100+ Most Important Memoirs of the Past 200 Years

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Throughout time, people have told their stories. From drawings by early cavemen and hieroglyphs representing the words, sounds, and syllables in Egypt to the oral histories passed down through generations and cultures around the world, the stories of our ancestors have shaped our vision for the future. That’s one reason for the popularity of written memoirs.

 

With such a wide range of authors in the genre, though, how do you know which to read first? Politicians and presidents, authors and artists, and everyday moms and dads have written about their lives and experiences, shedding light both on certain periods of history and the people who lived in those times.

When you read through the selected list of the “100 Most Important Memoirs of the Last 200 Years,” you’ll see stories of heartbreak and loss and stories of hope and life. You’ll find stories told by individuals who have traveled around the world and stories from people who’ve lived secluded country lives. You’ll find stories of people fleeing from their countries as they try find a better life and people who’ve taken their loss and created a better life.

 

Still not sure which stories interest you? Take this brief quiz to find a writer whose life story is closest to what you’ve experienced. You’ll find a life story with elements that may reflect your own — and you’ll see how, by telling their own life stories, the writers found the purpose of their lives.

100+ Most Important Memoirs Arranged by Publish Date

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

1791

Blessed with enormous talents and the energy and ambition to go with them, Franklin was a statesman, author, inventor, printer, and scientist. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and later was involved in negotiating the peace treaty with Britain that ended the Revolutionary War. This charming self-portrait recalls Franklin's boyhood, his determination to achieve high moral standards, and more.

Walden

 

Henry David Thoreau

1854

Thoreau details his experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, Massachusetts, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. Here, he wrote his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. In Walden, Thoreau compresses the time into a single calendar year and uses passages of four seasons to symbolize human development.

The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

1895

Among the autobiographies of great military figures, Grant’s is certainly one of the finest, and perhaps the most notable literary achievement of any American president: a lucid, compelling, and brutally honest chronicle of triumph and failure. Written under excruciating circumstances—Grant was dying of throat cancer—and encouraged and edited by Mark Twain, it is a triumph of the art of autobiography.

Down and Out in Paris and London

George Orwell

1933

This memoir in two parts narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer. The first part is an account of living in near-destitution in Paris and experiencing casual labour in restaurant kitchens. The second part is a travelogue of life on the road around London from the tramp's perspective, with descriptions some of the characters to be found living on the margins.

Out of Africa

 

Karen Blixen

1937

Danish countess Karen Blixen, known as Isak Dinesen, ran a coffee plantation in Kenya in the years when Africa remained a romantic and formidable continent. Out of Africa is her account of her life there, with stories of her respectful relationships with the Masai, Kikuyu, and Somali natives who work on her land; the European friends who visit her; and the imposing permanence of the wild, high land itself.

The Moral Basis of Democracy

Eleanor Roosevelt

1940

Eleanor Roosevelt's first writing as first lady is a heartfelt call for all Americans to choose love and faith over hatred and fear. With the threat of the Third Reich, she establishes the idea that the core of democracy is a spiritual responsibility to other citizens. She takes an inspiring stance in defense of democracy, progress, and morality; the wisdom imparted here is a must-read for every American.

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West with the Night

 

Beryl Markham

1942

When Markham flew across the Atlantic, no pilot had yet flown non-stop from Europe to New York, and no woman had made the westward flight solo, though several had died trying. After a 20-hour flight she crash-landed in Nova Scotia. Despite falling short of her goal, she had become the first woman to cross the Atlantic east-to-west solo, and the first person to make it from England to North America non-stop.

The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank

1947

In 1942, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until they were betrayed to the Gestapo, they lived cloistered in the secret annex of an old building. Her diary offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Cheaper by the Dozen

 

Frank Gilbreath

1948

No growing pains have ever been more hilarious than those suffered by the riotous Gilbreth clan. What do you get when you put twelve lively kids together with a father (a famous efficiency expert who believes families can run like factories) and a mother who is his partner in everything except discipline? You get a hilarious tale of growing up making generations of kids and adults laugh along with the Gilbreaths.

The Child Who Never Grew

Pearl Buck

1950

This candid memoir of Buck's relationship with her oldest daughter who was born with a rare type of mental retardation. A forerunner of its kind, the memoir helped demolish the cruel taboos surrounding learning disabilities. Buck describes life with her daughter and how she learned respect and reverence for every human mind. Brave and touching, The Child Who Never Grew is a heartrending memoir of parenting.

