I never thought I was one for memoirs, preferring instead to rely on trusty fiction for my reading pleasure. But honestly, memoir has gripped me the last couple years and I think it’s largely because the way in which memoirs are told has taken a creative turn. They’re told in vignettes or essay-form. They’re framed by science or history or art. They read like short stories or political think-pieces. They are compelling. This season promises some truly great memoir (or memoir-esque) picks.
Here are the 7 that have made it on to my must-read memoirs list:
A Mind Spread Out On The Ground
by Alicia Elliott
I just started reading this collection of essays from Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott, and I’m finding it difficult to put down. She has me adding to my reading list at every turn by sharing beloved authors and she dives into her own history while also considering the extremely problematic relationship between Canada and Indigenous communities. The essay I read last night, Dark Matters, weaves together a history of dark matter with the heartbreaking outcomes of both the Tina Fontaine and Colton Boushie verdicts with such thought and emotion. It’s smart and thoughtful and unflinching, and I’m so glad Elliott is sharing her stories.
We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir
by Samra Habib
Though I’ve yet to crack this book from Samra Habib, it promises to be an important exploration of identity that touches on sexuality, racism, poverty, religion and art. I’m excited to learn about Habib’s journey from Pakistan to Canada and her navigation of family expectations in a new country.
How to Fail: Everything I’ve Learned From Things Going Wrong
by Elizabeth Day
This book, based on a podcast, is all about failure—something plenty of us can relate to. Sure, it’s a memoir from Elizabeth Day, but it’s also a bit of a guide too, exploring topics like dating, work, anger and friendship. I’m hoping to laugh a little, see a little of myself, and hopefully learn to reframe failure as learning.
No Happy Endings
by Nora McInerny
Losing a husband, a father and an unborn child in one year is a lot. It’s enough to crush just about anyone. But, years later, Nora McInerny is reflecting on that loss and sharing that it’s not always about moving on, but moving forward instead.
Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir
by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman
Violinist Hindman lands the gig of a lifetime playing with a professional ensemble in New York. But then, she quickly learns, the whole thing is a sham. Not the job—the ensemble themselves, who don’t actually play. The music comes from a recording and each performance the “musicians” pretend to play for an audience that isn’t able to tell that what they’re hearing isn’t live. The story sounds fake, but it really isn’t, and what follows in this memoir is a coming-of-age in a profoundly weird scenario.
I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings,
Vulnerabilities and Other Stuff
by Abbi Jacobson
Though this came out late last year, it recently made it onto my must-read list largely because as the end of the hit show Broad City wrapped up, I needed something to soften the blow. As you might have guessed (or already know) Abbi Jacobson is one-half of the Broad City duo known as Abbi and Ilana and this book delves into her experience travelling across the country solo.
What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About edited
by Michele Filgate
This might not be your typical memoir, but it does share personal and non-fiction stories which is enough in my book. Expect to read from many different writers who are sharing their relationships with their mothers. Obviously, the stories here are as varied as the relationships they depict and offer up a mirror to our own relationships—however the state of them may be.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Alexandra Donaldson)