Memoirs can tell us a lot about the author and their life, but also about ourselves. Especially if we push ourselves to learn about those outside of our own culture or who have a differing worldview.
Reading about someone else’s life can be interesting, challenging, and mind-expanding. As they say, you can truly know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes.
Find 7 of the best and most inspirational memoirs of recent times in our list below.
Dreaming in a Nightmare – Jeremiah Emmanuel
“My name is Jeremiah Emmanuel. I’m twenty years old. I was born and raised in south London, in an area affected by crime, poverty and a lack of opportunities. This was the world that I knew growing up. It was a world where violence was accepted and prison was expected. A world in which your best friend could vanish overnight. But as I got older, I began to experience another world. This was a world where people listened to you, where opinions were heard, where doors were opened, where opportunities were everywhere. Dreaming in a Nightmare is the story of those two worlds, and how it is possible to move from one to the other. It is both an urgent exploration of a growing national crisis, and a guide to overcoming the obstacles young people should not have to face. It is my story and the story of my generation. It’s a book that I hope will change your world.”
A Street Cat Named Bob – James Bowen
“When street musician James Bowen found an injured cat curled up in the hallway of his apartment building, he had no idea how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London, barely making enough money to feed himself, and the last thing he needed was a pet. Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent but very sick animal, whom he named Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining that he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.”
Continuum – Chella Man
“What constructs in your life must you unlearn to support inclusivity and respect for all?” This is a question that artist, actor, and activist Chella Man wrestles with in this powerful and honest essay. A story of coping and resilience, Chella journeys through his experiences as a deaf, transgender, genderqueer, Jewish person of color, and shows us that identity lies on a continuum — a beautiful, messy, and ever-evolving road of exploration.”
The Times I Knew I was Gay – Eleanor Crewes
“Ellie always had questions about who she was and how she fit in. As a girl, she wore black, obsessed over Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and found dating boys much more confusing than many of her friends did. As she grew older, so did her fears and a deep sense of unbelonging. From her first communion to her first girlfriend via a swathe of self-denial, awkward encounters, and everyday courage, Ellie offers a fresh and funny self-portrait of a young woman becoming herself.”
I Am A Girl From Africa – Elizabeth Nyamayaro
“When severe drought hit her village in Zimbabwe, Elizabeth Nyamayaro, then only eight, had no idea that this moment of utter devastation would come to define her life’s purpose. Unable to move from hunger and malnourishment, she encountered a United Nations aid worker who gave her a bowl of warm porridge and saved her life—a transformative moment that inspired Elizabeth to dedicate herself to giving back to her community, her continent, and the world.”
The Secret To Superhuman Strength – Alison Bechdel
“The more Bechdel tries to improve herself, the more her self appears to be the thing in her way. She turns for enlightenment to Eastern philosophers and literary figures, including Beat writer Jack Kerouac, whose search for self-transcendence in the great outdoors appears in moving conversation with the author’s own. This gifted artist and not-getting-any-younger exerciser comes to a soulful conclusion. The secret to superhuman strength lies not in six-pack abs, but in something much less clearly defined: facing her own non-transcendent but all-important interdependence with others.”
The Diary of a Drag Queen – Crystal Rasmussen
“Northern, working-class and shagging men three times her age, Crystal writes candidly about her search for ‘the one’; sleeping with an editor in an attempt to become a world famous journalist; getting hired and fired by a well-known fashion magazine; being torn between losing weight and gorging on KFC; and her need for constant sexual satisfaction (and where that takes her).
Charting her day-to-day adventures over the course of a year, we encounter tucks, twists and sucks, heinous overspending and endless nights spent sprinting from problem to problem in a full face of makeup.
This is a place where the previously unspeakable becomes the commendable – a unique portrayal of the queer experience.”