14 Memoirs To Give (Or Keep) This Holiday Season

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Are you a memoir person? Some people swear they’re not, but we wonder if perhaps they just haven’t met the right memoir yet. These autobiographical books range from celebrity retrospectives to real-life reflections by regular people (who just happen to write really, really well). We dare you not to find at least one you’ll want to read yourself or give a friend. Have a look:

Recommended by Catherine

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth Cover ImageHeartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth 

This is a must-read for anyone who was intrigued by Hillbilly Elegy but wanted a more rounded view of the issue. Also a must-read for anyone who loves a good memoir.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Congratulations, Who Are You Again?: A Memoir Cover ImageCongratulations, Who Are You Again? A Memoir 

Give this one to everyone who has ever had a dream, especially if that dream was to become a writer. In Harrison Scott Key’s new memoir, he shows how youthful obsessions and decades of work finally led up to the publication of his first book, The World’s Largest Man — and all that happened (and didn’t) afterward. A brutally funny reflection on how it feels to get exactly what you wanted.

Recommended by Steve

Heavy: An American Memoir Cover ImageHeavy: An American Memoir

What does a radically honest reckoning with the past look like? It looks like Heavy, a memoir that confronts trauma — both personal and political — and never turns away when the answers are painful. Beautiful, hard-earned, and illuminating.


Becoming Cover ImageBecoming 

If you’ve ever dreamed you’re best friends with Michelle Obama, this book will only cement the fantasy. The popular former First Lady dishes about life in the White House, yes, but what makes this memoir so endearing is her warmth and candor in discussing the non-Presidential parts of life: childhood, parenthood, work, and family.

(Note: Every time we receive a new shipment of this book, it flies off the shelves within days — sometimes hours! Feel free to give us a buzz at 615-953-2243 before you stop by to make sure we have it, or order online and we’ll ship it out as soon as we can.)

A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety Cover ImageA Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety 

On her blog Ann Patchett says, “The book is about who Don was and how he saw the world. I’m here to tell you there is nothing better. Every superfluous word is stripped away and what is left is the pure force of life.”

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays Cover ImageHow to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays 

Nashville was lucky enough to meet Alexander Chee when he visited for the Southern Festival of Books. His memoir-in-essays is all about identity — how he discovered who he is as a novelist, gay man, activist, and friend. It’s a must-read for all writers and for any reader who loves engaging first-person narratives.

In Pieces Cover ImageIn Pieces 

Sally Field knocked our socks off when she came to town to discuss her long-awaited memoir with Nashville readers this fall. We’re still talking about this surprising, candid story of her life, told as only she could tell it.

Educated: A Memoir Cover ImageEducated: A Memoir 

If your book club hasn’t read this one yet, go ahead and put it on your list for 2019. It’s the true story everyone was raving about this year — Tara Westover’s account of escaping her violent, survivalist upbringing to seek out an education, ultimately earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge University.

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready Cover ImageAnd Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready 

Give this funny, vulnerable memoir to everyone you know who’s expecting a baby or thinking about having a baby in the future. And while you’re at it, get a copy for yourself to keep on your shelf of real stories about regular lives, the memoirs you turn to when you need to know you’re not the only person feeling what you’re feeling.

Calypso Cover ImageCalypso 

He’s always a Parnassus favorite, and for good reason: his events keep us open past midnight, laughing along as he tells raucous stories and holds conversations with every person in the signing line. Calypso is as hilarious and brilliant as every essay collection David Sedaris has ever published — maybe even better, as it delves into topics like aging, grief, and caring for elderly parents. (Signed copies available while they last!)

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved Cover ImageEverything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved 

Several of us loved this one, but bookseller Betsy put it best: “I read it in one sitting and was ugly-crying and laughing at the same time. Think When Breath Becomes Air in conversation with There Is No Good Card for This.

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death Cover ImageI Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death 

In this exquisitely written collection of memories — ranging from the time she encountered a disturbed stranger on a hiking trail, to an ocean swim that turned scary, to the arrival of a baby with a mysterious medical condition — Maggie O’Farrell holds readers spellbound. You might go into it thinking, “Seventeen near-death experiences? Really?” But what O’Farrell shows us is that we’re all walking the line between life and death every day, and that occasionally we come closer than we may think to crossing it.

You're on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir Cover ImageYou’re on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir 

Sissy loved this one, which she recommends for anyone who’s open to a fun, unpredictable reading experience. She does offer one caveat: “If you find [Parker Posey] interesting you will love this book. If you’re not familiar with her work, you may become very confused.” Fair enough.

Small Fry Cover ImageSmall Fry 

Andy says demand has been high for Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ memoir this fall, likely because of all the rave reviews — and the public’s fascination with her father, Apple founder Steve Jobs. If interviews like this one on NPR piqued your curiosity, get the book and discover the whole story.

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir Cover ImageAll You Can Ever Know: A Memoir 

This book asks, “What happens when an adoptee grows up?” Adopted from Korean American parents by a white couple as a baby, author Nicole Chung grapples with the meaning of her past and present as she starts a family of her own and considers her future. Several of us on staff loved it, as did lots of critics — and Trevor Noah of The Daily Show.

Make sure it gets there! Holiday ordering deadlines for shipped gifts: 

  • Media mail rate: December 13
  • Priority rate: December 19

Want it gift wrapped? We’re happy to wrap any orders FREE — just let us know in the “notes” section at checkout. (All wrapped gifts must be shipped via priority mail.)

Today’s post is part of our series of holiday gift lists! Coming up next: Our favorite books for kids, from babies to middle schoolers! Make sure you’re subscribed to Musing, so you’ll get the list delivered straight to your inbox. Meanwhile, if you’re shopping for someone special, stop by or give us a call at 615.953.2243 — we’d love to help you pick the perfect book.