Category: Biography & Autobiography

5 of the Best Memoirs of the Past 5 Years

Memoirs are all about the personal. They allow writers an outlet to put their perspective — feelings and opinions and all — on the page. And readers are given the chance to personally connect with someone they relate to — or don’t relate to. Here are some of the best memoirs of recent years.

 

1. Heavy: An American Memoir  by Kiese Laymon, 2018

Via Amazon

 

Laymon’s Heavy is about many things. If it had to be placed in a nutshell, it would be: a black man confronts his childhood and coming of age by directly writing to his mother. Written in the second person, Laymon’s relationship with his mother — who raised him on her own — is at the core. But it is also about Laymon’s struggle with race, weight, early sexual abuse and gambling. It covers an expanse of weighty topics that are hard to read, but Laymon’s writing is not. It is poignant, striking and confident — it is impossible to look away from. 

 

2. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti, 2016

 

Via Wikipedia

 

Valenti has written five books on feminist theory, the first of which was published in 2008. But, in Sex Object, she turns the spotlight onto herself and writes about her own personal experiences as woman in society. The chapters chronicle street harassment, treatment from sexual partners and even Valenti’s very personal abortion story. Many of her experiences are easily recognizable by other women, a fact that Valenti is keenly aware of in her writing. She writes sharply and critically, but thoughtfully and carefully. She pushes away the absurdity of this treatment, but pulls the reader in. 

 

3. Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrand Conley, 2016

 

Boy Erased

 

When Conley’s parents found out he was gay, they sent him to conversion therapy, a program called Love in Action. Grown up in Arkansas in a fundamentalist family meant Conley was already struggling to reconcile his faith with his sexuality. He wrote Boy Erased about his experiences at Love in Action and confronting his family about his faith and identity. Conley’s strong grasp on the trauma he experienced translates to a captivating account written in beautiful prose. It also gives an insider’s look into all angles of conversion therapy: the individuals sent there, the families who force it and the overarching damage it ultimately results in. Boy Erased was adapted into a film in 2018, with Joel Edgerton directing and Lucas Hedges playing Conley. 

 

4. The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae, 2016

 

Via Amazon

 

For a much more lighthearted memoir, look no further than Rae’s 2016 collection of personal essays. The Insecure creator and star writes a charming and compelling tell-all of her awkward coming of age. Rae narrates her experience as an introvert and a black girl and how the two made for a not so great combination. Rae’s voice is witty and wry, while her experiences are relatable and laugh out loud funny. All in all, Rae’s self-awareness and combined charisma make for an un-put-down-able reading experience. 

 

5. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein 

 

Via Amazon

Whether you know Brownstein from Portlandia or as the front woman of rock band Sleater Kinney, she wrote an entire memoir if you want to know her better. Her memoir, named after one of her lyrics, tracks her life centered around music. It chronicles her childhood and tumultuous family life to her eventual life as a woman in the rock music industry. Brownstein writes sharply and with purpose. Brownstein has a clear idea of her own identity and writes poignantly to show readers how she sees herself. Whether you had a perception of Brownstein prior to reading or not, you will have no choice by to see Brownstein — and her world — the way she herself does. 

 

Featured Images Via Amazon 

Dive Into Summer and Check Out These Bestselling Nonfiction Books!

Each week, Bookstr scans bestseller lists across the Internet to learn what people are reading, buying, gifting, and talking about most — just so we can ensure consistent, high-quality recommendations. This week’s nonfiction picks center are current bestsellers, showcasing which nonfiction books are the biggest hits with audiences! Pick these up to see what everyone is talking about!

 

5. Wally Funk’s Race for Space by Sue Nelson

 

A woman holding a space helmet stands before a rocket ship taking off

Image via Amazon

Wally Funk’s Race For Space by Sue Nelson tells the story of Wally Funk, who was one of the thirteen American female pilots in NASA’s 1961 program: Women in Space. She wanted to become one of the first women astronauts but just one week before the final phase of training, the program was cancelled. This book is a fascinating read, exploring Wally Funk’s life, before, during, and after the failed space venture. Although she may never reach the stars, her story will inspire you to reach for them.

