Here are the ultimate memoirs and autobiographies that will keep you enthralled in May.
Biographies and memoirs are some of the best genres of books that will help you learn about your favourite author and a few life lessons.
Reading the trials and tribulations of successful people and those you admire can help direct your own life and life choices.
Autobiographies are enjoyable, emotional and some of the most authentic books that are great additions to your bookshelf.
Bondi Beauty has gathered some of our favourite memoirs and autobiographies that kept us wanting to read them over and over again.
The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy (10 July 2018)
Best for: All women, particularly in difficult marriage situations
The Cost of Living explores the experience of being a woman, a wife and a mother every day. This ‘living autobiography’ is an enjoyable short read with witty humour and experiences that will have you questioning the roles we are assigned in society.
Deborah migrated from South Africa to England when she was younger. As a woman, she shares the constant battle of social hierarchies made to combat women’s success. During the memoir, we see her mother dying and her daughters decision to leave home. During this, she is also dealing with the troubles of her own divorce.
Each chapter follows Deborah’s life as a mother and author and her different experiences of living with meaning and value, including making a new family home, dealing with her mother’s death and, of course, her career as a writer. It’s a quick read that is an enjoyable and relatable commentary on life.
This is easily one of the best memoirs written on modern womanhood, written by someone who migrated from South Africa to England as a child. With the goal of heading towards a freer life, Deborah invites readers to connect with her in a wise and exciting manifesto. It’s difficult to explain the depths of the book, so you’ll have to read it to find out.
Deborah Levy has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Swimming Home and Hot Milk.
Bondi Beauty rating: 4/5
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (13 February 2007)
Best For: Guidance about grief
Joan Didion is one of the world’s most renowned authors for her novels and essays on incisive depictions of social unrest.
Acclaimed as a classic book about mourning, The Year of Magical Thinking is a beautiful and emotional memoir following the death of Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne. After the passing of her husband, a partnership of 40 years ended in an instant. Before this, the couple had seen their daughter, Quintana, fall seriously ill aged 37.
During the memoir, Didion retells nostalgic memories of her life with her daughter and husband, their trips together, selling their home in Malibu and the joys of being a mother.
We recognise Joan Didion for her genius and wise non-fiction that gets you thinking about your approach to life. She is genuinely one of the most admirable writers in the world today. While at times it can be hard to relate due to the heavy discussion of her wealth as a successful writer, the psychological depiction of grief gets you reading for hours straight.
Bondi Beauty rating: 3/5
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (19 April 1994)
Best for: Film nerds
Susanna Kaysen was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has written famous works, including Far Afield and The Camera My Mother Gave Me. With the help of a lawyer, she managed to gain access to her 350-page file from Mclean’s psychiatric hospital and Girl, Interrupted followed.
This is the famous book behind the iconic movie with Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. Girl, Interrupted is a best-selling memoir by American author Susanna Kaysen. In 1967 after a meeting with a psychologist, 18-year-old Susanna was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital to be treated for depression. She spent two years in the ward, discovering she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder instead.
Spending most of these years in the ward for teenage girls, the psychiatric hospital is renowned for its famous clientele, including American Poets Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell, and American singer-songwriter James Taylor.
Although this autobiography may not be for everyone, due to its confronting nature, it is an interesting read and an insight into the experiences of an 18-year-old in the 60s. Our favourite thing about this memoir is Kaysen’s inclusion of her files in the book; it makes the environment and the experience of reading the book even more fascinating.
Bondi Beauty rating: 4.5/5
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (9 August 2022)
Best for: Anyone familiar with Nickelodeon
This one is definitely one of our favourite memoirs at Bondi Beauty to date. This is a heartbreaking, but comedic memoir written by American writer and former actress Jennette McCurdy. Previously known for her breakout role as Sam Puckett in Nickelodeon’s iCarly, McCurdy has established herself as a talented writer in I’m Glad My Mom Died.
The #1 New York Times Best Seller follows McCurdy from the age of six and her first acting audition. With her mother’s dream for her daughter to become a famous actress, Jennette was willing to do anything to make her mother happy. During her time as an actress, the memoir recounts all of McCurdy’s experiences with her mother in detail, including being showered by Mom until the age of sixteen and sharing her entire income with her.
She then gets her first significant role in Nickelodeon’s iCarly. Her mum loves this, interacting with fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi. While this is happening, Jennette is overcome by anxiety and self-hatred, which eventually translates to eating disorders and alcoholism. During her extensive career, she battles male manipulation, unhealthy relationships and her mother’s death.
McCurdy has a hypnotising way of writing that makes you want to keep reading more. It is a tender and dark telling of her life that also exposes the casual exploitation of teenage girls in America—a must-read for anyone interested in investing in a memoir or non-fiction.
Bondi Beauty rating: 5/5
New Release: Unbounded: Manifesting a life without limits by Maria Thatill (21 February 2023)
Best for: Learning about what it’s like growing up a queer child.
Unbounded: Manifesting a life without limits is a part memoir, part inspiration written by Australian author and media personality Maria Thatill. She became the third woman of colour to represent Australia in the Miss Universe competition in 2021. One of our favourite public figures at Bondi Beauty, this raw and emotional read is one to love.
As a queer child of immigrants, Thattil knows what it’s like not to belong. In her fantastic memoir, Unbounded, she shares motivating and confronting stories of her experiences with sexism, racism, financial hardship, intergenerational trauma and homophobia. Sharing with us what she has lived and learned through this, Unbounded is a powerful journey towards self-love and liberation.
During these challenging times, Thattil always stayed true to herself and held onto hope, which she proved when she became the third woman of colour to represent Australia in the 2021 Miss Universe competition, which became a welcoming media platform promoting empowerment and equality.
This book is honest and raw, and Thattil teaches a lesson that connects people from different communities. You see parts of yourself in her story, and her authenticity is sure to touch your heart.
Bondi Beauty Rating: 4.5/5
Check out our April book story: The Best Books to Read Before Turning Thirty