Reading Group Center

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Memoir Reader

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Memoir Reader

You already know that books make the best gifts, so of course you want to give a book to everyone you love this holiday season. But choosing the perfect read for each person can be a challenge. This year, we’ve created seven custom gift guides guaranteed to help you select a wonderful present for every reader on your list. Read on to see suggestions for the Memoir Reader in your life.

Click here to view a downloadable PDF of all of our selections that you can print and bring to your favorite bookstore!

mtrainM Train by Patti Smith

“This book is brilliant. A poetic, energetic search for the secret links between life and art—and coffee.” —Henning Mankell

From the National Book Award–winning author of Just Kids: the unforgettable odyssey of a legendary artist, told through the prism of cafés and haunts she has worked in around the world. It is a book Patti Smith has described as “a roadmap to my life.”

Featuring a new postscript including five new photos from Patti Smith

Read an excerpt | Buy the book

Find a Way Diana NyadFind a Way: The Inspiring Story of One Woman’s Pursuit of a Lifelong Dream by Diana Nyad

“Life-affirming. . . . A story about refusing to accept, or be defined by, defeat.” —The New York Times Book Review

In this riveting memoir, Diana Nyad, the first person to swim the shark-infested waters between Cuba and Florida with no cage for protection, shares a spirited account of what it takes to face one’s fears, engage one’s passions, and never ever give up. For no matter what life may throw at you, or how many times you may have experienced defeat, it is always possible—as long as you commit to living life to the nth degree, no regrets—to “find a way.”

Read an excerpt | Buy the book

9780385530866A Lowcountry Heart by Pat Conroy

“Resplendent. . . . As always, [Conroy’s] storytelling, word choice and rhythm are gorgeous, almost lyrical; his descriptions are gloriously unexpected. . . . Fans who have missed his voice will find comfort in knowing that this is distinctively, precisely, willfully the Conroy whose books they loved.” —USA Today

Pat Conroy never wrote a word that wasn’t from the heart. This moving tribute and gorgeously packaged volume is sure to be a cherished keepsake for any true Conroy fan and a lasting monument to one of the best-loved masters of contemporary American letters.

Read an excerpt | Buy the book

9781101875285On My Own by Diane Rehm

“Clear, moving and completely honest. . . Diane Rehm has again found her voice, and she speaks passionately and courageously about issues that concern us all.” —The Washington Post

In a deeply personal and moving book, the beloved NPR radio host speaks out about the long drawn-out death (from Parkinson’s) of her husband of fifty-four years, and of her struggle to reconstruct her life without him.

Read an excerpt | Buy the book


9780345804075Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith

“A subtle, elegant meditation that reveals the profound in the quotidian. . . . Exquisitely beautiful.” —San Francisco Chronicle

In Ordinary Light, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith tells her remarkable story, giving us a quietly potent memoir that explores her coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter. Here is the story of a young artist struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America.

Read an excerpt | Buy the book | Browse our favorite passages

9780385540650All at Sea by Decca Aitkenhead

“A heart-wrenching tale of race, unlikely love, and how grief changes everything. It’s unforgettable.”

On a hot, still morning on a beautiful beach in Jamaica, Decca Aitkenhead’s four-year-old son was paddling peacefully at the water’s edge when a wave pulled him out to sea. Her partner, Tony, swam out and saved their son’s life—then drowned before her eyes. All at Sea is a remarkable story of love and loss, of how one couple changed each other’s life, and of what a sudden death can do to the people who survive.

Read an excerpt | Buy the book 

9781101872123Girl in the Dark: A Memoir of a Life Without Light by Anna Lyndsey

“What stays with the reader is [Lyndsey’s] gutsiness, her imagination and fortitude.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

One day Anna had an ordinary life, and then the unthinkable happened—she lost the ability to tolerate light. But even impossible lives, she learns, endure. Girl in the Dark is a tale of an unimaginable fate that becomes a transcendent love story. It brings us to an extraordinary place from which we emerge to see the light and the world anew.

Read an excerpt | Buy the book


9780345807175A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros

“Dazzling . . . part artist statement, part declaration of independence.” —Los Angeles Times

Written with Cisneros’s trademark lyricism, in these signature pieces the acclaimed author of The House on Mango Street shares her transformative memories and reveals her artistic and intellectual influences. Poignant, honest, and deeply moving, A House of My Own is an exuberant celebration of a life lived to the fullest, from one of our most beloved writers.

Buy the book  | Listen to the author on NPR

9780804170932On the Move by Oliver Sacks

“Marvelous. . . . He studies himself as he has studied others: compassionately, unblinkingly, intelligently, acceptingly and honestly.” —The Wall Street Journal

With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks writes about the passions that have driven his life—from motorcycles and weight lifting to neurology and poetry. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists—W. H. Auden, Gerald M. Edelman, Francis Crick—who have influenced his work.

Read an excerpt | Buy the book

9781101946718The Accidental Life: An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers by Terry McDonell

“Intelligent, entertaining, and chivalrous.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

A celebration of the writing and editing life, as well as a look behind the scenes at some of the most influential magazines in America (and the writers who made them what they are).

Read an excerpt | Buy the book


9781101912232Reckless: My Life as a Pretender by Chrissie Hynde

“A love letter to rock ‘n’ roll. . . . [Reckless] gives an accurate sense of what it’s like to sit down with Chrissie Hynde.”—The New York Times Book Review

Chrissie Hynde, leader of the Pretenders, is one of the most widely imitated figures in rock: sexy, unflappable, vulnerable yet tough, a groundbreaking songwriter and performer. In these pages, Chrissie gives us her story from her all-American 1950s childhood in Ohio to the churning ’70s London punk scene.

Read an excerpt | Buy the book

9780307473431Negroland by Margo Jefferson

“Powerful. . . . Margo Jefferson identifies and deftly explores the tensions that come with being part of America’s black elite.” —Roxane Gay, O, The Oprah Magazine

Pulitzer Prize–winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson was born in 1947 into upper-crust black Chicago. Her father was head of pediatrics at Provident Hospital, while her mother was a socialite. In these pages, Jefferson takes us into this insular and discerning society: “I call it Negroland,” she writes, “because I still find ‘Negro’ a word of wonders, glorious and terrible.”

Read an excerpt | Buy the book

9780804171441The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits

“A profound meditation on the passing of time.” —Entertainment Weekly

Disappointed after rereading her childhood diaries, Heidi Julavits decides to try again, to chronicle her daily life—now as a forty-something woman, wife, mother, and writer. A meditation on time and self, youth and aging, friendship and romance, faith and fate, and art and ambition, in The Folded Clock one of the most gifted prose stylists in American letters explodes the typically confessional diary form with her trademark humor, honesty, and searing intelligence.

Read an excerpt | Buy the book

Browse all of our gift guides:
For the . . . Super Sleuth | Fiction Addict | Movie Maven | Science Fiction and Fantasy Fanatic | Nonfiction Enthusiast Staff Picks