100 Must-Read Biographies and Memoirs of Remarkable Women

I still remember when I discovered Helen Keller. I stumbled across a children’s biography at my elementary school’s library and I was obsessed. I learned everything I could about her, watched each version of The Miracle Worker I could get my hands on, and embarked on a life-long love affair with reading biographies and memoirs of remarkable women.

Tales of amazing women have guided me along at each important moment in my life.  I devoured Allie Brosh’s stories while trying to make sense of my anxiety, Caroline Knapp kept me company when I quit drinking, and Joan Didion helped me process the death of someone important to me. Now, I keep Lindy West’s and Phoebe Robinson’s books at hand as I determine how to move forward in the Trump era.

Here’s a list of 100 biographies and memoirs of remarkable women. All descriptions are from Amazon unless otherwise specified.

  1. Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock. Mock relays her experiences of growing up young, multiracial, poor, and trans in America, imparting vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of a marginalized and misunderstood population. Redefining Realness is a powerful vision of possibility and self-realization.
  2. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. In this funny, razor-edged memoir, Karr looks back at her upbringing in a swampy East Texas refinery town with a volatile, defiantly loving family. With a raw authenticity stripped of self-pity and a poet’s eye for the lyrical detail, Karr shows us a “terrific family of liars and drunks … redeemed by a slow unearthing of truth.
  3. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Didion’s husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, died of a heart attack, just after they had returned from the hospital where their only child, Quintana, was lying in a coma. This book is a memoir of Dunne’s death, Quintana’s illness, and Didion’s efforts to make sense of a time when nothing made sense. This book is about getting a grip and getting on; it’s also a tribute to an extraordinary marriage (summary from The New Yorker).
  4. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai. When Malala was fifteen, she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York.
  5. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. In the wake of her mother’s death, Strayed’s family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with no experience or training, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail alone. Wild captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
  6. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, as fundamentalists seized hold of the universities and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the women in Nafisi’s living room spoke not only of the books they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments.
  7. Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston. This is an imaginative and exuberant account of Hurston’s rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to a prominent place among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston’s self-portrait offers a revealing, often audacious glimpse into the life of an extraordinary artist, anthropologist, chronicler, and champion of the black experience in America.
  8. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Sartrapi. A memoir-in-comic strips, this is the story of Satrapi’s childhood and coming of age in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.
  9. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor. The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.
  10. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter’s complex yearning for her father. A fresh and brilliantly told memoir from a cult favorite comic artist, marked by gothic twists, a family funeral home, sexual angst, and great books.
  11. Negroland by Margo Jefferson. 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. At once incendiary and icy, mischievous and provocative, celebratory and elegiac, Negroland is a landmark work on privilege, discrimination, and the fallacy of post-racial America.
  12. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.
  13. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. In Hunger, Gay explores her past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself. With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.
  14. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. In 2004, at a beach resort on the coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala and her family—parents, husband, sons—were swept away by a tsunami. Only Sonali survived to tell their tale. This is her account of the nearly incomprehensible event and its aftermath.
  15. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh. Touching, absurd, and darkly comic, Allie Brosh’s highly comic essays showcases her unique voice, leaping wit, and her ability to capture complex emotions with deceptively simple illustrations.
  16. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae. In her debut collection written with her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cybersexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself—natural hair and all.
  17. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes.  Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty.
  18. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein. This memoir is an intimate and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s escape from a turbulent family life into a world where music was the means toward self-invention, community, and rescue. Along the way, Brownstein chronicles the excitement and contradictions within the era’s flourishing and fiercely independent music subculture, including experiences that sowed the seeds for the observational satire of the popular television series Portlandia years later
  19. My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King and Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds. The life story of Coretta Scott King―wife of Martin Luther King Jr., founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center), and singular twentieth-century American civil and human rights activist―as told fully for the first time, toward the end of her life, to Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds.
  20. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Later, when the money ran out, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. This is a story of triumph against all odds and the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on one’s own terms.