Night

Elie Wiesel

1956

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and Congressional Gold Medal, Holocaust survivor Wiesel offers an unforgettable account of Hitler's horrific reign of terror. The tragic tale unfolds through the eyes of 14-year-old Eliezer with a heart-wrenching inevitability. This enduring classic raises questions of significance for all future generations: How could man commit these horrors, and could such an evil ever be repeated?

A Moveable Feast

Ernest Hemingway

1964

Published posthumously, this remains one of Hemingway's most beloved works. This classic memoir of 1920's Paris is filled with irreverent character, poignant recollections of his first wife, and insights on early writing experiments. It's a literary feast, brilliantly evoking the exuberant mood of Paris and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Alex Haley and Malcolm X

1965

In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement to veteran writer and journalist Alex Haley. In a unique collaboration, Haley worked with Malcolm X for nearly two years, interviewing, listening to, and understanding the most controversial leader of his time.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou

1969

Sent by their mother to live with their devout grandmother, Maya and her brother Bailey are abandoned to the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At 8 years old, back at her mother’s side, Maya is attacked by a man and has to live with the lifetime consequences. She learns that love for herself, others' kindness, her strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

The Hiding Place

Corrie Ten Boom

1971

This Dutch watchmaker became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler's concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the 20h century. She and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape the Nazi's. For their work, they were sent to Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her whole family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil.

The Water is Wide

Pat Conroy

1972

Across a slip of ocean lies South Carolina, but for the handful of families on Yamacraw Island, America is a world away. For years people here lived off the sea, but now its waters aren't safe. Industry waste threatens their existence unless they can learn a new way. But that's impossible without someone to teach them, and their school has none—until one man gives a year of his life to the island and its people.

All Creatures Great and Small

 

James Herriot

1972

Take an unforgettable journey through the English countryside and into the homes of its inhabitants - man and animal - with the world's best-loved animal doctor. Herriot's heartwarming and often hilarious stories of his first years as a country vet perfectly depict the wonderful relationship between man and animal-- and they intimately portray a man whose humor, compassion , and love of life are truly inspiring.

West - Upstairs at the White House

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies

J.B. West and Mary Lynn Kotz

1973

A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at life on Pennsylvania Avenue with America's first families, by the man who spent nearly three decades in their midst. West offers an absorbing and novel glimpse at America's first families, from the Roosevelts to the Kennedys and the Nixons. Alive with anecdotes ranging from ordinary to tragic, this is an enlightening and rich account of the American history.

Mommie Dearest

 

Christina Crawford

1978

Mommie Dearest is a memoir and exposé written by Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of actress Joan Crawford. It describes her upbringing by an unbalanced alcoholic mother, whom she judged unfit to raise children. The book attracted much controversy, with many family friends denouncing it as fiction, but others claiming that it was a broadly accurate, if exaggerated, account of Christina’s troubled childhood.

Boy: Tales of Childhood

Roald Dahl

1984

Throughout his young days at school and just afterwards, a number of things happened to Dahl, which made such a tremendous impression he never forgot them. This is the remarkable story of his childhood; tales of exciting and strange things - some funny, some frightening, all true. It describes his life in Britain from birth until leaving school, and how his childhood experiences led him to writing as a career.

One Liter of Tears

 

Aya Kito

1986

This story follows Kitō's coping with both her teenage life and her degenerative disease. She keeps a diary of what she feels and the hardships she endures. As the disease progresses, the diary became her outlet for describing the intense personal struggles she underwent in coping, adapting, and ultimately trying to survive her disease. As she notes in one entry, "I write because writing is evidence that I am still alive."

Not Without My Daughter

Betty Mahmoody with William Hoffer

1987

In August 1984, Michigan housewife Betty Mahmoody accompanied her husband to his native Iran for a two-week vacation. To her horror, she found herself and her four-year-old daughter, Mahtob, virtual prisoners of a man rededicated to his Shiite Moslem faith, in a land where women are near-slaves and Americans are despised. Their only hope for escape lay in a dangerous underground that would not take her child.

This Boy's Life: A Memoir

Tobias Wolff

1989

This unforgettable memoir introduces us to the young Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. As he fights for identity and self-respect against the unrelenting hostility of a stepfather, his various schemes - running away to Alaska, forging checks, and stealing cars - lead to an act of outrageous self-invention that releases him into a new world of possibility.

Darkness Visible

 

William Styron

1990

A work of great personal courage and a literary tour de force, this bestseller is Styron's true account of his descent into a crippling and almost suicidal depression. That he survived his descent into madness is something of a miracle. Styron is perhaps the first writer to convey the full terror of depression's psychic landscape, as well as the illuminating path to recovery which may arouse a shock of recognition.

