Books of 2019: Memoir

By Megan Thomas

I’m newly obsessed with memoirs, though I realise they are hardly a novel concept. Perhaps it is more that I’ve reached an age where people I know about are actually old enough to write them? (Though, admittedly, I think some people may be writing them a little too early in their careers). Here are the four best memoirs I’ve read this year.

4. Everything I Know About Love

I first learnt of Dolly Alderton’s existence through The High Low, a pop-culture podcast she co-hosts with Pandora Sykes, dealing with both the high and low brow elements of current affairs and of life in general.

Then Dolly wrote a memoir, Everything I Know About Love, and my admiration for her was official. Dolly writes about what she thought love was all about throughout her life, from childhood, through adolescence and her 20s, and now in her 30s. From terrible dates and messy, drunk decisions, to realising that there are few loves purer than that of your friends, Everything I Know About Love is an ode to the importance of trial and error. Even if you don’t know very much about love, you will love this.

3. Notes To Self

Notes To Self, my Book Of The Month for November, is a memoir I believe which will stick with me throughout my life. It is one which I will continuously urge my friends to read, regardless of their usual tastes.

Notes To Self is a collection of essays of Emilie Pine’s life, from her struggles with fertility to her relationship with her father and everything in between. I lent this book to my mom, and she thought it was 6 essays from different people – her reasoning was “this can’t possibly be about one person, that would be too sad”. So, there is that to keep in mind when launching into it – it’s emotionally draining but so worth it. And though not inherently “happy”, it is still utterly life affirming and inspiring.

2. Naturally Tan

I must now bow my head in shame and admit that when I read Tan France’s memoir, Naturally Tan, I had never seen Queer Eye, the Netflix show which made him famous. Once you are finished judging me, we can continue…

Tan France is the fashion expert of Netflix’s Queer Eye, but I’d argue that reading his memoir without any preconception of what he is like from the screen was beneficial to my reading experience. I met a shy, bullied young South Asian boy grappling with growing up in Yorkshire, who grew into a self-doubting young man ignoring the implications of his sexuality on his family-life, who flourished as a successful fashion designer and world-famous TV personality. You would hardly know from how lovely Tan is on-screen that he spent the first season of Queer Eye convinced he was royally messing up. Naturally, since watching Queer Eye (because if you haven’t before reading Tan’s memoir, you sure as hell will after), I have experienced the wonderful co-existence of screen-Tan and Tan as he describes himself in his memoir.

1. Classic Scrapes

I frikken love comedian James Acaster, so was thrilled to learn that the “Classic Scrapes” which he has encountered throughout his life and relayed on various shows and in interviews have been chronologically scraped together and put into the shape of a lovely orange book.

From spending the night in a bush in Basingstoke to fierce cabbage-hiding competitions, James’ life has been far from ordinary. In fact, that’s what makes his comedy so overwhelming side-aching – it’s the kind of thing you couldn’t make up, or you’d find yourself with a note in the margin from your editor suggesting something a little more realistic. Calling James’ antics “Classic Scrapes” came from comedian Josh Widdicombe’s radio show, so fittingly, Josh writes the introduction to this book with the accurate speculation that, though the book was never intended as such, James has unwittingly written a memoir. It is a real window into his world and an insight into how he can be so continuously hilarious – it is because his life is a series of ridiculous, classic scrapes that not many people could have if they tried.

Featured image by Aaron Burden

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