Merriam-Webster defines “juicy” as “rewarding or profitable, especially financially.” My favorite definition is “interestingly scandalous.” Pair “juicy” and “memoir,” and what you often get is a book that’s awfully hard to put down.
The fifth category for the 2017 Reading Challenge—for those of you who want to put the “oomph” back in your reading life—is “a juicy memoir.” Why? This is your opportunity to intentionally read a genre you might not typically pick up, and to have fun doing it.
When I think juicy, I think interesting—the kind of stories that, were a friend sharing them over coffee, would make you lean in and lower your voice. Also interesting: if you scan the list of titles I included here, many of these interestingly scandalous stories were also hugely profitable for their authors, because publishers are willing to pay big bucks for the intimate details.
Need ideas for this category? These eleven titles are either personal favorites, or high on my personal TBR list, probably because you recommended them. For the challenge, define “juicy” however you like, but definitely choose a memoir—and make it an interesting one.
What are you reading for this category? What titles would you add to the list?
You may know Misty Copeland from her stint as a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance. (Don't hate me—but I’ve never seen it.) Copeland made history by earning a spot as the only African American soloist at the American Ballet Theater. In this memoir she examines her path to success, from her peripatetic childhood to the incredible opportunities ballet has brought her. (I loved the chapter about dancing with Prince.) More info →
TED-talk-turned-book is not the typical publication path for a juicy memoir, but this one sure is. Amanda Palmer's TED talk about what she learned working as a human statue (I kid you not, and it's fascinating) went viral, and a book deal followed soon thereafter. In her memoir/inspirational book, she discusses how relying on others has led to her success in life and all kinds of work, although she's certainly traveling the road less taken. There's some sensitive content, for sure, but I found her insights into the creative life, stardom, and (especially) life with husband Neil Gaiman fascinating. More info →
Interesting and entertaining memoir about Steve Martin's roots and the real story behind his "overnight" success, packed with surprising tidbits about the industry and Martin's personal life. A great show biz biography, especially as read by Martin himself. I was extremely surprised by some of his longstanding personal connections. (Read it and you'll see what I mean!) I featured this title in a round-up of 10 audiobooks that are even better when read by their authors. More info →
The SNL star's first book is packed with juicy behind-the-scenes stories, wise advice, and personal confessions. The reviews on this are decidedly mixed: if you're on the fence, definitely go for the audiobook recording with a full cast including Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart (who reads haikus), and even Amy's parents. More info →
Mindy Kaling's latest essay collection is all about growing up: she covers everything from body image to inner confidence to Hollywood life. When it's good, it's very, very good: my favorite stories were about The Office and Mindy's personal career trajectory, but she also spills on her friendship with B.J. Novak and many more big names in Hollywood. More info →
This is still on my TBR, and you all keep telling me I HAVE to read it! And when I do, I'm definitely doing the audio, because the original actors do all the voices as they carry you behind the scenes of the making of the iconic movie. If you're in the mood for warm, light, and funny, this is for you. More info →
West Wing fans, listen up. I haven't read this one yet, but I downloaded the audiobook this morning on my husband's recommendation. (Stay tuned!) This is a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the Obama White House, through the eyes of someone who worked for him for more than ten years, first supporting him as a freshman senator, then as assistant to the president and director of scheduling, and finally as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff at the White House. Word is this is like your "gossipy older sister" dishing on what really happens behind the political scenes. A good sign: Mindy Kaling bought the rights last month to adapt this for the small screen. More info →
I just finished this audiobook, which I picked up because I kept hearing from other not-rabid fans that this was a great example of a memoir done right. I was a little surprised at the heavy focus on a few personal relationships ... and then I did a little research, and discovered one stipulation of his ten million (!!!) advance was that he dish on the details. I admire his career, but I'm not a devoted fan, and that made the narrative a little slow in places. However, I would have read this just for his insights into music as art: how it's made, what makes it work, that indefinable thing all great musicians have—I could listen to those segments over and over again, and probably will. More info →
I listened to this on audio, at the urging of fellow readers who said it was surprisingly good. (I was inclined to believe them after hearing Lowe's fantastic interview on Off Camera with Sam Jones, one of my favorite podcasts.) I knew very little about Lowe's career; I had only seen St Elmo's Fire and The West Wing before reading this, (I didn't even realize that was him in Wayne's World!), and was constantly surprised by his unusual childhood, his early acting days, the scope of his current work, and how he seems to know everyone. My favorite stories were about JFK Jr and 9/11. This was so easy to listen to I blew through it in a few days. More info →
This is another I haven't read yet, but I am a big Gilmore Girls and especially Parenthood fan, so maybe it's inevitable? I keep hearing this is everything you could want from a celebrity memoir, especially if you love her work, and her reflections on love, life, and work are extremely engaging—especially if you hear her tell it in her own voice on the audiobook. (Psst—if you love Lauren Graham, definitely check out her novel Someday, Someday, Maybe. More info →
The Daily Show star does a masterful job of alternating the deathly serious with the laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes even combining the two, in this collection of coming-of-age essays about his South African childhood. His mischievous childhood and unconventional youth provide wonderful fodder for not-quite-polite (thus the "scandalous" part of this juicy memoir) but always entertaining stories. I highly recommend the audiobook, read by the author. More info →