Girl, Interrupted

Susanna Kaysen

1993

Kaysen, an 18 year old in 1967, agrees to enter McLean Hospital, a residential psychiatric facility. Although she plans to stay only a few weeks, Kaysen remains there for nearly two years. The doctor who forcefully advocates her committal to a mental hospital interviewed her for only twenty minutes. Kaysen tells the story of the people and experiences she encounters at McLean through personal stories and vignettes.

Always Running

Luis J. Rodriguez

1993

By age 12, Rodriguez was a veteran of East L.A. gang war. He witnessed countless shootings, beatings, and arrests, then watched as that culture claimed friends and family members. He successfully broke free from years of violence. Achieving success as a poet, he was sure the streets would haunt him no more - until his son joined a gang. Rodriguez fought for his child by telling his own story in this vivid memoir.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

John Berendt

1994

Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the early morning of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city. Berendt's suspenseful and witty narrative reads like a captivating novel, and yet it's nonfiction. At once a true-crime murder story and a hugely entertaining and deliciously perverse travelogue.

Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America

Eliza Wurtzel

1994

Wurtzel, a former critic of popular music, recounts in this luridly intimate memoir the 10 years of chronic, debilitating depression that preceded her treatment with Prozac in 1990. She unsparingly details therapists, hospitalizations, binges of sex and drug use and her paralyzing spells of depression which culminated in a suicide attempt and ultimate diagnosis of a severe psychological disorder.

The Liars' Club

Mary Karr

1995

A powerfully funny, razor's-edge tale of a fractured childhood, Karr looks back through a child's eyes to sort through dark household secrets. She witnesses an inheritance squandered, endless bottles emptied, and guns leveled at both the deserving and the undeserving. In a voice charged with brilliant energy, she introduces us to a family ravaged by lies and alcoholism, yet redeemed by the revelation of truth.

A Child Called "It"

Dave Pelzer

1995

Pelzer's disturbing account of his early years describes one of the most severe child-abuse cases in California history. From 1st through 5th grade, his unstable, alcoholic mother starved, beat, and psychologically ravaged him. Relentlessly, she drove him to the brink of death before authorities finally stepped in. With faith and hope, Dave grew determined to survive. He also knew that he needed to share his story.

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to his White Mother

James McBride

1996

A haunting tale of identity, McBride explores his mother's past and his own upbringing and heritage in a poignant, powerful debut. The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, he grew up in orchestrated chaos with his 11 siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Brooklyn. He touches listeners of all colors with vivid portraits of growing up.

Angela's Ashes

 

Frank McCort

1996

Born in Depression-era Brooklyn to Irish immigrant parents, McCort was later raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. His mother, Angela, had no money to feed her children since his father rarely worked, and when he did, he drank his wages. Yet he does nurture in his son an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. McCort weaves a tale he relates with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

Tuesdays with Morrie

 

Mitch Albom

1997

Albom rediscovered his old college professor Morrie in the last months of the older man's life. Knowing he was dying of ALS, or motor neurone disease, Morrie visited with Albom in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final class: lessons in how to live. Chronicling their time together, Albom shares Morrie's lasting gift with the world.

The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly

Jean-Dominique Bauby

1997

Bauby was the 44 year old editor-in-chief of French Elle and the father of two young children. In 1995 he was the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brain stem. Bauby awoke into a body in which only his left eye functioned. He was able to express himself, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly. In the same way, he was able, eventually, to compose this extraordinary book.

Personal History

Katharine Graham

1997

Washington Post publisher Graham won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize receiving widespread acclaim for its candour in dealing with her husband's mental illness and the challenges she faced in a male-dominated working environment. An extraordinarily frank, honest, and generous book by one of America's most famous and admired women. Hers is a life that came into its own with a vengeance - a success story on every level.

Desert Flower

Waris Dirie

1998

Dirie ran away from her oppressive life in the African desert when she was barely in her teens, illiterate and impoverished. She traveled alone across the dangerous Somali desert to Mogadishu and then London, where she worked as a house servant, to nearly every corner of the globe as an internationally renowned fashion model; and ultimately to New York City, where she became a human rights ambassador for the U.N.

Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

Paul Monette

1998

This is the first personal documentary about AIDS to be published. A cry from the heart against AIDS as it was in the early stages of the plague and against the surrounding intolerance. In equal parts, it is a supremely moving love story and a chronicle of the deep commitment and devotion. This is not a book about death but a book about living while dying and the full range of emotions provoked by that transition.

