Category Archives: memoir

Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis

IMG_9534This is my first dive into anything Helen Ellis, so I wasn’t riding a wave of pre-established affection. Ellis is an American Housewife (the title of one of her previous books), born in Alabama before relocating and settling in Manhattan. Southern Lady Code details her reflections on and rules of being a southerner in the elite, uppercrust world of upper Manhattan. While I smiled at a few of her comments (being a Texan who lived in Brooklyn for a few years), nothing caused me to laugh out loud. This might resonate better with an audience of similar peers, but it felt a bit too niche and out of the way for me. 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a digital copy of this book for free from Doubleday Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and have not been influenced by Doubleday Books or NetGalley.

Publication Date: 16 April 2019 by Doubleday BooksFormat: ARC e-book.

Author: Helen Ellis @twitter/facebook/@instagram/podcast

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This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philips

image1 (19)Busy Philipps, longtime actress always cast as the best friend and never the star and yet also breakout star of Instagram stories, wrote a memoir that perfectly coincides with her star rising and the release of her nearly nightly talkshow Busy Tonight on E!

The tone of this memoir is one of your best friends spilling their life stories and secrets over margaritas, and just like any of your deep relationships with your best friends (at least if you’re me), there are parts of their personality that you find rather annoying. I enjoyed reading Busy’s stories of her adolescence and repeatedly trying to “make it” in Hollywood (this is tongue-in-cheek for me though… because people obviously know her name; just because she’s not “A-List” doesn’t mean she hasn’t “made it”). The honesty is her sharing her painful moments was refreshing and raw. However, it’s clear that Busy really struggles with wanting to be loved by all, cast as the lead, and the constant center of attention. These are qualities I found grating to read about, but also probably qualities you need to be an actor professionally. I would just hope that by her age and degree of professional success, she would be a bit more grounded in who she is and quit seemingly seeking validation at every turn. Busy is a cool chick — now to just get Busy to believe it, find her happiness with it, and rock it herself!

Publication Date: 16 October 2018 by TouchstoneFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Busy Philipps book site/@instagram/@twitter

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

img_9131Nina Riggs, a poet, started writing a beautiful memoir upon her terminal cancer diagnosis. What follows is a beautiful composition of the scary, mundane, and loving moments that shapes one’s life as they know that it will eventually come to an end much sooner than they ever imagined. 

This is a beautiful, quick memoir that illuminates one person ruminations as they contemplate their impending mortality, leaving their closest loved ones behind, and what they feel they must accomplish in their shortened life. I finished and shed a few tears upon reading the touching acknowledgments, which were written by Riggs’s husband.

This is a good book for anyone who wants to read a touching memoir written by someone who received a terminal diagnosis that keeps things incredibly real without venturing toward overwrought territory. Read it. Hug your loved ones. Appreciate what you have. Enjoy the cozy moments with those you cherish.

Publication Date: 6 June 2017 by Simon & SchusterFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Nina Riggs

I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff by Abbi Jacobson

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 3.11.29 PMAuthor Abbi Jacobson, creator and star of comedy TV series Broad City, wrote a memoir about a very specific segment of her life in I Might Regret This. Before starting this book, I had assumed Jacobson would write about stories throughout her entire life and string them together into a tight memoir, as is typical with the memoirs written by comedians that I’ve read. While Jacobson does feature anecdotes from throughout her life, the stories are featured around her embarking upon a three weeklong solo road trip from New York City to Los Angeles.

This journey tinges almost every chapter of the memoir as this period of her life greatly impacted Jacobson while she was in the midst of writing up her book. Not too long before beginning her trek, Jacobson experienced a breakup from the first relationship that she had truly fallen in love during. While this memoir is a story about Jacobson and her life, it is also mostly a story about heartbreak and the effects it can wreck on your entire life, way of thinking, and aspirations as someone tries to climb outside of their grief. 

I enjoyed Jacobson’s memoir because I enjoy Jacobson and her perspective. I liked reading about her come up and navigation of the comedy scene and I found her poignant descriptions of heartbreak very moving. However, if you’re looking for a happy go lucky, punched-up tale that will make you laugh every other page, that is not the trail that I Might Regret This will lead you down. I did laugh frequently while reading this, but not in the same way that I’ve come to expect from other comedic memoirs.

Publication Date: 30 October 2018 by Grand Central PublishingFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Abbi Jacobson @twitter/@instagram

Am I There Yet? by Mari Andrew

image1 (16)Mari Andrew is best known for her adorable, insightful Instagram illustrations. Most of Andrew’s illustrations on Instagram and within her debut book, Am I There Yet?portray finding yourself and/or creating yourself as the person you want to be, and all of the mishaps and misfortunes that happen along the way. 

