Six Illuminating Memoirs to Check Out
In case you haven’t noticed yet, I have a major thing for memoirs, and I especially love listening to an author read their experiences in audiobook form. Here are six personal stories that I found captivating!
For more more more memoirs I've loved that you might want to try, check out these Greedy Reading Lists:
01 Leaving the Witness by Amber Scorah
In Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life, Amber Scorah takes the reader into her confidences.
Scorah lays bare her sheltered experiences, religious indoctrination, societal and gender pressures, hearty evangelism, and her eventual questioning and subsequent freezing out from the Jehovah’s Witnesses—which meant she was cut off permanently from almost everyone she knew.
Scorah retraces her steps from being a covert, illegal proselytizer in Shanghai through the implosion of her marriage and her realization that she is stranded--without her husband, without formal education, and without her faith any longer--and therefore really without any framework at all.
She’s thoughtful and helps readers track her mindset as she moves from control to freedom and how jarring and cruel and wonderful and odd a “worldly” life can be. I'm intrigued by stories of those who have left constricting faith systems. Scorah tells a fascinating personal story of growth and fear and change.
For my full review of this book, please see Leaving the Witness.
02 The Unexpected Spy by Tracy Walder
I love a peek at a secret world, and in The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World's Most Notorious Terrorists, Tracy Walder offers fascinating glimpses of her life as a CIA and an FBI agent.
Walder includes training details, political machinations, and significant and rankling discrimination.
Walder explores her own glowing pride in doing her job well and protecting others from danger—even when anyone without security clearance remains necessarily ignorant of the invaluable nature of the work and the imminent dangers she and her fellow agents manage to help our country avoid. Her evolution as a person and transition into her current profession was satisfying to witness as well.
St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley provided me with an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
For my full review of this book, see The Unexpected Spy.
03 The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip
This book is Yip-Williams's powerful farewell to her family, but it's also valuable for anyone considering meaning and priorities in their own life.
Wow. Julie Yip-Williams is a beautiful writer who is so smart, reflects deeply, and candidly shares the many heartbreaking aspects of facing her own imminent death from metastatic colorectal cancer. This book serves as her powerful farewell to her family but also holds meaning for anyone considering the way they live and how they might choose to face their own mortality.
I feel like a meditation on dying is a heartbreakingly beautiful way to consider how we live our lives and a poignant reminder of what makes our one life so special. That said, I have a tough time reading memoirs in which someone is fighting cancer, and this one may not be everyone's cup of tea.
I listened to the audiobook, read wonderfully by Emily Woo Zeller, with an afterword by Yip-Williams's husband Joshua Williams.
For my full review of The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After, click here.
04 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
Gottlieb offers network of sometimes interconnected and consistently meaningful searches for purpose and peace.
This book really hit the spot for me. I was going to be happy with a light, surface-level look at therapy and the ins and outs of a therapist's providing and receiving therapy. But the book quickly grows into a network of sometimes interconnected and consistently meaningful searches for purpose and peace.
This book was so much more meaningful than I had counted on. Gottlieb was honest about her own situation and showed herself to be wonderfully faulted, and she also delved into the details of others' struggles and journeys and joys.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed offers a beautiful exploration of dying, death, appreciating the beauty of the impermanence of our lives, planning for loved ones after our death, and living life fully.
For my full review, please see Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.
05 Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Miller is a beautiful, powerful writer with clear and sophisticated arguments and a compelling identity separate from the attack that led to her being in the spotlight.
Miller has a strong, passionate grasp of widely experienced inequalities—and ideas of how to chip away at some of the injustices and faulty norms that should be excised from society.
I began reading Know My Name because I thought I should, not because I wanted to. Miller surprised me with the delicately balanced tone she was able to strike, her passionate belief in right and wrong, her emotional reactions to her situation, and her measured arguments and calm determination. I was fascinated by her.
Do not become the ones who hurt you. Stay tender with your power. Never fight to injure, fight to uplift. Fight because you know that in this life, you deserve safety, joy, and freedom. Fight because it is your life.
Now I'd like Miller to write more books about varied topics, because I like spending time in her head.
For my full review of this book, please see Know My Name.
06 Open Book by Jessica Simpson
Open Book is a mainly guileless look at stardom, motherhood, alcohol abuse, and finding herself.
In Open Book, Jessica Simpson explores her life, her ups and downs, her drinking-related missteps, and her failed loves. She tracks her scrappy and determined rise to stardom, her religious faith, her reliance on and love for her friends, her deep familial attachments and conflicts, and her path to therapy, sobriety, and a happy marriage and parenthood. I've liked JS since Newlyweds, and she takes us back to the show here too.
At times there is some silliness and some superficial focus, but I felt as though Simpson was laying it all on the table and going through some real self-examination.
Interestingly, she spends a lot more page time on John Mayer than Nick Lachey—and provides what ultimately amounts to a takedown of Mayer that explores his extensive emotional manipulation, his elaborate interview accounts of his sexual escapades with her and others, and, incredibly and most damningly, his use of the N-word during an interview.
For my full review, see Open Book.