  21. The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou leaves California with her son, Guy, to move to New York. There she enters the society and world of black artists and writers, reads her work at the Harlem Writers Guild, and begins to take part in the struggle of black Americans for their rightful place in the world. In the meantime, her personal life takes an unexpected turn. She leaves the bail bondsman she was intending to marry after falling in love with a South African freedom fighter, travels with him to London and Cairo, where she discovers new opportunities.
  22. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period.
  23. Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat. In her memoir, Marina Nemat tells the story of her life as a young girl in Iran during the early days of Ayatollah Khomeini’s brutal Islamic Revolution. Marina Nemat, then just sixteen years old, was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death for political crimes. Sentenced to death, she was minutes from being executed when one of the guards plucked her from the firing squad and had her sentence reduced to life in prison. But he exacted a shocking price for saving her life –he asked her to marry him. If she didn’t, he would see to it that her family was harmed. Lyrical, passionate, and suffused throughout with grace and sensitivity, Marina Nemat’s memoir is like no other.
  24. Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina by Raquel Cepeda. In 2009, when Cepeda almost lost her estranged father to heart disease, she was terrified she’d never know the truth about her ancestry. Every time she looked in the mirror, Cepeda saw a mystery—a tapestry of races and ethnicities that came together in an ambiguous mix. With a vibrant lyrical prose and fierce honesty, Cepeda parses concepts of race, identity, and ancestral DNA among Latinos by using her own Dominican-American story as one example, and in the process arrives at some sort of peace with her father.
  25. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history.
  26. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs. Jacobs writes frankly of the horrors she suffered as a slave, her eventual escape after several unsuccessful attempts, and her seven years in self-imposed exile, hiding in a coffin-like “garret” attached to her grandmother’s porch. A rare firsthand account of a courageous woman’s determination and endurance, this inspirational story also represents a valuable historical record of the continuing battle for freedom and the preservation of family.
  27. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. The Story of My Life, first published in 1903, is Helen Keller’s autobiography detailing her early life, especially her experiences with Anne Sullivan.
  28. Bossypants by Tina Fey.  From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon, Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.
  29. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This is the riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.
  30. An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison. Dr. Jamison is one of the foremost authorities on manic-depressive (bipolar) illness; she has also experienced it firsthand. While she was pursuing her career in academic medicine, Jamison found herself succumbing to the same exhilarating highs and catastrophic depressions that afflicted many of her patients, as her disorder launched her into ruinous spending sprees, episodes of violence, and an attempted suicide.
  31. You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson. Being a black woman in America means contending with old prejudices and fresh absurdities every day. Comedian Phoebe Robinson has experienced her fair share over the years: she’s been unceremoniously relegated to the role of “the black friend,” as if she is somehow the authority on all things racial; she’s been followed around stores by security guards; and yes, people do ask her whether they can touch her hair all. the. time. Now, she’s ready to take these topics to the page—and she’s going to make you laugh as she’s doing it.
  32. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti.  Valenti explores the toll that sexism takes on women’s lives, from the everyday to the existential. From subway gropings and imposter syndrome to sexual awakenings and motherhood, Sex Object reveals the painful, embarrassing, and sometimes illegal moments that shaped Valenti’s adolescence and young adulthood in New York City.
  33. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner. Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. After Ruth’s father―the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony―is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant. The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable memoir of one girl’s fight for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience.
  34. A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredibly Story of Love, Loss & Survival by Melissa Fleming. Doaa Al Zamel was once an average Syrian girl growing up in a crowded house in a bustling city near the Jordanian border. But in 2011, her life was upended. Inspired by the events of the Arab Spring, Syrians began to stand up against their own oppressive regime. After Doaa’s father’s barbershop was destroyed and rumors of women being abducted spread through the community, her family decided to leave Syria for Egypt, where they hoped to stay in peace until they could return home. Only months after their arrival, the Egyptian government was overthrown and the environment turned hostile for refugees.
  35. Just Kids by Patti Smith. In Just Kids, Patti Smith’s first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies.  An honest and moving story of youth and friendship.
