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5 Female-Driven Memoirs that Make Great Stories

Today’s guest post comes to you from one of my blogging twins, Meg at Write Meg! We both started blogging at about the same time and for the same reason — we had English degrees and a craving to talk with someone, anyone, about books. She’s wonderful, and I hope you’ll find many suggestions in her five examples of female-driven memoirs. 

Back in the dark ages of my own ignorant soul, the phrase “nonfiction” was enough to send me cowering beneath a pile of chick lit. Memoirs were viewed as dusty, boring tomes that held no relevance — or interest — for this twenty-something more accustomed to reading about love affairs, shoe addictions and jaunts around New York City.

After studying English in college and losing myself in Shakespeare’s sonnets, I was officially a literature addict . . . but with B.A. in hand, I really, really wanted to lighten up. Though I adore the classics (seriously, just hand me an Austen), my post-school reading life began to revolve around light-hearted women’s fiction and young adult reads.

Basically, everything I couldn’t read in academia.

It wasn’t until years after entering the blogging world — and discovering brilliant reviewers like Kim here at Sophisticated Dorkiness — that I began to, you know, give nonfic a chance. It started with picking up books relating to subjects of personal fascination. Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time was the first historical account with which I truly fell in love.

With time and patience, I began to accept that “memoir” isn’t synonymous with “dull.” Historical accounts, stories of triumph, biographies and autobiographies have all snaked into my reading diet, and I now believe a good story is a good story . . . regardless of genre. I stopped focusing on labels and emphasized enjoyment.

And what I enjoy? Friendship, food, travel, women’s issues and dynamics. And since there is no shortage of non-fiction on those topics, grab a cool beverage and settle in for the good stuff.

Female-driven memoirs that make really great stories — but they’re extra awesome because, you know, they’re real

I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert — Now a polished, poised event planner and entrepreneur, Gilbert has faced more than her share of difficulties on her rise to the top. I was captivated by her fight to survive — and eventually thrive — in the aftermath of a brutal attack, and this quick memoir held my interest until the last light went out.

Have Mother, Will Travel by Claire and Mia Fontaine — A mother-daughter duo forge a bond after Mia’s long, tumultuous teen years — only to lose each other once more in the twists of adulthood. Their memoir of time spent on a real “Amazing Race”-style scavenger hunt was honest, raw and thought-provoking. I loved their thoughts on motherhood and friendship, too. (Plus: travel. Beautiful countries. Awesome food. Sensing a theme?)

Heaven Is Here by Stephanie Nielson — A young mother wakes from a coma to discover she’s been in a plane crash — and has suffered burns over 80 percent of her body. With faith, compassion and honesty, Nielson recounts life before the crash and the harrowing days after . . . and though it’s heart-wrenching and gut-punching, I walked away from this memoir feeling tender in the best way possible. I double-dog-dare you not to be moved by Stephanie’s story, which — spoiler — has a happy ending.

How To Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre — It’s rare to find a memoir that reads like the first cool breeze after a miserable summer, but Gasbarre’s coming-of-age and coming-to-love story refreshed me at a time when I really needed refreshing. Her story of family is framed around her grandmother’s advice on becoming a strong, independent woman, and I fell in love Gasbarre’s take on life. More than worth the read.

Paris In Love by Eloisa James — After surviving cancer shortly after her mother died of the disease, James packs up her family and high-tails it to Paris for a year abroad. She writes, she eats, she thinks — and she lets us in for all of it. Told in vignette-like bursts, Paris In Love occasionally reads more like a Facebook feed than a memoir . . . but it’s perfect for the armchair traveler. And people with short attention spans (guilty). And yes, there are macarons.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) July 1, 2013, 7:55 am

    I love memoirs and have only read one of those. I’m making note of the rest!

  • Jennifer July 1, 2013, 10:04 am

    Oh sweet mother, I want to read ALL of those! Thanks for adding a bunch of new books to my tbr pile Meg 😉

  • Andi @ Estella's Revenge July 1, 2013, 11:52 am

    I haven’t read any of these! Ack! But I do have I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag on my want list. I think some of these others might sneak in there too.

  • Melissa July 1, 2013, 12:01 pm

    I loved GOODIE BAG. And I’ve been eyeing PARIS IN LOVE for what feels like an eternity! I really should get on that already. 🙂

  • Rebecca @ Love at First Book July 1, 2013, 7:03 pm

    I haven’t read ANY of those, but you always seem to have good taste, so I’ll trust you!

  • Juju at Tales of Whimsy... July 1, 2013, 9:02 pm

    Several of these are on my TBR or TBL because of your awesome reviews. Great list.

  • stacybuckeye July 1, 2013, 10:42 pm

    I’m reading Paris in Love right now. My favorite memoir is still The Glass Castle though.
    Like you, I didn’t read memoirs until I had been blogging for a while.

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey July 3, 2013, 9:47 am

    I love memoirs. I’m glad you came around to the good side 😛 Thanks for the great recommendations!

  • Amanda Frank July 3, 2013, 1:42 pm

    Fantastic recommendations! Thank you so much for sharing and for the reviews. You might like the one I’m reading right now, it’s called “One American Woman Fifty Italian Men” by Lynne Ashdown, http://lynneashdown.com/. It’s a great read! Thanks again for the these titles, I haven’t read any of them either but now I’m eager to!