The 20 Best Celebrity Memoirs of All Time
These celebrity memoirs offer unprecedented insight into the stars who wrote them.
Celebrity memoirs may often be thought of as guilty pleasure reads, and certainly there's salacious satisfaction to be found in chomping down books filled with gossip, sex, drugs, and scandal, peppered with names you definitely recognize. But then there are those examples of the form that rise above the baser pleasures: the life stories of famous folks who have a lot more on their minds than a lucrative book deal—and maybe even a way with words (or, at least, an in with a compelling ghostwriter). Here are 25 of the best celebrity memoirs ever written.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
It might seem strange to rank Michelle Obama on the scale of celebrity, but it's hard to argue she isn't the most famous first lady since Jackie O. Alongside her policy achievements, she's made a sizable impact on pop culture—including penning one of the best-selling memoirs ever published. Deeply moving and bracingly intimate, Becoming traces Obama's evolution from a young girl growing up on the South Side of Chicago, to a successful lawyer, to mother to Sasha and Malia, to a politician's wife, to a political icon in her own right.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Before Sheryl Sandberg taught women how to lean in, comedian-turned-TV maven Tina Fey told them to put on their Bossypants and strut through a world built for men. Moving from her childhood to her improv comedy days in Chicago and through her breakout success on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, Fey reflects on the perilous position of women in comedy, muses on motherhood, and dishes juicy behind-the-scenes details. Unsurprisingly, she's relentlessly funny throughout.
Me by Katharine Hepburn
Acting legend Katharine Hepburn was 84 years, 12 Academy Award nominations, and 4 Oscars old when she finally released her memoir in 1991, but she was still as feisty and fierce on the page as she was on the silver screen. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Me is undeniably Hepburn, filled with frank recollections on her time in the Hollywood machine, as well as revealing details about her long and secretive relationship with actor Spencer Tracy.
Me by Elton John
When it came to the release of his long-awaited first memoir, legendary piano man Elton John had no qualms about cribbing Hepburn's title—or her willingness to reveal what was going on out of the spotlight across decades of mega-stardom. With self-deprecating humor and a confessional tone, John discusses his inauspicious childhood in the London suburbs, the early days of his partnership with Bernie Taupin, and his meteoric rise to worldwide stardom. And he doesn't skimp on the lurid details (sex, addiction, and suicide attempts) along the way.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
It's rare for celebrity bios to break out with the critics, but considering the poeticism of her lyrics (not to mention her, uh, poetry), it's unsurprising that proto-punk rocker Patti Smith earned accolades for her first memoir, the winner of the 2010 National Book Award. Smith's main concern is her long relationship with iconic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, which rose and fell and changed over the course of 20 years, even as she found her voice in New York City's burgeoning 1970s punk scene.
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
Before Nora Ephron was a successful novelist (Heartburn), film director (You've Got Mail), and screenwriter (rom-com classics Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally), she was a journalist best known for the lacerating comedy and sharp-eyed commentary of her essays in Esquire magazine. In this 2006 collection-slash-memoir, Ephron's chief subject is herself: observations on aging, the arc of her career, and the shifting culture of her beloved New York City. Though its structure is not that of the traditional autobiography, it tells you everything you need to know about the woman who wrote it.
I.M. by Isaac Mizrahi
Omnipresent in Target ads, reality shows, a documentary, and even an episode of Sex and the City, Isaac Mizrahi is the rare fashion designer as famous for his face as for the label on his clothing line. His outsized personality comes to the fore in this ribald account of his unusual path to success, which began in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn (where he fit in "like a chubby gay thumb") and took him through the halls of the Parsons School of Design, onto the runways of Paris, and beyond.
In Pieces by Sally Field
We like her! Sally Field spent seven years perfecting her memoir without the aid of a ghostwriter, and it shows; this is a deeply felt, deeply personal journey into her life and career. Field reveals a lifelong struggle with loneliness and insecurity, beginning in a childhood stained by terrible sexual abuse by a family member. With irresistible intimacy, she considers her unlikely early success in a pair of kitschy sitcoms, her tumultuous relationship with actor Burt Reynolds, and a storied Hollywood career—including one of the most iconic Oscar acceptance speeches ever delivered.
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker
George Takei is undoubtedly best known for helming the USS Enterprise as Lt. Sulu on Star Trek in the 1960s. But rather than following his career as a barrier-breaking Asian American actor, this powerful graphic novel memoir focuses on his early childhood, when he and his family were among 120,000 Japanese-Americans removed from their homes and sent to internment camps during World War II. Unfolding in simple, powerful imagery, this account of life in a time of legalized racism is eye-opening and essential.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
Like many a millennial star, Issa Rae rose to fame one YouTube view at a time. Her web series Awkward Black Girl, which premiered in 2011, won legions of followers for its hilarious (and occasionally cringe-worthy) depiction of a young black woman's life in a post-Obama, supposedly "post-racial" America. Sharing a title with that series, this 2015 memoir—which predates Rae's HBO series Insecure—explores similar ground, as she discusses what it was like growing up a weird girl who didn't always feel "black enough."
