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A year in which we have been confined to our own homes to stop the spread of a vicious virus has often called for escapism. And what better way than by immersing yourself in the life of someone you admire and maybe even think you know well?
Variety has selected the 10 best celebrity memoirs released this year to help you do just that.
‘The Answer Is: Reflections on My Life’ by Alex Trebek
Alex Trebek passed away from pancreatic cancer in November, making the fact that he finally penned and published a memoir earlier in the year that much more special. For more than three-and-a-half decades the host of “Jeopardy” entertained and enlightened his audience in half-hour bursts on-air, but here he opens up about his personal life, from his marriage and being a father to his philanthropic and spiritual sides. It’s the most candid portrait of the icon that his fans will ever have, and it inspires reflection on one’s own life as well, be it over a love of pop culture and a television show that made learning fun or the stories to share and contributions to make while you still can.
‘Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st-Century Memoir’ by Madeleine Albright
Albright worked as the Secretary of State under Bill Clinton (marking the first woman to hold that title), retiring two decades ago and she has written other books about her life and career. But the past 20 years gave her even more material, and she mines it honestly and with a lot of humor in her most recent book. Here, she admits to feelings of uncertainty after leaving her political post and then talks about throwing herself into everything from teaching to writing to her infamous “special place in hell” speech at a rally for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It seems like she may be even busier now that she has been multi-tasking in so many ways (including consulting and sitting on boards), and this memoir reflects that energy, as she covers it all by jumping back and forth from story to story. It’s a remarkable portrait of a life lived fuller than most.
‘I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are’ by Rachel Bloom
Rachel Bloom opted to write a mixed-media collection for her first book, rather than a traditional memoir, but there’s no denying the power of her words deserve attention. Through a combination of essays, song lyrics, poems (from her childhood diaries!), narrative stories and more, Bloom walks back through her life and her desire to find “normalcy.” She gets intimate — both with her frankness about her sexual history and her mental health journey — and she also offers some behind-the-scenes tidbits for fans of her early work on YouTube and the musical comedy series she co-created and starred in, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” The stories of her younger years being bullied and trying to find herself in sketch comedy and musical theater may be more relatable than the later (so few among us are multi-threats on our own network series!), but she pulls the theme of the book though every chapter so well you will find moments of personal connection on almost every page.
‘Let Love Rule’ by Lenny Kravitz
Kravitz’s latest memoir focuses on his first 25 years of life, before he experienced the fame and fortune he has today. His childhood is chock-full of inspiration and revelation: discovering Led Zeppelin and seeing James Brown live are both noted as “life-changing” moments. Kravitz also focuses and meditates on his self-proclaimed two-sidedness, “Black and white. Jewish and Christian. Manhattanite and Brooklynite,” and deftly analyzes the complicated relationship he had with his father, Sy Kravitz. He reveals the moment he first met Lisa Bonet, and notes how her presence helped guide him as a musician. The memoir ends right before the release of his breakout album, also named “Let Love Rule.”
‘The Meaning of Mariah Carey’ by Mariah Carey
Although Mariah Carey chooses to leave out certain tabloid elements of her life, including her relationship with Eminem, the singer-songwriter’s 350-plus page debut book covers everything from the racism she experienced as a child to her tumultuous (to say the least) first marriage to music exec Tommy Mottola to putting her 2001 alleged “breakdown” in her own words. It’s full of personality, and even if you opt not to listen to the audiobook (which the diva herself does read — and at times, sing), you can still hear every sentence perfectly in her voice. Some of her songs have offered glimpses into her emotions before, but this dives deeply.
‘One Life’ by Megan Rapinoe
All eyes were on Megan Rapinoe after she helped lead the United States Women’s National Soccer team to a 2019 World Cup Championship victory. For the soccer star, politics are front and center. She lambasted Trump’s administration, making a statement saying the team would not visit his White House if they won. She has also stood in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, praising him and his actions publicly. Her book, which reads more as a call-to-action, traces those decisions. It’s a memoir focused on her advocacy and activism, not so much her childhood or upbringing, and is sure to inspire readers to make their marks on the world.
‘Open Book’ by Jessica Simpson
Jessica Simpson’s mesmerizing memoir opens up with a scene from the throes of her addiction. The Y2K pop-star describes reaching for her “glitter cup,” in the early hours on a weekday. Even in the morning hustle and bustle of getting her kids off to school, she can’t resist a cup of vodka and Perrier, filled to the brim. The 400-page account is a true tell-all. Simpson reveals harrowing truths from her youth, including sexual abuse and struggles with self-medication. She is also raw about her failed relationships with Nick Lachey (which was tracked in real time on MTV) and John Mayer, among others. She even talks about the infamous “mom jeans” incident from 2009, and the long-term effects of being subjected to public body shaming. Her voice is clear and reflective. The pop princess has grown up and she is ready to tell us all about it.
‘Still Learning’ by India Oxenberg
Oxenberg was first in the public eye as the daughter of actor-producer Catherine Oxenberg and then much more prominently pushed into the spotlight during her mother’s battle to get her out of NXIVM, a cult masquerading as a self-empowerment group. During her seven years within that group, India Oxenberg entered into a secret subgroup, DOS, which came with sexual abuse and physical branding, to name a few atrocities. After finally getting out of their clutches, India Oxenberg not only took part in a docuseries describing her experience, but she also mined the inner workings of her psyche and reflected for what she was searching. The audiobook version of “Still Learning” is extra emotional for hearing these things directly from her, but her story is not one of victimhood but of how to survive. While the path her life took was incredibly specific, the issues she grappled with and the message she has to offer now will be recognizable to the masses.
‘Survival of the Thickest’ by Michelle Buteau
If you know Buteau from her successful stand-up career or scene-stealing work on-screen, then you know you will literally laugh out loud when reading some parts of her book. Her description of being from New Jersey alone in the opening pages will do that for you, but when she goes on to talk about her family (even the unique kind of tough love from her father), some past relationships and the cultural differences when visiting her Dutch boyfriend (now husband), she mixes her signature style of comedy with some really potent visuals, resulting in poignant storytelling that will keep you smiling. But what you may not realize is just as hard as you’re laughing one minute, you’ll be blinking back tears the next. Buteau has never been shy about opening up her personal life on stage, but she is even more raw in the book, namely when describing her IVF journey, eventual work with a surrogate and the hopes she has for her twins now that they are in the world.