In this era of social media, more people than ever are laying bare the intimate details of their lives for all to see. But let’s face it, Facebook, Instagram, and other channels give us a largely one-dimensional view of life, which often leaves us yearning for the gritty details behind the pretty pictures and witty prose. That’s why memoirs won’t ever go out of fashion—they allow us a deeper, more authentic insight into the whole person and the cobbled hills and valleys of their lives. This month, we share three of our favorite memoirs with you.
Libbey Maxey, Senior Editor and Literary Reflections Editor, recommends this self-portrait by a legendary author: “I’ve never read a single novel by John le Carré (AKA David Cornwell), but that didn’t stop me from enjoying his memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life. Le Carré’s personable essays arise from his experience as a British spy and diplomat during the Cold War, as a famous novelist finding his footing with film directors and screenwriters, and as the son of an incorrigible conman. Above all, le Carré is a conscientious world traveler who never wanted to write a character that wasn’t completely believable, or a scene that couldn’t have been true. During his lengthy literary career he arranged meetings with Russian mobsters and African warlords, found his way into Yasser Arafat’s circle, and scouted out the places in Panama where a person might get himself into trouble. He narrates those adventures with the quiet humility of one who had some idea of what he wanted to learn, but less idea of what he was getting himself into. His anecdotes range from humorous to sobering, but they’re all interesting. I was hooked from the first page of the introduction—or, rather, from the first five minutes of listening. With le Carré speaking for himself, the audiobook version is not to be missed.”
Social Media Editor Abigail Lalonde, invites you to get to get to know the gritty side of a Hollywood actress, writer, producer, and director in this book: “One of my favorite ‘guilty pleasure’ genres is celebrity memoir. I tend to go for funny females when I need a little break in my reading and want pure entertainment. As an avid Busy Philipps Instagram story fan, I couldn’t wait to read her recently-released memoir This Will Only Hurt a Little. While there are some fun and funny moments in the book, I found myself surprised at the content, the honesty, and how many times I cried when reading. It’s a fast read, doable in a day or two, but it isn’t fluff. Philipps uses the pages to convey her truths, including a date rape, teenage abortion, and even being a mother of a newborn while also being on a television show (read: having to explain to male writers why postpartum and hot tubs don’t mix). She doesn’t hold back, which is what makes the memoir so successful. This Will Only Hurt a Little chronicles how Philipps became the woman she is—one capable of writing an honest take on the realities of being a female in Hollywood. I suggest reading it with a few female friends and discussing it over some nachos and a margarita (or two).”
Kelsey Madges, Profiles Editor, brings us a double-whammy—a memoir and self-help book in one: “I had never done much listening to audiobooks but last summer I found myself with a lot of alone time in the car, and I decided to give them a try. I quickly discovered that my favorite type of audiobooks were celebrity memoirs narrated by the celebrities themselves. In general they were compelling enough to keep my interest and structured in a way that I didn’t lose the sense of the memoir if a few days went by without listening. Of the audiobook memoirs I have savored over the last several months, my favorite, by far, has been Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. It isn’t much of a surprise that the creative mind behind runaway hits like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder would pen an entertaining memoir. As a fan of many of her shows her voice felt at once familiar to me, like a visit with a dear friend. Her reflections on life, family, and her career are funny and sharp. I was both appreciative of and a bit surprised by her thoughts about that elusive career/family balance. Rhimes’ year of yes began after her sister’s observation that she never said yes to anything. The resulting year of saying, “Yes!” changed her life. This book provided inspiration for me to reflect on the ways I may be inadvertently limiting myself and invited me to be more open with my own response to life’s opportunities.”