  36. Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler. In her book Self-Inflicted Wounds, comedian and actress Aisha Tyler recounts a series of epic mistakes and hilarious stories of crushing personal humiliation, and the personal insights and authentic wisdom she gathered along the way.
  37. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. When Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.
  38. Everything’s Perfect When You’re A Liar by Kelly Oxford. Kelly Oxford, named one of Rolling Stone’s Funniest People on Twitter and creator of the viral #notokay for women to share their stories of sexual assaultturns her laser-like wit to anxiety, parenthood (or “the sheer insanity of being in charge of the safety and livelihood of three people besides myself”), popular culture, and more in this razor-sharp essay collection.
  39. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman by Nora Ephron. With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in I Feel Bad About My Neck, a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.
  40. Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. Freelance journalist Knapp began drinking in her early teens and continued unabatedly until she “hit bottom” in 1995 and checked herself into a rehab at the age of 36. During that time she managed to graduate with honors from Brown and have a successful career as a journalist, and few people suspected she had a problem with the bottle. Here she recounts the years of denial that helped her rationalize the blackouts, innumerable hangovers, broken relationships and family tensions characteristic of the alcoholic’s story. (From Publishers Weekly)
  41. Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell. They met over their dogs. Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp (author of Drinking: A Love Story) became best friends. Then, several years into this remarkable connection, Knapp was diagnosed with cancer. Caldwell mines the deepest levels of devotion, and courage in this gorgeous memoir about treasuring a best friend, and coming of age in midlife. Let’s Take the Long Way Home is a celebration of the profound transformations that come from intimate connection.
  42. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward. In the space of four years, Ward lost five young men dear to her to drugs, accidents, murder, and suicide. Their deaths were seemingly unconnected, yet their lives had been connected, by identity and place, and as Jesmyn dealt with these losses, she came to a staggering truth: These young men died because of who they were and the place they were from, because certain disadvantages breed a certain kind of bad luck. Because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle. The agonizing reality commanded Jesmyn to write, at last, their true stories and her own.
  43. The Diary of Anais Nin by Anais Nin. This celebrated volume begins when Nin is about to publish her first book and ends when she leaves Paris for New York. Nin was a French-born novelist, passionate eroticist and short story writer, who gained international fame with her journals. Spanning the years from 1931 to 1974, they give an account of one woman’s voyage of self-discovery. “It’s all right for a woman to be, above all, human. I am a woman first of all.” (from Goodreads)
  44. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol by Nell Irvin Painter. Sojourner Truth: ex-slave and fiery abolitionist, riveting preacher and spellbinding singer who dazzled listeners with her wit and originality. Straight-talking and unsentimental, Truth became a national symbol for strong black women–indeed, for all strong women.
  45. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: My Life as a Hip Hop Feminist by Joan Morgan. Joan Morgan offers a provocative and powerful look into the life of the modern black woman: a complex world in which feminists often have not-so-clandestine affairs with the most sexist of men, where women who treasure their independence frequently prefer men who pick up the tab, and where black women are forced to make sense of a world where truth is no longer black and white but subtle, intriguing shades of gray.
  46. Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog. Mary Brave Bird grew up fatherless in a one-room cabin, without running water or electricity, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Rebelling against the aimless drinking, punishing missionary school, narrow strictures for women, and violence and hopeless of reservation life, she joined the new movement of tribal pride sweeping Native American communities in the sixties and seventies. This a unique document, a story of death, of determination against all odds, of the cruelties perpetuated against American Indians, and of the Native American struggle for rights.
  47. Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This? By Marion Meade. In this lively, absorbing biography, Marion Meade illuminates both the charm and the dark side of Dorothy Parker, exploring her days of wicked wittiness at the Algonquin Round Table with the likes of Robert Benchley, George Kaufman, and Harold Ross, and in Hollywood with S. J. Perelman, William Faulkner, and Lillian Hellman. At the dazzling center of it all, Meade gives us the flamboyant, self-destructive, and brilliant Dorothy Parker.
