any obligation to use these links, but if you do, it will help me buy more books!

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