Here are seven memoirs that have stuck with me long after I’ve put them down. From parenting to social pressure, to the deep history of a country, to reckoning with death, dying, and growing up poor: this collection of books takes you inside the experiences of different human lives.

Are You My Mother?, A comic drama by Alison Bechdel. Interwoven graphic depictions of dreams, memories, and psychological insights from Freud, Winnicott, and more in a memoir/comic novel.

Appetites: Why Women Want, by Caroline Knapp. Haunting, troubling, winding—this book examines the hungers of women through a personal and intense memoir of a woman who struggled with anorexia. At her lightest, she weighed 83 pounds and eight a cheese cube and an apple for dinner. But it wasn’t entirely about food. She writes: “Satisfying hungers, taking things in, indulging in bodily pleasures—these are not easy matters for a lot of women.”

Roots: The Saga of An American Family, by Alex Haley. Incredible, long read about the ancestry and history of a family ripped from his homeland and brought into the markets of the new world slavery. Read if you want a better context for the history of the United States.

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. A talented neurosurgeon who studies language, mortality, and brain science is suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer. This is the book he writes in the final year of his life. I started sobbing at several points in the book—it’s that moving.

Sex Object, by Jessica Valenti. Heartbreaking memoir. At times distinctly uncomfortable but important to read. I wish these stories women told weren’t true. I wish more of my men friends read these books and understood.

Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A series of letters from a father to his young son. Simply outstanding.

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. Another brilliant memoir of what it’s like to grow up in the poverty-stricken hills of Appalachia. Reminded me of the plight of so many in America, and how many perspectives there are throughout this country.

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