I love a great memoir, and I noticed recently that I tend towards a certain sub-genre of memoirs, those of the mistfit variety. These memoirs are usually brutally honest, self-deprecating, and describe life at the fringes of society, or at least behavior that most of us would be embarrassed, horrified or shocked by. Most are funny and tend to be insightful, and whether it’s a well-known celebrity or someone I’ve never heard of, I find them relatable and refreshing. From bed-wetting to viagra addiction, these memoirists share all for the sake of taking the reader on a journey of self-discovery. I’ve compiled a list of such memoirs, which is by no means comprehensive. Please share your own suggestions below!
Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart Novelist, Gary Shteyngart, self-proclaimed nerd and outsider, gives us a self-deprecating look at his journey as a child coming from Communist Soviet Union to Republican Queens, New York. Described by his peers as desperate and trying too hard, Shteyngart details his many failings in that department, all just to find a place to belong and his piece of the American pie.
Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons by Greg Fitzsimmons Most parents would hide their children’s failures, but not Greg Fitzsimmons’. They saved each one like a trophy. This book chronicles his failures through everything from newspaper clippings to disciplinary letters saved from his childhood, revealing the dysfunctional Irish family upbringing he’s now proudly passing on to the next generation.
Attempting Normal by Marc Maron Smart and insightful, comedian Marc Maron shares 25 stories from his life that illustrate his journey from madness, obsession, and failure, to finding something like normal. Brutally open, he shares his experiences from viagra addiction to cat fancying to racial profiling in this hilarious memoir of a man who’s just trying to be better without messing it all up.
Maybe We’ll Have You Back by Fred Stoller From the dopey cousin, to annoying waiter, Fred Stoller has appeared as the oddball character on countless TV sitcoms and has played opposite to some of the biggest TV stars, yet still hasn’t managed to get his own permanent gig. Rather than a rags to riches story, this one is more rags to rags, of a desperate comedian turned actor constantly looking for work, even counting the money he gets from the union if he wears his own clothes instead of a costume. In this funny read, you’ll get an inside look into show business from his personal accounts from both on and off stage that are sure to entertain.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh The genius of this graphic novel memoir is in Brosh’s ability to recognize her own flaws and cleverly portray them in drawings that are meant to resemble a 5 year old’s scrawl. Her simple yet telling illustrations tell the story of a girl caught in unfortunate situations with flawed coping mechanisms. Self-deprecating and insightful, she will have you laughing out loud from page 1.
The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman We all know Sarah Silverman as a comedic genius, but you probably didn’t know she was once a bedwetter. Growing up, Silverman stuck out as a Jewish girl in non-Jewish New Hampshire, further distinguishing her from the other kids on top of the bedwetting problem. Her autobiography details her years growing up, including her early penchant for cursing, to later finding her voice as a stand up comedian in New York.
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me: A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney
In this graphic novel memoir, Ellen Forney describes her battle with Bipolar Disorder and her struggle to retain her creativity while being subjected to various courses of medications and therapy. She manages to tackle this serious topic with self-deprecating humor and illustrations that give us a realistic look into her mood-disordered mind.
Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges Georges graphic novel memoir explores her dysfunctional family, coming to terms with her mother’s lies, and the idea of a father she thought was dead, all while seeking help from a psychic and a radio talk show host, Dr. Laura. The memoir is both about coming of age and coming out, and the quirky Georges endears us with her drawings, honest insights, and her family mystery.
How to Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran From the oldest child of 8 growing up on government assistance in Wolverhampton, England, to becoming a celebrity and music columnist in London, Caitlin Moran provides us with insight into her idea of how to be a woman with a sassy, feminist, realistic point of view. She openly admits that while growing up uninformed, unprepared, and deluded, that she got being a woman wrong, but shares with us these stories in an attempt at starting a new conversation of feminism. Dealing with topics such as workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, and children, her humorous stories are something any woman can relate to.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson Have you ever accidentally worn a deer carcass as a sweater? Had a baby bobcat thrown into the lap of your unsuspecting boyfriend by your dad? Jenny Lawson points out the things most people won’t experience but were the norm for her growing up an eccentric childhood in rural Texas. She’ll have you laughing out loud at morbid jokes (like deer carcasses) but also delves into more serious topics of depression, anxiety, and miscarriages. Lawson dares to say out loud what we’re probably all thinking in these over the top stories.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling You might know Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri or Kelly Kapoor from television, or as a cross-dressing Ben Affleck on off-Broadway, but her memoir gives us new insight into the life of a quirky girl of immigrant parents on her path to fame. From her time as an chubby kid growing up in New England, to her move to Brooklyn to pursue a career in writing, she shares witty, relatable anecdotes that will sure to have you laughing.
Bossypantsby Tina Fey Tina Fey traces her steps from an awkward, dorky kid to a glamorous (yet still inwardly dorky) bossypants in her memoir that is full of wit and self-deprecation. From growing up in Pennsylvania to doing Improv in Chicago, and then working for SNL in New York, she recounts the tales of making her way in a male dominated industry, all while juggling her personal life. If you’re a Liz Lemon fan like me, you won’t be disappointed.
Not Taco Bell Material by Adam Carolla Here is yet another celebrity journey from blue-collar background to Hollywood success. Carolla’s classic rant style humor walks us through his journey by describing all the houses, or “dumps,” he’s called home. For anyone who is hoping for something better out of life, Carolla’s book gives you just such inspiration, coming from a man who was only good at being funny and working with his hands, who eventually managed, against all odds, to find success in show business.