As much as we love to indulge in engaging works of fiction, there’s something about a true story that’s unmatched—particularly memoirs. A memoir invites readers into an intimate literary experience that can possess a strong sense of voice and perspective. Above all, learning about other real-life experiences can lead us to reflect on our own. From stories of overcoming adversity to journeys of self-discovery, these are the memoirs you need to read right now.
This year has been dominated by political books, and Michelle Obama’s Becoming has soared beyond the rest. The former first lady’s highly anticipated memoir has been flying off shelves since its release, selling more than 725,000 copies its first day. As one of the most iconic women of our generation, Michelle is no stranger to the spotlight; yet, she’s inviting readers into her private world. From growing up on the South Side of Chicago to making history on Pennsylvania Avenue, Becoming is a warm, witty reflection of the triumphs and tribulations that have shaped Michelle Obama into the woman she is today.
When nineteen-year-old Garrard came out to his parents, he was forced to make a life-changing decision: agree to attend conversion therapy or risk losing the ones he loves. One of The New York Times best sellers and major motion picture, Boy Erased is a young man’s search for self in the midst of deeply rooted bigotry. Above all, this memoir is a profound reminder of the uphill battle of acceptance, tolerance, and understanding that individuals continue to endure through their journeys of self-discovery.
The Bad Feminist is back with another work of staggering honesty. Hunger is a powerful, unapologetic account of Roxane Gay’s struggles with identity, rooted in the inescapable vessel that is her body. Gay shares her most intimate inner dialogues with her readers, addressing the demons who have nestled in her psyche since childhood. While this may be a troubling read for some, Gay’s insight into the traumas that mold human experience is both courageous and inspiring.
To cope with her father’s sudden death, Helen Macdonald adopts one of the world’s most vicious predators, a goshawk. She soon discovers the bonds between nature and humanity, as well as the shared, universal experiences of sorrow and loss. A breathtaking blend of storytelling and nature writing, Helen Macdonald’s memoir is unique, ironic, and something you won’t want to put down.
The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor is a symbol of the American dream. Her memoir is a testament to perseverance and a tribute to her roots. Written with a beautiful emotional awareness, Sotomayor takes readers on a journey of her humble beginnings in Puerto Rico through the countless obstacles she has overcome to obtain a seat in the highest court of the land. This memoir is an empowering example of a woman who transcended the limits of tolerance with a work ethic that helped her achieve her ultimate dreams.
Geobiologist Hope Jehran found sanctuary in science at an early age. As a workaholic, Jehran is determined to make something of her life’s practice. Her memoir is crafted into three parts, each reflecting major milestones in her life, followed by a unique personification of plants that relate to each experience. Jehran discusses being a woman in science, her struggles with mental health, and the passion for plants that fuels her passion for life. Lab Girl highlights the natural courses of life, both in people and plants, and the lessons we learn through living.
When seven-year-old Firoozeh and her family move from Abadan, Iran, to the suburbs of Los Angeles, they must figure out how to settle into a new country with an unfamiliar culture. Firoozeh takes readers along a humorous, yet often heartbreaking, journey through the highs and lows of adjusting to American life. From learning English through American game shows to experiencing the embedded prejudices in society, Firoozeh and her family learn to appreciate the United States without losing sight of their roots.
This past June, the world lost beloved chef, writer, and TV host Anthony Bourdain. While Kitchen Confidential is not Bourdain’s most recent work, readers are revisiting the memoir almost two decades after its original publication. Personal anecdotes blended with industry commentary, Bourdain’s book illustrates his initiation into the world of food and the passion he turned into a lifelong career. What makes this memoir worth a read is the reminder of Anthony Bourdain’s legacy that moved beyond the world of culinary arts to a diverse, global audience.
Award-winning novelist and memoirist, Reyna Grande shares her troubling yet triumphant story of a Mexican immigrant experience. At nine years old, Grande enters the US as an undocumented immigrant to reunite with her father, who left Mexico in pursuit of the American dream. Grande soon realizes that the United States is not the “promised land” she anticipated and her father isn’t the man she remembers. The Distance Between Us is a coming of age work that highlights the complexities of the sacrifices necessary to create a new life.
Looking for a title that didn’t make our list? Let us know in a comment below!