Five Memoirs Written by Women You Should Read this Summer

The “summer,” whether you define it seasonally or if you consider it beginning the day the semester finishes, is best when filled with reading. I myself am a huge book worm, and am always looking for my next great read.

Over the years, I have become a fan of memoirs. Book Riot defines a memoir as a book about “the author remembering, reminiscing, and reflecting on experiences from their lives.” Memoirs provide a snapshot from the author’s life.

Often poignant and deeply personal, memoirs are almost like a conversation or a letter between the author and the reader. Unlike other nonfiction books, the personal nature of the subject matter is very engaging and the topics tend to span a great variety. This means that, although memoirs encapsulate a specific ‘genre’ of book, no two are alike.

Here are five memoirs written by incredible women for your summer reading list this year.

  1. 1. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

    I first read this memoir while I was in high school: it was one of the books we were allowed to choose for our memoir unit. The book follows Walls’s life growing up in a transient, non-conformist family in the United States.

    Covering themes of unconditional love, the dysfunctionality of family and personal growth, Walls’s book showcases the resiliency of the human spirit. This memoir is easy to read and reminds me of fiction. The memoir was made into a film of the same name in 2017 by Destin Daniel Cretton. It stars Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Max Greenfield.

  2. I read this memoir last summer after a friend recommended it to me. The book provides a hauntingly beautiful recount of Ung’s life during the Cambodian genocide. Following Ung’s flee from Phnom Penh to her life as a child soldier in the Cambodian countryside, she survives immense emotional and physical hardships.

    Although the subject matter can be difficult at times, Ung paints a beautiful picture of the culture, landscape and cuisine of Cambodia while simultaneously providing rich historical and political clarity regarding the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge army. The memoir was made into a film by Angelina Jolie in 2017.

  3. Fung was reporting for CBC’s The National in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2008 when she was grabbed by a group of men claiming to be the Taliban.

    Fung possesses a level of intellect and class I could only dream of having. I loved reading about the conversations Fung had with her captors, as she used interrogation techniques to survive. 

  4. 4. Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nehmat

    Nehmat was a guest lecturer and keynote speaker for a graduation at my high school. She is a soft-spoken and warm individual: someone who seems so distant from the horrors she experienced as a teen. In 1982, Nehmat was like any other sixteen year old girl: going to parties, crushing on boys and loving school. This all changed with the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution.

    After protesting the rise in political propaganda, Nehmat was arrested and sentenced to death at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. Nehmat weaves the complexity of her emotional and physical abuse with anecdotes from her childhood to showcase the changing realities of Tehran. I implore anyone interested in learning more about the Middle East to read about her life experiences.

  5. 5. Bossypants by Tina Fey

    Fey’s memoir contains a collection of stories from her childhood and her career. Highlighting her life before succeeding on Saturday Night Live (SNL), Fey worked as an assistant for the local YMCA.

    Delving deeper into her comedic genius, Fey shares her passion for writing and the importance in accepting one’s title as a “bossypants.” This memoir provides lots of laughs while highlighting the challenges women face within the modern workforce.