  48. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford. The most famous poet of the Jazz Age, Millay captivated the nation: She smoked in public, took many lovers (men and women, single and married), flouted convention sensationally, and became the embodiment of the New Woman. Nancy Milford creates an iconic portrait of this passionate, fearless woman who obsessed America even as she tormented herself. Millay was an American original—one of those rare characters, like Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway, whose lives were even more dramatic than their art.
  49. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.
  50. Bone Black by bell hooks. A memoir of ideas and perceptions, Bone Black shows the unfolding of female creativity and one strong-spirited child’s journey toward becoming a writer. She sheds new light on a society that beholds the joys of marriage for men and condemns anything more than silence for women. In this world, too, black is a woman’s color―worn when earned―daughters and daddies are strangers under the same roof, and crying children are often given something to cry about. She also discovers, in the motionless body of misunderstanding, that writing is her most vital breath.
  51. The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande. Reyna Grande vividly brings to life her tumultuous early years in this story of a childhood spent torn between two parents and two countries. As her parents make the dangerous trek across the Mexican border in pursuit of the American dream, Reyna and her siblings are forced into the already overburdened household of their stern grandmother. When their mother at last returns, Reyna prepares to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years, her long-absent father.
  52. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung. One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. In April 1975, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung’s family to flee. Loung’s powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.
  53. Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson. This is a memoir about a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in a north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition.
  54. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy.  It took Lucy Grealy twenty years of living with a distorted self-image and more than thirty reconstructive procedures before she could come to terms with her appearance after childhood cancer and surgery that left her jaw disfigured. As a young girl, she absorbed the searing pain of peer rejection and the paralyzing fear of never being loved.
  55. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett. Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981 and began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In Truth & Beauty, the story isn’t Lucy’s life or Ann’s life, but the parts of their lives they shared. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined . . . and what happens when one is left behind
  56. Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks is best known for the day she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. Yet there is much more to her story than this one act of defiance. In this straightforward, compelling autobiography, Rosa Parks talks candidly about the civil rights movement and her active role in it. Her dedication is inspiring; her story is unforgettable.
  57. Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola. A memoir of unblinking honesty and poignant, laugh-out-loud humor, Blackout is the story of a woman stumbling into a new kind of adventure–the sober life she never wanted. Shining a light into her blackouts, she discovers the person she buried, as well as the confidence, intimacy, and creativity she once believed came only from a bottle.
  58. House in the Sky Amanda Lindhout.  In August 2008, Lindhout traveled to Somalia. On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road. Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark.
  59. Barbara Jordan: American Hero by Mary Beth Rodgers. Barbara Jordan was the first African American to serve in the Texas Senate since Reconstruction, the first black woman elected to Congress from the South, and the first to deliver the keynote address at a national party convention. Yet Jordan herself remained a mystery, a woman so private that even her close friends did not know the name of the illness that debilitated her for two decades until it struck her down at the age of fifty-nine.
  60. Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang. In 1852, at age sixteen, Cixi was chosen as one of Emperor Xianfeng’s numerous concubines. When he died in 1861, their five-year-old son succeeded to the throne. Cixi at once launched a coup against her son’s regents and placed herself as the true source of power—governing through a silk screen that separated her from her male officials.
  61. Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican American Girls Coming of Age in America by Helen Thorpe. Just Like Us tells the story of four high school students whose parents entered this country illegally from Mexico. All four of the girls have grown up in the United States but only two have documents. As the girls attempt to make it into college, they discover that only the legal pair sees a clear path forward. Their friendships start to divide along lines of immigration status. Just Like Us is a coming-of-age story about girlhood and friendship, as well as the resilience required to transcend poverty.
  62. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes is the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal. This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self.
  63. Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas. Funny in Farsi chronicles the American journey of Dumas’s wonderfully engaging family: her engineer father, a sweetly quixotic dreamer who lost his job during the Iranian revolution; her elegant mother, who never fully mastered English (nor cared to); her uncle, who combated the effects of American fast food with an army of miraculous American weight-loss gadgets; and Firoozeh herself, who encountered a second wave of culture shock when she met and married a Frenchman, becoming part of a one-couple melting pot.
