We all have one. And if you're one of the few, or as it seems these many years now, one of the many, who gets that story published, congratulations, you've joined a group that ranges all over the literary map.
The esteemed writer Joan Didion, who changed the face of widow's weeds, in Blue Nights confronts aging and the past with remembrances of her only child, daughter Quintana Roo (who died not long after her husband).
The stars of stage and screen are always ready to reveal the backstage scoop. Carrie Fisher keeps us laughing (and crying) in her sixth book, Shockaholic, promising to go right to the heart of her life, the Princess Leia/Star Wars years, about which she says, "It wasn't all sweetness and sabers." Actress Diane Keaton, a celebrity darling for four decades who managed to maintain long relationships and ongoing friendships with some of her generation's most desirable men, says her mother's death was her reason for reflecting. She's not dishing the dirt, but we can expect to hear about those men in Then Again.
Another famous and familiar name, film critic Roger Ebert, has written his story, Life Itself, documenting his incredible and ongoing career despite the thyroid cancer that has taken away his ability to speak.
And there's the ordinary Joe who's either had an exceptional life or has the gift of making an ordinary life extraordinary. Lindsay Harrison was a 20-year-old sophomore, estranged from her mother for two months, when she got the terrible news that her mother was missing. Harrison's account, Missing, covers the frantic 40 days of searching until her mother's body was found and the emotional searching that followed.
The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn continues Lucette Lagnado's story of her family's exile from Egypt, focusing on her mother and moving through her early years in America, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, far from her privileged childhood in Cairo's Jewish community. Donna M. Johnson saw the back roads of America on the revival tent trail with the evangelical preacher, David Terrell, when her mother became the group's organist. Terrell's rise and fall and Johnson's place in his inner circle comes to life with humor and pathos in Holy Ghost Girl.
In The Voyage of the Rose City, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's son, John, found adventure at sea when he signed up for a stint as a Merchant Marine one college summer, a trip that morphed from 45 days to four months, and resulted in a coming-of-age memoir that the young man, who sadly died in his 40s, recorded in an illustrated journal; nature-loving Lou Ureneck found his adventure closer to home. To handle his mounting midlife crises—divorce, job loss, his mother's death—he called his brother with an invitation to join him in building a house, the day-by-day story he tells in Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream, and Five Acres in Maine.
But as ubiquitous as the celebrity tell-all, stories of family, loss, recovery and redemption are, it's the animal story that gets us every time. And while there's "Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!" those all-time favorites, dogs, get their due in Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself, in which Julie Klam's Boston terriers make room for some rescue pooches.
PW's Top 10 Memoir
Joan Didion. Knopf, Nov.
Carrie Fisher. Simon & Schuster, Nov.
Diane Keaton. Random House, Nov.
Life Itself: A Memoir
Roger Ebert. Hachette, Sept.
Lindsay Harrison. Scribner, Aug
The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn
Lucette Lagnado. Ecco, Sept.
Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir
Donna M. Johnson. Gotham, Oct.
The Voyage of the Rose City:
An Adventure at Sea
John Moynihan. Spiegel & Grau, Oct.
Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream, and
Five Acres in Maine
Lou Ureneck. Viking, Sept.
Love at First Bark
Julie Klam. Riverhead, Oct.
Worth Fighting For by Lisa Niemi (Jan., hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1-4391-9635-9). Patrick Swayze's wife delivers a personal account of their last months together and shares the grief she suffered after losing her husband of 34 years.
(dist. by Perseus)
How to Die in Paris: A Memoir by Naturi Thomas (Nov., paper, $17, ISBN 978-1-58005-364-8) is an edgy, poetic, often darkly comic memoir of a young, middle-class black woman who escapes a tortured past in New York to pursue a new life in Europe—only to find herself broke and desperate on the streets of Paris.
The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir by Michael Uslan (Aug., hardcover, $29.95, (ISBN 978-0-8118-7550-9). This lavishly illustrated memoir of Uslan's coming-of-age relates how he turned his passion for comics into a dream career, making Batman into one of the most successful pop culture franchises of all time.
A House with No Roof: After My Father's Assassination: A Memoir by Rebecca Wilson, intro. by Anne Lamott (Oct., paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-58243-754-5) recounts the effect on her family after her father, a union leader and civil rights activist, was assassinated in 1966, when she was three years old.
D&M Publishers/Greystone Books
In the Land of Long Fingernails: A Gravedigger's Memoir by Charles Wilkins (Sep., paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-55365-843-6) tells the story of Wilkins's summer, when he was a university student, working as a gravedigger in a vast corporate cemetery in Toronto.
Da Capo Press
True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal—and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life by Kevin Sorbo (Oct, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-306-82036-6). TV's Hercules reveals how he found his way back from a series of debilitating strokes he suffered at the height of his career.
