Call me nosy, or, more politely just curious: I love memoirs. They're a way for me to snoop into other people's business. Reading these true first-person tales, I learn strangers' secrets, see their experiences and gain exposure to worlds I had no idea existed. Here are 10 excellent memoirs that make great gifts. Each is absorbing and easy to read. Most were also fascinating.
Ariel Levy is a comedy writer, and her skill translates into telling about her life, even the crazy-painful parts. Who knew you could guffaw while reading about epidurals? Just buy this. Forget the gift thing. Get it for yourself. It will make you happy.
I can't give you one good reason why you'll like this book: It's by a guy who grew up gay in Texas. Useless, right? Only it is written so well, in such an engaging manner, that you will have a blast following along as Robert Leleux comes into his own. Grab a copy and join the fun.
This book will break your heart. That's why you have to read it. David Sheff, a journalist, did his best to raise his son well. Still, the young man became addicted to methaphetamine — because sometimes kids from good families have troubling outcomes. In his memoir, Sheff gives us two gifts: He spells out how addiction works, including in what ways each drug affects the human brain. And, he writes this story compellingly, with a combination of blatant honestly and solid story-telling skills. Beautiful Boy will stay with you forever.
This book won't change your life. It doesn't even sound interesting. Somehow, though, as this beautiful model-waitress type reckons with America's healthcare and welfare systems following a major injury, you can't help but be drawn into the saga. She's a real person, lively and self-aware. And in pain — physically, but also emotionally from learning how to get rent money and pay off hospital bills when she has no way to make an income. You'll enjoy this, even though I am pretty sure my description won't convince you of that.
If I'm obsessed with knowing people's business, I'm obsessed more so with learning incarcerated people's business. I have never been inside a prison yet I want to know every detail of what it's like. In this quirky memoir, well ... I didn't learn what a traditional prison is like. That's because the author's punishment for his white-collar crime was to be locked up in a reasonably OK Deep South prison that had evolved from being a leper colony. During White's stay, the place was still a leper colony, doubling as a lowish-security prison. White tells a delightful story based on this painful chapter of his life, bringing colorful characters into your world. You'll kind of have a blast following his year-long saga.
Hoo boy. Who can forget this story? Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped when she was 11. More than 18 years later, she was found alive and well at her kidnapper's house, barely a prisoner. What happened? What was her life like? Why didn't she escape once her captor became less strict? It all makes sense when you hear Dugard share her saga. I repeat: hoo boy.
You hear about these religious wackadoos protesting in the most offensive ways: at the funerals of innocent people who died tragically, often. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church promote themselves as good Christians, while most good Christians see them as anything but. Now you can take a walk inside their world. Lauren Drain's mother married into the sect, and the younger Drain was an active member of the community ... until she moved to the other side of the proverbial fence. I thank her for showing me what life is like in Westboro world.
Time for another light one. OK, not light. Not at all. But compared to one girl kidnapped and another brainwashed by haters, Roxane Gay's brutal battle with obesity seems like fluff. Oh, it is so not fluff. Gay is brave enough to share a traumatic event that turned her life from content to crazy-making, and shows how that experience led to her make piss-poor eating, drinking, drug and sex-partner choices as she grew up. Now educated and successful professionally and personally, Gay has combatted a slew of challenges. Her story shows the rest of us what it's like to live with obesity, and how a sole individual can make her own life happier.
Unless you're brand new to memoirs, you've probably read The Glass Castle and the next book down, Orange Is the New Black. If not, stop reading and start ordering. The Glass Castle is an absolutely delightful story about a horrid childhood. Well, not horrid. Jeannette Walls and her siblings were loved, even adored, and in many ways treated with exemplary respect. Still, her parents chose to live frugally, so frugally that their kids were frequently hungry. They floated from home to home, were neglected at times ... oh, the who-woulda-thunk-it story Walls tells. She relates this highly unusual tale exceptionally well. Grab a copy. You won't be able to put it down.
If you watch the TV series based on this memoir or if you don't: ignore. I read the book before the TV show came out. I flew through this book during a cruise where I should have been gawking at the scenery. I stopped watching the TV series after three episodes because it doesn't ring true. Here's the story: Piper Kerman transported drugs illegally as a young woman, and years later had to check herself into jail for the crime. She comes across as a totally normal, educated, career-oriented New Yorker ... who had to live in a dirty stinky prison for a year. You get to know her jailmates, see what it's like to be a newbie, and learn about educational opportunities in the lower-security prison world. You also get to see inside another type of prison, the kind where angry women sit in jail cells all day with no exercise, no classes and no job training. This is a great book, fun to read and eye-opening for those of us lucky to be "on the outside," as (I think) they say.
10 Excellent Memoirs that Make Great Gifts -- and Way More
Need more gift ideas? Little by little, I am compiling links to my very favorite books and thing-things on my Amazon Influencer page. I may make a penny or two if you end up buying something through the link (tally so far: $0.00 in cash), but I'll neither know nor care if you buy them elsewhere. My aim is to share the pleasure of books and objects that I like. Please, enjoy!