Riot Headline The Most Read Books on Goodreads This Week

5 of the Best Contemporary Memoirs by Women

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Katherine Packer

Staff Writer

Katherine Packer is a displaced Midwesterner currently living wherever she can find WiFi and a couch to crash on. She holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence and an MA from the University of Kent in International Conflict. While books have always been her first love, she’s recently been exploring how books can help open minds and change the world. You can get in touch with her here:

For a very long time (too long), I thought of memoir as essentially a different type of autobiography. A retelling of a life well-lived, usually done from the sagacity brought on by old age. But thankfully, for myself and for the world, these five women are shattering any preconceived notions you may have about what memoir is or should be. While they are each at different stages of their lives, each one of these contemporary memoirs by women shows us that we have stories to tell, no matter how old we are, and that these stories can be not only beautiful but reveal truths about the world that we live in. And the best part is that we can look forward to everything these authors will write for years to come.

carmen maria machado in the dream house book cover horror memoir

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

This beautiful memoir deals with the very real, but not often discussed, issue of domestic violence in queer relationships. Machado provides details of her own abusive relationship as well as the context around the larger issue, which helps to ease some of the tension as you read. Written in snippets that jump around in time, Machado’s beautiful writing carries us through her story and provides a roadmap for release.

The Heart and Other Monsters by Rose Andersen

The Heart and Other Monsters is about Andersen’s deep dive into her sister’s opioid addiction and death. The book centers this traumatic event as Andersen looks for answers, but it also takes us back to their childhood and the path that has brought us to this moment. It is a beautiful book that invites us to interrogate why things happen while also acknowledging that there may never be an answer to our questions.

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden

T. Kira Madden’s debut book is a deep dive into her childhood, growing up with her mother and sometimes present father, John Madden (brother of Steven Madden). We travel with her to Boca Raton, and her words carry us through her tumultuous upbringing as she searches for the truth that lies just underneath the surface. Her brutally honest and lyrical prose is captivating and pulls you into her world.

men we reaped a memoir by jesmyn ward book cover

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Men We Reaped is Jesmyn Ward’s attempt to come to terms with the loss of five men she was close to in the span of five years. Ward grew up in a small town in Mississippi, and as she struggles to understand the immensity of this loss, she realizes that it is related to the history of this place and who these men were. Tackling the enormity of racism in her home state along with the pain of her grief, this book is a powerful, heartwrenching story that is important on so many levels.

Educated by Tara Westover

This book tells the story of Tara’s life growing up in an extremely fundamentalist Mormon family in rural Idaho. She was sequestered away from the rest of the world, and as a result, didn’t enter formal education until she was 17 years old. The book is a fascinating look at an extreme way of thinking. TW: The book contains some fairly graphic descriptions of child abuse and violence against different members of the family. But the distance that Tara has come to bring us her story is remarkable and worth exploring.