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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Image via Amazon
Wally Funk’s Race For Spaceby 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
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Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Meby 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
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The Corner Shopby 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
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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
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Three Womenby 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
A compilation of over fifty love letters written by legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen were sold at auction for $876,000. According to BBC News, one letter, which was only expected to bring in $10,000 ended up selling for nearly $60,000. In fact, a large amount of items sold for more than five times the estimate.
Image Via Christie’s
Cohen’s letters were addressed to his lover and muse, Marianne Ihlen. The letters, according to Christie’s, “offer fascinating glimpses of the young poet’s yearning and artistic struggles.” They also give insight into his struggles transitioning from a poet and novelist, to a singer-songwriter. Cohen and Ihlen met in the 60s, and though their relationship was frequently long distance, it remained profound. She was the inspiration for many of his songs such as So Long Marianne, Bird on a Wire, and That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. The two maintained a strong friendship even after their romance came to an end. They both died in 2016, just months apart.
Sometimes, the most incredible stories are true. Yes, that includes the anecdotes of party fouls and beach meet-cutes you’re surely hearing from your friends as summer rolls in. But it mostly refers to true stories on a much grander scale: tales of overcoming adversity and accomplishing incredible things. This week, Bookstr is bringing you three life-changing works of nonfiction, from a trans man’s memoir-slash-guide to pursuing the life you want, to a financier raised in a cult, to the legacy of an enduring cultural icon. All three of our authors have faced difficult circumstances, whether it’s coming out and undergoing surgery; being isolated from TV, music, and the outside world through adolescence; or growing up under segregation. Keep reading to get a look at three stories as powerful as their narrators.
Check out Bookstr’s Three to Read, the three books we’ve picked for you to read this week!
Being a teenager is difficult enough, but having to go through puberty whilst realising you’re in the wrong body means dealing with a whole new set of problems: bullying, self-doubt and in some cases facing a physical and medical transition.
Alex is an ordinary teenager: he likes pugs, donuts, retro video games and he sleeps with his socks on. He’s also transgender, and was born female. He’s been living as a male for the past few years and he has recently started his physical transition.
Throughout this book, Alex will share what it means to be in his shoes, as well as his personal advice to other trans teens. Above all, he will show you that every step in his transition is another step towards happiness. This is an important and positive book, a heart-warming coming-of-age memoir with a broad appeal.
Twenty-three-year-old Alex Bertie is a popular YouTuber who has been profiled for both BBC and The Times—and, more importantly, he’s chronicled his gender transition online for the last six years. With 300,000+ subscribers, he’s made his platform count with educational videos on binding safely, preparing for top surgery, and avoiding offensive language to describe trans people. While trans issues have recently moved into the public consciousness, activists like Alex who have bravely publicized their experiences for years. In addition to these educational videos, Alex also shares his opinions and experiences having sex as a trans person, attending pride, online dating, and coping with mental health issues. For young people who may not have found a LGBT+ community of their own, Alex’s open discussion of gender & sexual identities provides support and advice that some may not otherwise have access to.Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beardis a profoundly honest and potentially lifesaving resource for anyone questioning their gender identity: Bertie discusses self-harm, dysphoria, and how he gradually came out and began his path to emotional healing. Perfect for LGBT+ pride month!
They promised her heaven, but there was no savior.
Imagine an eighteen-year-old American girl who has never read a newspaper, watched television, or made a phone call. An eighteen-year-old-girl who has never danced—and this in the 1960s.
It is in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Leonard Feeney, a controversial (soon to be excommunicated) Catholic priest, has founded a religious community called the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Center’s members—many of them educated at Harvard and Radcliffe—surrender all earthly possessions and aspects of their life, including their children, to him. Patricia Chadwick was one of those children, and Little Sister is her account of growing up in the Feeney sect.
Separated from her parents and forbidden to speak to them, Patricia bristles against the community’s draconian rules, yearning for another life. When, at seventeen, she is banished from the Center, her home, she faces the world alone, without skills, family, or money but empowered with faith and a fierce determination to succeed on her own, which she does, rising eventually to the upper echelons of the world of finance and investing.
A tale of resilience and grace, Little Sister chronicles, in riveting prose, a surreal childhood and does so without rancor or self-pity.
In the tradition of Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir, Patricia Walsh Chadwick’s Little Sister: A Memoirtells a story of success despite harrowing odds. Featured in the New York Post, the gripping memoir depicts a childhood as impossible to imagine as it must have been to inhabit. As a child, Chadwick had never watched TV or read a newspaper. After being indoctrinated into a sequestered religious life since birth, a series of natural teenage crushes led to the cult community determining she was not fit to serve God. They allowed her to finish her senior year of high school, and then—not even an hour after her graduation—she was exiled from everything she had ever known. Despite all this, Chadwick became an incredible success with an accomplished thirty-year financial career and a CEO position in theLGBT+ health organization she founded herself. Powerful and moving, this is a memoir you’re unlikely to forget—a memoir unlike any other you’ve ever read before.
Ken Regan was a young photographer in 1964 when he covered Muhammad Ali’s first fight: his historic victory over Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. Afterward, the young photographer embarked on a life-long love affair with the sport of boxing.
For the next four decades, Regan would go on to chronicle the greatest fights and the greatest fighters of the age. His extraordinary photographs include many of the most enduring images ever created in the annals of boxing, as well as portraits of notable trainers, managers, promoters, writers, and the whole panoply of celebrities associated with the sport. Featuring some of the greatest ring action in boxing history, Knockout takes us from sparring sessions and press conferences to weigh-ins and post-fight sessions.
Knockout also features Regan’s compelling stories and firsthand accounts of his amazing photographic journey into the heart of boxing. Beginning with his early magazine work shooting prizefights and throughout the following decades, Regan developed close personal friendships with some of the greatest fighters. Regan captures intimate moments showing fighters with their families at home and on the road. With numerous black-and-white and color images, many of them seen here for the first time, Knockout is destined to be one of the most celebrated books ever published on the subject of boxing.
Although it’s been three years since Muhammad Ali’s passing, the legendary boxer remains a cultural icon. Just last month, HBO released What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali, a powerful documentary depicting not only his athletic career but also his legacy as an activist. Knockout: The Art of Boxingcontains an introduction from actor Liam Neeson and never-before-seen photos from Ken Regan, a world-renowned photographer who has profiled the likes of Bob Dylan and Madonna, among others. Regan’s photography expertly juxtaposes the brutality inherent in the sport with the grace and strength of Ali’s character. If you’re short a gift for Father’s Day, why not check out this beautiful release from Insight Editions? It’s sure to be a winner.
All In-Text Images Via Amazon. Featured Image Made With PhotoCollage.