 

4. Some kids I taught and what they taught me  by Kate CLanchy

 

A notebook sitting on some schoolbooks with a pencil

Image via Amazon

 

Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me by Kate Clanchy is an exploration and celebration of her thirty-year teaching career. From the pressures of explaining sex to teenagers, to nurturing a poetry group of refugees, to the regular stresses of coursework, this memoir is an honest exploration of teaching, from its highs to its lows. It is showcase of how vital teaching is and how undervalued it can be to the world at large. This novel will show you why it shouldn’t be.

 

3. The Corner shop by Babita Sharma

 

Image via Amazon

The Corner Shop by Babita Sharma tells of the institution that is still vital to our modern world today, even with the rise of retail. The author was raised in one and had her worldview shaped by gazing out from its tiny confines. Along with learning how to stack shelves and organize items, Babita gained unique political and human insight from the shop. This book is a very interesting look at these shops from her POV, discussing how they are still vital to the world and still beloved by many.

 

2. ‘Superior’ by Angela Saini

Image via Amazon

Superior by Angela Saini is a disturbing read but an essential one. After the horrors the Nazis committed during World War II, the world turned its back on eugenics and the study of ‘race science’. But not all did. Some scientists remained committed to the terrible ideas of race science, believing that certain people are inferior to others. The book explores its horrific origins and how it’s been slowly keeping itself alive thanks to a small group of scientists who remain committed to its ideals. And how, it is today experiencing a horrific resurgence in popularity. At a time where white nationalism is rising, Superior is an examination of the insidious, disturbing, and destructive nature of race science.

 

1. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo 

 

Image Via Amazon

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo is the story of women’s relationship with sex, showcased in a manner that isn’t often seen. Taddeo tells the story of three women’s unmet needs, disappointments, and obsessions. The culmination of many long hours of research over an eight year period, the women featured are: Lisa, who is in an unhappy marriage with two kids, Maggie, who has a fling with her teacher and becomes the center of a small town court case, and Sloane, whose husband likes to watch her have sex with other people. This book is an exposure of erotic fragility in modern America, frank, honest, and up front about women’s relationships with sexual desire.

 

Featured Image Via Amazon 

These 5 Autobiographies Narrated by the Author are Perfect for the Beach!

When I think of summer reads, I think of the typical “chick-lit” with the hunky love interest and over-the-top romance. What I always forget about are the many other genres that are perfect to take off to the beach to read or even listen to while I quickly burn to a crisp. Over the last two years, autobiography has become one of my favorite genres, and I love listening to them – especially when they’re narrated by the authors. So here is my list of those perfect, inspiring autobiographies you need to be adding to your Audible or Libro.fm wishlist for summer.

 

1. Life Will Be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler

 

Life Will Be the Death of Me advertisement

image via DPAC

 

If you’re a lover of Chelsea, you know her previous books have been all about how much of a hot mess her life is. They are jam packed with jokes, horror stories, and the occasional (frequent) hook-up. Her entire persona has been built up around her propensity to drink and get high and laid. I would love to say this book paints Chelsea as having it more together, but the truth is it highlights how much she doesn’t have it together… how much none of us really have it together. If you read the book, you do get to see all of the pictures of her dogs, friends, and family, but her narration adds another layer to the story she is telling in this book. Her voice cracks, you can hear her smile, and you get that authentic note of sarcasm in her tone that you may just miss in the book. If you’re wary, don’t be! The audio is under six hours, and it is all jam-packed with emotions. Warning: have some tissues ready, as you will unexpectedly be going to therapy with her.

 

2. Becoming by Michelle Obama

 

Becoming by Michelle Obama Advertisement Poster

image via capital one arena

 

Let’s face it: when we saw Michelle Obama as First Lady, she was never anything other than elegant and graceful. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering where her story starts, look no further! In her book, she recounts the major events in her life from growing up in a working class African American household in Chicago, to heading off to Harvard Law School, and eventually taking up residence at the most popular address in all of these United States. Through the narration, one thing remains certain: Michelle Obama maintains that same elegance and grace we came to love. She comes off so down to earth and at the same time you can tell she doesn’t take any crap. I absolutely adored reading about her adventures as daughter, student, wife, mother, and eventually First Lady. She even touches on returning to “normal” life once their stay at the White House was over. If you want a little insight as to what goes on behind closed doors at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, this book is perfect for that, too!

