Series: 16 memorable memoirs in essays, stories, and snapshots

I adored this book; I wish I could download it into my brain. Kelly talks in depth about how after her friend Liz was diagnosed with cancer, they both pushed past the surface stuff to forge a powerful and enduring friendship. (The dedication page makes me cry every time: "I wish we could have done this together, Lizzard, though in a way, we sort of did.") This book will make you want to be a better friend, and also give you insight into how. Personal, heartfelt, and really really good.
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In her entertaining new essay collection, Philpott shares real, relatable stories that feel highly personal yet manage to encompass the universal experience of managing a life that, at times, grows unwieldy. The situations Philpott writes of will be familiar to many readers; after all, we’ve lived them ourselves. But she articulates her own experience in a way that makes you see it again, for the first time—and for that, I am grateful. Funny and poignant, smart and witty, and highly recommended for fans of Kelly Corrigan, Glennon Doyle, and Beth Ann Fennelly.
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From the publisher: "In these twelve deeply personal, connected essays, Bernard details the experience of growing up black in the south with a family name inherited from a white man, surviving a random stabbing at a New Haven coffee shop, marrying a white man from the North and bringing him home to her family, adopting two children from Ethiopia, and living and teaching in a primarily white New England college town. Each of these essays sets out to discover a new way of talking about race and of telling the truth as the author has lived it. 'Blackness is an art, not a science. It is a paradox: intangible and visceral; a situation and a story. It is the thread that connects these essays, but its significance as an experience emerges randomly, unpredictably. . . . Race is the story of my life, and therefore black is the body of this book.'"
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If you love heartfelt, thoughtful memoirs that also make you laugh, then you must pick up this collection of essays by pop-culture critic R. Eric Thomas. Eric shares stories from childhood to adulthood, detailing his coming-of-age with bracing candor and hilarious honesty. He writes about discovering his identity, feeling like an outsider, and finding his voice, all while injecting hilarious pop culture references, bits of wisdom, and his signature wit. While he relays plenty of difficult experiences, his tone is persistently hopeful. I highly recommend the audiobook version, narrated by the author, for full humorous effect.
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The debut memoir from Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess is a compilation of the best stories from her blog plus fresh content. Bless Jenny for being willing to share her most mortifying moments with readers because she makes them laugh-out-loud funny. The chapters have titles like “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband” and “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane” to give you an idea of what we’re working with. Heads up: with f-bombs galore and all manner of sexual references, as well as discussion (and photos) of taxidermy experiments, this content is not for everyone.
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This is the true story of the twenty-year relationship between a New York writer and a gentlemanly London bookseller, as told through their correspondence. A must-read classic for bibliophiles, you'll feel compelled to discuss the heartwarming way books bring people together with all your book-loving buddies. If you're craving a gentle, warm, and witty read, this short book belongs on your nightstand.
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From the publisher: "Bess Kalb, Emmy-nominated TV writer and New Yorker contributor, saved every voicemail her grandmother Bobby Bell ever left her. Bobby was a force—irrepressible, glamorous, unapologetically opinionated. Bobby doted on Bess; Bess adored Bobby. Then, at ninety, Bobby died. But in this debut memoir, Bobby is speaking to Bess once more, in a voice as passionate as it ever was in life. Her grandma Bobby was with her all the way—she was the light of Bess's childhood and her fiercest supporter, giving Bess unequivocal love, even if sometimes of the toughest kind. In Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, Bobby reminds Bess of the experiences they shared, and she delivers—in phone calls, texts, and unforgettable heart-to-hearts brought vividly to the page—her signature wisdom: If the earth is cracking behind you, you put one foot in front of the other. Never. Buy. Fake. Anything. I swear on your life every word of this is true."
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Gabrielle Union’s memoir-in-essays is a shining example in the sea of celebrity memoirs. She fearlessly shares stories about race, beauty standards, Hollywood, and her own history of sexual assault. The result is moving in many places and laugh-out-loud funny in others. Not everyone can strike the right balance but Union nails it. Her follow-up memoir, <a href=https://amzn.to/3D2Q6of><em>You Got Anything Stronger?: Stories</em></a>, is out now.
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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.
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From the publisher: "Kat Chow has always been unusually fixated on death. She worried constantly about her parents dying---especially her mother. A vivacious and mischievous woman, Kat's mother made a morbid joke that would haunt her for years to come: when she died, she'd like to be stuffed and displayed in Kat's future apartment in order to always watch over her. After her mother dies unexpectedly from cancer, Kat, her sisters, and their father are plunged into a debilitating, lonely grief. With a distinct voice that is wry and heartfelt, Kat weaves together a story of the fallout of grief that follows her extended family as they emigrate from China and Hong Kong to Cuba and America."
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I actually read this before our current Quick Lit window, but I haven't yet given it the attention it deserves here on the blog, and it's such a gem I wanted to make sure it was on your radar for the 2018 Reading Challenge, perhaps as "a book you can read in a day", or "a memoir, biography, or book of creative nonfiction." These 52 "micro-memoirs" are by turns quirky, witty, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny, and so different from pretty much anything else I've ever read.
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From the publisher: "World-renowned poet and Professor of African American Studies at U.C., Berkeley, June Jordan writes a deeply personal memoir of her formative years. June recalls her childhood experiences and reveals the duality of her parents’ influence on her stellar achievement as a poet. The first 12 years in Harlem were both peaceful and tumultuous for June, as she was raised the daughter of dirt-poor West Indian immigrants. She was called 'son' by her demanding and sometimes brutal father who made her rigorous education his primary concern. June’s quiet mother inspired her devotion to words and rhythm by reading Mother Goose nursery rhymes and associating specific words with parts of June's body. June's memoir is interspersed with poetry that reflects the joy and pain of her daily experiences. Soldier is a beautiful and genuine portrait of a girl growing up in post-World War II Harlem."
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In O'Farrell's memoir-of-sorts, she tells the story of her life through seventeen brushes with death. I didn't quite believe the premise when I first heard it (Seventeen brushes? Really?), but O'Farrell doesn't mess around with this heart-pounding collection, in which she recounts near-misses with car accidents, murderers, anaphylaxis, a childhood bout with encephalitis, and more. There's obviously some sensitive content here, but I'd like to especially point out that O'Farrell's heart-rending essay on miscarriage is some of the finest writing I've seen on the subject (a subject that's not covered enough in literature).
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This is one of the best things I've ever listened to—which I did NOT expect from an essay collection. Bragg reads 70-ish pieces of his nonfiction work, most of which have been previously published. Some are just a few minutes long; the longest runs for about fifteen. He covers A LOT of ground: football, fishing, book tour, his mama's cornbread, wardrobe concerns, New Orleans cuisine, natural disasters. These stories are compact, wistful, funny, and poignant. So good.
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