To Stop a Warlord
Shannon Sedgwick Davis
This memoir describes Shannon Sedgwick Davis’s extraordinary work in Africa against the warlord Joseph Kony who murdered, abducted, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Central and East Africa. Sedgwick Davis aimed to end that war—and this tells the story of how she worked with others and collaborated to accomplish it.
Black Is the Body
Racism is still a serious issue in the US, and Emily Bernard confronts the issue head-on in her memoir. Bernard grew up Black in the South, and her race has defined her all her life. But being Black is more than just skin color; it’s an identity, a story people tell about you. This book examines the intricacies of what that means.
The Master Plan
How does a person go from life behind bars on a murder charge to an entrepreneur and mentor? It’s thanks to a Master Plan, which Chris Wilson devised to turn his life around after going to prison for committing murder. Now, he shares that plan with readers, showing them how they too can find a new path.
Love You Hard
Abby Maslin’s life changed forever after three men robbed her husband, beat him, and left him for dead. TC suffered a traumatic brain injury, unable to walk or speak. This memoir is about caregiving, unconditional love, and the journey back from tragedy and choosing joy over sorrow.
Michelle Obama is still incredibly popular, which is probably why her memoir has resonated so much. She candidly describes her childhood and upbringing, her romance with and marriage to Barack, and her time as First Lady in this searing, resonant, and incredibly personal book.
He Wanted the Moon
In this memoir, Mimi Baird goes on a quest to learn more about her father, Dr. Perry Baird, who did groundbreaking research into manic depression. Unfortunately, he himself also suffered from the disease and he was sidelined, his accomplishments almost forgotten. That is, until Mimi Baird becomes determined to set the record straight.
In the summer of 1970, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, and James Beard met in Provence and continued corresponding across oceans about how food was cooked and prepared while also confiding personal struggles to one another. Now, Fisher’s grandnephew has collected their letters to create this stunning portrayal of a seminal summer.
Frances Mayes might be best known for her memoirs about Tuscany, but this reflection takes readers back to her early years growing up in Fitzgerald, Georgia. Mayes looks at how home and landscape shape us all and how we are defined by the places we came from.
All That You Leave Behind
Erin Lee Carr
When Erin Lee Carr’s father, David Carr, died suddenly, she turned to his letters and their correspondence in search of an answer to her grief. What ensues is a search for meaning in the notes her father left her, as Carr looks for a way to move forward without her father’s love and sage advice.
In Love with the World
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
This memoir follows Buddhist monk Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche as he struggles to unlearn everything he knows. When he embarks on a wandering retreat, he doesn’t realize that the teachings he’s embraced all his life could actually hold him back. It’s only when he’s at his lowest that he figures out a path forward.
Riding the Elephant
This collection of essays from the former host of The Late Late Show is a chronicle of Ferguson’s ability to constantly defy the odds. Each of these stories explains just a little about how Craig Ferguson came to be the person he is and shows off the good (and bad) times he’s had along the way.
No Walls and the Recurring Dream
Ani DiFranco is both a celebrated singer-songwriter and a renowned activist. In this memoir, she chronicles how she became both. This is her coming-of-age story, which will resonate with anyone who aspires to activism, calls themselves a feminist, and makes a habit of questioning the rules.
More Than Enough
Elaine Welteroth is best known for the person who revamped the magazine Teen Vogue, and now she has a part-memoir, part-guide on how to come of age and break barriers. She relates her own story of being the only Black women in most rooms and how she came to be the leader a movement for young people.
Love Thy Neighbor
Ayaz Virji, M.D.
What does it mean to be a Muslim in rural America, to serve as a doctor to people who hate you for the color of your skin? That’s what Dr. Ayaz Virji faces when he moves from the East Coast to rural Minnesota, where he contends with the worst human impulses while trying to make a home for his family.
Life in the Garden
Penelope Lively has spent her life in gardens of all kinds, and she chronicles them in the memoir of the places she’s lived. From Egypt to Oxford, Lively takes a look at what gardening can mean to an intrepid newbie or a master with a green thumb and how gardens can heal the soul.
Notes from a Young Black Chef
This memoir is about constantly being told you aren’t enough and triumphing over people’s expectations. Food was what saved Chef Kwame, a contestant on Top Chef. It was what helped him break out of a cycle that could have consumed him, from the Bronx to Nigeria to the kitchens of world-famous restaurants.
Robert A. Caro
Robert Caro has won two Pulitzer Prizes, and in this memoir he recounts writing his lauded books. In penning these histories, Caro spoke truth to power and investigated how power can transform and mold people, for good and bad. Now, he collects all the wisdom he’s gained to share with his readers.
Dustin Lance Black
How do we find the courage to accept the people we love as they are, not as we think they should be? That’s what Dustin Lance Black’s memoir faces head-on. Raised Mormon, Black is gay and is an LGBTQ+ activist. But it’s his relationship with his mother that’s shaped him and been the rock he’s leaned on.
Call Me American
Abdi Nor Iftin
What does it mean to be an American? For some, it’s to look and act a certain way. For others, it’s a dream and a path to a better life. Abdi Nor Iftin celebrates what this country is supposed to stand for in his memoir of a Somali childhood and eventual immigration to the US.
Once More We Saw Stars
In this memoir of grief, Jason Greene recounts the freak accident that led to the death of his two-year-old daughter. But he recognizes that there is life beyond the pain and works to move through it one step at a time. This is a memoir of courage and resilience when faced with the unthinkable.
Seymour M. Hersh
In an era when journalists are being laid off and newsrooms are being downsized, this memoir from celebrated reporter Seymour Hersh recounts an astounding career on the front lines of journalism. Hersh tells the powerful stories behind his reporting, reminding us all of the importance of this profession.
The Edge of Every Day
Marin Sardy’s memoir illuminates the lines of schizophrenia that has run though generations of her family. This book combines science, art, and more to tell a full story about what it means to have this legacy and live with the condition, as well as how the mentally ill are treated by society.
Why do memoirs captivate us to such a degree? Perhaps it’s getting that honest insight into someone else’s life. They take our minds off our own issues and put us in someone else’s shoes. They inspire compassion and open our world view.
But memoirs also tell us truths about ourselves that are hard to face. They illuminate the struggles we are experiencing in our own lives and help us find a path forward through the darkness. If you’re looking for a new memoir to add to your list, try one of these best memoirs from the last 10 years; we can’t guarantee you’ll love them but you will be changed by them.