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23 Fascinating Memoirs You Probably Haven't Read Yet, But Should

Because other people's lives are so much more interesting than your own.

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1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is the Daily Show host's honest, incisive narrative of growing up in a mixed-race family in apartheid South Africa — an actual crime, as the title implies.

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Promising review: "I am generally a pretty critical reader, and it's almost embarrassing to write such a glowing review, but I can say without reservation that this book is a treasure. He provides an inside look at a life very different from what almost anyone has experienced (due to his unusual ethnicity and upbringing), yet it is easy to relate to him and fascinating to read his stories. The book reads like a novel, but it is so much more affecting because it is true. Reminiscent of The Glass Castle, it is a superbly written story of a perceptive and resilient child thriving in very difficult circumstances, and it beautifully captures these circumstances seen through the eyes of a child.

Trevor's mother taught him to use humor to help cope with life, and he learned that lesson well. Despite having good reasons for feeling self-pity and resentment, Trevor had a knack for finding the humor in even the most difficult circumstances. Not forced, jokey humor, but just a low-key appreciation for the weirdness of life. As I turned the last page, I smiled at the ending, which was perfect, but I also felt sad that the story ended. I want to know what happened next. I hope he will write a sequel." — Bee

Get it from Amazon for $7.19 (paperback) or $14.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $19.65.

2. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman is her whirlwind tale of travel, sex, and self-discovery during her 20s and 30s, while the rest of her friends were getting married and having children.

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Promising review: "Great read! Have already gifted this to four of my friends. Hilarious, honest, and very entertaining. It's like catching up with an old friend you haven't seen since college while polishing off a bottle of wine." — jess

Get it from Amazon for $12.82 (paperback) or $14.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $13.65.

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3. Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More chronicles Janet Mock's life as a multiracial trans woman and her quest to understand and accept herself against the complicated political backdrop of trans rights.

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Promising review: "Janet Mock weaves her personal history and the political landscape of trans livelihood in a way that is relatable and deeply intellectual in her powerful memoir. While you read, you hear her voice, feel her vulnerability and can't help but see yourself in her struggle — the universal struggle — of becoming the person you know you are meant to be. I read her words and felt hope, disappointment, pain, elation, dread and so many other emotions because you want her to succeed in LIFE & LOVE. Her resilience makes you stronger; it made me braver and a believer in one's self determination. Read this book!" — Mai

Get it from Amazon for $8.51 (paperback) or $11.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $13.60.

4. A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz intertwines the history of Israel with his story of growing up there — from his childhood in a cramped apartment in Jerusalem to his adulthood as a political activist.

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Promising review: "This (long) memoir by novelist Amos Oz is so engaging in telling stories, so gripping with dazzling syntax, and so relevant to the angst derived from the formation of Israel as a state, that I will be finding and reading all the novels by this writer. In some ways the work is a memoir of modern Israel." —

pneditor

Get it from Amazon for $9.57 (paperback) or $9.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $11.07.

5. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty delves into her fascinating career as a mortician, and all of the people she's met — both living and deceased.

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Promising review: "Uncontrollable bouts of laughter aside, I found this book to be so interesting due to its mix of historic, experiential, explanatory and personal approaches to discussing the topic of death and the dead. It is refreshing to see someone so passionately advocating for our culture to do something about the environmental, financial and psychological effects of hiding and and denying reality. If you have not yet had to deal with death personally, there is a 100% chance that you will and reading this would be a helpful beginning step in that process. I am so grateful to have stumbled upon Caitlin Doughty's videos, interviews and writings and I hope her work leads to a change in the current thought and practice." — Twila Gonzales

Get it from Amazon for $12.54 (paperback) or $8.61 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $13.56.

6. Insomniac City is photographer and writer Bill Hayes's deeply moving meditation on his move to New York in his 40s that led to a powerful relationship with writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks.

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Promising review: "I thought about this book a lot during the days when I had no time to read. I want to keep this book close to me. I will come back to it often. When I am melancholy, when I want some endearing good humor, when I want to be inspired to write, when I want the positive visual imagery of New York that too often escape me. Simply beautiful storytelling." — thebookfund

Get it from Amazon for $16 (paperback) or $9.50 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $17.

7. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal whimsically combines the format of an encyclopedia with a memoir to create a random, engrossing, and poignant look at her life.

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Promising review: "Written by a lovely, funny, poignant woman who is surely missed by anyone who was close to her. Her innate gift of embracing the rareness of life's simplicities, which in and of itself almost sounds like an oxymoron, makes losing her all the more difficult. Although we never met, her words in this clever book allowed me to connect to her essence in a most playful way. I suspect she would have liked knowing that." — Ruby Tuesday

Get it from Amazon for $8.40 (paperback) or $7.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $9.44.

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8. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is The Slits' lead guitarist and songwriter Viv Albertine's raw, in-depth telling of her life in the male-dominated music scene during the rise of punk and beyond.

