5 Favorite Memoirs of 2021

Last week I shared my top 5 favorite personal development books of 2021. This week, I wanted to share a few of my favorite memoirs that I devoured in 2021.

I once heard David Axelrod mock David Litt for publishing a memoir about his time speechwriting for Obama because he was so young. Like somehow age determines the worthiness of one’s story. Here’s the thing. I think everyone has seasons in their life that are story worthy. Maybe it is a personal story or maybe it is a universal lesson that someone else could draw wisdom from. By sharing your experience, you give voice to someone else – allow someone else to realize that perhaps they aren’t alone. In a time where isolation can be the norm, that matters.

The following five memoirs helped me immensely this past year for a variety of reasons. Most of the authors are my age, sometimes even younger, but their wisdom is priceless. I hope something here might help you as well.

In no particular order:

Brave Enough. By Jessie Diggins. I’ll be frank. I’m not a cross country skier or a huge fan of the sport. But this athlete continues to amaze me with her sparkle and no-nonsense ability to bring out the best in people. She’s known for her sparkles but this book shares her real-life struggles with body image, even while smiling on the podium. In this memoir, she says “It takes a lot of bravery to ask for help.” Her willingness to ask for help even as she’s garnering gold medals is a stark contrast to so much of conventional wisdom that implies those who ask for help are weak. Add in the fact that she calls out reporters who imply she’s not thin enough and she’s got a fan for life. This winter I’m looking forward to tuning in to see her glitter turn to gold again, and if for some reason it doesn’t, she’ll still be a winner in my book.

Believe It. By Jamie Kern Lima: In things I’m not a huge fan of, make-up ranks almost higher than cross country skiing. But, I stumbled across this book when a sponsored post for a free personal development conference came across my facebook feed (thank you FB algorithm). I signed up not even knowing who this gal was and within minutes I was hooked. Perhaps it was the story of a middle-aged white man saying real people would never buy make-up from a fat gal that resonated with me. Or, the scrapper in me being in awe that she went on to prove that mother-f***er wrong by ultimately going public and making millions. I love an underdog story as much as the next gal. While littered with a few too many rah-rah Miss USA moments, I was able to look past that to the heart of a story about a woman who worked hard and achieved her dreams. I even purchased some IT Cosmetics following this purchase… and that should tell you something.

Bravey. By Alexi Pappas. I first heard about Alexi Pappas on a podcast. I’m a runner but don’t really follow the sport so I wasn’t aware of her story or frankly that interested in it. But, this isn’t really a book about running. It is someone’s life story who happens to be a runner. Pappas shares a lot of life lessons that I think most folks can relate to – only with the added pressure of being a world-class athlete. At one point she says, “grit is what’s left over when nothing’s left.” This is something you’d expect in a book about running – but the added bonus of beautiful poetry and writing snippets about being brave and struggling with mental illness and burn out and the Olympic letdown – read more like a novel that an athlete’s memoir.  All in all, she’s a passionate and amazing writer who is navigating a world where she wants to be a runner and… in other words, running is just one aspect of her life.

Courage to Start. By John Bingham. I first read this book when I decided to take up running. I revisited this book on my 10th anniversary of running to see if it read differently now that I can call myself a runner. It did. This is one of those books that depending on where you are in your running journey, different passages jump out at you. The most popular is “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” That still rings true for me today. Every time I start training for another race, the self-doubt comes rushing in. This book, along with so many other things in my life, have helped me overcome that obstacle. It is definitely running focused so if you aren’t a runner, probably not for you. But, if you run at all, this one will inspire you beyond your early morning jobs.

Untamed. By Glennon Doyle. I couldn’t wait to read this book. I enjoy Doyle’s writing but what I love most about her is the ability to cut out the bullshit and get to the truth. What’s crazy about this book is nearly every page has a passage that if read in isolation would serve as an incredible life lesson, or frankly words to live by. My favorite – “this life is mine alone so I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been.” Wowza. When all of these lessons are layered on top of each other, you end up with a story that’s empowering. There is so much power in sharing one’s truth. Doyle takes that power and ups it by taking action in her own life. The end result is an empowering story and a lot of inspiration that we can input into our own story – if we are brave enough to live out our truth.

Bonus Read: If I’m going to talk about being brave, I might as well be brave. One last bonus read to consider this year – my book It Could be Worse. A girlfriend’s guide for runners who detest running. It isn’t Glennon Doyle worthy, but it is my running story. If you’re still reading this post and have always dreamed of running but don’t know how to start? Two suggestions. Just start. And read my book. I promise you, if I can run a half-marathon, you can move mountains if you choose to.  


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