The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn by Lucette Lagnado (Sept., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-180367-3). Lagnado writes about her mother and a Cairo of long ago.
Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life by Priscilla Warner (Sept., hardcover, $23, ISBN 978-1-4391-8107-2). Faith Club's coauthor sets out on a spiritual quest to conquer her anxiety and bring her brain from panic to peace.
Globe Pequot Press
Rubble: The Search for a Haitian Boy by Sandra Marquez Stathis (Dec., paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-7627-7265-0). The author returns to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake to find an unforgettable boy who was seven years old and homeless when she first met him many years ago.
Grand Central Publishing
Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert (Sept., hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-446-58497-5). The only film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, Ebert delivers the full story of his incredible life and career.
Drama: An Actor's Education by John Lithgow (Sept., hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-06-173497-7) is a charming, witty, and revealing memoir about family, work, and life by one of our most revered actors.
Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey by Colby Buzzell (Aug., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-06-184135-4). In the tradition of Travels with Charley and On the Road, the author of My War paints a stunning portrait of contemporary America.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile by Ariel Dorfman (Sept., hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-547-54946-0) delivers a tender and merciless memoir of what it means to change deeply because you have no choice.
Interlink Publishing Group, Inc.
In the Shadow of Crows by David Charles Manners (Sept., paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-904955-92-4). A young man raised in England seeking out the fantasy of his Indian roots encounters a shunned Himalayan widow ravaged by leprosy, a meeting that changes both their lives.
Blue Nights by Joan Didion (Nov., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-307-26767-2). After The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion continues remembering in this intensely personal and moving book about her daughter, Quintana Roo, encompassing thoughts on children, illness, and growing old.
My Dyslexia by Philip Schultz (Sept., hardcover, $21.95, ISBN 978-0-393-07964-7) is an inspiring memoir of a Pulitzer Prize winner's triumph over his disability.
Growgirl: Once Upon a Time She Made the Blair Witch Project. Then She Went to Pot. Literally by Heather Donahue (Jan., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-59240-692-0). A runaway hit movie made on a shoestring budget and what happened afterward.
Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir by Donna M. Johnson (Oct., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1592406302). A deadpan and surreal story of faith, betrayal, and coming-of-age on the evangelical sawdust trail.
Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself by Julie Klam (Oct., hardcover, $21.95, ISBN 978-1-59448-828-3). After the bestselling You Had Me at Woof, Klam turns her wit and compassion to rescue dogs.
Prime Time: Creating a Great Third Act by Jane Fonda (Sept., hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4000-6697-1) delivers an inspiring and nuts-and-bolts book on how to fully embrace life at any age.
Then Again by Diane Keaton (Nov., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-4000-6878-4). One of America's most acclaimed—and beloved—actresses writes an intimate memoir in which her mother figures prominently.
Random House/Crown Archetype
Learning to Live Out Loud: A Memoir by Piper Laurie (Aug., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-8230-2668-5). The three-time Oscar nominee tells all.
My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner: A Family Memoir by Meir Shalev, trans. by Evan Fallenberg (Oct., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8052-4287-4) offers a lighthearted tale of family ties and Grandma Tonia's obsessive cleanliness in a pioneer village.
Random House/Spiegel & Grau
The Voyage of the Rose City: An Adventure at Sea by John Moynihan (Oct., hardcover, $22, ISBN 978-0-8129-8243-5) A true adventure story about life on the high seas by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's late son.
Three Rivers Press
Yoga Bitch: One Woman's Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment by Suzanne Morrison (Aug., paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-307-71744-3) provides an entertaining chronicle of an attempt to cast aside fears, neuroses, and materialism that takes the author to an intensive yoga retreat in Bali.
Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir by Kambri Crews (Jan., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-345-51602-2) depicts an unflinching memoir by the hearing daughter of two deaf parents, the rampant dysfunction of her rural Texas childhood, and the searing violence that left her father serving a 20-year sentence in a maximum security prison.
Missing: A Memoir by Lindsay Harrison (Aug., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4516-1193-9) records the events of her mother's disappearance during her sophomore year at Brown University and how it led her to attempt to "self-destruct unnoticed."
Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman's Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Kill Zones to the Courtroom by Connie Rice (Jan., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-4165-7500-9) details the noble, hard-hitting life and vocation of an influential civil rights attorney.
Simon & Schuster
Oink: My Life with Mini-Pigs by Matt Whyman (Sept., hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1-4516-1828-0). A family of six living in a quiet part of England, though not farmers, decide to buy two mini-pigs.
Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home, and Life Was a Catch-22 by Erica Heller (Aug., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4391-9768-4) offers an incisive memoir by the daughter of Joseph Heller, whose novel Catch-22 became part of the American cultural landscape.
Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (Nov., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-7432-6482-2). Told with her signature brutal honesty and uproarious wisdom, this is a juicy account of Carrie Fisher's life—that is, the stories she still remembers after several rounds of shock treatment.
Simon & Schuster/Gallery
Fairytale Interrupted: What JFK Jr. Taught Me About Life, Love, and Loss by RoseMarie Terenzio (Jan., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4391-8767-8) offers the story of an unlikely friendship between a blue-collar girl from the Bronx and America's favorite son.
The Man Who Couldn't Eat by Jon Reiner (Sept., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4391-9246-7). Based on his Esquire magazine article, Reiner recounts his very personal struggle with chronic illness.
Confessions of a Guidette by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi (Nov., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4516-5711-1). A sequel documenting Snooki's life as a Jersey girl.
Simon & Schuster/
An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura L. Schroff and Alex Tresniowski (Nov., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4516-4251-3). A 30-year friendship brings life to an overscheduled professional and hope to a hungry and desperate boy whose family background in drugs and crime seemed an inescapable fate.
Kisses from Katie: A Young Woman's Journey of Faith, a Remote Village, a Love Without Limits by Katie Davis and Beth Clark (Oct., hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1-4516-1206-6). A courageous 18-year-old from Nashville gives up every comfort and convenience to become the adoptive mother to 13 girls in Uganda.
Reluctant Hero: A 9/11 Hero Speaks Out About What He's Learned, How He's Struggled, and What No One Should Ever Forget by Michael Benfante with Dave Hollander (Aug., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-61608-285-7). After nearly 10 years of conflicted silence, a celebrated 9/11 survivor describes what it was like for him living with memories of the tragedy for the past decade.
Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son's Story of Love, Determination, Autism, and Art by Debra Chwast, illus. by Seth Chwast, preface by Seymour Chwast (Sept., hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-4027-7403-4). Diagnosed as a toddler with severe autism, Seth, with the help of his mother, discovers his gift for painting.
St. Martin's Press
Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family's Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom by Yangzom Brauen (Sept., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-600136). Three generations of Tibetan women's lives are changed when Chairman Mao's Red Army sends a young mother and her six-year-old daughter on a treacherous journey across the Himalayas.
St. Martin's Griffin
Conversations and Cosmopolitans: Awkward Moments, Mixed Drinks, and How a Mother and Son Finally Shared Who They Really Are by Robert Rave and Jane Rave (Nov., paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-312-55423-1). Jane and her son Robert navigate their new relationship together after Robert announces in a hand-written letter that he is gay.
Syracuse University Press
Shadows in Winter: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Eitan Fishbane (Sept., $19.95, ISBN 978-0-8156-0989-6) offers a harrowing and loving account of one widower's path from suffering to survival, and to a rediscovery of himself as a father.
Trafalgar Square Publishing/IPG/John Blake
Cry Havoc by Simon Mann (Dec., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-84358-403-2). Released from five years incarceration in some of Africa's toughest prisons in Equatorial Guinea, Mann breaks his silence in this firsthand account of his life that reads like a thriller.
An Accidental Mother by Katherine Anne Kindred (Sept., hardcover, $23.95, ISBN 978-1-60953-058-7). When the author became a parent to her boyfriend's little boy, Michael, she didn't think about the relationship falling apart and that she could lose all contact with the child—which is exactly what happens in this moving memoir of loss.
University of Missouri Press
Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to My Daughter's Birthplace in China by Nancy McCabe (Oct., paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-0-8262-1942-8). The author takes 10-year-old Sophie on a tour of China for adopted children, hoping her daughter will find affirmation and connection.
Recipes for Life: My Memories by Linda Evans (Oct., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-59315-648-0) reveals a delightful and delicious look into the life of icon Evans, including personal photographs, recipes, and anecdotes.
My Week With Marilyn by Colin Clark (Aug., paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-60286-149-7) A recounting of the magical seven days during which Hollywood's biggest star—the newly married Marilyn Monroe—escaped a difficult movie shoot and spent time with a caring young Englishman who was an assistant on the set.
Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan (Sept., hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-56512-957-3). Iranian immigrant and award-winning chef Bijan unwinds the story of her family's exile from Iran in the 1970s and her assimilation into American life, along with 30 inspired recipes.
It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addictions, Revolution, and Healing by Luis Rodriguez (Oct., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1-4165-8416-2). The follow-up to his classic memoir Always Running chronicles Rodriguez's journey from gang life to literary fame.
Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream, and Five Acres in Maine by Lou Ureneck (Sept., hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-670-02294-6). Midlife job loss inspires Ureneck to invite his brother to build a house with him in Maine, bringing up issues of family, nature, and the meaning of home.