Memories with Meaning: Memoirs Day August 31

memoirs fall reading list

Someone asked me recently about the difference between an autobiography and a memoir. Aren’t they both just a person talking about their own life? Yes. But also no. An autobiography is a direct account of dates and events, the there to here of someone’s life. A memoir is far harder to pin down. Memoirs can range in so many ways, from how they are written to how much time they cover, but, overall, they are far more poignant and emotional, delving into specific times and struggles in the author’s life that they feel compelled to share.

And what better stories are there? Forget your own troubles, forget your own world, and get lost in someone else’s magnificent fight. Be transported to someone else’s life and lessons. Feel, yearn, cry, and learn alongside them. Readers take comfort in the fact that, even though this author’s life is completely separate from theirs, it is still a true story with real consequences that demonstrates how they, too, can change their life or take steps in the right direction.

From Olympic athletes and master martial artists to amazing, perception-defying people with disabilities, there is a comforting, ground-breaking, or uplifting memoir for everyone. Here are six memoirs to get you through the rest of 2021:

couch time

Abdi Abdirahman, Abdi’s World: The Black Cactus on Life, Running, and Fun

He just competed in his 5th Olympics in Tokyo. Abdi Abdirahman shares his thoughts on the world, running, and living. Discover his personal story, not just as a five-time Olympian long-distance runner — the first American distance runner to make five Olympic teams and the oldest American to make the Olympic team — but also as a young man leaving Somalia for a refugee camp in Mombasa, Kenya, eventually settling in Tucson, where he found joy and opportunity in his new country. Find it on Amazon!

Meg Nocero, Butterfly Awakens: A Memoir of Transformation Through Grief

As a forty-something Italian-American immigration attorney, Meg Nocero moves through unimaginable grief and sadness watching her beloved mother lose her battle with breast cancer. Experience her grieving process, toxic work environment, and intense stress that results in depression, anxiety, and a somatic nervous disorder called tinnitus. The butterfly connection and Nocero’s stark honesty offers readers important lessons about moving through grief so that each person can shine their light again. Find it on Amazon! Release Date: Sep 7

Tarick Walton, Secrets from MIT, Tennis and the Umpire Above: 10 Lessons from a Young Jamaican Boy Who Never Gave Up on the Court

Tarick Walton’s unique and inspirational immigration story details his life journey from a poor, yet ambitious tennis player in Jamaica to MIT scholar to mentor and charismatic leader. He now empowers young people through his foundation. The book includes 10 cross-cultural and applicable “secret life lessons” that will help readers achieve their dreams, regardless of position in life, workplace, classroom, sports arena, or family. Each short story also includes elements of Jamaican music and art so that readers can get an authentic glimpse of Jamaica’s culture. Find it on Amazon! Release Date: Sep 30

Francine Falk-Allen, No Spring Chicken: Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability

Francine Falk-Allen offers her own take on navigating the complications aging brings with equanimity (and a sense of humor). Part I: Accessible travel pleasures and pitfalls. Part II: Adaptations caregivers can make for a mutually rewarding relationship with their loved ones; plus, advice for the physically challenged and aging themselves, regarding exercise, diet, pain management, mobility, care tips, and more. Part III: The rewards of engaging with support groups sharing similar issues, with a little activism and advocacy thrown in for good measure. Find it on Amazon!

Melanie Gibson, Kicking and Screaming: A Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts

Melanie Gibson was an independent woman with a good job, multiple college degrees, and a condo in the trendy part of town. She also had a minor substance abuse problem and rotten relationship skills. Nearing a total mental breakdown, she needed a good kick in the pants, literally and metaphorically. Funny and frank, this is the story of Melanie’s life-changing journey from troubled, lost soul to confident taekwondo black belt. Find it on Amazon!

Michael Long, A Life Like Anybody Else: How a Man with an Intellectual Disability Fulfilled His American Dream

Michael Long is the first person hired with a developmental disability by the State of California. His powerful memoir calls for inclusion, education, and acceptance for all. When he was born, the doctors told his parents he may never speak. In the second grade, a teacher ignorantly referred to his mental state and demoralized him. But after a personal development class years later, Michael’s confidence grew, and now he’s inspiring others. Find it on Amazon!

Meg Nocero, Butterfly Awakens: A Memoir of Transformation Through Grief

With multiple degrees and a background of working in both the Department of Justice and Homeland Security, Meg has volumes of life experiences to share. But it was the time of grief that will captivate your heart and soul because they resonate with the most challenging times we’ve all been through. And because those were the events and times that brought her the breakthroughs and synchronicities. Her mission is clearly to assist each of us in “finding direction in the chaos, finding purpose in the pain, finding our voice, finding our way.” Find it on Amazon! Release date: September 7, 2021

Laurie James, Sandwiched: A Memoir of Holding On and Letting Go

Memoirs are often about resonating with some aspect of the writer’s life, and Laurie’s story is especially relatable. Behind her guise of carefree, do-it-all mom, she grapples with her fear of loneliness and feeling overwhelmed with her mother’s heart attack and her husband’s lawyer delivering shocking news. As she finds herself sandwiched between caring for her mother and struggling to understand her husband, Laurie starts to write; and in doing so, she realizes that she’s the only one who can let go of the life she planned and embrace the life she belongs to. Find it on Amazon!

What was once a tough genre for agents and publishing houses is now one of the most common. After perusing these titles, I’m sure you can see why. As readers, we can learn so much from and be so inspired by someone else’s life, whether they are fictional or not—so why not transport yourself into a real-life hero’s shoes?


These great reads are recommended by ErinNicole Conti, Assistant Publicist, PR by the Book – New York, and Linda Allen, editor, Ms Career Girl. Special thanks to ErinNicole for her contribution!

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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