  64. Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews Edwards. As this memoir of her formative years makes clear, there is more gravitas to Andrews than meets the eye. From her childhood in rural England and initial forays into British theater, to her first massive successes on Broadway and in the West End–notably as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair LadyHome puts her celebrated career in context.
  65. This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression by Daphne Merkin. Daphne Merkin has been hospitalized three times: first, in grade school, for childhood depression; years later, after her daughter was born, for severe postpartum depression; and later still, after her mother died, for obsessive suicidal thinking. Recounting this series of hospitalizations, as well as her visits to myriad therapists and psychopharmacologists, Merkin fearlessly offers what the child psychiatrist Harold Koplewicz calls “the inside view of navigating a chronic psychiatric illness to a realistic outcome.”
  66. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.
  67. Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia & Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher. Vivid, honest, and emotionally wrenching, Wasted is the memoir of how Marya Hornbacher willingly embraced hunger, drugs, sex, and death—until a particularly horrifying bout with anorexia and bulimia in college forever ended the romance of wasting away.
  68. Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts.  With grace, heart, and humor, Roberts writes about overcoming breast cancer only to learn five years later that she will need a bone marrow transplant to combat a rare blood disorder, the grief and heartbreak she suffered when her mother passed away, and the tremendous support and love of her family and friends that saw her through her difficult times.
  69. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?” In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood
  70. Angela Davis: An Autobiography by Angela Davis. The political activist reflects upon the people and incidents that have influenced her life and commitment to global liberation of the oppressed. (from www.barnesandnoble.com)
  71. Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann.
    Sorting through boxes of family papers and yellowed photographs Mann finds more than she bargained for: “deceit and scandal, alcohol, domestic abuse, car crashes, bogeymen, clandestine affairs, dearly loved and disputed family land . . . racial complications, vast sums of money made and lost, the return of the prodigal son, and maybe even bloody murder.” In lyrical prose and startlingly revealing photographs, she crafts a totally original form of personal history.
  72. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.  In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father’s college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work “with both the heart and the hands.” She introduces us to Bill, her brilliant, eccentric lab manager. And she extends the mantle of scientist to each one of her readers, inviting us to join her in observing and protecting our environment.
  73. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton. Celebrated for her courageous exploits as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman has entered history as one of nineteenth-century America’s most enduring and important figures. But just who was this remarkable woman? Now, in a biography widely praised for its impeccable research and its compelling narrative, Harriet Tubman is revealed for the first time as a singular and complex character, a woman who defied simple categorization.
  74. The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee. As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom, and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and realize that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Aged 17, she decided to escape North Korea.
  75. Yes Please by Amy Poehler. In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” “Plain Girl Versus the Demon” and “The Robots Will Kill Us All” Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh.
  76. She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Boylan explores the territory that lies between men and women, examines changing friendships, and rejoices in the redeeming power of family. She’s Not There is about a person bearing and finally revealing a complex secret. As James evolves into Jennifer in scenes that are by turns tender, startling, and witty, a marvelously human perspective emerges on issues of love, sex, and the fascinating relationship between our physical and intuitive selves.
  77. Her by Christa Parravani. Christa Parravani and her identical twin, Cara, were linked by a bond that went beyond friendship. Raised up from poverty by a determined single mother, the gifted and beautiful twins were able to create a private haven between themselves and then earn their way to a prestigious college and to careers as artists and to young marriages. But, haunted by childhood experiences with father figures and further damaged by being raped as a young adult, Cara veered off the path to robust work and life and in to depression, drugs and a shocking early death.
  78. Notorious RBG: The Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik. Notorious RBG is more than just a love letter. It draws on intimate access to Ginsburg’s family members, close friends, colleagues, and clerks, as well an interview with the Justice herself. An original hybrid of reported narrative, annotated dissents, rare archival photos and documents, and illustrations, the book tells a never-before-told story of an unusual and transformative woman who transcends generational divides.
