Memoirs are my favourite type of non-fiction books, especially celebrity memoirs. I guess it’s how I get my juicy gossip about their goings-on, except it’s right from the source, and not in a tabloid or celebrity magazine. In this manner, I have a higher expectation of their stories to be more honest because I’m really only interested in THE REAL STORY. The first-hand account. This past year I grew to love listening to celebrity memoirs even more so than in past years as an audiobook. The experience of listening to an author read their work is a unique experience, and it is much more enjoyable than me simply reading their work myself. I just find it so much more enjoyable to hear someone telling their life story, sharing their research, or presenting their essays and arguments verbally. I’ve pretty much determined that when possible, I will always enjoy a memoir this way, and have expanded that to include pretty much all non-fiction I read from here on out.
Here is a ranked list of the celebrity memoirs that I enjoyed this past year.
Becoming by Michelle Obama(5 / 5)
As a Canadian, I knew relatively little about Michelle Obama prior to reading this memoir. What I did know stems a bit from what the media has portrayed over the past decade but mostly from what Michelle has done herself. Things ranging from her guest appearances and silly antics (like shopping in disguise) on Ellen, to her experience on Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, and then her various interviews regarding the initiatives and movements that she started as the First Lady. From any of these that I have seen, she has seemed like an inspiring, driven, and put-together woman who has a strong and stable family relationship with a solid marriage.
From the very first paragraph, I was reassured. I knew that I was going to love and enjoy this book and as I was reading Michelle’s story, she confirmed all the previous notions that I had about her. While much of the book is insightful, what I first gleamed about Michelle is that she was someone raised with core values and strong family life, much like myself. Although our home communities were very diverse (Michelle being from the South Side of Chicago and myself being from rural Oxford County, Ontario), I also felt like we had a similar aspect to our personalities. I was able to identify with Michelle’s desire to succeed and her personal to-do list. The idea that life is a constant goal-checking, the task-oriented process is how I have felt since high-school. With my list of goals being reset every year, my ambitious mind is always working toward the checking of the next personal box. But what Michelle allude’s to which I identify currently with is what happens when you fall in love and you have to add your partner’s goals into your list. It then becomes a bit more challenging to continue to check off the boxes of life at the same pace, or even in the same order. And then perhaps some of those boxes change and you have new boxes you never previously imagined. Sometimes veering off that path is scary and discomforting, especially when it isn’t what you’ve always imagined for yourself. But the advice and wisdom that Michelle offers is that you can’t make decisions based on the fear and the possibility of what might happen. You must take risks, you must support the one you love, and you must have faith that there is a path – even if it is not the one you have set in your mind.
I greatly appreciate the endeavors that Michelle took on as First Lady. What most stood out to me is that she strived to assist with education for young girls and women around the globe. As Michelle states, children will invest more in themselves when they know they are being invested in by the adults and power holders around them. I also believe this, and it’s a large concept that impacts my methodology towards children’s librarianship. I think that Michelle is truly inspiring for her work in this area and I look forward to seeing her endeavors continue and grow now that she is outside of the White House.
My final thought is that this book was phenomenal. It is an excellent, well-written memoir about Michelle’s life thus far and I am glad that she chose to share her fascinating story with the world. If you have ever been awed by Michelle giving a speech, related to her or laughed with her during a talk-show interview, or simply been inspired by women who face adversity and rise above and overcome the challenges they are given, then you should definitely read Becoming.
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union(5 / 5)
Gabrielle Union first became a celebrity to watch for me when I saw her in 10 Things I Hate About You, one of the earliest teen movies I can remember watching. Then she popped up again in Bring It On, and in a myriad of other movies and television shows that I’ve seen over the years. Recently, she was a judge on America’s Got Talent season 14 and that is when I really got to see her personality shine! But I actually read this book before AGT even aired.
I found her memoir exciting to read. She shared so many honest and eye-opening stories that I really had no idea about. She discusses major social issues and traumatic situations that have been relevant over the years of her career. She has experienced sexual harassment. She shows vulnerability when she shares her rape story. Gabrielle is brave and real in her memoir, and because of its heaviness, I believe that is why the title is “We’re Going to Need More Wine” because sometimes that can be an essential vice when having hard conversations.
I appreciated the new perspective on Hollywood and celebrity life that Gabrielle brought me with her writing. She tells her story with humour and candor. I enjoyed this book immensely.
Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews Edwards(4 / 5)
It was wonderful to hear Julie Andrews tell her own story. Home, published in 2008, is Julie’s story about the beginning chapters of her life. She shares memories from her childhood (which wasn’t as picture-perfect as one may think) and her experiences growing up with a blended family. She shares her introduction to singing and theatre and takes us into her years as a young star both on Broadway in the United States and on stage in London in productions of My Fair Lady and Camelot. I found it to be wonderful to hear from Julie about life prior to Mary Poppins, which is the role when I was first introduced to her. What I enjoyed most about this book was the special soundbites and recording of Julie’s singing on stage. This was a treat exclusive to the audiobook version!
Late Late at Night by Rick Springfield(4 / 5)
Fun Fact: My car’s name is Jessie. He’s a moonwalk grey Mini Cooper 5-door. And he is named after Rick Springfield’s hit song, Jessie’s Girl.
Fun Fact #2: I used to watch General Hospital and Rick Springfield was on General Hospital for a stint from 1981-1983 (before I was born) and from 2005-2008, then again in 2012 and 2013 for an episode). I watched GH pretty regularly from about 2004-2008 when I was in high school. But my Mom and my brother actually started watching it a bit earlier than that. The reason being – we lived in a rural area and we only had antenna-television. No cable, no satelitte. So there was very little to watch at 3:00 pm when you first were home from school. So we got hooked on General Hospital. Anyways, that is where I first met Rick Springfield. Although I can’t remember which came first, knowing the song or watching him act. But that doesn’t matter.
I remember when I bought this book, and it has been on my TBR for years! It was enjoyable and informative. Rick was very open and honest about his struggles with depression, infidelity, and alcoholism over the years. I really admire his enduring marriage to Barbara. They have been through many ups and downs and they define ‘for better or for worse’ in my eyes. The way that Rick describes his relationships reminds me of how imprinting in animals works. An animal (or in this case, a human) feels lost and unsure of their identity until they imprint with another animal (most often it’s one of the same kind) and that being then becomes a part of all they ever know and how they self-identify. Rick seems to bond with his core people in ways that will always grant him their undying loyalty and support. I admire that. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the explicit language. I’m just not a fan of hearing that out loud. But this story is raw and vulnerable and well-worth the read.
Home Work: A Memoir of my Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews Edwards with Emma Walton Hamilton(3 / 5)
After reading Julie Andrews’ first memoir, I felt a great deal of anticipation about reading this one. However, I didn’t feel like I had the same reading experience this time around. This book spans the years of Julie’s life from about 1963 to 1986, which she best defines as her “Hollywood Years”. I most enjoyed the section of the book when Julie was giving a behind the scenes account of her time filming Mary Poppins, and then the Sound of Music. But this was the first section, which left the rest of the book to be not as enjoyable for me. I am not as familiar with Julie’s later work in the 1970s and 1980s. I had no idea that Julie Andrews and her husband Blake had adopted two babies from Vietnam, but I guess that’s part of the enjoyment of reading a memoir right? I love learning new things about celebrities and ‘famous people’. But, while I appreciated the many stories of motherhood, marriage, and life as she was in constant movement, overall the book just lacked a certain spark of magic for me. I am hoping since this book only covered until the mid 80’s, that a third book is to come?
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Olivia Newton-John(4 / 5)
Grease was one of those movies that I remember first seeing at a very young age. I could probably play the entire movie in my mind from start to finish, with all the songs and famous scenes recalled. So, I’ve always known who Olivia Newton-John was. But, I hadn’t known her in many other roles other than Sandy. I knew she’d recorded some music, and she guest-starred on Glee. That’s about it. So, when I found out she was writing a memoir, I immediately wanted to pick it up.
Olivia also has endured a fierce battle with breast cancer, many times. She shares stories of that journey, as well as her history in Hollywood, relationships (including an undeniable attraction to John Travolta – can you blame her?!), and her years of growing up and residing in Australia. I enjoyed this book on audio and listened to most of it on our trip out to Alberta this summer. Plus, Olivia has the nicest accent to listen to. I commend her for her personal strength and her positive attitude toward physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. This book is perfect for any fan of hers.
Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson(4 / 5)
This was a recent read of mine. Mara Wilson is a former child star that I’m sure most of you recognize from movies like Matilda or Mrs. Doubtfire. Perhaps even Miracle on 34th Street? At least that is where I know her best from. But I’ve often wondered why I hadn’t seen her in movies more recently.
The truth is – Mara doesn’t really act anymore, preferring to write and stay behind the scenes. This is her story of why, and given what she shares, I can understand it. She has struggled with grief, anxiety, an OCD diagnosis and childhood in the spotlight. Her memoir was a genuine, authentic, sometimes sad, sometimes humorous memoir that presented just as many hardships as triumphs.
Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic: A Comedian’s Guide to Life on the Spectrum by Michael McCreary(3 / 5)
Many of you may not know who Michael McCreary is. I didn’t even really know who he was until I was at a book preview event and I heard a publisher rep. doing a book talk about this memoir. I grabbed a copy, after my interest was peaked by their presentation.
I appreciated Micheal sharing his story. Born and raised in Orangeville, Ontario, Michael was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder as a child. I appreciated the insight that Michael gave to the disorder and how he shared his struggles, triumphs, and family life with his readers. After all, I would think he is the best one to describe himself! The book wasn’t as humorous as I thought it might be. But I did listen to it as an audiobook, so it was great to hear his voice throughout. I commend him on following his passion – moving to Toronto and pursuing a life of comedy, even when people in his life discouraged him. He did perform at Second City in Toronto, but I can’t recall whether he was a cast member of any of the shows I’ve attended. Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to see Michael perform stand up or improv live, or even act!
High School by Tegan & Sara Quinn(3 / 5)
It was in the late 2000’s that I was introduced to Tegan & Sara, from my older brother. I believe they even played a show at his college. I wouldn’t say I’ve followed them closely since then, but I’ve been aware of their albums and hit singles at the time. When I found out they were releasing a memoir, I was intrigued!
I mostly enjoyed this book via audio. The performance and experience of the book was SO GREAT. I enjoyed the demo recordings a lot! But I found I couldn’t relate much to their high school experiences as it was so different from mine. The only common experience was probably being Canadian, to be honest. 🇨🇦. However I appreciated their truthful and honest coming of age stories of life, friendship, music, family, and sisterhood. I’ll continue to follow their music releases and I’ll always appreciate their part in Canadian music history.
I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star by Judy Greer(3 / 5)
This book may be titled “I Don’t Know Where You Know Me From…” But I know exactly where I’ve seen Judy Greer before…movies like 13 Going on 30, The Wedding Planner, and 27 Dresses – 3 of my all-time favourite chick flicks!
I enjoyed this one on audio. It was entertaining to learn more about Judy’s career. She’s often the perpetual sidekick, a best friend to the main actor, or a repetitive extra or one episode guest star. So to hear her share life stories and describe this type of acting experience was refreshing. She includes her sarcastic humour and wit in her writing as well. There were parts where it felt a bit slow, but it wasn’t a long listen (about 5.5 hours?). If you remember Judy Greer from these movies or any of her numerous other works, like Archer, it’s worth a listen.
In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett(3 / 5)
So I’m the youngest person I know that is a fan of Carol Burnett. Ever since watching her play Miss Hannigan over and over in the original Annie movie, I was hooked. I think she’s hilarious and talented. A true Hollywood comedic gem.
Four or five years ago when I was living with my parents, we would watch old episodes of The Carol Burnett Show together during dinner time. This is when I got to enjoy her famous sketch comedy, and learn about the talents of Harvey, Vicki, and Tim Conroy. I loved the Mama sketches and the ones where Carol played a flighty, dippy, secretary.
In Such Good Company is when Carol talks about her show in great detail, capturing the memories of the 11-seasons on air. It was an interesting way to learn about the show, especially some of the behind the scenes aspects. However, it did get a bit slow and a little boring after a long while. Thankfully I listened to this book on audio, which always adds an element of enjoyment especially when it’s read by the author.
It isn’t my favourite of her books, but it was a chance to revisit some of Carol’s wonder. She’s provided me many reading and family memories (as now my mom has passed and watching those episodes together is one of my best last memories). So Carol, I’m so glad we’ve had this time together.
Did you spot any of your favourite celebrity memoirs? Do you plan to add any of these titles to your TBR? Let me know in the comments below.