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Promising review: "In the non-stop stream of celebrity autobiographies available, Viv Albertine’s is in a class by itself. Eschewing the standard form of chronicling events in long, wistful chapters of excess, Albertine goes for short entries of brilliance. The woman knows how to write, crafting observant and blunt bits of streetwise prose to describe the many mini-moments that make up this great book.

The gang's all here; sex, drugs, rock and roll, but that’s only a part of it. Throughout her tale, the author is relentlessly, brutally, and heartbreakingly honest. It’s easily the most intimate autobiography I’ve read, one in which the reader isn’t just consuming the sterile recounting of actions, but rather becoming enmeshed in a spellbinding, painful, and wry confessional. Hers is a story as unique as she, but it’s her ability to unflinchingly express the raw innermost thoughts she was experiencing during those moments that make this book so special, so personal, and so endearing.

Beneath the stunningly beautiful woman is an intelligent, thoughtful, courageous, and utterly absorbing person who I wish I had the privilege of truly calling my friend. This book will have to suffice." — Steve

Get it from Amazon for $15.13 (paperback) or $14.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $20.55.

9. Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth is Richard Wright's gripping personal tale of childhood in the Jim Crow South.

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Promising review: "I was enthralled by the book. This book is a real page turner and a must read for a real historical reference to a dark era in American history." — Rasheed

Promising review: "I purchased this book for my 13-year-old son. He often played video games after doing his homework during the week and again on weekends. This book is like a magnet, he loves it. He was originally was supposed to read (1) chapters every day in the week after homework, which he has surpassed. He even brings it to school so he can read it during free time." — Amazon Customer

Get it from Amazon for $10.99 (paperback) or $11.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $11.09.

10. So Sad Today: Personal Essays translates poet Melissa Broder's Twitter feed about her struggles with anxiety into an existential story of sex, addiction, and self-discovery.

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Promising review: "I've never felt more validated and less alone than I did after reading this. This book will be both the slow ballad that you listen to when you need to cry AND the power anthem you rock out to when you're ready to open the curtains and look at the world again." — Ricky

Get it from Amazon for $9.57 (paperback) or $9.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $11.58.

11. The Folded Clock is comprised of Heidi Julavits' diary entries, which offer an intimate look at her thoughts on aging, friendships, and everything in between.

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Promising review: "I just finished reading The Folded Clock. If I ever master writing as tangentially as Julavits I will smile forever. What a spinning narrative she weaves. I found it inspirational, instructive, motivating, cheerful, neurotic and satisfying. Human. Strong recommendation if you like diary formats books that are really mini essays about life in all its random ways." — Ann Bodle-nash

Get it from Amazon for $9.98 (paperback) or $11.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $10.47.

12. Autobiography of a Face is Lucy Grealey's candid account of losing a third of her jaw to cancer at 9 years old, her ensuing struggle with bullying and self-acceptance, and ultimately, the emergence of an unshakeable strength.

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Promising review: "This is an inspiring autobiography of a woman who had every right to feel sorry for herself, but never did. She managed to express the harshness of how she was sometimes treated, without condemning, and somehow, her great sense of humor is evident throughout the book." — Rena L. Jackson

Get it from Amazon for $0.01 (paperback) or $9.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $10.74.

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13. My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary centers on the author's young adult life during the Great Depression and WWII as she went to college, became a librarian, and began to hatch the ideas that turned into her now-classic books.

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Promising review: "The only thing to complain about is that there isn't a sequel to this one! We share in Beverly Cleary's journey through college and into her adult years and the writing of her first book, Henry Huggins. Reading Cleary's memoirs, I was taken back to my own childhood and my love for Ramona and Beezus. Cleary has a unique gift of simple writing that readers of all ages can enjoy, whether you are eight or 80. I lover her writing as much today as I did when I was in the third grade." — Sandra Mitchell

Get it from Amazon for $11.16 (paperback) or $4.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $11.32.

14. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman follows Lindy West's life as a women who's "too" everything — too loud, too big, and, as her memoir shows, too spot-on and hilarious.

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Promising review: "This is one of the funniest and most empowering books I've ever read. Lindy West is an inspiring person who bravely brought to light issues that women face every day and are taught not to talk about so that we don't seem 'difficult' or 'sensitive.' I'm going to recommend this important feminist book to everyone I know." — marshall42

Get it from Amazon for $9.81 (paperback) or $9.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $10.32.

15. Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips wittily recounts her unusual childhood growing up in New York City's iconic Chelsea Hotel with her eccentric family and equally entertaining neighbors.

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Promising review: "Here I am writing a review and I am speechless. This book is so deep, so insightful, so funny, so right on target. And what delicious history she had to make into a funny, funny story. Actually, they are short vignettes that you don't want to end. I HIGHLY recommend this book. You won't be sorry you read it! Oh, and spoiler alert, the author is all of 17." — M. Sullivan

Get it from Amazon for $9.64 (paperback) or $11.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $11.25.