 

3. Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between) by Lauren Graham

 

Talking as Fast as I Can Audiobook Cover

image via amazon

 

In 2000, Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel took us by storm as the mother-daughter-duo Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. But just how did Lauren Graham find her way to that fateful day? Well, you can find out by picking up this book! In this book, Lauren recounts all of her tales from trying to make it as an actress in New York City, to struggling as an actress in New York City, to finally landing Gilmore Girls, to life after the show, and, finally, returning to Stars Hollow one last (maybe) time. As Lauren would say here, the ending of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life does end on a cliffhanger. If you aren’t a fan of Gilmore Girls, you can still find a lot of value in this book. She has advice for writers, advice for not dieting, and advice on what the appropriate tip is for when someone returns your backpack full of cocaine completely intact. Her reflections on her early acting career are amazing, and aspiring actors and actresses will definitely find this part of the story helpful. If you’re struggling to keep your current written project active (and struggling with finding that time to do so), she will guide you on how to do that exactly. In this book, Lauren proves how well she has taken on the mothering persona of Lorelai, giving us all the motherly advice we need wedged into the four and half hours of this audiobook! Fans of Gilmore Girls, you may even forget it isn’t Lorelai narrating this story. You should beware: there are some spoilers for Gilmore GIrls: A Year in the Life if you haven’t watched that yet.

 

4. It Takes Balls: Dating Single Moms and other Confessions from an Unprepared Single Dad by Josh Wolf

 

It Takes Balls book cover image

image via goodreads

 

Josh Wolf is a devout Patriots fan, but we won’t hold that against him as he recounts the funniest, most embarrassing tales of single fatherhood. We talk so much about single moms, who always seem to have it much more together than they should, but Josh makes it clear single dads are sometimes hanging on by a thread. He works his way through the early days, trying to find sitters so he can go on dates, to trying to find any kind of job so he can feed his children, even running an underground sandwich shop out of his kitchen! If you’re looking for a laugh, you have come to the right book. Josh Wolf is sure to keep you in stitches as he recounts a slew of stories in which each one is more hilarious than the last.

 

5. Has Anyone Seen My Pants? by Sarah Colonna

 

Has Anyone Seen My Pants? Advertisement Poster

image via sarah colonna

 

Another comedian, another fantastic audiobook! Sarah Colonna is hilarious, and you may remember her from her time on Chelsea Lately as a reoccurring comedian on the roundtable. In this book, she not only talks about some of the hook-ups that have gone south, but she also touches on all of the things in her single life before finding love in a Seattle Seahawks kicker, Jon Ryan. When she penned the book, she wasn’t trying to make anyone feel bad about being single or not finding love on the timetable that is given to us. Instead, she was trying to get the world to understand that it is okay to be single and ask for a table for one. She didn’t know that by the end of her book it would happen for her. The truth is no one ever knows what is going to happen; things just need time to happen. But don’t fret! Sarah will keep you laughing and crying all the way to end. Reading her memoir blew me away! Let it take you away for a few hours, too.

featured image via electric literature

Want Details on Roald Dahl’s Peculiar Childhood? Check This Book Out

Did you know that Roald Dahl was not just an author, but a medical inventor, chocolate historian, fighter pilot, and a spy? Hard to believe, as his stories are rich with innocent, joyous, and delicate characters. His stories such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda didn’t just instantly come to him, however. They were the product of a bizarre, gruesome, yet impactful childhood. You can read all about it in his book Boy: Tales of Childhood

 

Image Via Amazon

Boy: Tales of Childhood is an autobiographical book depicting Dahl’s life, from the time of his birth up until he had left school. It portrays his incredibly detailed life experiences, a lot of which led him to a career of writing, some of which are incredibly tragic. Yet, the book is highly comical, and Dahl incorporates his skills of comedic writing smoothly in this autobiographical piece.  From this book, you can see where all the characters in Dahl’s pieces get their vivid personalities. If you are familiar with his books, reading this will help you make sense of a lot the interactions between his characters.

 

Image Via University of Liverpool

It is fascinating to see the development of one the most prolific children’s book authors of all time. As an homage to one of the great story tellers of the 20th century, all fans of literature should read this gem.

 

Featured Image Via Byford’s Books