Like most people living in the world of 2020, I spent a lot of time this summer trying to find new, safe hobbies to keep myself occupied while staying at home. After trying baking, roller skating, hiking, and plenty of other things I’d seen on social media, what ended up sticking for me was getting back into reading! I’m partial to a good memoir, and my top five come from celebrities I look up to, required reading assignments I had to revisit, and recommendations from some bookstore employees. If you want to dive deep into some well-written books by women who lead inspiring lives, look no further!
- Educated by Tara Westover
This book came out in 2018 and became a fast favorite of critics and the public alike, instantly becoming a New York Times #1 bestseller. Educated is the life story of a girl who grew up in rural Idaho to a family of doomsday survivalists, who spent her childhood unenrolled in school helping her family make money and prepare for the end of days. Against all odds, Westover makes it to college, even eventually studying at King's College and obtaining her PhD. Westover’s writing is honest, compelling, and easily drifts between reflecting on deep family ties and broadening out to how her education allows her world to expand. This is a great book for any college-aged woman who wants to reflect on what their education means to them.
- Bossypants by Tina Fey
Besides having one of the best book covers of all time, Bossypants is a must-read for any comedy fan. Fey is both hilarious and insightful, recounting memories from her childhood (delightfully dorky kid pictures included), her early days on the Chicago improv scene, her experience on Saturday Night Live and beyond. Besides having all the humor you could hope for from a legend like Tina Fey, Bossypants is also bluntly honest about being a working mother, and full of great bits of wisdom on being a woman in a male-dominated career field and being a good boss/showrunner within it.
- Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Of course, if you read Bossypants, the next logical step is to see what Amy Poehler has to say! The two can almost read like companion pieces, with Poehler publishing this in 2014, just a few years after Fey. Even though the two women are often closely associated with so much of their careers overlapping, each has a voice that is wholly their own in these memoirs. Poehler is funny, reflective and spends a lot of time framing her career around her family, friends, and the people she cares about the most. She even goes so far as to cameo some other great writers in her book, whether it’s having show creator Mike Schur annotate her chapter about Parks and Recreation or have ex-SNL head writer Seth Meyers write an entire chapter himself. Like Fey, Poehler has a great talent for telling you a funny story and, while you’re laughing, slip in a piece of wisdom that makes you feel like she has all of life’s problems figured out.
- I'm With The Band by Pamela Des Barres
While I’ve certainly made it clear that I love women in comedy, I firmly believe that Pamela Des Barres has one of the most interesting lives I’ve ever read about. Growing up as a teenager in the 60’s on the Sunset Strip during the summer of love, Des Barres seems to attract fun and movie-worthy stories--in fact, while it’s not necessarily autobiographical, Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane in the movie Almost Famous was heavily influenced by her! Her first of many books, I’m With The Band details the stories that made Des Barres famous, from her friendship with Frank Zappa to her relationships with Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, and many rock gods besides. Hidden in her playful, funny, and unapologetic writing when it comes to her hookups and romances is an inspiringly consistent positivity and philosophy for living a happy life. As a college student who seems to be perpetually stressed and caught up in work, I’m With the Band taught me to relax, look around, and make some memories that I’d be as excited to look back on as Des Barres is!
- Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
While not a memoir in the traditional sense, the collection of essays that make up Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds leave the reader with a good sense of what shaped the comedian to be the person she is today. Whether she’s delightfully recounting the haunted house in Massachusetts she grew up in, or reflecting on relationships and womanhood in general, Slate writes with a joy and self-love that’s downright infectious. While those who know Slate from her stand-up or as the delightfully annoying Mona Lisa Saperstein on Parks and Rec may expect her to be over-the-top, this book is all softness and romanticism of her day-to-day life. Ever since my first read through, Little Weirds has been my favorite thing to casually pick up to unwind after a bad day.
Being able to peek into the personal lives of your idols and see how they got to be the women they are today makes memoirs one of my favorite genres. If you’re stuck on picking out your next read, consider checking out a book by and about your favorite woman!