Recommended Reads: Memoirs


I love memoirs. Usually I tend to prefer fiction over non-fiction, but memoirs seem to be the exception since they often read like a novel. It’s rather astonishing to know that the people and events on the pages are real, especially since so many memoirs are often about resilience. I think reading about other people’s lives helps us put our own into perspective and develop a greater sense of empathy.

Here is a list of my all-time favourite memoirs (in no order). Please be aware that some contain difficult subject matter.

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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

In this book Walls shares her unconventional childhood and her parent’s stubborn nonconformity. This is a story of ‘triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave Walls the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms’. 

If you’re interested in reading about overcoming childhood poverty and abuse, this is your book.

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Every Falling Star: The Story of How I Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee

Although directed toward young adults, this book is a great read for any age. Lee retells his experience of living in North Korea, surviving alone on the streets at the age of twelve, and eventually escaping.

If you’re interested in reading about life in North Korea, this is your book.

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Cahalan tells the ‘astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen’. I really enjoyed how the author described certain medical studies in a way that was accessible to the audience without using overwhelming medical jargon. This book will really make you think about what makes you 'you'.

If you’re interested in reading about medical mysteries and mental health, this is your book.

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Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis

This is one of my all-time favourite books, period. Even if you’re not a huge Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, Kiedis’ story is jaw-dropping and well-written. ‘A story of dedication and debauchery, of intrigue and integrity, of recklessness and redemption.’

If you’re interested in reading about pop culture and music, this is your book.

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Breaking Night: My Journey From Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray

This is another one of my favourite books about resilience, independence, and courage. After surviving a childhood with drug-addicted parents, Murray becomes homeless at the age of fifteen. Despite it all, she finishes high school, wins a scholarship, and graduates from Harvard.

If you’re interested reading about resilience, this is your book.


A Mountain of Crumbs: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Elena Gorokhova

‘A Mountain of Crumbs is the moving story of a young Soviet girl's discovery of the hidden truths of adulthood and her country's profound political deception.’ Amongst the political significance of this book, readers learn about Gorokhova’s everyday life in Russia and how she found beauty in the smallest moments.

If you’re interested in reading about Soviet Russia, this is your book.

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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed

To be honest the amount of hype this book got ruined it for me, not to mention the movie with Reese Witherspoon was less than enjoyable. However, I did find Strayed’s story exceptionally powerful when I first read it and was immediately overwhelmed by the urge to go hike a mountain in search of myself.

If you’re interested in reading a popular memoir that’s also a movie, this is your book.

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Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir

‘A gripping memoir that reads like a political thriller--the story of Malika Oufkir's turbulent and remarkable life.’ Set in Morocco, Oufkir talks about the fifteen years of exile her family spent in a desert penal colony and their daring escape to freedom.

If you’re interested in reading about deprivation and never-ending courage, this is your book.

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Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

I didn’t know this book was a memoir when I first started reading it, so I was absolutely shocked when I found out. After being sent to live with his mother’s psychiatrist at the age of twelve, ‘Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with [a] bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed.’ 

If you’re interested in reading an absolutely bizarre story, this is your book.

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Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

This Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir has been deemed a classic for many years. McCourt writes about ‘wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig's head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire’ during the depression era. Yet despite his hardships, McCourt ‘lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance and remarkable forgiveness.’ 

If you’re interested in reading historical fiction, this is your book.

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North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood by Cea Sunrise Person

Yet another all-time favourite, North of Normal is a ‘compelling memoir of a childhood spent with [a] dysfunctional counter-culture family in the Canadian wilderness—a searing story of physical, emotional, and psychological survival.’ This book is hilarious and heartbreaking all at once.

If you’re interested in reading about alternative lifestyles, this is your book.

Have a favourite memoir? Share it with me in the comments below!

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