Thanks for the Memoirs: 2020 Gift Guide No. 2

This is part of our 2020 gift guide. Check out our previous entry on great gift books, and flip through our virtual holiday catalog as well. Maybe it’s just something about this year — with all of the distancing and isolation — that had us craving more than ever that connection to another person’s story. Whatever the case may be, it seems like more memoirs than usual landed on our Staff Picks this year. Here’s the best of them, ready for gifting (or keeping) as you see fit!

A Promised Land Cover ImageA Promised Land

The biggest book of the year sold a gazillion copies in its first week, is literally quite big (768 pages!) and arguably the gift book of the season as well. Thanks, Obama.

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir Cover ImageThe Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir

Our First Editions Club pick for June, Wayétu Moore’s beautiful memoir details her family’s remarkable tale of survival — from fleeing their home in Liberia, through a journey that takes Moore to Texas and back again. A memoir with the force and pacing of a novel.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir Cover ImageMemorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir

Natasha Tretheway’s masterful, heartrending book is, among other things, a love letter to her mother, who was killed by her stepfather when Tretheway was a teenager. “I’ve not read an American memoir where more happens in the assemblage of language than Memorial Drive,” Kiese Laymon wrote in his review for The New York Times. “Trethewey’s subtext has subtext.”

Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger: A Memoir Cover ImageOur Lady of Perpetual Hunger: A Memoir

Before upping everyone’s pie crust game this Thanksgiving with her fun Instagram tutorials, James Beard Award winner Lisa Donovan delivered a must-read for anyone who cares about food — and, importantly, whose perspectives are often overlooked when it comes to telling the stories of how we cook.

Riding with the Ghost: A Memoir Cover ImageRiding with the Ghost: A Memoir

Justin Taylor’s chronicle of trying to reconcile with his father, who suffered from depression, captivated readers with its unflinching exploration of loss and human connection. Sissy loved it. And despite its sometimes heavy subject matter, Lauren Groff called it “a full-throated song of joy.” Maybe the kind you need after this difficult year.

Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America; Essays Cover ImageHere for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America

Like its author, R. Eric Thomas’ Here for It was a huge hit with Parnassus booksellers (who nearly came to blows calling dibs for a Staff Pick). We love the humor, the honesty, the humanity of his columns — and all those qualities are well-represented here in this delightful memoir about growing up in Baltimore and grappling with that stubborn question: “Who am I?”

This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Medical Resident Cover ImageThis Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Medical Resident

What’s funny about becoming a doctor? Almost everything! At least in this book. As Ann said earlier this pandemic: “If you’re tired of everything that’s going on and you just want to laugh and double over forward, this is the book you need.” Stat.

In the Dream House: A Memoir Cover ImageIn the Dream House: A Memoir

Carmen Maria Machado’s kaleidoscopic memoir about surviving an abusive relationship is also an exploration of genre, memory, trauma, and the power — and responsibility — of archives. Just released in paperback.

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir Cover ImageMy Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir

As its title implies, Jenn Shapland’s witty exploration of writer Carson McCullers’ life is also an exploration of her own. Mixing memoir with biography, this is a smart read that’s like watching someone put together a puzzle — or maybe two.

Notes on a Silencing: A Memoir Cover ImageNotes on a Silencing: A Memoir

If you loved Educated, don’t miss Notes on a Silencing. Just about every list of the year’s most important books includes Lacy Crawford’s brave, necessary chronicling of sexual assault and its aftermath. As Sissy said in her Staff Pick: “Many women will see themselves in young Lacy.”

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt Cover ImageBecoming Duchess Goldblatt

The true story of an imaginary person! If you think Twitter is all disinformation and game theory threads, Becoming Duchess Goldblatt will restore your faith in social media (possibly) while delighting you with Her Grace’s signature wit and wisdom (definitely). Not sure what to make of a anonymously written memoir of an online persona? Read an excerpt here!

More memoirs we loved in 2020:

The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh
Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit
Spirit Run by Noé Álvarez
There I Am by Ruthie Lindsey
Dirt by Bill Buford
The Chiffon Trenches by Andre Leon Talley
Stray by Stephanie Danler
The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey
Eat a Peach by David Chang
In Faulkner’s Shadow by Lawrence Wells

Want to make it a package deal? Memoir is one of the genre options for our gift book bundles! Just pick a genre, tell us a little about who the gift is for, and we’ll take care of the rest! Click here to order.

Shipping Deadlines*
Media Mail: Tuesday, Dec. 15
Priority Mail: Thursday, Dec. 17

*Please keep in mind that shipping times have been a little unpredictable this year, so earlier is better!