(And no, Mommie Dearest isn’t on the list. That’s the kind of book my mom would read.)
So, as I’ve stated numerous times before. I love write because it helps me talk about my life. I’d love to publish stories about what I’ve been through, and not surprisingly, I love a good memoir that does just that.
My criteria for a great memoir about overcoming a crappy life are as follows:
1.) It needs to be an interesting story. I’m sorry to all you 50-year-old women out there who want to write about your divorce…nobody cares.
2.) There needs to be humor and honesty. The second I start reading something that reeks of desperate and trying too hard for the drama, I’m done.
3.) It needs to be a story. I hate those memoirs that just turn into a rant about the philosophy of love and life and whatnot. I came to read your story, not your ill-formed journal entries.
**Special note** There will be no spoilers here! I hate when “reviews” basically go in and tell you the entire damn plot-line of the story.
Alright, here we go!
WILD by Cheryl Strayed
An incredible story for sure. After her mother dies when she’s in college, Strayed falls into a deep spiral of self-destruction. The story takes place as Strayed hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, while weaving in flashbacks about her life that are heartbreaking and eye-opening. But her bad past only makes you root for her journey on the trail even more!
I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS
by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Josh is living in NYC working in an ad agency. However, he leads a (sort of, but not really) secret double-life as an alcoholic drag queen Aquadisiac. However, one night, Josh gets caught up with a crack-addicted hustler and his life spirals out of control. Please note – I actually think that Josh is a complete piece of crap human. And there’s a few things that happen in the book where I’m like… I think you literally could have gone to jail for that… But it’s a very gripping book.
Plus, he lives on a farm now raising goats or something, so I guess he’s not anywhere where ha can cause more havoc. Also, I’m pretty sure they still see their goat-milk soap and stuff. You can buy Beekman products for your home and tell all your guests, “You know, this was made by a man who used to do drag and potentially killed a man!”
WISHFUL DRINKING by Carrie Fisher
Hilarious and jaw-dropping. It’s amazing to see the world that Carrie Fisher came from. It’s obviously fun because she’s a celebrity, so you know who she is, and you recognize all the names she mentions because they’re all famous too. It’s kind of like the best high school gossip you’ll ever get. But what really sets this apart from the other Hollywood gossip fluff reads, is how real and honest Carrie is. She doesn’t just talk about the funny stuff. She takes responsibility for her actions. She shows her scars. She shows you both sides of her life, and that makes it a fantastic read!
The highlight? When she creates the “Hollywood Incest” family tree she comes from. It’s truly laugh out loud.
RUNNING WITH SCISSORS
by Augusten Burroughs
This poor kid… Oh man. A young Augusten is sent to live with his mom’s therapist. Because that’s totally normal, right? And the therapist is just as crazy as his mom is. Watching Augusten navigate such an unconventional life surrounded by people who deserve to be institutionalized is mind-blowing. But he writes about it all with such a welcoming, open, and hilarious viewpoint, that you find yourself laughing, when in reality, we probably should be contacting Child Services.
What’s even cooler is that the entire family wrote books! His brother ended up writing a bestselling memoir about their fucked up family titled Look Me In The Eye that was wildly popular. And then, not to be outdone, their crazy mother tried her hand in the memoir game and wrote The Long Journey Home, where she desperately tries to defend how she treated her children.
PARTY MONSTER by James St. James
Another book on our list where the author should probably actually be in jail right now.
Party Monster tells the story of club-promoter Michael Alig’s rise to fame in the New York club scene. Luckily, James was Michael’s best friend, giving us a firsthand look through it all. From his arrival in New York, to his rise to power, his spiral into the world of drugs, and ultimately, the grizzly murder of his drug dealer that later would send him to jail.
One thing that makes Party Monster so amazing is that, because they were all famous by the end, there’s documentation everywhere about the events. Articles in the Village Voice. Videos of them appearing on The Joan Rivers Show, and other books about them such as ‘Clubland’. But what really makes Party Monster so amazing is that its fucking hilarious. You will never in your life laugh as hard while reading about a murder, I guarantee it!
Special Mention: David Sedaris
Not quite on the list… but Sedaris writes some great stuff about his life. However, some of his writing can be a little boring. And I’m pretty sure everyone on Earth has already read him anyways.
If you haven’t read him yet, what you need to do is buy Holidays On Ice, and read Santaland Diaries.
~ The Dark Horse