Lucky

 

Alice Sebold

1999

Hailed for her searing candor and wit, Sebold reveals how her life was utterly transformed when, as an 18 year old college freshman, she was brutally raped and beaten. Her indomitable spirit reigns as she struggles for understanding and manages through grit to help secure her attacker's conviction. Disturbing, thrilling, and inspiring, she illuminates the experience of trauma victims and imparts hard-won wisdom.

Kitchen Confidential

 

Anthony Bourdain

2000

A deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain, laying out his more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine. Bourdain's tales of the kitchen are as passionate as they are unpredictable. Kitchen Confidential will make your mouth water while your belly aches with laughter. You'll beg the chef for more, please.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Dave Eggers

2000

The literary sensation of the year, this book redefines both family and narrative for the 21st century. A moving memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother. Here's an exhilarating debut that manages to be simultaneously hilarious and wildly inventive as well as a deeply heartfelt story of the love that holds a family together.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King

2000

King's mesmerizing, fresh and funny perspective on the formation of a writer includes a series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years leading up to his first novel. King then turns to the tools of his trade, examining crucial aspects of the writer's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

Persepolis

 

Marjane Satrapi

2000

An unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and its bewildering contradictions. Intensely personal, profoundly political, wholly original, Persepolis is a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. Finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

 

David Sedaris

2000

A bestselling collection of essays by American humorist Sedaris tells a most unconventional life story. The first part consists of essays about his upbringing and life working odd jobs in New York City. The second section tells of Sedaris’s move to France often drawing humor from his efforts to live there without speaking the language. Sedaris brings a view and a voice like no other to every unforgettable encounter.

First They Killed My Father

Loung Ung

2000

A child of a high-ranking government official, Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. In April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing her family to flee. Ung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until Khmer Rouge was destroyed.

A Grief Observed

C.S. Lewis

2001

Written after his wife's tragic death as a way of surviving, this is Lewis's honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. This work contains his concise, genuine reflections on that period. This is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.

Nickel and Dimed

Barbara Ehrenreich

2001

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood

Alexandra Fuller

2001

Fuller tells the story of growing up white in rural Rhodesia as it was becoming Zimbabwe. The daughter of strikingly unconventional English-bred immigrants, she arrives in Africa at the age of two and moves through life with a hardy resilience, even as a bloody war approaches. Discover this remarkable tale of a family clinging to a harsh landscape and the dying tenets of colonialism.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

Jung Chang

2003

Few books have had such an impact: selling more than 13 million copies, a critically acclaimed history of China, a tragic tale of nightmarish cruelty, and an uplifting story of bravery and survival. Through the story of three generations of women, Chang reveals the epic history of China's 20th century. Breathtaking in its scope, unforgettable in its descriptions, this masterpiece is extraordinary in every way.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir

Azar Nafisi

2003

For two years in Iran, a bold and inspired teacher secretly gathered seven female students to read forbidden Western classics. As morality squads raided Tehran and fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, the girls in Nafisi's living room risked removing their veils and reading. A remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.

Chronicles: Volume One

Bob Dylan

2004

Revealing, poetical, passionate and witty, this is a mesmerizing window on Dylan's thoughts and influences. His voice is distinctively American: generous of spirit, engaged, fanciful, and rhythmic. Utilizing his unparalleled gifts of storytelling and the exquisite expressiveness that are the hallmarks of his music, he poignantly reflects on life, and the people and places that helped shape the man and the art.

Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog

John Grogan

2005

The heartwarming and unforgettable story of a family and the wondrously neurotic dog who taught them what really matters in life. Told in first person, the book portrays Grogan and his family's life during the 13 years they lived with their dog Marley, a yellow Labrador Retriever described as a high-strung, boisterous dog, and the lesson and relationships from this period.

The Glass Castle

 

Jeannette Walls

2005

What is so astonishing about Walls is not just that she had the guts, tenacity and intelligence to get out of her dysfunctional family, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph, and also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Alison Bechdel

2006

In this graphic memoir, Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her father who was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, referred to by her family as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Bechdel, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir

Bill Bryson

2006

Bryson was born in the middle of the largest generation in U.S. history, the baby boomers. As one of the funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine memories of his totally all-American childhood for 24-carat gold. Laugh-out-loud funny, full of pitch-perfect observations, and drawing on his rich superhero fantasy life, this read will enchant anyone who has ever been young.