  79. Lucky by Alice Sebold. As an eighteen-year-old college freshman, Sebold was brutally raped and beaten in a park near campus. What propels this chronicle of her recovery is Sebold’s indomitable spirit-as she struggles for understanding; as her dazed family and friends sometimes bungle their efforts to provide comfort and support; and as, ultimately, she triumphs, managing through grit and coincidence to help secure her attacker’s arrest and conviction. Sebold illuminates the experience of trauma victims even as she imparts wisdom profoundly hard-won: “You save yourself or you remain unsaved.”
  80. Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide by Madeline Sharples. Leaving the Hall Light On charts the near-destruction of one middle-class family whose son committed suicide after a seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder. She describes many attempts – some successful, some not – to have her son committed to hospital and to keep him on his medication. The book also charts her and her family’s redemption, how she considered suicide herself, and ultimately, her decision to live and take care of herself as a woman, wife, mother and writer.
  81. Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton. Just when Glennon Doyle Melton was beginning to feel she had it all figured out, her husband revealed his infidelity and she was forced to realize that nothing was as it seemed. A recovering alcoholic and bulimic, Glennon found that rock bottom was a familiar place. In the midst of crisis, she knew to hold on to what she discovered in recovery: that her deepest pain has always held within it an invitation to a richer life.
  82. Straight Walk: A Supermodel’s Journey to Finding Her Truth by Patricia Velasquez. The riveting story of a Latina actress and supermodel and her rise from a poor neighborhood in Venezuela to the fashion runways of Milan, Paris, New York, and London. Patricia Velasquez worked tirelessly to help lift her family out of poverty, but she spent years feeling isolated, living a lie, and hiding her true self from those she loved most.
  83. Bound Feet and Western Dress by Pang-Mei Chang. Growing up in the perilous years between the fall of the last emperor and the Communist Revolution, Chang Yu-i’s life is marked by a series of rebellions: her refusal as a child to let her mother bind her feet, her scandalous divorce, and her rise to Vice President of China’s first women’s bank in her later years. In the alternating voices of two generations, this dual memoir brings together a deeply textured portrait of a woman’s life in China with the very American story of Yu-i’s brilliant and assimilated grandniece, struggling with her own search for identity and belonging.
  84. Personal History by Katharine Graham. Graham was brought up in a family of great wealth, yet she learned and understood nothing about money. She describes herself as having been naive and awkward, yet intelligent and energetic. She married a man she worshipped, and then, in his illness, turned from her and abused her. Hers is a life that came into its own with a vengeance — a success story on every level.
  85. A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana by Haven Kimmel. When Haven Kimmel was born in 1965, Mooreland, Indiana, was a sleepy little hamlet of three hundred people. In this witty and lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back to a time when small—town America was caught in the amber of the innocent postwar period—people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their backyards. (Goodreads)
  86. Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo. In 1942, one young social worker, Irena Sendler, was granted access to the Warsaw ghetto as a public health specialist. While there, she reached out to the trapped Jewish families, going from door to door and asking the parents to trust her with their young children. Irena  kept secret lists buried in bottles under an old apple tree in a friend’s back garden. On them were the names and true identities of those Jewish children, recorded with the hope that their relatives could find them after the war. She could not have known that more than ninety percent of their families would perish.
  87. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty―a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre―took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes.
  88. Five Men Who Broke My Heart by Susan Shapiro. A successful freelance writer living in Manhattan, Susan Shapiro was in the midst of a midlife crisis. Married for five years, she was beginning to wonder if she’d remain book- and babyless forever. Then the phone rang, and it was a college flame who’d become a Harvard scientist with a book coming out. Susan offers to interview him, and she winds up launching into all the intense, invasive questions she’d always wanted to ask him. This ignites a spark that sends her on a cross-country jaunt back through her lust-littered past.
  89. Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah. Adeline Yen Mah was the youngest child of an affluent Chinese family who enjoyed rare privileges during a time of political and cultural upheaval. But wealth and position could not shield Adeline from a childhood of appalling emotional abuse at the hands of a cruel and manipulative Eurasian stepmother. Determined to survive through her enduring faith in family unity, Adeline struggled for independence as she moved from Hong Kong to England and eventually to the United States.
