(Okay fine, if I was going for complete accuracy here, it would be off the top of my head + looking at my Goodreads shelves, but that’s way too long a title.)
If you don’t read much non-fiction, I feel like memoirs are the closest thing to fiction. They’re basically novels written in first person except everything actually happened. These are four of my favorites, if not my four favorites period.
This list was completely inspired by Lisa @ This Inkwell (who is pausing on her blog for now but is also on Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads :)), so thank you, Lisa!
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight
Okay, before I started reading this book, I completely and subconsciously bought into the assumption that this was by a guy who loved sports so therefore it was not going to be well-written. I expected it to be just another celebrity memoir. (Well, in this case, I guess celebrity-brand?) I borrowed it from the library thinking that I wasn’t going to finish it.
It wasn’t until I read the first page that I realized I was even thinking all these things. it’s also when I realized I was wrong on every single count.
The writing in this book is beautiful—lyrical, thoughtful, detailed. It’s about how insanely hard he had to hustle to start Nike, but it’s also about his life—and it’s not at all what you would expect from the CEO of a global, million-dollar company. This book was so good.
Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller
This is written by Emily Doe from the Brock Turner trial, which I didn’t know anything about until my friend recommended this book. If you’ve never heard of it, here’s an explanation:
In 2015, Brock Turner—a 19 yo student at Stanford—was reported for sexual assault. The accusation went to court, and after more than a year later, the trial finally ended. He was convicted on three charges of sexual assault, but only received six months of time from the judge. In the end he was released after three.
But that’s not why this case was everywhere in the news–that was because of Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement. (Chanel Miller was only known as Emily Doe during the trial to protect her identity.) The victim impact statement gives people in court a chance to try and put into words how much their lives were pained by whoever the offender was. She read hers in court, but she also gave it to Buzzfeed to publish. That’s what went viral.
This memoir is about the trial, but it’s not about Brock Turner. It’s about Chanel Miller. It’s about her, her art, her mind, her feelings, and her life. The writing in this one is so, so beautiful as well. It’s one of the best books I read last year.
She talks about how her case was only taken to court because it was one of the rare sexual assault cases that lawyers thought could possibly win. She talks about how her younger sister, who was a witness, had to constantly reschedule tests and papers and assignments with her college professors because the court dates kept being pushed back, and how deeply hard this was on her sister’s life. On top of the rearranging, her sister couldn’t even explain why she had to do it because everything had to be kept a secret.
This book created what I believe about legal sexual assault cases.
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
I would say this is the most likeable book I have ever read. If someone who didn’t like reading asked me for a book recommendation, this is the book that would come to mind.
The title Born a Crime comes from the fact that his birth was legit a crime because his parents were interracial and South Africa was still under apartheid, a legal system completely based on racism. (Which I barely had even heard of before reading this book.)
But somehow Trevor Noah (who’s a comedian) manages to write about what it was like growing up in this deeply broken place while also being the funniest book I’ve ever read. While I was reading this and waiting for a shuttle bus, a lady came up and asked me what I was reading because she said she could clearly tell that I was enjoying it. I must’ve been smiling goofily like no other.
I’ve described this book as both the most likeable and funniest book I’ve read—what else can I say?
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
The subtitle is very accurate for this book: the chapters alternate between Lori Gottlieb’s sessions with her patients and her own therapy sessions with her therapist. And then through it all, she talks about everything—life, love, loss, that entire category of words.
It’s so good. Similar to how how Know My Name established my beliefs towards sexual assault cases, reading this book was like adding an entire castle on top of my belief in therapy’s immense power and beauty.
It also just has so much information on the more factual, scientific parts of therapy and psychology. For example, I learned from this book that there’s this mourning rule where the American Psychiatric Association says that for the first two months after a person loses someone to death, therapists can’t diagnose them with depression.
What is your opinion on non-fiction? I didn’t like it for the longest time.
Do you have any favorite memoirs?
What’s the most likable/funniest book you’ve read, or a book that had a significant influence on your opinions?
Did you know about South African apartheid or Chanel Miller’s impact statement?