It’s the first month of the 2018 Reading Challenge and I can’t wait to get started! This month’s theme is to read a memoir. Here are a few memoirs I’ve read and loved, and a few that are on my to-be-read list. Share what you are reading by posting an image on Instagram using the tag #PhillyBookClub so we can discover even more books and find other readers participating in the challenge! If you’d like to visually track your progress throughout the reading challenge grab one of these printables!

Memoir Recommendations

  • The Unexpected Mother by Susan A Ring – A surrogate mother discovers she is pregnant with triplets. Before their birth, the adoptive parents divorce and cancel the contract. This is Susan’s story on her fight for her children.
  • The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs – This incredible memoir was written by Nina Riggs, a poet, a mother, and wife. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37 which quickly progressed to a terminal diagnosis.
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi  – “At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live.”
  • After The Eclipse by Sarah Perry – This book is about a mother’s murder and a daughter’s search. When Sarah Perry was 12 years old she witnessed a partial eclipse of the sun, a sign she took as good fortune. But two days later her mother Crystal was murdered in their home just feet away from the bedroom where Sarah was sleeping. The killer escaped unseen and it would take the police 12 years to find him. This is Sarah’s account of rebuilding her life, the eventual trial and conviction, and the questions left unanswered.
  • We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union – ” A powerful collection of essays about gender, sexuality, race, beauty, Hollywood, and what it means to be a modern woman.”
  • The Choice by Edith Eva Eger – A powerful and moving memoir written by Holocaust survivor and psychologist D. Edith Eva Eger.
  • The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy – “I wanted what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can’t have it all.”
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay – “New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health.”
  • My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z Scoblic – A memoir about alcoholism and fighting for sobriety.
  •  Blackout by Sarah Hepola – Another great memoir about alcoholism, addiction, and sobriety.
  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – This is a great memoir for the entrepreneurs out there! Written by the founder of Nike it’s a pretty amazing story of how he founded this massive company.
  • All At Sea by Decca Aitkenhead – “Only now do I understand that loneliness is not an absence of company, but of meaning.”
  • Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller – “Warm, funny, and brutally honest, Beautiful Bodies is a blend of memoir and social history that will speak to anyone who’s ever been caught in a power struggle with his or her own body…in other words, just about everyone.”
  • Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller – This memoir is a firsthand account of what it was like to grow up the daughter of a hoarder.
  • Odd Girl Out by Laura James – This is a memoir by Laura James who was diagnosed with autism in her 40’s. It’s fascinating to read through her lens. Very educating and compelling.
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – “Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist.”
  • This Is Really Happening by Erin Chack – Despite the heavy topics this book deals with (being diagnosed with cancer at 19 and surviving only to hear of her mother’s cancer diagnosis a year later), Erin’s writing is lighthearted and filled with wit and humor. Inside you’ll also find tales of her first kiss, finding love, and navigating the mall as only a Jersey kid could. I sped through this book in a day and a half, I couldn’t put it down. Love when that happens.
  • Rabbit by Patricia Williams – At times heartbreaking and at times hilarious, this autobiography by comedian Ms. Patt will leave you astonished. This was a book I had trouble putting down and devoured until the end.
  • My Lovely Wife In The Psych Ward by Mark Lukach –  This was one of the most heartbreaking memoirs I read this past year. It’s an honest and hopeful account of a young marriage that is redefined by mental illness. Put this on your to-be-read list asap!
  • Shrill by Lindy West – Lindy speaks unapologetically and candid honesty about being a woman, a feminist and fat. I’m so thankful for voices like hers out in the world making a difference and speaking up for women everywhere. This is a definite must-read for the modern-day feminist.
  • Sex Object by Jessica Valenti – This is something all women can relate to: sexual objectification. Jessica Valenti is the co-founder of Feministing.com, a website for young feminists discussing everything from pop culture to politics. In this memoir, she talks about being a woman in the world and basically all the shit that comes with that.
  • Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes – Shonda Rhimes is a force to be reckoned with. She is the creator, head writer and executive producer of three successful shows: Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal. In this book, Shonda shares her journey through a transformative year of saying yes to everything instead of saying no. This lead to a full life with rich experiences and balanced happiness. It really inspired me to seek new opportunities and don’t let fear hold me back.
  • Spinster: Making A Life Of One’s Own by Kate Bolick – I have to admit at first I didn’t want to be seen reading this book in public. The word spinster has so much shame and taboo surrounding it that I didn’t want that random person in the park thing I was secretly a cat hoarder eating TV dinners every night. But I quickly got over that once I cracked open this book. In Spinster Kate explores the pleasures of reaming single and why over 100 million American women are also choosing to do the same. She introduces us to six women who dared to construct their lives on their own terms. Inspiring and encouraging for single women everywhere. We could all use some more of that, right?

Reader Recommendations

Thank you to everyone who suggested a memoir! Next month I’ll collection suggestions more ahead of time so it’s not so last minute.

  • Lit by Mary Karr – This memoir is about Mary Karr’s descent into alcoholism and madness. “Written with Karr’s relentless honesty, unflinching self-scrutiny, and irreverent, lacerating humor, it is a truly electrifying story of how to grow up–as only Mary Karr can tell it.” Suggestion by @elysadi
  • Where I Am Now by Mara Wilson – Former child actor known best for her starring roles in Matilda (a childhood favorite of mine!) and Mrs. Doubtfire, Mara Wilson’s memoirs talks about her life as an accidental child star. Suggested by @majamoo_
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls – “The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take care of themselves.” Suggested by @katsalinas12
  • All Over But The Shoutin by Rick Bragg – “This haunting, harrowing, gloriously moving recollection of a life on the American margin is the story of Rick Bragg, who grew up dirt-poor in northeastern Alabama, seemingly destined for either the cotton mills or the penitentiary, and instead became a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times. It is the story of Bragg’s father, a hard-drinking man with a murderous temper and the habit of running out on the people who needed him most.” Suggested by @katsalinas12
  • Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Albom – Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie’s lasting gift with the world. Suggestion by @suzyq825
  • My Life in France by Julia Childs – “Julia’s unforgettable story—struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took the Childs across the globe—unfolds with the spirit so key to Julia’s success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of America’s most endearing personalities.” Suggested by @casewis
  • One Day We Will All Be Dead And None Of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul – Scaachi Koul is a Culture Writer for Buzzfeed and this is her debut collection of personal essays that includes passages about growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants, addressing sexism and stereotypes, her career ambitions, and the struggles of navigating a modern day love life.
  • The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – “Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: 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.”
  • Girl, Interrupted by Susan Kaysen – “In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. Kaysen’s memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. “
  • Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala – “In 2004, at a beach resort on the coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala and her family—parents, husband, sons—were swept away by a tsunami. Only Sonali survived to tell their tale. This is her account of the nearly incomprehensible event and its aftermath.”