With memoirs popping up in bookshops everywhere, here are five titles that are sure to resonate with every reader
Anyone that’s walked past a bookstore window, scrolled around Amazon or gazed upon a bestsellers list can tell you that we're amidst a celebrity memoir boom. Whether it be unveiling the dark secrets of Hollywood or displaying the drama behind the world of sports, there is something enticing about a celebrity memoir—and although some are not what anyone asked for, many are genuinely remarkable.
"The power of non-fiction to connect us to the joys and vulnerabilities of others is something to be cherished"
At their best, memoirs provide a candid portrayal of those who seem distant from the "real world". Although it's nice to be swept away into the imaginary world of a novel, there is grounding and comfort to be found in shared experience. The power of non-fiction to connect us to the joys and vulnerabilities of others is something to be cherished. It’s within these books that extraordinary individuals share their deepest thoughts, and these stories can be inspiring, comical, and sad—but most importantly, they reflect the undeniable resilience of humanity.
From philanthropists to former actresses, here are a few addictive memoirs by extraordinary women that should be on your TBR list if they aren't already!
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (2022)
Many celebrity memoirs can be "ghost-writer fluff", but not this one. Written entirely by McCurdy, this memoir, with its attention-grabbing title, is one the most stimulating reads in the market today. It is a confessional feat that curiously asks what, if anything, children owe to an abusive parent. It is genuine and heartfelt but also sharp, and despite the horrifying events and topics being shared, McCurdy expresses the perfect balance of humour to help the reader through without being triggered. It is a memoir of great intensity because of the roller-coaster of trauma McCurdy endured growing up with an unstable homelife and as a child actor, but she never comes across as victim-baiting or heartbroken, even though heartbroken is exactly what you feel as a reader.
Above all else, the best thing about I’m Glad My Mom Died is the writing style. As McCurdy recounts her story from early childhood to her mid-20s, the point of view of her narration evolves just as any person would. It begins through the innocent eyes of a child, then slowly draws on a more mature voice as she becomes a teenager, and ends in an articulate tone to reflect where she is today.
How (Not) To Be Strong by Alex Scott (2022)
In an incredibly honest and vulnerable tale, the football star turned successful pundit Alex Scott shares her life from the "cages of East London" to Arsenal captain and England Lioness. Offering the perfect balance of stories of being a successful woman in sport alongside the traumas of growing up with an alcoholic and abusive father, Scott shows what it takes to let go of guilt and succeed when you feel the whole world is against you. At the same time, she celebrates the feeling of being "weak" and "exposed" because it’s those moments that fuel our strengths. As she says so herself: "my hardest lesson has been my most fruitful too".
"Reading an open letter to her mother in one of the chapters, I almost felt like I was intruding on familial conversation"
The memoir is not a glossy depiction of celebrity struggle. In fact, reading an open letter to her mother in one of the chapters, I almost felt like I was intruding on familial conversation, but it's moments like these that make How (Not) To Be Strong a heartfelt and personal read.
Despite covering some very serious topics, including sexism and racism, it is a surprisingly easy read. It also makes a fantastic listen for audiobook fans.
Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018)
It’s rare to come across people who have not read the former First Lady of the USA’s debut memoir. However, if you are part of the few who haven’t been convinced to jump into the pages, here’s your sign to finally do it. Becoming is refined, retrospective and gracefully written, and despite her status, forges themes and tales that are easily relatable. It is a tribute to love and family, the importance of forgiveness, and the uncertainty of life.
Although parts of her story are far from anything we would experience—enter the Secret Service—others are learning lessons we can appreciate, such as finding work-life balance, accepting societal flaws, and taking control of your emotions to recognise self-worth. The latter is made clear when Michelle describes her time at Princeton as “the quiet, cruel nuances of not belonging”, which sums up the trajectory of life. The feeling of not belonging but working hard to find your place in the world and 'becoming' who you truly are.
Amongst its depth, however, you will also find humour and "regularity", which makes Becoming such an easy read. Anecdotes of family dinners and marriage proposals reflect us collectively and showcase the beauty of human similarities no matter how different we all are.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
Eat Pray Love—three wonderful words that have changed the lives of many. The uplifting story of Elizabeth Gilbert is one adored by travellers all around the world. Perhaps you’ve heard about the screen adaptation featuring Julia Roberts, but the memoir itself is even more special. Sharing her journey of self-discovery through adventures across Italy, India, and Indonesia, after reeling from a contentious divorce, a volatile rebound romance and depression, Gilbert’s story is fuelled by irresistible intelligence and excitement that makes readers excited to listen in.
"Despite the various difficult themes at play, the writer maintains a light tone to keep readers entertained"
It celebrates a woman trying to heal herself from a severe emotional and spiritual crisis (Gilbert suggests more than once that she was at risk for suicide); therefore, unsurprisingly, remains relevant and relatable decades later. Yet, despite the various difficult themes at play, the writer maintains a light tone to keep readers entertained. This is a memoir for anyone searching for a guiding light or who may be afraid of change and need a push.
Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah (1999)
Lesser known than others on this list, Adeline Yen Mah has quite a story to share.
“…As for Father, he doesn’t even remember my name. In his mind, I’m nothing. Less than nothing. A piece of garbage to be thrown out…”.
Despised by her family because she is believed to be the cause of her mother’s death, Adeline knows first-hand the pains of abandonment and hopelessness from her first breath. Her one shining light is the love from her aunt and grandparents that fuels her as she navigates her childhood amidst the many wars plaguing 1940s China—but even that is dim. Chinese Cinderella is a moving recount of a girl that yearns to be loved and understood but when failing to secure this in her home, finds her purpose with the outside world.
Although you feel like a helpless fly on the wall of a young girl’s sad childhood, take comfort in her courage and intelligence, and knowing she does eventually succeed to become a physician.
*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter
Loading up next...