The best memoirs that transform insane personal history into entertainment

Jerry Stahl Author Of Nein, Nein, Nein!: One Man's Tale of Depression, Psychic Torment, and a Bus Tour of the Holocaust
By Jerry Stahl

Who am I?

Jerry Stahl is an American novelist and screenwriter. His latest release, Nein, Nein, Nein! One Man’s Tale of Depression, Psychis Torment, and a Bus Tour of the Holocaust relieves Stahl’s group tour to concentration camps in Poland and Germany. He has written a number of novels including Perv: A Love Story, Plainclothes Naked, I, Fatty, Pain Killers, Bad Sex on Speed, and Happy Mutant Baby Pills: A NovelStahl got this start publishing short fiction, winning a Pushcart Prize in 1976 for a story in the Transatlantic Review. His 1995 memoir Permanent Midnight was adapted into a film starring Ben Stiller as well as the screenplay for Bad Boys II, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

I wrote...

Nein, Nein, Nein!: One Man's Tale of Depression, Psychic Torment, and a Bus Tour of the Holocaust

By Jerry Stahl,

Book cover of Nein, Nein, Nein!: One Man's Tale of Depression, Psychic Torment, and a Bus Tour of the Holocaust

What is my book about?

There's nothing quite like Jerry Stahl’s transgressive fiction (i.e. Permanent Midnight, Bad Sex on Speed, Pain Killers, Perv - A Love Story, etc.) or the movies that he wrote (i.e. Zoolander, Bad Boys II, etc.). He has outdone himself with his new book, Nein, Nein, Nein! One Man’s Tale of Depression, Psychic Torment and A Bus Tour of the Holocaust

In 2016 with his life-long depression (which started after his father’s suicide when he was a teen) at an all-time high and his career and personal life at an all-time low, he decided to embark upon a two-week guided tour to concentration camps in Poland and Germany. The trip would allow him to confront personal and historical demons, albeit with two dozen strangers on a bus tour.

The books I picked & why

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Priestdaddy: A Memoir

By Patricia Lockwood,

Book cover of Priestdaddy: A Memoir

Why this book?

The author’s chronicle of growing up the child of a married Catholic priest—who lives in his boxer shorts, plays ear-crushing electric guitar, worships action films, and once got arrested at an abortion clinic sit-insomehow manages to be beautiful, cringe-inducing, jaw-dropping and absolutely hilarious at once. When circumstances force the author and her husband to move back in with her Priest-dad in her parents’ rectory, their worlds collide in an explosion of soulful, moving family madness. Woven through the entire saga are strains of love, faith, and the enduring, hysterical bonds of family.

Model Citizen: A Memoir

By Joshua Mohr,

Book cover of Model Citizen: A Memoir

Why this book?

Joshua Mohr should not be alive. Diagnosed young with a medical condition that could kill him any second, the author does what addicts do: continues grinding his own face in the dirt even as he struggles to keep his life together and stop. In vignettes of astonishing violence and poetry, Mohr careens from unspeakable despair to moments of fearless, weirdly laugh-out-loud intensity and beauty—sometimes in the same sentence. All that, and his portrait of San Francisco makes you want to show up, find a dive and bang your head off the floor until you’re healed. Mohr writes with everything on the line. Almost like he’s trying to save his own life as much as yours.

Pryor Convictions: And Other Life Sentences

By Richard Pryor,

Book cover of Pryor Convictions: And Other Life Sentences

Why this book?

Two reasons I love Richard Pryor’s memoir—his failures and his successes. 1967, Richard Pryor flamed out in front of Dean Martin in Vegas, asking a sold-out crowd: What the fuck am I doing here? A year later, scheduled to open for Miles Davis at the Village Gate, a guy pops backstage to say Miles Davis would be opening for him. A gesture of ultimate respect. From boyhood brothel to Sunset Boulevard icon—there is so much heart in this book, so much raw honesty, so many crazy highs and unbelievable bottoms, I feel almost guilty marching out the killer anecdotes: Yes,  Pryor scored weed for Jackie Gleason. Yes, he smuggled dope into Arizona prisoners filming Stir Crazy. But what makes this memoir essential reading is Richard Pryor’s genius. “You all know how Black humor started? It started on slave ships. Cat was rowing and dude says, What you laughin’ about?” So he says, “Yesterday I was a king…This is why Richard Pryor still matters.

Paradoxia: A Predator's Diary

By Lydia Lunch,

Book cover of Paradoxia: A Predator's Diary

Why this book?

Lydia Lunch’s memoir, Paradoxia: A Predator’s Diary, has been compared to Dostoyevsky, De Sade, and William Burroughs. Having toured with her, I would add another name: Mae West. Like West, the author informs her so-called “depravity” with a strain of pure, unfettered comedy. “I’m the bloodsucking murder junkie,” she announces with something like glee, “who loves to watch big strong men beg for their lives like tiny baby girls.” Lunch was subverting gender long before “gender” itself was in the national vocabulary. And she walks the line from victim to perp with her own brand of unapologetic, unflinching truth. At once a portrait of a sui generis literary character—and a portrait of the stark and dangerous landscape of Nineties No-Wave New York.

Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Ice Man, Captain America, and the New Face of American War

By Evan Wright,

Book cover of Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Ice Man, Captain America, and the New Face of American War

Why this book?

Technically the reportage of a Rolling Stone writer embedded with Marines 2002, Evan Wright’s first-person account of young men at war is, in some ways, as much a story of the author’s experience of W’s nation building as it the story of the soldiers themselves. Wright earned the respect of the men he rolled with by riding on point, or in the lead vehicle, where he was sure to take enemy fire. It’s his description of what drove him to face such danger that makes the writer at once relatable and brave: “Partly it was about not losing face. I reverted to like, a twelve-year-old on the playground. I wouldn’t back down. And there were times when I knew we’d be shot at, and I’d fantasize about getting taken out of being embedded. But then I’d make it through and not be injured, and I’d be flooded with this deep sense of ‘There’s no way I’m leaving this'…

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