The best memoirs for snobs who don’t read memoirs

Why am I passionate about this?

I write memoir. I didn’t set out to write memoir. But I’ve become convinced by the power of personal narrative, both on its own merits, and as a frame and lens through which to view the world—a way to take a reader by the hand before slipping into whatever other subject matter sings its siren call. And the memoirs I love best are always in conversation with something bigger, or beyond the self. As Annie Dillard wrote, “there’s nothing you can’t do with [literary nonfiction]. No subject matter is forbidden, no structure is proscribed. You get to make up your own form every time.” I like to see these works as doing just that.

I wrote...

Tango Lessons: A Memoir

By Meghan Flaherty,

Book cover of Tango Lessons: A Memoir

What is my book about?

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut memoir about a young woman learning to dance tango, becoming comfortable in her own skin and in the arms of others.

“Well-researched, eloquent, and entertaining, Flaherty’s book is not only a witty, incisive reflection on a beloved dance and its history. It is also an intimate celebration of dance, life, and the art of taking chances. A vibrantly intelligent reading pleasure.” -Kirkus “From the first page, Tango Lessons engages, charms, and inspires. Like the best memoirs, it tells a story of self-discovery that transcends the personal.” - Sari Botton

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of H is for Hawk

Meghan Flaherty Why did I love this book?

Look, you don’t like memoirs, and I don’t have the slightest interest in falconry. Nevertheless—this book is transcendent. At once the story of a daughter grieving her father, it is also a year-in-the-life narrative of a woman learning to raise (and fly) a goshawk named Mabel, and, as if that weren’t enough, a sneaky literary biography of forgotten dinosaur (and hawk enthusiast) T.H. White. The book would have worked on any one of these levels, but braided together, it is a masterclass in narrative nonfiction. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be transported—and you’ll learn a lot of ornithology along the way. 

By Helen Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked H is for Hawk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year

ON MORE THAN 25 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR LISTS: including TIME (#1 Nonfiction Book), NPR, O, The Oprah Magazine (10 Favorite Books), Vogue (Top 10), Vanity Fair, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle (Top 10), Miami Herald, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Minneapolis Star Tribune (Top 10), Library Journal (Top 10), Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Slate, Shelf Awareness, Book Riot, Amazon (Top 20)

The instant New York Times bestseller and award-winning sensation, Helen Macdonald's story of adopting and raising one of…

Book cover of Negroland: A Memoir

Meghan Flaherty Why did I love this book?

Margo Jefferson is one of the smartest humans on the planet and her memoir reflects that. She tells her story as intertwined with the story of her first cultural context—the Black elite of the 1950s, and the crisis of identity she experienced with the rise of the Black Power movement of the 1960s. She brings her critic’s sharp intelligence and wit to bear in every paragraph, but doesn’t hold back any of her heart. It’s a terrifically moving book and a masterpiece of personal/cultural criticism, full of elegance and nuance. 

By Margo Jefferson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The daughter of a successful paediatrician and a fashionable socialite, Margo Jefferson spent her childhood among Chicago's black elite. She calls this society 'Negroland': 'a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty'. With privilege came expectation. Reckoning with the strictures and demands of Negroland at crucial historical moments - the civil rights movement, the dawn of feminism, the fallacy of post-racial America - Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions.

Book cover of The Argonauts

Meghan Flaherty Why did I love this book?

Few writers manage to blend theory and narrative like Maggie Nelson, let alone make the combination sing. In this book of ‘autotheory’ she writes about desire, the body, identity, transformation, the queerness of pregnancy, the formation of her queer family, and the relationship of freedom to caretaking. Follow her beautiful mind through this book that will never be called memoir, but which should change your mind, nevertheless, as to what memoir can do. 

By Maggie Nelson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family

Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of "autotheory" offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. It binds an account of Nelson's relationship with her partner and a journey to and through a pregnancy to a rigorous exploration of sexuality, gender, and "family." An insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry for this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.

Book cover of The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

Meghan Flaherty Why did I love this book?

This astounding book of nonfiction folds outright fiction, in the form of folk tales and “talk-story”, into autobiographical narrative. The result is a mille-feuille of mirrors and arcs and threads that gives us the truest possible portrait of a woman told through the fullest expression of her cultural, familial, and personal contexts. Mary Karr says “God is in the truth,” but sometimes ‘actuality’ cannot tell the whole truth. Without breaking any covenant with her readers, Maxine Hong Kingston finds a way to widen our sense of what ‘truth’ is—at least for these 209 pages. 

By Maxine Hong Kingston,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Woman Warrior as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • With this book, the acclaimed author created an entirely new form—an exhilarating blend of autobiography and mythology, of world and self, of hot rage and cool analysis. First published in 1976, it has become a classic in its innovative portrayal of multiple and intersecting identities—immigrant, female, Chinese, American. 

“A classic, for a reason” – Celeste Ng via Twitter

As a girl, Kingston lives in two confounding worlds: the California to which her parents have immigrated and the China of her mother’s “talk stories.” The fierce and wily women warriors of…

Book cover of The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

Meghan Flaherty Why did I love this book?

You’d never expect such a literary triumph from the pen of a ceramicist (and academic in possession of not one, but five honorary doctorates), and yet: I dare anyone to read this book and remain unconvinced of its lyrical brilliance. It is a gripping, searching family—and world—history traced and told through actuality and artifact. You’ll learn all you never knew about netsuke, as well as a few things about (literary) craft. 

By Edmund de Waal,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Hare with Amber Eyes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them bigger than a matchbox: Edmund de Waal was entranced when he first encountered the collection in his great uncle Iggie's Tokyo apartment. When he later inherited the 'netsuke', they unlocked a story far larger and more dramatic than he could ever have imagined.

From a burgeoning empire in Odessa to fin de siecle Paris, from occupied Vienna to Tokyo, Edmund de Waal traces the netsuke's journey through generations of his remarkable family against the backdrop of a tumultuous century.


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By Marian L Thomas,

Book cover of Saving Raine

Marian L Thomas

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Saving Raine is a captivating tale of resilience, redemption, and the enduring power of love, penned by the acclaimed author Marian L. Thomas.

This contemporary fiction novel chronicles the compelling journey of Raine Reynolds as she confronts heartache, betrayal, and loss. Against the vibrant backdrops of Atlanta and Paris, Raine's story unfolds as she grapples with the aftermath of her husband's infidelity and tragic passing.

Through poignant prose and compelling characters, "Saving Raine" delves into themes of forgiveness, healing, and the strength discovered in confronting life's greatest challenges. Readers will be captivated by Raine's emotional odyssey as she unearths hope, redemption, and the courage to embrace a brighter future.

Saving Raine

By Marian L Thomas,

What is this book about?

Raine Reynolds stands at the crossroads of despair and opportunity.
When the life you've built crumbles and the past refuses to release its grip, sometimes you need a fresh start-a new beginning that promises hope and redemption.
Once a celebrated author, Raine's life unraveled, sending her fleeing to the picturesque streets of Paris to escape the tormenting heartache that threatened to consume her. Yet, no matter how far she traveled, the pain remained her unwelcome companion.
Returning to bustling Atlanta as a senior VP for an ad agency, Raine is forced to confront a city steeped in…

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