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4 Artist Memoirs to Read Over Winter Break

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

If there was ever a perfect time to grab a good book and get cozy, winter break is it. While choosing a book can be a daunting task if you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for, reading a memoir once in a while is both refreshing and insightful; even more so when it describes a person’s creative journey and processes. As a (mainly) fiction reader, I found myself slowly being sucked into the world of artist memoirs. While I’m not an expert on memoirs per se, I can attest to the inspirational, historical and emotional significance the genre transmits to readers. So, if you’re ready to dive into the life and experiences of your favorite creators, here are five inspiring memoirs to check out this winter.

The Storyteller: Tales of Life & Music, Dave Grohl

The Storyteller is a heartfelt and honest account of the life of multiple-time Grammy winner and legendary rock musician Dave Grohl. In his book, Grohl highlights his family upbringing and his self-taught journey as a teen drummer in the Washington D.C. punk scene, which would later lead him to Nirvana fame. But life as a young musician in one of the world’s most groundbreaking bands in the history of rock was not an easy one. Grohl explores the ups and downs of life on the road, as well as coping with the loss of friend and bandmate Kurt Cobain. 

Throughout many inspiring, shocking and often downright hilarious anecdotes (like when he broke his ankle during a 2015 show in Sweden and continued playing), Grohl narrates his many adventures as the frontman and guitarist of Foo Fighters, with a casually relatable voice that reflects his down-to-earthness. He also makes a humble statement of honoring his personal heroes: his three daughters, his best friend, his supportive mother and musical icons such as Paul McCartney and Joan Jett, whom he later became close friends with.

In a much more mature phase of his life, Grohl captures the essence of what it means to balance life as a full time dad while touring with his band, a fact that solidifies his reputation as “the nicest guy in rock”. Ultimately, The Storyteller is so much more than a memoir about music: it’s a phenomenal introduction of Grohl as a writer.

For fans of: music, rock music and the creative process

Walk Through Walls: A Memoir, Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović, of international acclaim as the grandmother of performance art, is known for her controversial performance pieces and exhibits around the world. Walk Through Walls: A Memoir reveals the artists’ evolution: from her troubled childhood in postwar Yugoslavia, to her role as a student activist, to her introduction to the world of performance, and her adventures around the world alongside longtime partner and collaborator Ulay.

In the book, which includes hints of the supernatural and a dense amount of historical references, Abramović explores, or rather, destroys, boundaries of pain, fear and both physical and mental exhaustion. Using her body and the audience as artistic mediums, Marina guides the reader behind pieces like 1974’s Rhythm 0, where she stood still in front of an audience, inviting people to do whatever they wanted with a series of objects upon a table, which included a scalpel, scissors and even a loaded gun. While not for the faint of heart, Walk Through Walls provides deep insight into the mind of an incredible artist. 

For fans of: art history, contemporary art, and dare I say, body horror

Spider from Mars: My Life with Bowie, Woody Woodmansey

Woody Woodmansey was a normal, ordinary guy from Driffield, UK. And then he became David Bowie’s drummer. Part biography, part memoir, Spider From Mars: My Life with Bowie recounts the story of David Bowie from the perspective of the last surviving member from Bowie’s original band, The Spiders from Mars. Woodmansey shares anecdotes on the formation of the band, the stories behind some of Bowie’s most famous songs, and sharing a house with his bandmates.

The book often shifts focus to David Bowie himself, as it’s narrated by someone who knew him closely for many years. As the band reached an eventual worldwide success, Woody also unearths the personal difficulties between the band, touring around the world, and his complex relationship with Bowie. In a general sense, Woodmansey’s memoir is a friendly narration of an extraordinary career, while also serving as a chronology of the London music scene throughout the 1970’s.

For fans of: rock music, David Bowie, and all things 70’s

Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart, a memoir based on an essay of the same name published in The New Yorker in 2018, follows the experiences of Michelle Zauner, known for being the mastermind behind alternative band Japanese Breakfast. In her debut as a writer, Michelle most notably navigates through the sudden loss of her mother, Chongmi, just five months after being diagnosed with cancer. Michelle relates this journey to her own struggles and the eventual acceptance of her biracial identity, the complexities of making it in the independent music scene, the complicated relationship with her mother and above all, using Korean food as a tool to reconnect with the past and deal with grief. As the NPR book review beautifully quotes: “in losing her mother and cooking to bring her back to life, Zauner becomes herself”. 

Crying in H Mart is unique because it successfully manages to be many things at once: emotional, literally exquisite and deeply introspective. Michelle shares the relatable vulnerability of losing a loved one, while using food as a guiding metaphor to not only face mortality, but accept it as a normal part of life. While I can’t write about this book without mentioning how much I love Michelle Zauner for her work as a lyricist and musician, it’s truly remarkable how honest and personal this memoir is. 

For fans of: food, emotional journeys and music 

Sofia Capllonch is a musician and graduate architecture student at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. When she isn't working on design projects, jamming out or reading a good book, there's a huge chance you'll find her obsessing over guitar gear or hanging out with her cats.