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8 Inspiring Autobiographies & Memoirs To Read

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Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was born into a Mormon survivalist household within the mountains of Idaho. There was no one to intervene when her older brother became violent, no one to teach her about important events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement, and going to the hospital was forbidden. Her extraordinary memoir follows her journey throughout childhood, teaching herself grammar and mathematics which led her to become a student at Brigham Young University, then later across the ocean to attend Cambridge, where she finds herself wondering if she strayed too far from home.

Why is it inspiring?

It’s easy to forget that this book is a memoir and not a work of fiction. Tara’s ability to teach herself, despite barely receiving any formal education, proves that there are no limitations when it comes to learning. Even more inspiring still is how she went on to study at some of the most prestigious universities in the world and was able to open herself up to perspectives that are the complete opposite to how she was brought up to think. Perhaps we can all take a page out of her book and begin to educate ourselves on the subject of empathy.

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2 / 8

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

If you’ve been following Trevor Noah on The Daily Show or social media, you’ll know he’s not shy about discussing the racism he’s faced in life. In the book, Trevor recounts notable moments in his life from his first ever crime: being born. Born to a black mother and white father, young Trevor was subjected to vast amounts of cruelty, and he doesn’t sugarcoat the horrors that occurred during apartheid. Despite the awful hate crimes done against him, he manages to find the absurdity in it all. Though his lighthearted humour shines through his writing, you can also listen to the story told first hand by the comedian himself through the audiobook.

Why is it inspiring?

Despite the book’s dark premise, it remains predominantly positive and hopeful. The love that Trevor’s mother has for him and her constant efforts to protect him from harm will surely inspire you to cherish your loved ones. The book teaches you to always find the silver lining and will make you appreciate the freedoms that many people have (and still are) struggled long and hard for.

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3 / 8

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first of Maya Angelou’s seven autobiographical works. Spanning her life from age 3 to 17 in Southern America, it begins with her being sent to live with her grandmother and follows her journey until the day she becomes a mother at the age of 16. Throughout the book, Maya overcomes her insecurity and experiences of racism, growing into an eloquent and dignified woman capable of responding to the prejudice she faces.

Why is it inspiring?

Maya overcomes more hurdles in her youth than anyone should have to overcome in their lifetime. She is raped at the age of 8, is subjected to abhorrent racist treatment and is even homeless for a short period. Despite all this, Maya epitomises the strength and resilience of the human spirit. In the course of her life and this book, she finds her own voice, and it will certainly inspire you to find yours.

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4 / 8

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

This book details the late Anthony Bourdain’s wild adventures on his journey to becoming a world-renowned executive chef, from his dishwashing days, various drug addictions and general bad behaviour at work. Food, of course, is at the forefront of all his storytelling. You might be shocked to learn what goes on behind the scenes of a restaurant, and will definitely be in awe of the blood, sweat and tears that goes into preparing the food that goes on your table.

Why is it inspiring?

It may discourage you from ever eating out at a restaurant again (warning: you’ll never look at buffets the same way.), but his introspection on his early years and the short anecdotes about his co-workers will make you think twice about how you can grow and evolve. What’s more, Anthony’s try-everything-once approach in life will inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and embolden you to explore new things.

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5 / 8

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Stephen King may be known for his gripping horror, crime and supernatural fiction, but his memoir is just as much of a page turner. On Writing details his childhood, his early attempts to be published, and his relationship with his wife. Rest assured, it is not short of sage advice and sarcastic wit.

Why is it inspiring?

The author talks about how he collected all of his rejection letters and nailed them to his bedroom wall, and discusses how he overcame a near-fatal accident and returned to writing. This book is for anyone who has a passion they are hesitant to follow for fear of rejection, and that hard work and determination can get you to where you want to be.

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6 / 8

Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schultz

In 1982, Howard Schultz started working at Starbucks as a manager. Five years later, the original owners sold the company to him, which (as we know) grew to become the world’s biggest coffee chain. This inspiring memoir is not just about coffee, it’s more so about Howard’s dedication and the perseverance with which he managed to shape Starbucks’ entire culture.

Why is it inspiring?

Pour Your Heart Into It is a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur or java junkie. Whether you love the coffee chain or hate it, it is interesting to learn how Schultz’s influence forever changed that way the company was run (and even how it’s coffee was made!). The main takeaway from the book is clear: when you find what you love, give it everything you’ve got – even when everyone else is telling you otherwise. Schultz’s consistent discipline and hard work is something that everyone can aspire to.

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7 / 8

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama needs no introduction as one of the most influential women of this era. She has steadily defied expectations and has worked tirelessly to help, support and inspire women and girls across the globe. Her memoir captures her multi-faceted life, from her childhood on the Southside of Chicago, her experiences as a black woman at Princeton, all the way to her time spent as the first African American First Lady.

Why is it inspiring?

Becoming recounts Michelle’s desire to make the world a better place, her endless love for her family and her country, and what she has done to change young women’s lives. Despite all of the grief she’s experienced in her past, from the death of her father to the passing of one of her best friends from cancer, she remains optimistic in her eloquent recount of her own self-discovery. This deeply personal account will inspire anyone who reads it to strive to be honest, vulnerable and selfless.

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8 / 8

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Named after his iconic 1975 album and song, Bruce Springsteen’s book recounts his life growing up Catholic in New Jersey and highlights some of the hardships he faced that inspired his greatest hits. The legendary rock star describes with great emotion his father’s battle with mental health and the struggles that came with his own depression. Like many of the songs he’s written, this book is raw, real and filled with a whole lot of heart.

Why is it inspiring?

Bruce’s story is the embodiment of the American Dream. It’s about putting in everything that you have into following your dreams while still staying humble and self-aware, caring about work rather than fame. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of The Boss or have never heard one of his songs before, this book will inspire you to work hard and dream big.

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