10 Of The Best Female Autobiographies Of 2018

2019 is here and with it, a chance to stick to the 'must read more books' New Year's resolution. As Lily Allen reminds us in My Thoughts Exactly: “Telling stories is important, especially if you are a woman. When women share their stories, loudly and clearly and honestly, things begin to change – for the better.” Last year’s selection of inspirational books spans different generations, continents and industries, so make space on your bedside table and stock up. SL contributor Ann-Maria McCarthy takes a look back at the best.
Becoming, Michelle Obama | £19.99 (Was £25)

BecomingMichelle Obama

Michelle Obama is more than a fist bump, a soundbite, or a Vogue cover, and this memoir shows her in all her multifaceted glory. Her integrity, intelligence and humility are on every page. She doesn’t shy from discussing the challenges she has faced, from her father’s multiple sclerosis to the subtle racism she experienced at Princeton. Her and Barack’s fertility issues are also discussed in depth, in fact, she brings the reader right into a bathroom as she injects her thigh with hormones. The reader has privileged access to so many private moments in Obama’s life – a piano recital gone awry as a little girl, her reaction to her very first phone call with Barack, a moment of calm in her backyard as her husband and children are away. This is a must read.

Brutally Honest, Melanie Brown | £11.59

Brutally Honest - Melanie Brown

This is an unflinching look at abuse and addiction. Melanie Brown is determined to show us the reality behind the glamour of her celebrity life. There are moments of gossip and name dropping from her Spice Girl days, including a particularly funny anecdotes about Nelson Mandela. However, the main focus is on her marriage to Stephen Belafonte, and the degradation and fear that Brown felt in that relationship. Melanie Brown is still ‘Scary Spice’ to so many of us, this memoir shows that even with such a strong alter-ego, she, just like any woman, can be a victim of domestic abuse. A brave memoir with a deeply important message.

Educated, Tara Westover | £14.99

EducatedTara Westover

Tara Westover grew up in a Mormon survivalist family in rural Idaho. This autobiography will transport you to a world that is not often discussed by an insider. Westover believes that education has been the most transformative agent in her life but acknowledges that is has come with huge sacrifices on her part. The friction between staying true to yourself and staying loyal to your family is discussed throughout. Westover first walked into a classroom at 16 and has since gone on to study at Cambridge and Harvard, this is nothing short of remarkable. Inspiring is a word that is often bandied about but there is no more apt word to describe Educated or Tara Westover.

I Might Regret This, Abbi Jacobson | £18.99

I Might Regret ThisAbbi Jacobson

Fans of Broad City are going to love this memoir from its co-creator, Abbi Jacobson. I Might Regret This is a collection of stories, essays and drawings based on a three-week American road trip that Jacobson took in the summer of 2017. Sexuality and insecurity are discussed in depth, alongside some astute observations on the people she happens upon on her road trip. It is an extremely funny journey through millennial identity.

My Thoughts Exactly, Lily Allen | £9.99 (Was £20)

My Thoughts Exactly - Lily Allen 

Lily Allen did not want to write a traditional memoir, and she hasn’t. She does not follow a linear retelling of events, she wants to look at her ‘truth’ but acknowledges it is one of many truths. She details her addictions, her sense of isolation, and the abuse of power she has encountered in the music industry. From all the tabloid coverage of Allen, we may think that we know everything about her, this memoir proves how wrong we are.

In Pieces, Sally Field | £9.99 (Was £20)

In Pieces – Sally Field

Sally Field is an American institution, beloved for her diverse roles in everything from ER to Brothers & Sisters. She has been in Hollywood for over six decades so you might be expecting some fluffy reading material – luckily, you won’t find it in this memoir. Deeply distressing in some parts, the detailed descriptions of childhood sexual abuse by her stepfather are horrifying, but this is balanced out by uplifting sections on her desire to be an actor and the immense perseverance she relied on to keep going: “The power to change everything rested in me”. This is an accomplished memoir that describes the greatest role Field has ever played, herself.

Squirrel Days, Ellie Kemper | £18.99

Squirrel DaysEllie Kemper

If you are a fan of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, you will love the almost maniacal levels of optimism in this memoir. The glass is not just full, it is overflowing, as Kemper talks us through her work on Bridesmaids, The Office and of course, Kimmy Schmidt, and her family life in New York as a mother. Uplifting and affirming, it is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

This Will Only Hurt a Little, Busy Phillips | £11.86 (Was £16.99)

This Will Only Hurt a LittleBusy Phillips

Busy Phillips is as known for her down-to-earth Instagram account as her years in the 90s classic, Dawson’s Creek. In her autobiography, she discusses everything from therapy to racoon sex, Harvey Weinstein to The Little Mermaid. She recounts many of the uncomfortable realities of being a female actor in Hollywood, and her evaluation is particularly damning: “You’d better be damn sure you smile when they ask and wear a low-cut top to your network test and lose the fucking weight and let them take credit for your words.” Phillips is more than the sum of her Instagram stories and this multi-layered autobiography proves it.

The Vanity Fair Diaries, Tina Brown | £9.18

The Vanity Fair DiariesTina Brown

Strictly speaking, this was released at the end of 2017, but it is too good a read to leave out. Tina Brown has been the editor-in-chief of Tatler, the New Yorker and Vanity Fair. She has had everyone from Anna Wintour to Hilary Clinton on speed dial. Hers has been a mesmerising career and this memoir of her Vanity Fair years is a raucous read. She invites the reader to the glamorous party that was 80s New York. It is a world of immense privilege, wealth and ego. She doesn’t spare anyone in this account and her editor eye can size a person up in a couple of words. Gossipy, fun, and glamourous.

To Throw Away Unopened, Viv Albertine | £14.59

To Throw Away UnopenedViv Albertine

Viv Albertine was a key part of English punk culture as guitarist for 70s all-female band, The Slits. She released her first memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys in 2014 and it went on to be the Sunday Times’ Book of the Year. To Throw Away Unopened is her beautifully written follow up. It is full of the lyricism that belies Albertine’s music past with sections reminding me of Patti Smith’s autobiographical writing. Albertine unpacks what it is to be a middle-aged woman, navigating the responsibility of aging parents, the insecurity that can accompany dating as an older woman, and the resilience required to live with the layers of a past that may be longer than your future. It’s a funny, brave and eye-opening read.

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