Honest, enlightening, and deeply engaging, from Martha Wainwrights’ bohemian upbringing to Muhammad Ali’s, The Greatest, our top fourteen memoirs are as timeless, and as relevant today as they were when they were first published.
When written in an open and candid fashion, a memoir can shine a light on self-realization in the most brilliant way, and if properly expressed, allows the reader to walk in their shoes. Offering up more than just the guilty pleasure of peeking into someone’s life, a good memoir gives us something far more valuable, by showing us a side of humanity that reminds us that we are connected – in that we all share the same hopes, dreams, and fears. Whether you just want to grab yourself a good read or give someone in your life a special book, a memoir makes for a brilliant offering. Either way, there is never a bad time to pick up a memoir.
Grace Tame – The Ninth Life of a Diamond Miner: A memoir(2022)
Tame shares her own experiences of child sexual abuse, and the kind of trauma that no child should ever endure. As a teenager, she found the courage to speak up, which sparked a conversation that would change things, a conversation that is continuing to provide a safe space, and most importantly of all, a change for the generations to come. Insightful, and humourous, Tame’s memoir makes for a captivating and enlightening read.
THE NINTH LIFE OF A DIAMOND MINER
Rickie Lee Jones – Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour (2022)
Rickie Lee Jones shot to fame after an appearance on SNL in 1979, singing Chuck E’s in Love, and not long after was pronounced “Duchess of Coolsville” by TIME magazine. Last Chance Texaco is an open and candid account of the life of one of rock and rolls hardest-working women. Rickie Lee Jones shares her exceptional life, with tales of her nomadic childhood, her father’s abandonment, and her years as a teenage runaway, all the way to her beginnings at LA’s Troubadour club; and her relationship with Tom Waits.
RICKIE LEE JONES
LAST CHANCE TEXACO
Martha Wainwright – Stories I might regret telling you (2022)
Born into music royalty, Marth Wainwright shares a very honest, raw, and genuine story about her childhood, and her journey towards finding her own voice in a world she often never felt good enough to be in. Wainwright reminisces about her drug-fuelled youth and her struggles as a musician trying to make it in a very competitive industry. Wainwright shares stories about her unique family, marriage, motherhood, and more.
STORIES I MIGHT REGRET TELLING YOU
Will Smith – Will (2021)
Written with the help of Mark Manson, author of the bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Will is the inspired and brave story of one of the most famous actors of our time. Delightful and engaging, and full of self-help lessons learned from his incredible journey from his youth on the violent streets of West Philadelphia to the star-studded streets of Hollywood. Oprah calls it “The best memoir I’ve ever read”
Michelle Zauner – Crying in Hmart
Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast band fame wrote this powerfully honest and captivating memoir as a way to reconnect with her heritage, which she lost sight of growing up as one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon. In this beautiful story of family, food, grief, and perseverance, Zauner shares what it took to regain a sense of herself, and her identity, whilst navigating through the pain of her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer and eventual passing.
CRYING IN HMART
Matthew McConaughey – Greenlights (2021)
Matthew McConaughey brings an unconventional memoir filled with loud brassy stories, wisdom, and hear earned lessons. Sharing in his quest for inner peace, he asks how to be fair, how to be a good man, how to have meaning in life, and ultimately how to be more me, which after all is said and done is the greatest achievement one can strive for. With courage and candor, he shares his approach to life, and “catching greenlights.” It’s more than a memoir, It’s also a guide to catching more green lights – and to realising that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.
Carrie Fisher – Wishful Drinking (2017)
Carrie Fisher openly shares the story of her life with great candor and wit. Born into celebrity royalty, Fisher would go on to take the role that would immortalise her in the world’s consciousness forever. Picked to play Princess Leia in Star Wars at just 19 years old, it was she insists, not all sweetness and lightsabers. Fisher shares with great depth of feeling some of the bigger moments that shaped her life.
Gloria Steinem – My Life on the Road
From her nomadic childhood to her career as a journalist and her first experience with activism, My Life on the Road is a deeply engaging, moving, and funny account of Steinem’s incredible journeys on the road through the early 2010s. Steinem reminds us that living in an open, observant, and “on the road” state of mind can make a difference in how we learn, what we do, how we understand, and how we live.
MY LIFE ON THE ROAD
Phil Knight – Shoe Dog (2016)
Shoe Dog, tracks Phil Knight’s early days in bringing his dream of Nike to life, from paying $35 to an illustrator to design the logo that would go on to become the most iconic symbol in sporting and branding history. Combining two of his top passions: running and entrepreneurship, Knight’s memoir is at times tense, and heartbreaking, revisiting the highs and lows, the highs include meeting his wife on his first day as an accounting lecturer, and the lows, being on the brink of cashlessness, and missing payroll once and almost losing the company over it.
Maggie Nelson – The Argonauts (2015)
A love story at its center, and what it takes to maintain a family unit and a relationship, but Nelson’s memoir is more than that, its a genre-defying account of the author’s journey to and through pregnancy, as well as a rigorous exploration of sexuality, gender, and family.
Muhammad Ali – The Greatest
For six years Muhammad Ali worked, traveled, and talked with writer Richard Durham, and the result is brilliant. Ali’s accomplishments, both in and out of the ring, have earned him a place in history as one of the most inspiring figures of the twentieth century. With great depths of humanity and entertainment, The Greatest packs punch. In this book, like Ali who has incited every reaction except indifference goes straight to the heart of who he is, sharing in his life in such a way, that concludes, that he is “The Greatest.”
Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb – I am Malala (2014)
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On a fateful day in October 9, 2012, she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey away from her home in northern Pakistan to share with the world her remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, in a society that prizes sons.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI AND CHRISTINA LAMB
I AM MALALA
Amy Poehler – Yes Please (2014)
Poehler recounts her glory days on Saturday Night Live and Park and Rec with this poignant tale of her rise to being immortalized as the iconic Leslie Knope. Offering up life advice, via a hilarious collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, and haikus, make for a very engaging and very relatable memoir.
Nelson Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom (1994)
Nelson Mandela is one the foremost moral and political leaders of our time. In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela shares his experiences of his very lengthy prison sentence for his opposition and strong views on South Africa’s apartheid laws in a memoir that discusses at length his political ascension, and his time as president in rebuilding the country’s once segregated society.
LONG WALK TO FREEDOM
Fun Facts: Read more about rickie lee jones snl 1979 here.