The best memoirs from tickling your funny bone to breaking your heart

The Books I Picked & Why

Educated: A Memoir

By Tara Westover

Book cover of Educated: A Memoir

Why this book?

Tara Westover grew up in a survivalist family where her parents were suspicious of the outside world. She didn’t attend school until she was seventeen. Learning algebra and other subjects on her own, she did well on her college entrance exams and was accepted into Brigham Young University. She went on to attend Harvard and Cambridge Universities. Westover tries to hold together family ties while some relatives constantly planted doubts in her mind. As she succeeded academically, they tried to pull her back into their world at every turn. This story gives us all hope. Her grit inspires us to move forward to reach our dreams. 

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Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related: A Memoir

By Jenny Heijun Wills

Book cover of Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related: A Memoir

Why this book?

Jenny Heijun Wills was born in South Korea and adopted by a white Canadian family. She not only had to navigate being Asian in a white world, but she also struggled to find her place within a family that sought to give her a safe home. In her twenties, she returned to Korea to meet her birth family. Told in diary form, Wills navigates her journey to find home while fighting language and cultural barriers. It is a raw and emotional story. It makes me think of my own struggles growing up in Detroit. The faces I saw at home were like my own but that also had its own set of problems.

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Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)

By David Sedaris

Book cover of Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)

Why this book?

For forty years, David Sedaris kept a diary filled with his successes, failures, overheard conversations, and secrets confessed by strangers. He adds humor to his memories which is a wonderful change from the traditional memoir. Even a boring day can make us laugh. This is the first of two volumes and is the better of the two.

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By Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel

Book cover of Night

Why this book?

Night is about Elie Wiesel’s survival of the Nazi death camps and his loss of religious faith. In one of the most famous accounts of The Holocaust, he relays his observations of starvation, abuse, and death. He tells of burning babies, grotesque beatings, and never-ending humiliations. It is a tough read but necessary so that we do not repeat such atrocities.

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Running with Scissors

By Augusten Burroughs

Book cover of Running with Scissors

Why this book?

All of Augusten Burrough’s books are fantastic. He brings a frank, hilarious, and often dark take on his life. In Running with Scissors, he recounts his bizarre childhood. His mother sends him to live with a psychiatrist where he lives without boundaries. Several characters in the book have challenged Burrough’s recollection of their lives, though the author claims the memoir is accurate. 

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