My Life in France

 

Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme

2006

When she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Child spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. She dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at Cordon Bleu, changing her life forever with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Her unforgettable story depicts the highs and lows that took Childs across the globe with her now-famous cookbook and show.

Same Kind of Different as Me

Ron Hall and Denver Moore

2006

A dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery. An upscale art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani. A gutsy woman with a stubborn dream. A story so incredible, no novelist would dare dream it.
It begins outside a burning plantation and, without a doubt, inside the heart of God. Gritty with betrayal, pain, and brutality, it also shines with an unexpected, life-changing love.

The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion

2007

From an iconic writer, winner of the 2005 National Book Award for Nonfiction, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. In 2004, life as Didion knew it ended when her husband suddenly died. She explores this intensely personal yet universal experience with electric honesty and passion. A marriage and a life, in good times and bad, that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband, wife or child.

Long Way Gone

 

Ishmael Beah

2007

It is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Beah used to be one of them. Now 26 years old, tells a riveting story in his own words: how, at the age of 12, he fled attacking rebels. By 13, he’d been picked up by the government army and, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. A rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

Born Standing Up

 

Steve Martin

2007

In the mid-70s, Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. In his own words, this is the story of "why I did stand-up and why I walked away". Martin illuminates the sacrifice, discipline, and originality that made him an icon and informs his work to this day. To be this good, to perform so frequently, was isolating and lonely.

Look me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger's

John Elder Robison

2007

From youth, Robison longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teen his odd habits earned him the label “social deviant.” It was not until he was 40 that he was diagnosed with a form of autism: Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself—and the world. A born storyteller, Robison has written a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien yet always deeply human.

Without a Map

Meredith Hall

2007

When she becomes pregnant at 16, Hall was shunned by her community and kicked out of the house. After giving her baby up for adoption, Hall wanders recklessly surviving by selling her possessions and finally her blood. She ultimately stitches together a life with her silenced and invisible grief. What sets this book apart is the way in which loss and betrayal evolve into compassion, and compassion into wisdom.

Wishful Drinking

 

Carrie Fisher

2008

Fisher tells the true and intoxicating story of her life with inimitable wit. Born to celebrity parents, she was picked to play a princess in Star Wars at age 19. Aside from a demanding career and her role as a single mother, she also spends her free time battling addiction, weathering manic depression and lounging around mental institutions. Fisher recounts her life in an intimate, hilarious, and sobering tale.

The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch

2008

When Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give his last lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last - he had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The lecture he gave wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment. Pausch combined humor, inspiration and intelligence to make his lecture a phenomenon.

Sully: My Search for What Really Matters

Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III

2009

The inspirational story of one of the most captivating American heroes, Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger - the pilot who miraculously landed crippled US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River, saving the lives of 155 passengers and crew. His story reminds us that even in these days of conflict, tragedy, and uncertainty, there are values still worth fighting for - that life's challenges can be met if we're ready for them.

Running With Scissors: A Memoir

Augusten Burroughs

2010

The true story of a boy whose mother gave him away at age 12 to be raised by her psychiatrist, a lunatic. The doctor's bizarre family and a pedophile living in the backyard shed completed the tableau. When things got dull, there was always the electroshock therapy machine. At turns foul and harrowing, compelling and maniacally funny, it chronicles an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

Why Me?

 

Sarah Burleton

2010

Burleton remembers her mother trying to choke her to death, one of many traumatic memories. After many years of struggling to understand why, she took back control of her life and started saying, "Now what do I do?" This childhood journey through the terrors of physical and mental abuse from first grade until the day she moved out is her way of letting the world know what was really going on behind closed doors.

Thin Places: A Memoir

Mary DeMuth

2010

In her moving spiritual memoir, DeMuth reflects on the “thin places” of her life where she experienced intense longing and healing. From surviving abuse as a latchkey kid to discovering a heavenly Father who never leaves, her story invites you to a deeper understanding of your own. She invites you to discover new experience in a God who is ready to break through any extraordinary pain and offer a glimpse of eternity.

Eat, Pray, Love

Elizabeth Gilbert

2010

Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want—husband, country home, successful career—but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of leaving behind outward success and exploring three different aspects of her nature: pleasure, devotion, and a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.

Just Kids

Patti Smith

2010

Beginning as a love story and ending as an elegy, never-before-seen glimpse of Smith's remarkable relationship with photographer Mapplethorpe. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years. A true fable, it is a portrait of New York in the 60's and 70's, and of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame.