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Perhaps the most confessional book the late Carrie Fisher ever wrote isn't a memoir at all—that would be her 1987 roman à clef novel Postcards From the Edge (later made into a movie starring Meryl Streep), a loosely fictionalized account of her struggles with substance abuse and the pressures of growing up the child of Hollywood royalty. But 2008's Wishful Drinking, the first of three memoirs the star penned, is no slouch either: In her trademark acerbic deadpan, Fisher reflects on her scandalous drug use, her marriage to Paul Simon, and her time making a little movie called Star Wars.
My Life in France by Julia Child
Julia Child's memoir in meals (made and consumed) recounts the formative years of a woman who left a career in U.S. military intelligence behind to become one of the world's most famous chefs. Child recalls her years in France's famed culinary school Le Cordon Bleu, where she argued with the owner and failed her first final exam; her co-founding of an American cooking school built on French techniques; her writing of the legendary cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking; the development of her TV show From Julia Child's Kitchen; and more. Filled with sumptuous descriptions of fine food, it is not a book to be read while hungry.
Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox
Welcomed into viewers' homes each week as the star of multiple popular sitcoms, Michael J. Fox became a comfortable presence in the lives of millions. That only made the Sept. 1998 revelation that he'd been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease seven years earlier all the more shocking. Though this is a memoir of Fox's life, not his disease—the Back to the Future star shares the requisite stories of his rise to fame—it is at its most powerful when he considers the ways his diagnosis has changed him and, thanks to the support of his doctors and family, given him a true purpose in advocating for a cure.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
Before she and actor Fred Armisen began showcasing the best of Pacific Northwest weird in the sketch comedy series Portlandia, Carrie Brownstein was a founding member of the defining riot grrrl group Sleater-Kinney, but her thoughtful, low-key memoir eschews punk excess for thoughtful self-analysis. Brownstein considers how she grew from a gawky music fan into an era-defining musician despite herself, and the emotional toll indie-cred stardom took on her relationships with her bandmates (including onetime romantic interest Corin Tucker). Diving back into the work that created some of the best albums ever recorded, the author finds a new understanding of her own life.
Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang
Eddie Huang never expected a life of celebrity. He wanted to be a lawyer, but a layoff during the 2008 financial crisis set him on a winding career path with stops at stand-up comedy, drug dealing, and fashion design before he opened his first restaurant, became a star of the New York food scene, and wound up hosting his own TV shows for the Cooking Channel, Viceland, and MTV. This bestselling memoir, which shares a name with the author's popular blog and was later adapted for television, tells the whole impossible story in Huang's rowdy, irresistible voice: a tale of an immigrant who has always felt like an "other" in America, yet whose Cinderella story is the American Dream incarnate.
Life by Keith Richards
The story of Keith Richards is the story of the Rolling Stones, and of rock music itself. Beginning in the cheap flat in London where Richards, Mick Jagger, and Brian Jones discovered a shared love of rhythm and blues, and moving through the group's formation and whirlwind success during the British Invasion and beyond, Life brings sharpness and clarity to the expected beats of a rock memoir—the fame, the excess, the feuds, and the triumphant reunion.
By Myself by Lauren Bacall
With heavy-lidded eyes and a smoky voice, Lauren Bacall was a wise-beyond-her-years star from the moment she first appeared on film at age 18 alongside Humphrey Bogart in the noir classic To Have and Have Not. The Bogie/Bacall relationship—the two began an affair on the set of that 1944 Howard Hawks film, married a year later, and were together until his death in 1957—is a cornerstone of her 1980 memoir, the winner of that year's National Book Award. In addition to a frank summation of her career in Hollywood and on Broadway, it's a thoughtful reflection on Bacall's years with Bogart, and the way his passing came to define her life and color subsequent relationships with Frank Sinatra and Jason Robards.
I'm the One That I Want by Margaret Cho
From the outside, Margaret Cho's career arc was one any standup comedian would aspire to: serving her time in the open mic trenches, graduating to headliner status, transitioning to television, landing her own ABC sitcom. From the inside, though, success felt like a self-betrayal—forced to undergo a dangerous weight loss regimen, reshaping both her body and her persona to fit a stereotypical view of a one-size-fits-all "Asian American woman" for a mainstream audience, Cho struggled with depression and substance abuse. After years of recovery, the star channeled the experience into the lauded 1999 one-woman show I'm the One That I Want, later expanded into this memoir, which charts an inspiring voyage of self-discovery and self-acceptance.
Open by Andre Agassi
One of the most compelling sports memoirs ever written, tennis legend Andre Agassi's Open is notable for its author's bold admission that he always hated the sport that made him a superstar. Agassi recounts a childhood lived one volley at a time: His father, a former boxer, pushed his son to succeed in sports with unrelenting fervor, building a court in their backyard and sending him to tennis boarding school. The constant pressure molded Agassi into a peerless player, but left him struggling to cope with life off the court, and his account of that journey makes for sobering reading.
Decoded by Jay-Z
To call Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter's 2010 book a memoir is to both oversell its biographical merits and undercut its artistic accomplishments. Instead of his life, the book is built around his lyrics, which are explained, augmented, and contextualized by anecdotes, recollections, analyses, and snatches of autobiography. It's heady stuff as celebrity memoirs go. Decoded is less the artist's life story than it is his attempt to make a case for the poetic merit of rap music. As such, the final result is open to interpretation.