The best memoirs by badass women with grit

Vanessa G. Foster Author Of More Than Everything
By Vanessa G. Foster

Who am I?

As a nine-year-old I used to climb trees with a small notebook and pencil in my pocket to write down my thoughts. After writing furiously, I’d read my own words and decide no one must ever read them so I’d fold up that page as tiny as possible, then cram it into the tight nook between two branches. I felt better for having written my truth, and would climb out of the tree feeling triumphant knowing my words were in the world. Later, I’d learn that telling my truth would save me and help others, just as all these other women have done in their marvelous memoirs.


I wrote...

More Than Everything

By Vanessa G. Foster,

Book cover of More Than Everything

What is my book about?

More Than Everything is a gripping memoir of resilience and liberation. The author's compelling story takes us on a frantic journey (from Texas to Alaska) as she is forced to flee from the FBI after her husband's drug lab is raided. After a series of misguided decisions, they find themselves stranded and destitute in the far north. Will they be saved by Moses, a kind-hearted man with a cattle ranch looking for seasonal help, or will the law catch up with them thousands of miles from home? This is the true story of how an everyday miracle gives a desperate young woman the strength and courage to face her fears and do the right thing.

The books I picked & why

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The Liars' Club: A Memoir

By Mary Karr,

Book cover of The Liars' Club: A Memoir

Why this book?

This was the first memoir I read by a badass woman. It’s older but so worth going back to. Mary Karr’s command of the English language and her poetic sensibilities make reading about her tense childhood lyrical and dazzling. Her wit and gritty voice sing as she paints the devastating picture of her journey through childhood in a fractured, tormented family. 

I loved this book because it gave me permission to be just as bold in telling my story. She so bravely put herself out there and passed the bravery baton to me and everyone who reads her stunning story.

The Liars' Club: A Memoir

By Mary Karr,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Liars' Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#4 on The New York Times' list of The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years

The New York Times bestselling, hilarious tale of a hardscrabble Texas childhood that Oprah.com calls the best memoir of a generation

"Wickedly funny and always movingly illuminating, thanks to kick-ass storytelling and a poet's ear." -Oprah.com

The Liars' Club took the world by storm and raised the art of the memoir to an entirely new level, bringing about a dramatic revival of the form. Karr's comic childhood in an east Texas oil town brings us characters as darkly hilarious as any of J.…

The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls,

Book cover of The Glass Castle

Why this book?

Wow! What a punch it packs. It grabs you from the first line and doesn’t let go. I’m drawn to true stories of perseverance and overcoming great odds. This one does not disappoint. Jeannette’s childhood was fraught with madness and poverty. She shines a light on difficult subjects and never, never once comes across as whiney or complaining.

What she endures would level most people, but like all badass women with grit, she comes through with grace and a seemingly unstoppable spirit. That’s what makes it sing. 

The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Glass Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major motion picture starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson.

This is a startling memoir of a successful journalist's journey from the deserted and dusty mining towns of the American Southwest, to an antique filled apartment on Park Avenue. Jeanette Walls narrates her nomadic and adventurous childhood with her dreaming, 'brilliant' but alcoholic parents.

At the age of seventeen she escapes on a Greyhound bus to New York with her older sister; her younger siblings follow later. After pursuing the education and civilisation her parents sought to escape, Jeanette eventually succeeds in her quest for the 'mundane,…


A Three Dog Life

By Abigail Thomas,

Book cover of A Three Dog Life

Why this book?

This one knocked me to my knees with so many poignant observations of daily life brought into sharp focus. Abigail examines the most mundane moments and polishes them into sentences you want to devour. She writes about love and life and loss with such honesty and beauty, but sprinkled with humor at just the right moment.

This book shows us what it is to be human, to lose a loved one, and how tangled time and emotions and relationships can get, but don’t be fooled, it’s layered and elevated, and honest.

A Three Dog Life

By Abigail Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Three Dog Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Abigail Thomas's husband, Richard, was hit by a car, it destroyed his short-term memory and consigned him to permanent brain trauma. He had been taking their dog, Harry, out for a walk, and Harry had come home alone. Subject to rages, terrors, and hallucinations, Rich must live the rest of his life in an institution. He has no memory of what he did the hour, the day, the year before. This tragedy is the ground on which Abigail had to build a new life rather than abandon her husband. How she built that life is a story of great…

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

By Cheryl Strayed,

Book cover of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Why this book?

This brave, captivating book came out shortly before I published my own memoir. I was drawn to the cover because of the boot. Mine is a different kind of boot, but like hers, is pivotal to the story. 

Another strong woman writing beautifully, fearlessly, and honestly about her past, her childhood, and her shortcomings as a human being on this earth. It’s the story of a girl and her mother as much as it’s the story of pain, loss, and overcoming great odds. Cheryl’s strength and determination ring through on each lyrical page. She paints vivid pictures as we walk with her along the Pacific Crest Trail, and we root for her to not only survive, but come away stronger, saner, and more able to continue on with life.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

By Cheryl Strayed,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the…


The Year of Magical Thinking

By Joan Didion,

Book cover of The Year of Magical Thinking

Why this book?

I grew up hearing Joan Didion’s name but didn’t start reading her until I was an empty nester, and felt so late to the party. When she died in late 2021, the world lost a great American writer. This book has been described as “achingly beautiful” and I can’t improve on that.

Joan takes us on a candid and unforgettable healing journey. She shares with heartbreaking honesty about her beautiful marriage, the death of her husband, and the life they had together, then shows us ways to stay human, to look for beauty in every moment, and find our way past grief. And she does it with humor and grace. A must-read.

The Year of Magical Thinking

By Joan Didion,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Year of Magical Thinking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of America's iconic writers, a portrait of a marriage and a life - in good times and bad - that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child. A stunning book of electric honesty and passion.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill. At first they thought it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete sceptic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later - the night before New Year's Eve -the Dunnes were just…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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