While I love peeping at Andrew’s illustrations on Instagram and gaining bite size perspective, her book is situated into different chapters (such as heart break) and Andrew typically prefaces each chapter by contextualizing different events that have influenced her perspective on the theme. The contexts were helpful because they illuminated how Andrew experienced a huge perspective shift in her 20s that changed how she approached subsequent problems and her life.

If you enjoy Andrew’s beautiful watercolor depictions on Instagram, you’ll probably enjoy flipping through this collection of illustrations and their back stories. I found it to be a very quick weekend read that left my heart feeling cozy. 

Publication Date: 27 March 2018 by Clarkson Potter PublishersFormat: Hardcover.

Author & Illustrator: Mari Andrew web/@instagram

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 8.00.09 PMI snatched up Wild at a resell shop after loving every word of Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, a compilation of bits of her advice column for Dear Sugar. I love the way that Strayed weaves a sentence and a feeling, so I knew that I would probably greatly enjoy her famous memoir about a very specific period of her life.

At 26, Strayed is newly divorced, reeling and grieving from the sudden death of her mother a few years ago, and feeling unattached to anything in the world. She sets forth to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT as it more regularly called, alone and entirely unprepared. What follows are her musings of her life up until 26 and all of the moving pieces that came together for her to feel compelled to tackle an incredibly difficult hike, despite lacking any hiking experience or training. Strayed felt like she had mountains to climb, both physical and mental, and that she needed to be alone to do it.

I found Wild to be entirely captivating, as I read through someone recounting the mistakes they made, acknowledging the harm they caused others, and descriptions of wading through grief. All by happenstance of when I stumbled upon this book, I ended up taking Wild to four different state parks in California which felt perfect and majestic and left me thinking that maybe I, too, could trek across the PCT. (Spoiler: I can’t and I won’t because Strayed is extremely lucky nothing very terrible happened to her on her hike; and because I quite enjoyed driving to the parks, getting lost in nature for a few hours, then piling back into a car and driving back to my quiet, air conditioning lodging).

Beyond inciting a need to place myself into nature, Wild moved me in other ways. Every time I read a piece from Strayed about losing her mother (see here for a post I share nearly every Mother’s Day), I feel suddenly seen, in a way that is striking and comfortable simultaneously. These were the parts of her memoir that bubbled within my chest for several days at a time. I loved reading about Strayed’s journey and all of the messy bits along the way. I hope to keep reading her words for years to come.

Publication Date: 20 March 2012 by KnopfFormat: Paperback.

Author: Cheryl Strayed web/twitter/instagram/facebook

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

leaninAfter learning that I would be dashing to Silicon Valley for the summer, I snatched up Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (and co-writer Nell Scovell) to get a taste of her experience being one of the most powerful people at one of the most powerful companies in the area (she’s the Chief Operation Officer at Facebook).

Lean In is a slight combination of memoir, self help, and description of Silicon Valley. The parts I enjoyed most about the book revolved around Sandberg’s weaving in research findings about the workplace with real anecdotes. As a woman currently in tech, who often doubts herself (hello imposter syndrome, my old friend), reading about these studies were empowering. Many of the studies showed how women repeatedly disadvantage themselves by their mistaken beliefs about their own contributions (aka not believing that your contributions are worthy of a seat at the table) and their colleague’s incorrect beliefs (based on stigma, bias, etc.).

While I did enjoy most of the book, there were some caveats, most of which Sandberg highlights herself. A lot of her advice is specific to women who are 1)  partnered to supportive humans who empower them and share household responsibilities, 2) make an amount of money at their occupations that exceeds the costs of childcare, and 3) are well educated. This book is rooted in an ideology of “this is how I did it and you can too!” which is fundamentally false for many women who are or have been in the “workforce.” While Sandberg easily ties her success to her individual situation, that situation does not apply to everyone and there are many ways to get to a similar position to Sandberg’s other than her exact path described within the book.

All in all, I learned a bit, felt empowered, and wanted to send a hearty thanks to all of the powerful women in my life who have lifted me up in so many ways, all whilst encouraging me to do the same one day. That said, I was very much the target audience for a book like this and I could imagine it not being received as well by other readers.

Publication Date: 11 March 2013 by KnopfFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Sheryl Sandberg Lean In Organization/facebook/instagram