13 Life-Changing Memoirs Written by Famous Women We Admire (PHOTOS)

Liz Alterman | Mar 22, 2016 Celebrities

life-changing books While it's wonderful to get lost inside the pages and otherworldliness of a novel, there's also something magical about those memoirs and essay collections that make you think and grow -- and ultimately stay with you forever.

While, of course, it's nearly impossible to list all the amazing stories that shape and inspire women, we've selected 10 that offer hope, humor, and wisdom that remained with us long after we turned the last page.



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  • 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' by Maya Angelou


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    In her debut memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou proves how strength of character and a love of literature helped her through a tumultuous childhood that included abandonment by her mother and sexual abuse.

    This is a story that illustrates the power and resilience of the human spirit and withstands the test of time. Her words are pure poetry: "I had given up some youth for knowledge, but my gain was more valuable than the loss."

  • 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed


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    When a woman tackles an 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, you know she's doing some serious soul-searching. Wild, Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir, illustrates how the 22-year-old overcame divorce, drug use, and the devastating loss of her mother to lung cancer.

    More from The Stir: Judy Blume Was Every Girl's BFF When We Felt Like We Didn't Have One

  • 'Bossypants' by Tina Fey


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    We knew Tina Fey was a boss long before she penned her 2011 memoir Bossypants. Not only is her journey from awkward teen to Saturday Night Live star laugh-out-loud funny, but the mom and comedy writer also spills her secrets to making it in a man's world while juggling marriage and motherhood at the same time.

    More from The Stir: 15 Rad '80s Artifacts Spotted in Tina Fey & Amy Poehler's Movie 'Sisters' (PHOTOS)

  • 'I Am Malala' by Malala Yousafzai


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    Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize, shares her harrowing account of being shot in the head by the Taliban while riding on her school bus. I Am Malala is a testament to the young woman's bravery and her hard-won wisdom. Her words, "We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced," should inspire all those who've ever felt oppressed. 

  • 'I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman' by Nora Ephron


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    I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman is Nora Ephron's wonderfully warm and heartfelt look at aging gracefully -- and, of course, while keeping a sense of humor. We'd expect nothing less from the funny lady who brought us such classics as When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. Unfortunately, the world lost Ephron far too soon when she passed away at the age of 71.

  • 'The Year of Magical Thinking' by Joan Didion


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    Joan Didion's heartbreaking memoir The Year of Magical Thinking describes how the iconic writer coped with the loss of her beloved husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne, at the same time their only child was hospitalized for pneumonia and septic shock. Her line, “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant,” will haunt you long after you've finished this raw and honest account.

    More from The Stir: The Key to Life, Love & Feminism Is in Joan Didion's Packing List

  • 'The Glass Castle' by Jeanette Walls


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    Jeanette Walls's unusual upbringing proved both a blessing and a curse as well as the subject of her 2006 memoir The Glass Castle. Badly burned while cooking hot dogs as a toddler, Walls learned at an early age that her parents weren't about to put their own desires on hold to parent her or her siblings. Homeless by choice, the family experiences a journey filled with the ups and downs that ultimately shaped Walls into the insightful and poetic soul she is.

  • 'Yes Please' by Amy Poehler


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    While we most often think of Amy Poehler as the powerhouse behind Parks and Recreation, some of the exquisite lines from her memoir Yes Please will have you convinced she's part philosopher. Check these out:

    "I believe great people do things before they are ready.”

    "It's never overreacting to ask for what you want and need."


  • 'Wasted' by Marya Hornbacher


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    In Wasted, Marya Hornbacher recounts her way back from battling anorexia and bulimia. The memoir was written when Hornbacher was just 23,  so it embodies a rare urgency and candor that allows readers to really get inside her addictions. For any women who has ever hoped to "drop a few pounds" and found herself in the grip of a deadly obsession, this book is for you.

  • 'Bad Feminist' by Roxane Gay


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    "Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down," Roxane Gay writes in her essay collection Bad Feminist, where wit and wisdom are deftly intertwined.

  • 'Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More' by Janet Mock


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    Janet Mock's memoir Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More is a story of survival and acceptance. Mock has been hailed as an inspirational voice for the transgender community.

    More from The Stir: Janet Mock's Story Is One of Trans Activism & Achievement -- & She Wants You to Listen

  • 'The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion' by Meghan Daum


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    Unflinchingly candid, Meghan Daum's The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion is an essay collection that addresses the writer's ambivalence toward motherhood and her own mother. Her descriptions are so honest and universal you'll wonder if she can read your mind.

  • 'M Train' by Patti Smith


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    Patti Smith's most recent memoir M Train has been likened to a stream-of-consciousness love letter to coffee and the punk poet's late husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith. For fans of Just Kids, this is a must-read.

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