Gifted Hands

Ben Carson, MD

2011

This is the riveting story of Carson's secret to success, tested against daunting odds, driven by an incredible mindset that dares to take risks. Enter the operating room, witness headline-making surgeries, and into the private mind of a compassionate, God-fearing doctor who lives to help others. Through it all shines a humility, quick wit, and down-to-earth style that make this book one you won't easily forget.

Bossypants

Tina Fey

2011

Fey had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV and her dream came true. From youthful days as a vicious nerd to tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to life as a mother eating things off the floor; from one-sided college romance to nearly fatal honeymoon, Fey reveals all and proves what we've suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

A Widow's Story

Joyce Carol Oates

2011

One February morning Oates drove her ailing husband to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. In less than a week, he was dead and Oates was faced, totally unprepared, with widowhood. In this beautiful and heart-breaking account, Oates takes us through what it is to become a widow: the derangement of denial, the anguish of loss, the disorientation of the survivor and the solace of friendship.

The Long Goodbye

Meghan O'Rourke

2012

O'Rourke's story is one of a life gone off the rails, of how watching her mother die of cancer - and separating from her husband - left her fundamentally altered. But it is also one of resilience, as she observes her family persevere even in the face of immeasurable loss. Effortlessly blending research and reflection, the personal and the universal, it is not only an exceptional memoir, but a necessary one.

My Mother Was Nuts

Penny Marshall

2012

In this funny, intimate memoir, Marshall takes us from the stage of The Jackie Gleason Show to Hollywood’s star-studded sets, offering up some hilarious detours along the way. This is an intimate backstage pass to her personal life, her breakout role on The Odd Couple, and her exploits with Hollywood stars. From her childhood spent tap dancing in the Bronx, to her rise as the star of Laverne & Shirley.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Cheryl Strayed

2013

At age 26, following the death of her mother, divorce, and a run of reckless behavior, Strayed found herself alone near the foot of the Pacific Crest Trail--inexperienced, over-equipped, and desperate to reclaim her life. Track Strayed's personal journey as she comes to terms with devastating loss and her unpredictable reactions to it. Her confident prose straddles wilderness tale and personal-redemption memoir.

Wave

 

Sonali Deraniyagala

2013

In 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived. In this brave and searingly frank memoir, she describes those first horrifying moments and her long journey since. She has written a beautifully poised account of learning the difficult balance between the almost unbearable reminders of her loss and the need to keep her family, somehow, still alive within her.

After Visiting Friends

Michael Hainey

2013

A stirring portrait of a family's legacy of secrets. At age 6, Hainey's father died "after visiting friends," the obituaries said. But details beyond that were inconsistent. What friends? Where? Working through a network of his father's news reporter peers who honor a code of secrecy, the adult Hainey sees beyond the long-held myths and ultimately reconciles the father he'd imagined with the one he comes to know.

The Book of My Lives

Aleksandar Hemon

2013

Hemon's life began in Sarajevo. At 27, he journeyed to Chicago where he watched from afar as war broke out in Bosnia, his parents and sister fleeing, and Hemon unable to return. This is a love song to two cities and the bonds of family, a singular work of passion, built on fierce intelligence, unspeakable tragedies, and sharp insight. It will leave you a different reader with a new way of looking at the world.

Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked

James Lasdun

2013

This true story of obsessive love turning to obsessive hate chronicles Lasdun's strange and harrowing ordeal at the hands of a former student, a self-styled "verbal terrorist," who began trying, in her words, to "ruin him." Hate mail, online postings, and public accusations of plagiarism and sexual misconduct were her weapons of choice and, as with more conventional terrorist weapons, proved remarkably difficult to combat.

Not the Mother I Remember: A Memoir

Amber Lea Starfire

2013

When Starfire discovers a lifetime of her mother’s journals, she realizes she has a rare chance to unlock the enigma that had been her mother—but will the writings reveal the woman she remembers, or someone else altogether? Starfire tells the story of being raised by an exceptional and unconventional woman during a time of social change, exposing the true nature of their relationship and their extraordinary bonds.

Tears of the Silenced: A True Crime and an American Tragedy

Misty Griffin

2014

In this courageous account the author draws the reader into her terrifying life as a severely abused child as her step-father forced the family into an Amish community. Griffin and her sister endured a childhood of physical and sexual abuse on an isolated ranch. They were not allowed to go to school or talk without raising their hands. If they did not meet work quotas throughout the day they were severely beaten.