  90. Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeline K. Albright.  For eight years, during Bill Clinton’s two presidential terms, Albright was a high-level participant in some of the most dramatic events of our time—from the pursuit of peace in the Middle East to NATO’s intervention in the Balkans to America’s troubled relations with Iran and Iraq. Albright reflects on her remarkable personal story, including her upbringing in war-torn Europe and the balancing of career and family responsibilities, and on America’s leading role in a changing world.
  91. Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical  by Sherie M. Randolph. Rather than simply reacting to the predominantly white feminist movement, Kennedy brought the lessons of Black Power to white feminism and built bridges in the struggles against racism and sexism. Randolph narrates Kennedy’s progressive upbringing, her pathbreaking graduation from Columbia Law School, and her long career as a media-savvy activist, showing how Kennedy rose to founding roles in organizations such as the National Black Feminist Organization and the National Organization for Women, allying herself with both white and black activists.
  92. Marie Curie: A Life by Susan Quinn. From the stubborn sixteen-year-old studying science at night while working as a governess, to her romance and scientific partnership with Pierre Curie—an extraordinary marriage of equals—we feel her defeats as well as her successes: her rejection by the French Academy, her unbearable grief at Pierre’s untimely and gruesome death, and her retreat into a love affair with a married fellow scientist, causing a scandal which almost cost her the second Nobel Prize.
  93. Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair that Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn. A warm, intimate account of the love between Eleanor Roosevelt and reporter Lorena Hickok—a relationship that, over more than three decades, transformed both women’s lives and empowered them to play significant roles in one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.
  94. Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde by Alexis De Veaux. During her lifetime, Audre Lorde (1934-1992), author of the landmark Cancer Journals, created a mythic identity for herself that retains its vitality to this day. Drawing from the private archives of the poet’s estate and numerous interviews, Alexis De Veaux demystifies Lorde’s iconic status, charting her conservative childhood in Harlem; her early marriage to a white, gay man with whom she had two children; her emergence as an outspoken black feminist lesbian; and her canonization as a seminal poet of American literature.
  95. Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950’s by Jennifer Worth. Jennifer Worth came from a sheltered background when she became a midwife in the Docklands in the 1950s. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying, not only because of their grimly impoverished surroundings, but also because of what they were expected to endure. But while Jennifer witnessed brutality and tragedy, she also met with amazing kindness and understanding, tempered by a great deal of Cockney humor.
  96. Behind Every Great Man: The Forgotten Women Behind the World’s Most Famous & Infamous Men by Marlene Wagman-Geller. This witty, illuminating book reveals the remarkable stories of forty captivating females, from Constance Lloyd (Mrs. Oscar Wilde) to Carolyn Adams (Mrs. Jerry Garcia), who have stood behind their legendary partners and helped to humanize them, often at the cost of their own careers, reputations, and happiness. Through fame and its attendant ills―alcoholism, infidelity, mental illness, divorce, and even attempted murder―these powerful women quietly propelled their men to the top and changed the course of history.
  97. Elizabeth’s Women: Friends, Rivals and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman. So often viewed in her relationships with men, the Virgin Queen is portrayed here as the product of women—the mother she lost so tragically, the female subjects who worshipped her, and the peers and intimates who loved, raised, challenged, and sometimes opposed her.
  98. Bobbed Hair & Bathtub GinWriters Running Wild in Their Twenties by Marion Meade. In her exuberant new work, Marion Meade presents a portrait of four extraordinary writers-Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St.Vincent Millay, and Edna Ferber- whose loves, lives, and literary endeavors embodied the spirit of the 1920s.
  99. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shatterly. Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.
  100. Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and At War by Helen Thorpe. Helen Thorpe follows the lives of three women over twelve years on their paths to the military, overseas to combat, and back home…and then overseas again for two of them. These women, who are quite different in every way, become friends, and we watch their interaction and also what happens when they are separated. We see their families, their lovers, their spouses, their children. We see them work extremely hard, deal with the attentions of men on base and in war zones, and struggle to stay connected to their families back home.
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