10 Memoirs to Read When You Want to Feel Inspired by Women

As summer comes to a close and we head back to classes, it can be harder to find time to fit in recreational reading. That being said, books can be a great supplement to what you’re learning academically, and also a nice reprieve from those endless Netflix binges. There are some books that can have such a profound impact on your life, it’s worth finding the time in a busy semester schedule to read them. Memoirs are an especially great opportunity to look at someone else’s view of the world, so here are a few we recommend starting with, based on suggestions from college women who've enjoyed them.

1. No One Tells You This 

Sierra Clair of Loyola Marymount University suggests No One Tells You This as a must-read memoir by Glynnis MacNicol. The author, a working, single woman describes her life after turning forty and how it differs from how she thought it would look. This memoir takes a look into an often unseen facet of adult life, giving the reader an opportunity to consider their goals for the future through the reflections of MacNicol.

2. The Year of Magical Thinking 

In The Year of Magical Thinking, author Joan Didion describes her life in the year after her husband’s death. Makena Gera from Marist College described this memoir as “heart-wrenching, but really, really good.” Didion conveys her struggle in dealing with death while her daughter struggles through an illness of her own. All the while, the reader experiences the internal emotional journey of the author, ranging from inspiring to dark humor, from sadness to acceptance.

3. Between the World and Me 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a woeful memoir in which a father describes to his son what it’s like to be black in America. Coates’ warnings to his son seem to speak directly to the reader, giving a small glimpse of his experience living in a systematically racist world. As America keeps fighting towards equality, opening our minds through the experiences of others is incredibly important. Coates gives a first-hand account of racism and the hardship of being black in the current age.

4. Educated 

Tara Westover describes her unique path of going from her secluded childhood to college in her memoir Educated. Tamara Lechner, happiness expert of Positive Minds International suggests all college students read Educated. “It’s a memoir about her education, so what better for a college student,” Lechner says. “She has no formal education before college, so if she could do it, anybody can.” In addition to being an intriguing story, Educated serves as a great reminder that there are plenty of different paths to higher education, and you can succeed no matter where you come from.

5. Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo 

Stand up comedian Amy Schumer proves she’s just as hilarious in writing while showing the world a new side of herself in Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo. This book is unsurprisingly funny as well as impressively candid about Schumer’s life, career and political views. She takes us from laughing on one page as she explains the tattoo she proudly displays on the cover, to inspiring political passion as she calls out politicians taking money from the NRA.

6. The Terrible 

Makena describes The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward as “so beautifully written it’s almost like poetry.” The coming-of-age story blended with the incredible writing will keep you glued to the pages of this read from beginning to end. Especially for fans of poetry, this book should not be missed. The stanzas and prose magically together, not unlike the smooth transitions between a variety of themes, as Daley-Ward describes her childhood while including discussions of family, religion, race, sex, drugs and so much more.

7. When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air tells the painful story of a man narrating the end of his life. Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who ultimately died of lung cancer, describes what it was to recognize that he would experience the terrible disease he witnessed every day in his line of work. A heartbreaking and stunning book, reading Kalanithi’s final words expresses coping with a part of life that is seldom discussed on college campuses.

8. The Glass Castle 

Author Jeannette Walls tells the story of her unconventional childhood that grew into a strained relationship with her parents. Walls recounts her unbelievable childhood and how it shaped her into the woman she is. By contrasting her current life, a life which many would aspire to, to her childhood life, a life which many looked down upon, Walls presents a great reminder never to judge people based on where they come from or what they're born with.

9. Scrappy Little Nobody 

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to make it in Hollywood? Anna Kendrick details her journey to her current state of success, from her favorite moments to the less glamorous, but equally entertaining. Whether it be struggling to support herself while attending auditions or buying ridiculously expensive shoes for the sake of her career, Kendrick’s hilarious memoir gives a great glimpse into her world and the world of Hollywood.

10. The Reason I Jump 

Naoki Higashida — who wrote her book as a 13-year-old with autism spectrum disorder — provides a look inside the mind of a person with ASD in The Reason I Jump. Reading Higashida’s descriptions of what it feels like to live with autism will open your mind to how different the world can look if your brain functions a bit differently. The young writer’s astute ability to look outside of himself and consider how others view him gives him the uncanny ability to explain his day to day life as a child with ASD.

College is the time to find yourself and the person you want to be, and learning about others will help you to do that. Choose a few memoirs to read not only for pleasure but also for a new life point of view. Whatever you choose to read, keep an open mind and remember that everyone has a different path that's meaningful to them.