Celebrity memoirs can often provide a behind-the-scenes look to the lives of the rich and famous, but the best books in the genre offer more than simple gossip and tabloid-ridden stories. We’ve compiled a list of great titles we think break the mold of the classic “tell-all,” and offer insight into the minds of these fascinating public figures. Some share personal struggles with addiction and family. Or they tackle big questions, like medically assisted dying. One even rejects the notion of the memoir entirely. Check out these must-read books that stick out among the crowd.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
The raw, candid, unvarnished memoir of an American icon. The greatest movie star of the past 75 years covers everything: his traumatic childhood, his drinking, his thoughts on acting, his greatest roles, and his most famous contemporaries, his intimate life with Joanne Woodward, his innermost fears and passions and joys. With thoughts/comments throughout from Joanne Woodward, George Roy Hill, Tom Cruise, Elia Kazan and many others.
Andre Agassi had his life mapped out for him before he left the crib. Groomed to be a tennis champion by his moody and demanding father, by the age of twenty-two Agassi had won the first of his eight grand slams and achieved wealth, celebrity, and the game’s highest honors. But as he reveals in this searching autobiography, off the court he was often unhappy and confused, unfulfilled by his great achievements in a sport he had come to resent. Agassi writes candidly about his early success and his uncomfortable relationship with fame, his marriage to Brooke Shields, his growing interest in philanthropy, and—described in haunting, point-by-point detail—the highs and lows of his celebrated career.
When they were children in the suburbs of Los Angeles in the 1950s, Diane Keaton and her younger brother, Randy, were best friends and companions: they swam, laughed, dressed up for Halloween. But as they grew up, Randy became troubled, then reclusive. By the time he reached adulthood, he was divorced, an alcoholic, a man who couldn’t hold on to full-time work—his life a world away from his sister’s, and from the rest of their family. Now Diane is delving into the nuances of their shared, and separate, pasts to confront the difficult question of why and how Randy ended up living his life on “the other side of normal.” A New York Times bestseller, Brother & Sister speaks across generations to families whose lives have been touched by the fragility and “otherness” of loved ones—and to brothers and sisters everywhere.
Memoirs and Misinformation is far from the traditional celebrity memoir. In fact, this fearless semiautobiographical novel by Jim Carrey and his cowriter, Dana Vachon, subverts the genre completely and turns it on its head. In this New York Times bestseller, Jim becomes the protagonist in the fictionalization of his own life. This genre-bending read will have you questioning what aspects of the story are real, and which are insights into the comedic mastermind’s elaborate imagination. Memoirs and Misinformation is a story about acting, Hollywood, agents, celebrity, privilege, friendship, romance, addiction to relevance, fear of personal erasure, our “one big soul,” Canada, and a cataclysmic ending of the world—apocalypses within and without.
On the surface, Cameron Douglas had everything. As the son of Michael Douglas and grandson of Kirk Douglas, he was born into a life of wealth, privilege, and comfort. But by the age of thirty, he had become a drug addict, a thief, and a convicted drug dealer sentenced to five years in prison. Through supreme willpower, Douglas began to reverse his trajectory, and deal with the psychological turmoil that tormented him for years. A brutally raw and honest memoir, Long Way Home is a powerful story of one man’s descent into the depths of addiction and self-destruction—and his successful renewal of family ties that had become almost irreparably frayed.
Patti Smith is a living legend in the music world, but her gifts are not limited to the stage. Riveting, elegant, and humorous, her writing is moving and original. Illustrated by Smith’s signature Polaroids—New York Times bestseller Year of the Monkey is a touchstone for our turbulent times. Following a run of new year’s concerts at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore, Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz, about to embark on a year of solitary wandering. Then, in February 2016, a surreal lunar year begins, bringing unexpected turns, heightened mischief, and inescapable sorrow. For Smith, this becomes a year of reckoning with the changes in life’s gyre: with loss, aging, and a dramatic shift in the political landscape of America. As a stranger tells her, “Anything is possible. After all, it’s the Year of the Monkey.”
Actress and author of I Like You Just the Way I Am, Jenny Mollen shares an outrageous collection of personal stories about motherhood, responsibility, and other potential disasters in Live Fast, Die Hot. Until recently, Mollen’s life was exciting, sexy, a little eccentric, and one hundred percent impulsive. She had a husband who embraced her crazy. Then they had their son, Sid, and overnight, Mollen was forced to grow up: to be responsible, to brush her hair, to listen to her voicemail. Searingly funny and surprisingly affecting, Live Fast, Die Hot is a collection of stories about what happens when you realize that some things are more important than crafting the perfect tweet—and a reminder that even if you never thought you were cut out for parenting, at least you can be better at it than your mother.
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. We see her all-American 1950s childhood in Ohio, and her teenage self falling for the rock music of the 1960s. We follow her to London, where she takes a job with NME and makes her way into the churning ’70s London punk scene, meeting Lemmy, Sid Vicious, and Iggy Pop, living in squats, writing songs, playing in early versions of the Clash and the Damned. Her work with the Pretenders—which melded punk, New Wave, and pop to irresistible effect—would catapult her to instant stardom. Through it all is Chrissie’s unmistakable voice, ringing with fearless emotional honesty, a razor-sharp wit, and an enduring belief in the power of rock’n’roll.
In an eloquent, deeply personal and moving book, beloved NPR radio host Diane Rehm speaks about the death of her husband of fifty-four years—and of her struggle to reconstruct her life without him. John Rehm was seventy-four when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Nine years later, he passed away, having made the difficult choice to end his extended illness by refusing to eat, drink, or accept medication. This process transformed Diane into an advocate for increased conversation end-of-life care and the right to die on one’s own terms, as well as a brave and sympathetic voice for anyone who must learn how to live again after bereavement.
One of the best subgenres of the celebrity memoir is the celebrity chef memoir. You may know Kwame Onwuachi from Top Chef or in several food magazines, but do you know about his life before gaining culinary stardom? By the time he was twenty-seven years old, Kwame Onwuachi had opened—and closed—one of the most talked about restaurants in America. He had sold drugs in New York and been shipped off to rural Nigeria to “learn respect.” He had launched his own catering company and starred on Top Chef. In this inspirational memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, he shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age; a powerful, heartfelt, and shockingly honest account of chasing your dreams—even when they don’t turn out as you expected.
Filled with Christopher Nolan’s never-before-seen photographs, storyboards, and scene sketches in his own words, Tom Shone offers an unprecedented intimate view of the famous director. In chapters structured by themes and motifs (“Time,” “Chaos,” “Dreams”), Shone explores Nolan’s thoughts on his influences, his vision, his enigmatic childhood past—and his movies, from plots and emotion to identity and perception, including his latest blockbuster, the action-thriller/spy-fi Tenet. The Nolan Variations reveals the evolution of Nolan’s pictures, and the writers, artists, directors, and thinkers who have inspired and informed his films.