Ghost No More: A True Story of Escape

CeeCee James

2014

Behind the glitz and the glamour of the beauty queen mother lies a web of secrets. James is a child desperate for approval love of her mother. Her reality is her mom's retreating back, abandoning James in front of a burning car. Amid the chaos and despair, James holds onto something precious, the only thing that drives her on - hope. This is a child abuse true story that proves joy can be found beyond abuse.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"

Lena Dunham

2014

Dunham illuminates the experiences of making one’s way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told. Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, these dispatches hail from the frontlines of growing up.

H is for Hawk

 

Helen Macdonald

2014

A genre-defying debut, instant New York Times bestseller and award-winning sensation, Macdonald's story of adopting and raising one of nature's most vicious predators has soared into the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. Fierce and feral, her goshawk Mabel's temperament mirrors Helen's own state of grief after her father's death, and together raptor and human discover the pain and beauty of being alive.

Coming Clean: A Memoir

Kimberly Rae Miller

2014

Miller is an immaculately put-together woman with a great career, a loving boyfriend, and a beautifully tidy apartment in Brooklyn. You would never guess that behind the closed doors of her family’s idyllic Long Island house hid teetering stacks of aging newspaper, broken computers, and boxes upon boxes of unused junk festering in every room—the product of her father’s painful and unending struggle with hoarding.

Her

Christa Parravani

2014

A few years after her twin died, Parravani read that when an identical twin dies, 50% of the time the surviving twin dies within two years. Those were her chances of survival. This is the tale of a woman's struggle to live as an individual after spending much of her life as one half of a whole. She raises the questions affecting all of us: How do we forgive ourselves for not being able to save the ones we love?

Xamnesia: Everything I Forgot in my Search for an Unreal Life

Lizzie Harwood

2015

At twenty-three, Harwood is mysteriously recruited to become a property manager for billionaires. Legally forbidden to talk about her employers, she calls their country 'Xamnesia.' The place has its perks, such as receiving diamond watches and a hug from Michael Jackson, but with her anxiety about succeeding and habit of never telling her family what's really going on, she will do anything to keep this dream job.

My Name is Mahtob

Mahtob Mahmoody

2015

This is the story of an extraordinary young woman’s triumph over life-crushing trauma to build a life of peace and forgiveness. She depicts the profound resilience of a wounded soul healed by faith in God’s goodness, care and love. Mahmoody reveals her secret to liberating herself from a life of fear, learning to forgive the father who had shattered her life and discovering joy and peace that comes from doing so.

A Living Label: An Inspirational Memoir and Guide

Buckola Oriola

2015

This memoir documents Oriola's struggles and triumphs as a survivor of labor trafficking and domestic violence in the U.S. Her goal is to inspire hope in other survivors that they can turn their lives around positively, regardless of what difficulty they might have passed through. She also provides practical solutions on how to effectively engage with survivors, to value them as the subject matter experts they are.

Fractured, Not Broken

 

Kelly Schaefer

2015

From a carefree cheerleader to a quadriplegic, Schaefer’s life changed the instant she was hit by a drunk-driver at age 19. She was determined that this event was going to change her life in a positive way. Through her faith in God, her inner strength, and the support of family, she has risen above obstacles time and time again to shine brightly as a wife, a mother, a teacher, a public speaker, and an author.

Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food

Megan Kimble

2015

In 2012, Kimble was living in a small apartment without even a garden plot to her name. But she cared about where food came from, how it was made, and what it did to her body. She went an entire year without eating processed foods. This remarkable chronicle of a her journey of eating only unprocessed foods intertwines journalistic exploration of what unprocessed really means, why it matters, and how to afford it.

Guantanamo Diary

 

Mohamedou Ould Slahi

2015

Slahi has been imprisoned at the detainee camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba since 2002 without being charged for a crime. Although he was ordered released by a federal judge, there is no sign that they plan to let him go. His diary recounts his life before he disappeared into custody and daily life as a detainee. It is not merely a vivid record of a miscarriage of justice, but a deeply personal memoir---terrifying, darkly humorous, and surprisingly gracious.

Becoming Unbecoming

Una

2015

Blessed with enormous talents and the energy and ambition to go with Una finds herself on the receiving end of a series of violent acts for which she feels she is to blame. Unbecoming explores gender violence, blame, shame, and social responsibility. She asks what it means to grow up in a culture where male violence goes unpunished and unquestioned. With hindsight Una explores her experience and challenges a global culture that demands that the victims of violence pay its cost.

Beautiful Hero

 

Jennifer Lau

2016

With only half a canteen of water and one baby bottle, a family of 8 fought for their lives in the Cambodian killing fields. Surrounded by unimaginable adverse forces, one strong woman would lead her entire family to survive. Her acumen in solving problems in extreme circumstances is awe-inspiring. She shepherded her entire family through starvation, diseases, slavery and massacres to forge a new life in America.

