December 7

Holiday Gift Recommendations – Biography/Memoir

December 7, 2015

This week I will feature a series of posts highlighting different books you may want to consider giving as gifts this holiday season. As a strong library patron, it is sometimes hard for me to recommend books for purchase (would someone else think they are worth the money to own?). I do realize that many people love to own personal copies of books, however, so I am here to make your shopping life easier! Every day, I will discuss some of my personal favorites from different genres, and I am not just sticking to books published this year.

I love to learn more about different people, different lifestyles, and different periods of time. However, I don’t like to get bogged down in “facts”. Below are some of my favorite memoirs that I’ve read over the years that don’t feel as if you are reading a history textbook.

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman

One of my all time favorite memoirs that I recommend repeatedly. Salzman details his time as a volunteer writing instructor at Central Juvenile Hall is Los Angeles. As he recounts personal interactions with the inmates, you come to understand more about how the most violent juvenile offenders end up in their current situation. Salzman shares excerpts of the journal entries and writings of the inmates, which can be heart-breaking at times. I think this is an excellent book to help people better understand a population that isn’t fully understood.

You’ll Never Nanny in This Town Again: The True Adventures of a Hollywood Nanny  by Suzanne Hansen

This book is the perfect read for the person in your life who loves to be a Hollywood voyeur. Hansen shares her story of her days as a nanny in Hollywood, and she holds no punches. You will hear the good, the bad, and the ugly about certain big wigs. Although this is not the most amazing book or writing you will ever encounter, it is a quick, light read that is a fun snapshot into a lifestyle that most of us can only dream of.

Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America’s Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang by William Queen

So….before I read this book, I had absolutely no idea that outlaw motorcycle gangs existed in this country and how very scary they are! I also didn’t realize the full extent of what our undercover law enforcement officials sacrifice in terms of family life and personal safety in their efforts to protect our country as a whole. This book is a true eye opener in exposing you to a way of life that is unheard of by most people. The author writes as if he is sitting right next to you telling the story aloud. The book can be unsettling at times, but you will learn a ton!

Night by Elie Wiesel

A book written about Wiesel’s experiences during the Holocaust. If you want to know more about life in a concentration camp, and the journeys people endured to get there, this book is a must read. It is very unsettling and horrifying, but it is a part of history that everyone should be aware of.

The Serial Killer Whisperer: How One Man’s Tragedy Helped Unlock the Deadliest Secrets of the World’s Most Terrifying Killers by Pete Earley

This book is definitely not for everyone, but I found it fascinating. Earley first shares the tragedy that shattered life as he knew it, and the road to recovery that led him to connect with serial killers. Actual excerpts from letters are shared, and many of them are VERY difficult to read. However, Earley takes a dark time in his life and turns it into something positive. You definitely root for Earley to pull his life together despite the route he takes to do it.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Anyone who knows me, know that this book spoke to me on so many levels. I absolutely loved this book, and I cannot wait to see the movie! I have recommended this to several people as well as for a book club selection. I have found that people either love this one or hate it…..there seems to be no middle ground. If you are currently struggling with your current life circumstances, this is a great book to read. I loved hearing about Strayed’s journey to find some grounding, and I can understand how such a journey changed her life!

A couple of memoirs that I have heard great things about, but I haven’t yet had the chance to read are Open by Andre Agassi and Under a Wing by Reeve Lindbergh. 

What memoirs would you recommend?

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Posted December 7, 2014 by Lisa @ Reading, Writing, and Random Musings in category "gift ideas", "gifts


  1. By Holly on

    I love, love, love biographies! I just bought Under and Alone and Wild for gifts. Then I hope they pass them back my way.

    1. By (Post author) on

      Holly – I totally love when people share the books that I bought them :). It’s like buying yourself a gift as well! You can’t miss Wild!

      1. By Holly on

        I just finished Under and Alone; oh my goodness was it fantastic. Thank you for the great recommendation!


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