The best books full of intimate self-revelations

Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to artists who expose their lives in a way that makes you feel you know them. The best of them have a raw honesty that shows their flaws, their wounds and struggles and hopefully the lessons they learned. Nobody likes bragging, but we’re captivated by accounts that echo our own secrets, embarrassments, and darker emotions, especially if told with a sense of humor. For decades, I’ve been addicted to the confessional lyrics of Joni Mitchell and have always been drawn to the unguarded openness of certain memoirs and the roman-à-clef or thinly disguised autobiography. In showing us their vulnerabilities, these authors have been heroic.  

I wrote...

A Bitch for God

By Clark T. Carlton,

Book cover of A Bitch for God

What is my book about?

It’s 1990 and Hollywood’s latest guru, Lakshmi Steinmetz, is on the verge of fame and fortune during the AIDS crisis. Some see her as a saint, but those who work for her see a mercurial witch with a lust for fame. Into the maelstrom comes Tyler, a failing screenwriter but a talented chef who takes a job at Lakshmi’s charity that delivers meals to people with AIDS. The organization, on the verge of collapse, is rife with corruption. To its rescue comes Bravermann, one of the world’s most beautiful men who does his job too well—and ignites a feud with Steinmetz that tears apart a vulnerable community.

Darkly satirical, A Bitch for God is a portrait of a time when hopelessness was exploited by charlatans. 

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The books I picked & why

The Catcher in the Rye

By J.D. Salinger,

Book cover of The Catcher in the Rye

Why did I love this book?

I was 12 or 13 when I first read The Catcher in the Rye and I was gobsmacked.

It’s a work of fiction but it was obviously autobiographical because it was so intimately detailed and genuinely rendered. It was like eavesdropping on someone’s psychiatric sessions, the narrative of a patient who holds nothing back from his doctor.

In Holden’s voice I heard so much of myself including a contempt for phoniness as well as a reluctance to enter adulthood. Holden doesn’t hold back on embarrassing details: an encounter with a prostitute and her pimp that goes wrong, and just before his breakdown, he lets you know he suffers from the most unpleasant of intestinal disorders.

The honesty of this book makes it both deeply sad and terribly funny and let me know someone else was like me. 

By J.D. Salinger,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Catcher in the Rye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After leaving prep school Holden Caulfield spends three days on his own in New York City.


By David Leavitt,

Book cover of Arkansas

Why did I love this book?

If I have to pick one of David’s books, it’s Arkansas - Three Novellas.

The first of them, Saturn Street, came out of the time he volunteered at Project Angel Food, a nonprofit where I worked as a chef. David described us chefs as “fussy” (we were) in his intimate account of a driver who delivers meals to a client homebound with AIDS, a man the driver falls in love with. David also alludes to one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek.  

In The Term-Paper Artist, we get an even more confessional novella in which a writer by the name of David Leavitt trades the writing of term papers for the sexual favors of attractive college boys. Whether a true story or a fictionalized one, it doesn’t get more emotionally honest than this and it’s a novella as funny as it is outrageous. 

By David Leavitt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Arkansas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here are three novellas of escape and exile, touching and funny and at times calculatedly outrageous. In "Saturn Street," a disaffected L.A. screenwriter delivers lunches to homebound AIDS patients, only to find himself falling in love with one of them. In "The Wooden Anniversary," Nathan and Celia - familiar characters from Leavitt's story collections - reunite after a five-year separation. And in "The Term-Paper Artist," a writer named David Leavitt, hiding out at his father's house in the aftermath of a publishing scandal, experiences literary rejuvenation when he agrees to write term papers for UCLA undergraduates in exchange for sex.

Dry: A Memoir

By Augusten Burroughs,

Book cover of Dry: A Memoir

Why did I love this book?

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs was the most vivid memoir I had ever read, a frank account of an acutely bizarre childhood.

The author had been sent as a boy by his crazy mother to live with her psychiatrist, a mental health professional who was just as crazy and presided over the most dysfunctional household ever described in a book. After I finished reading Scissors, I wondered what the consequences were for the author as an adult.

The follow-up, Dry, answers that question in a more fascinating memoir that is drenched with the lurid details of the life of an addict and his struggle for recovery. Augusten holds nothing back.  After reading Dry, I felt as if I had been an addict.  

By Augusten Burroughs,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times Bestselling author of Running With Scissors comes the story of one man trying to out-drink his memories, outlast his demons, and outrun his past.

“I was addicted to “Bewitched” as a kid. I worshipped Darren Stevens the First. When he’d come home from work and Samantha would say, ‘Darren, would you like me to fix you a drink?’ He’d always rest his briefcase on the table below the mirror in the foyer, wipe his forehead with a monogrammed handkerchief and say, ‘Better make it a double.’” (from Chapter Two)

You may not know it, but…

Blankets: A Graphic Novel

By Craig Thompson,

Book cover of Blankets: A Graphic Novel

Why did I love this book?

This celebrated graphic novel is a haunting masterpiece by a gifted artist who uses words and imagery in his coming-of-age tale. 

If I were to describe the plot and its setting in snowy Wisconsin, a reader might assume this is something completely mundane, a bland slice of teenage life. But Thompson beautifully renders the ecstasy of first love as well as the devastation of romantic disappointment in a way that everyone who has ever loved and lost will recognize.

The other thread that weaves through the narrative is Craig’s rejection of the Baptist faith he was raised in, something that defined his family and was the center of their lives— and that’s something else I relate to. Blankets is a warm and deeply true confession.

By Craig Thompson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Blankets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Quaint, meditative and sometimes dreamy, blankets will take you straight back to your first kiss." --The Guardian

Blankets is the story of a young man coming of age and finding the confidence to express his creative voice. Craig Thompson's poignant graphic memoir plays out against the backdrop of a Midwestern winterscape: finely-hewn linework draws together a portrait of small town life, a rigorously fundamentalist Christian childhood, and a lonely, emotionally mixed-up adolescence.

Under an engulfing blanket of snow, Craig and Raina fall in love at winter church camp, revealing to one another their struggles with faith and their dreams of…

The Devil Wears Prada

By Lauren Weisberger,

Book cover of The Devil Wears Prada

Why did I love this book?

Anyone who ever had a cold, demanding, and impossible boss can relate to Andrea Sachs, a young intern who needs to work for one year for Miranda Priestly, a character based on Vogue’s Anna Wintour.

Andrea is a well-adjusted young woman from a privileged background but she’s not without deceptions in her ambition. She takes a job at a fashion magazine even though she has little interest in fashion and it’s a job that “a million other girls would die for.” She also becomes like the boss she detests as her star rises and her personal life falters.

This fun and indulgent popular novel is a roman-a-clef about a young woman who chooses her own suffering and eventually finds her better self. She also gets revenge when she writes a successful novel about her ex-boss.

By Lauren Weisberger,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Devil Wears Prada as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

High fashion, low cunning - and the boss from hell

When Andrea first sets foot in the plush Manhattan offices of Runway she knows nothing. She's never heard of the world's most fashionable magazine, or its feared and fawned-over editor, Miranda Priestly - her new boss.

A year later, she knows altogether too much:

That it's a sacking offence to wear anything lower than a three-inch heel to work.

That you can charge cars, manicures, anything at all to the Runway account, but you must never, ever, leave your desk, or let Miranda's coffee get cold.

And that at 3…

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