Unconventional Memoirs You Need to Read Next

Published on 3/3/2022

“A memoir is a narrative, written from the perspective of the author, about an important part of their life.” - Celadon Books.

And yet, often when we think of memoirs, we think of celebrities or renowned figures. We think of people reflecting back on their life once it has been lived.

This is why we’re surprised to hear of memoirs written by younger people, such as 22-year-old Molly-Mae, or people that weren’t famous before they told their story. As time progresses, the boundaries to memoirs are lessened, and within the pile, we find some interesting ones.

It’s unconventional memoirs that are often the best ones. Whilst these ‘traditional’ memoirs can follow such a strict outline, with the right amount of secrets or reveals, it’s unconventional memoirs that actually challenge the way we think and feel. It’s unconventional memoirs that we can relate to, as inside we’re all writing our own.

Everything I Know About Love - Dolly Alderton

I recommend this book a lot, and I don’t think that will stop anytime soon. I like to describe it as the memoir of an everyday girl. This book is what made people know Dolly Alderton, rather than traditional memoirs where they’re writing about their famous life.

This makes it so relatable, as Dolly speaks of MSN relationship, parties at university, watching friends get engaged and more. I recently reread this book and was struck by how it’s also a love letter to being single and discovering your identity. I think the point in life you’re at when reading this book will impact what you take from it, but there are always lesson to be learned.

On Writing - Stephen King

I thought that this would be a traditional book on writing, but I was pleasantly surprised to find over half the book focused on his own life and experiences. There was even an updated section to include his accident, which happened when writing this very book.

I think Stephen aims to show that if he can be a writer, anyone can. If he can make it, why can’t you? It’s a book about perseverance, life lessons and acknowledging everyone who helped you along the way. It’s an untraditional memoir as it’s also a guide to writing, not just how to get published, but how to actually write a half-decent book. Stephen considers both the larger aspects of writing routine and querying, as well as going as specific as sentence structure and useless words. A must-read for any aspiring writer, or even published ones.

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are - Rachel Bloom

This book differs to the others listed in that I was already acquainted with Rachel Bloom before reading it. In fact, I was counting down the days until the release of her memoir.

I’m a big fan of her show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, particularly for how it portrays Borderline Personality Disorder. Rachel not only created and wrote the show and music, but also starred in it as Rebecca Bunch. I really recommend giving it a go! You’ll find it on Netflix.

This is a memoir about being strange. It’s about being the person who never quite fit in. Rachel lays it all on the table, including mental health, potty training, hiding in bathrooms and more. It’s a collection of essays that take you from childhood to her time on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and further.

Rachel jumps between styles and timelines, mimicking the way a frazzled mind works. It’s fun, easy and managed to be both relatable and utterly odd.

Just Kids - Patti Smith

It almost feels wrong to call this book a memoir, as it read like a story, so beautiful that it had to be made up. Just Kids starts and ends with Robert’s death, and then takes you through the heartwrenching in-between. It’s a tale of love, art, hope and so much more.

It’s a love story, an unconventional one for sure, but a love story nonetheless. This book felt like a secret you clutch close to your heart and refuse to let go. It’s easy to recognise Patti as a poet through her delicate prose, and yet she also takes us along the adventure and keeps the reader enthralled.

Educated - Tara Westover

When I think of a memoir, it’s usually in terms of someone famous or important, often in an artistic or political setting. In recent years, we’ve moved away from this rigid definition to include unconventional memoirs, and Educated is definitely one of these.

Tara was raised in the mountains of Idaho to survivalist parents. She never went to school or a hospital, she was isolated from the world. She was seventeen the first time she entered a classroom.

And yet, against all odds, Tara managed to leave her home behind and embark on a fierce quest for knowledge. Tara explores her own history and what it means to be educated.

I read this book quickly, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Whilst I’m usually much more of a fiction reader, these were the memoirs that tempted me into a new genre, and that will make me search for more. They showed me that memoir authors don’t have to be famous before writing their book, and a good one will become famous from it.

Have I missed any unconventional memoirs that you enjoyed? Let me know, I’m always looking for books to read next.

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Fleur

Fleur

Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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