I've made an alarming discovery about memoirs in recent years: the *best* memoirs are NOT by the rich and famous.
Think about the typical trajectory: they came from humble beginnings in a place like Central Illinoi, someone said they couldn't make it b the way, someone said they couldn't make it but they proved them wrong. The rise to stardom, the struggle with drugs or alcohol or weight or toxic love and the ultimate finding of their soul, capped off with a book deal. I've read this book by many authors.
The best memoirs are by those who have endured something crazy/interesting/meaningful and live to tell about it Here are some of my favorites:
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
I've started obsessively recommending this fantastic chronicle of a young woman's cancer battle and subsequent road trip. Jaouad certainly doesn't sugarcoat anything, so reading of her cancer journey can be hard, but that's the point. I still think of her regularly in the months since I've finished her memoir.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Be sure to read this eyebrow raising account of Westover's upbringing in backwoods Idaho and how her family relationships crumple as she seeks higher education. I worked my Google muscle so hard after finishing this, looking at pictures of her family like I'm some kind of private detective.
Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, The Cult that Bound My Life by Sarah Edmondson
Forgive her the excessively long subtitle, because this book is crazy good. If Educated was eyebrow raising, Scarred is jaw-dropping. Is there any limit to what someone will do to have control? Fun bonus: NXIVM traps their victims under the guise of a multi-level marketing (pyramid) scheme, which is a testament to how cult-like those can be (and I know, I sold Sensaria for a hot minute in 2005.)
Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving Extremism (Also Titled A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church <so what's up with that?>) by Megan Phelps-Roper
Thinking about the Westboro Baptist Church usually makes me sick to my stomach, but the nausea is worth it here. Phelps-Roper does a great job of exposing the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Troublemaker: Surviving Scientology and Hollywood by Leah Remini
Remini, oh the other hand, comes out guns blazing with this fascinating tell-all. While she does touch on her boring stardom stuff (oh, it's not THAT boring I suppose), she focuses on what a huge hot mess the church of Scientology is. Unfollow and Troublemaker would actually be fun to read as a doubleshot, to compare and contrast religious cult behavior.
Let It Go: My Extraordinary Story - from Refugee to Entrepreneur to Philanthropist
Ironically I had a donor recommend this book. I'm not sure I would have ever come across it otherwise, which would have been a shame. I absolutely loved the memoir and the author. Who doesn't love a self-made rags to riches story? Her deeply moving stories about her son and resulting philanthropy for Autism are intense, and I think of them often. Every aspiring philanthropist should read this!
What would YOU add to this list?
Mom of four, wife of one. By day I fund-raise with coffee, by night I read with wine and chocolate.