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18 Memoirs That Will Change The Way You See The World

As recommended by BuzzFeed Book Club members.

Posted on July 8, 2019, at 5:13 p.m. ET

Last month we asked BuzzFeed Book Club members to tell us about their favorite memoirs, in honor of our June selection, Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer. Here are some of the books that got the most love:

1. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung

Harper Perennial

"My current favorite memoir is First They Killed My Father. I just finished it this past weekend. It was FANTASTIC. I hurt for the author and her family for having to go through all of that pain and heartbreak." —Abby M.

2. Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir by Mary Higgins Clark

Simon & Schuster

"One memoir I love is Kitchen Privileges by Mary Higgins Clark. Initially, I thought Clark was a longtime successful writer who probably knew all along what she wanted to do. I never considered how long it would take her to publish and how much I would relate to her story. Clark had many struggles and had to change plans several times to make things work and to make ends meet. She didn't come to writing early and had already had several careers when she was finally published.

"I think this memoir speaks to perseverance in a strong way, partly because Clark doesn't preach about it — she just tells a story of how she kept trying different things and finally made the choice to write. Anyone struggling in life and/or struggling to be a writer can relate in so many ways to this book." —Michelle L.

3. My Father's Daughter: A Memoir by Tina Sinatra with Jeff Coplon

Simon & Schuster

"I loved Tina Sinatra's memoir, My Father's Daughter. It was completely heartfelt and riveting." —Jaime G.

4. My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

Anchor

"I've been getting into memoirs this last year or so. Some of my most recent include I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott, I Might Regret This by Abbi Jacobson, and Educated by Tara Westover. My favorite, though, is a classic in the genre: My Life in Paris by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme. I fell in love with Child's personality that emanated from the pages. She was such a free spirit and incredibly vivacious. She's also inspirational in that she started her cooking career fairly late in her life, but became one of the most famous chefs in the world." —Gabrielle B.

5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Spiegel & Grau

"My girlfriends and I read Between the World and Me for our book club last year, and I was very moved by it. As a white woman, there are just some things I will never be able understand about the black experience. This book was a reminder about just how much I don't know — even though I call myself a liberal and an ally — about just how much pain I will never have to experience. It was tough to read because of all of the emotions and feelings associated with it, but I am so glad that I did. It reminded me that we cannot be complacent, and that we cannot assume to understand the true pain of others." —Olivia N.

6. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Random House

"My husband is finally getting around to reading Educated, and he asked me just tonight to remind him why I loved it so much and why I found the book life altering. In a nutshell, Tara’s story is so inspiring and real. She survives such a challenging childhood (which she accepted at face value), only to be reborn as a young adult. Tara teaches us to never take anything for granted and to recognize there are so many ways to live, that we all have choices, that some of the most heart-wrenching choices compel us to become better than we know how to be. She reminds us that in order to truly live, we need to keep growing and be open to change even when it’s painful and we aren’t sure where life will take us. Tara Westover's memoir reminds us that you can still find love and joy even when life is imperfectly imperfect." —Amy V.

7. Personal History by Katharine Graham

Vintage

"This remains my favorite memoir because it was honest and self-deprecating. I read it just after reading a hard-hitting biography of her. She was candid about her weaknesses and flaws and did not shy way from sharing mistakes that she had made in her personal and professional life. She was tougher on herself than the biography! And it was all her. You could hear her voice in the writing." —Annmarie P.

8. The Prison Book Club by Ann Walmsley

Penguin

"You say 'memoir,' my mind automatically goes to The Prison Book Club by Ann Walmsley. It's about a woman who goes on to open book clubs in Canada prisons. I saw the lives of prisoners being changed for the better with every book they read, learning things from each character. And we also see the author learning to deal with her PTSD from being mugged a few years earlier. A good read, indeed." —Sai R.

9. The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir by Maude Julien

Little, Brown and Company

"I love the memoir The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien. It’s incredible the way she was able to make sense of the world in a devastating situation — her parents raised her in isolation, abusing her to 'eliminate weakness.' The memoir is extremely fast-paced, which I liked, because it reflected how childhood — even one as extraordinary as Julien’s — goes by." —Hayley S.

10. Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters by Annie Choi

Harper Perennial

"I LOVED Happy Birthday or Whatever. It perfectly showed the relationship between first-generation Korean parents and their American-born children." —Esther Yoo

11. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Vintage

"Wild by Cheryl Strayed was a magical book to read. I am glad I read it before the movie came out so my imagination was not tarnished yet. It is a raw and beautiful story of a woman taking control of her own life!" —Christine H.

12. My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper

Scribner

"I really like Ellie Kemper's My Squirrel Days. I love memoirs that make me LAUGH!! —Amy K.

"I loved, and cried through, The Meaning of Matthew. My mom is gay, and there was a time that I very much feared for her safety. This tragic event was part of what shaped my fear. It was also a part of what made me such a big ally and fighter for social justice." —Jesse H.

14. and 15. All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Vintage, Harper

"There are two memoirs that I particularly liked, both by Southerners. I read All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg when it first was published many years ago and just recently reread it for my book club. I had forgotten how much I like it. The other is Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, which I know is controversial to many, but it, too, had real meaning for me. Although I didn't grow up in a broken home or around addiction, I did grow up with only the bare necessities. Perhaps that is why I identified with the authors of these two books." —Lana Maskus

16. And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O'Connell

Little, Brown and Company

"My favorite memoir that I’ve read recently is And Now We Have Everything. I’m a new mom and find it super comforting to read about other moms’ experiences, especially when they don’t gloss over the many difficulties that come with parenting." —Sonya P.

17. In Pieces by Sally Field

Grand Central Publishing

"I adored Sally Field's recent memoir, In Pieces. Although it deals with really heavy subject matter — sexual violence, childhood trauma — which made me step away for a break at times, her writing is so captivating. It brings you right into the moment, even moments that took place decades ago, and brings you along on her journey of admitting truths to herself about all of the trauma she has experienced. Her descriptions of acting — as her emotional release, her true love, her craft — were beautiful, especially interwoven with what was occurring in her personal life. What a remarkable woman. (PS: This book made me call my mom and thank her for being my mom.)" —Abby F.

18. Becoming by Michelle Obama

Crown

"My current favorite is Michelle Obama's Becoming. Her writing style is truly wonderful, and it's so interesting to learn about her life apart from Barack's. She also has a ton of inspiring things to say. Her writing about what it means to become a mother definitely had me tearing up!" —Hannah G.

Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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Nina Patane / BuzzFeed


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