16. A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York is Anjelica Huston's roller-coaster ride of a life story through Irish estates and posh hotels, mixed in with heaps of fascinating celebrity encounters during the '60s and '70s.

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Promising review: "This will be one of my all time favorite books. It sweeps you off into a fairytale land inhabited by a young and privileged little girl who is still innocent, enjoying a fabulous castle for her home, fairies in the garden, fish in the steam, and fox hunting on the weekends. Beautifully written with intimate details about famous Hollywood names of old. I highly recommend it." — Laura Hastings-Brownstein

Get it from Amazon for $10.66 (paperback) or $11.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $11.25.

17. Negroland is Margo Jefferson's study on growing up in Chicago's titular, exclusive society that considered itself a third race between whites and "the masses of Negros."

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Promising review: "Margo Jefferson’s intimate account of her life growing up in the privileged precincts of Chicago’s 'black bourgeoisie' in the 1950s and 1960s is a riveting document, to be read quickly for its galloping pace and savored long for its thoughtful analysis. Jefferson deserves a second Pulitzer for this contribution to the literature of the black experience." — Bart Mills

Get it from Amazon for $10.87 (paperback) or $11.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $11.40.

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18. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti revisits the sexism she experienced throughout her teen and young adult years to show the effects it has on all women's lives.

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Promising review: "This is a remarkable memoir. She could have made herself sound a lot neater, a lot tidier, and made the whole thing more comfortable. This is a messy, raw, real, honest book. This is not a memoir composed of either self-mythologizing or pat storytelling. In fact, it is as little about the author herself as a memoir of its kind can be. Rather, it is a memoir about how the personal is political, one that is grounded in a sometimes startlingly unvarnished honesty about the personal. It's about sex and sexuality, about women in the world and the things that go unsaid about that experience, and about a lot of other things, too. This is an important book." — Amazon Customer

Get it from Amazon for $8.31 (paperback) or $9.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $10.86.

19. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is about Ishmael Beah's harrowing experience as a child soldier in Sierra Leone who learned how to shoot an automatic gun before he became a teenager.

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Promising review: "Although this was a heavy book to digest, I feel it deserves five stars for the beautiful writing and the constant action moving the story forward. I'm glad I was introduced to a time and place I knew very little about, and that I was able to peek into this man's childhood, harrowing that it was. Hats off to the author for his brutal honesty, and for teaching me lessons along the way. His journey became my journey." — Anna Anderson

Get it from Amazon for $9.46 (paperback) or $9.23 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $9.62.

20. Hunger by Roxane Gay shares the author's relationship with her "wildly undisciplined" body, through bracing, vivid stories from her past and present.

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Promising review: "I read this book in one sitting. No possible way that anything could stand in the way of this book! I sobbed through each essay as Gay revealed her depth and each secret was stripped and empowered on the page! This is by far the fiercest and most unforgettable memoir I have read to date! Make sure when you get a copy that you have time to read it through because you will not want to do anything else!" — Meg Tuite

Get it from Amazon for $16.99 (paperback) or $12.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $16.99.

21. The Black Notebooks by professor and poet Toi Derricotte thoughtfully examines life as a light-skinned black woman through two decades of journal entries.

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Promising review: "The language is gorgeous. The honesty is palpable. The rigorous (self) examination is thorough. And as a biracial/ethnic person myself (not the same makeup or specifics as Derricotte), she was able to articulate so many things of my experience that have been so impossible to find language for. Bravo." — Farrokhzad

Get it from Amazon for $11.16 (paperback) or from Barnes and Noble for $11.21.

22. The Kids Are All Right alternates between siblings Diana, Liz, Amanda, and Dan Welch's perspectives of growing up, getting separated due to tragedy, and finally coming back together as adults.

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Promising review: "I could not put this book down. The angle of each child's perspective was the key to understanding what they endured in the aftermath of their parents' deaths. I was struck by how much they cared and care about one another which could only be credited to their parents' treatment of them from the beginning of their lives. Despite the sadness of their lives and their parent's lives, they were downright lucky to have had two remarkable and loving people in their formative years." — Mary M. Ryan

Get it from Amazon for $10.17 (paperback) or $11.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $10.36

23. Brain on Fire details Susannah Cahalan's terrifying experience waking up in a hospital bed unable to speak or move, and figuring out how she got there in the first place.

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Promising review: "This was one of those books that I just could not put down. I started reading it on a Saturday morning and it basically ended up being so all-consuming I did nothing else, not even stopping to eat, until I had finished the entire book. This book is quite compelling. It reads almost like a mystery at first, as you find yourself reading about the author's bizarre symptoms and wondering what her diagnosis will be. This is a book that I wholeheartedly recommend to others!" — drbantavery

Get it from Amazon for $10.14 (paperback) or $11.99 (Kindle) or from Barnes and Noble for $10.32.

Reviews have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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