Running on Red Dog Road: And Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood

Drema Hall Berkheimer

2016

Gypsies, faith-healers, moonshiners, and snake handlers weave through Berkheimer's childhood in 1940s Appalachia. After her father is killed in the coal mines, her mother goes off to work as a Rosie the Riveter, and she is left in the care of devout Pentecostal grandparents. What follows is a spitfire of a memoir that reads like a novel with intrigue, sweeping emotion, and indisputable charm.

The Magnolia Story

Chip and Joanna Gaines

2016

Are you ready to see your fixer upper? These famous words are synonymous with the dynamic husband-and-wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper. By renovating homes in Waco, Texas, and changing lives in such a winsome and engaging way, they have become more than just television stars, they have become America’s new best friends. This book offers their fans a detailed look at their life together.

How Not to Run a B&B

Bobby Hutchinson

2016

A best-selling Harlequin writer decides to open a B & B in Vancouver when sales of romance novels falter. Despite never having stayed in a B & B and knowing absolutely nothing about running one, Hutchinson jumps right in. Strange people arrive at her home with their stories and struggles, plus their baggage, psychological and otherwise. Each chapter is peppered with a humor, a little tragedy and many life lessons.

When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

2016

At the age of 36, Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. This book chronicles his transformation from a naïve medical student into a neurosurgeon at Stanford, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. This is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

Rise: A Memoir

Risë Myers

2016

Myers was named after the opera star Risë Stevens. It was as if her mother knew that she was not meant to be written into the family’s tragedies. In fact, from a young age she found a way to rise above the chaos, abuse, and molestation of her childhood, eventually escaping the weight of her family, and learning to love and believe in herself. This story is a testament to her deep determination and innate courage.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

J.D. Vance

2016

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up poor offering a probing look at the struggles of the white working class. A demographic that has been slowly disintegrating over 40 years has never been written about as searingly from the inside. Vance tells the true story of what a social and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

Lab Girl

Hope Jahren

2016

A book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together told through Jahren’s remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found sanctuary in science; and about the inevitable disappointments, triumphs and exhilarating discoveries of scientific work.

A Mother's Reckoning

Sue Klebold

2016

In 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people before taking their own lives at Columbine High School. For the last 16 years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? How had she not known something was wrong? What, if anything, could she have done differently?

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely

Lysa TerKeurst

2016

The enemy wants us to feel rejected, left out, lonely. When we allow him to speak lies through rejection, he pickpockets our purpose, cripples our courage, and blinds us to the beauty of Christ's powerful love. Lysa shares her deeply personal experiences with rejection and reminds us we are destined for a love that can never be diminished, tarnished, shaken, or taken--a love that does not reject or uninvite.

The Rainbow Comes and Goes

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

2016

Though Cooper always considered himself close to his mother, his intensely busy career as a journalist affords him little time with her. After she suffers a brief but serious illness at the age of 91, they resolve to change their relationship by beginning a year-long conversation unlike any they had ever had before. The result is a correspondence of surprising honesty and depth about the things that matter to them.

Husband: My 40-Year Marriage to a Gay Man

JoAnne Blackwelder

2017

JoAnne thought her relationship with Steve was exhilarating and fun. But gradually problems developed, as he drank too much, drifted into dangerous liaisons, and lied to her about his secret life, putting the family in danger. When he died, she sought to understand their relationship by drawing on memories and journals about his gay encounters. This is a brutally honest account of a troubled but enduring love.

Memoirs of an Innocent Man

Dr. Ray Spencer

2017

Dr. Ray Spencer was given a 212 year sentence when he entered prison. For Spencer, it was unbearable; he had received the sentence for a crime he did not commit. He would be locked up until the end of his life for no just reason. Worse, as a law-enforcement officer he would be targeted by other prisoners. Spending every day fearing for his life, he recalls in the outrages and surprises of daily prison life.

Nobody's Son

 

Cathy Glass

2017

Born in a prison and removed from his drug-dependent mother, rejection is all that 7 year-old Alex knows. Glass is asked to foster Alex for a month before his permanent family adoption. He looks forward to having a forever family of his own. But Alex is only with them for a week when problems begin. What happens next is both shocking and upsetting, and calls into question the whole adoption process.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

2017

After the sudden death of her husband, Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. Her friend Grant, a psychologist, told her that resilience is a muscle that everyone can build. Sandberg's personal insights with Grant’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.

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