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    12 Must-Read Memoirs To Get You Through Your Twenties

    As the reigning queen of the twentysomething tell-all genre, Lena Dunham, makes her autobiographical debut today, here are some other brilliant works to guide you through your own coming-of-age story and change the way you look at life.

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    1. Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward


    This is a gorgeously written book whose chapters alternate between two timelines: one moves forward, tracing Ward's family history, while the other moves backward, recounting the deaths of five men who were all close to her and died within a few years of each other, the first of which was her own brother. The book portrays life in poor, disenfranchised, black communities in Mississippi and the particular consequences they have for young black men and those around them. It illuminates broader issues of inequality and privilege with an unflinching honesty that has stayed with me ever since I read it. —Anita Badejo

    2. My Life, by Isadora Duncan


    Isadora Duncan is my role model. I read her memoir when I was 20, and it totally changed my life. Duncan was this radiant goddess of a human being who spent her life traveling the world, throwing bacchanalian boat parties that lasted for days, and she radically changed the way we conceive of dance by tossing aside convention and throwing herself into her art. She danced barefoot, in see-through toga-esque sheets; she taught and she challenged and she inspired. We have virtually no footage of her legendary dances, but her bold, ahead-of-her-time (ahead of our time, even) proclamations of her self-worth as a woman, an artist, and a citizen of the world offer a taste of what she must have been like in life: absolutely dazzling. —Jenn Schaeffer

    3. Hyena, by Jude Angelini


    Angelini's book is like a mix of Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson, chronicling a whirlwind of belligerently wild tribulations all his own. Hyena will transport you from a rough working-class childhood in 1980s Detroit to life as a popular hip-hop DJ and serious troublemaker in modern-day New York and Los Angeles, exposing you to all of the drugs, sex, and philosophical baptisms Angelini has experienced along the way. You won't be able to put it down, and you will come out understanding and understood. —Mariah Summers

    4. Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, by Florence King


    Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady is one of the funniest books I've ever read. It's the memoir of writer Florence King, about first rejecting her grandmother's expectations of uterine slavery, then losing her world as a lesbian bohemian in a small Mississippi town in order to write pulp romances. —Lester Feder

    5. Just Kids, by Patti Smith


    Anybody will love this book, but especially those with a creative spirit and a New York address. Smith is first and foremost a poet, and the beautifully detailed way she recounts her early days in the 1970s New York art world with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, her closest friend, partner, and confidante, will paint an exquisite portrait of one of the coolest women to walk the streets of NYC. —M.S.

    6. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers


    A memoir that reinvigorated the genre, while also reinventing the way we look at personal narratives, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius took the world by storm in 2000, launching numerous memoirs in its wake. As the title implies, the book both takes itself seriously while also mocking itself every chance it gets (even the introduction includes a list of pages that the reader should feel free to skip), telling the story of a young man who loses his parents and tasks himself with raising his 8-year-old brother while also trying to raise himself. —Isaac Fitzgerald

    7. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling


    I related to so much in this book. It was like Mindy had taken some of my own thoughts and experiences and made them more hilarious and awesome. It felt like a series of anecdotes you'd tell a friend. Which is why, of course, I am now best friends with Mindy. She just doesn't know it yet. —Jenna Guillaume

    8. Life, by Keith Richards


    Life will inspire even the most agoraphobic reader to live a little bit bigger than his or her current status quo. The book not only reveals the countless crazy things Keith Richards has witnessed as a Rolling Stone, but also the aging rocker's keen observational skills of human behavior and what his wild life has meant to him and to those he's rocked along the way. —M.S.

    9. Committed: A Love Story, by Elizabeth Gilbert


    Written by Elizabeth Gilbert on the cusp of her second marriage, and following her smash 2006 hit Eat, Pray, Love, Committed is a must-read for anyone who is considering not only marriage but a romantic relationship of any kind. The book explores how one's place in the world changes in some ways and in others remains the same as a result of entering into a partnership with another human being. It forces you to ask what you want out of love for your life — and the life of the person with whom you share it. —M.S.

    10. My Life in France, by Julia Child


    My Life in France makes you want to live your dreams, learn French, and eat everything along the way. —Lauren Zaser

    11. Cherry, by Mary Karr


    Fans of Karr's Lit and The Liar's Club will love her coming-of-age story in between: before a life of domesticity and substance abuse took hold of her, and after her intensely unstable childhood. Karr is a master observer, both of herself and the world around her, and reading her journey to breaking away from home as a teenager will move you in ways she hasn't shown you before. —M.S.

    12. Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham


    Finally, Lena Dunham is putting her voice of a generation in book form, and so far critics have singled out this effort as witty, acute, frank, and heartfelt. Of course, Girls fans will devour Dunham's memoir with pure pleasure, but beyond this cohort, Dunham has proven her writing chops and ability to turn therapy visits, romantic mishaps, and tales of friendship into a delightful lesson on how one very successful, smart, and, perhaps above all else, interesting young woman has become who she is. —M.S.

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