From what they eat for an afternoon snack to their most scandalous flings, it can seem like every aspect of a celebrity’s life is public knowledge. In most cases, though, a more interesting narrative exists under the surface. The best celebrity memoirs offer us an intimate peek into the minds and lives of our most beloved stars, from Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, a darkly funny and raw memoir about growing up as Hollywood royalty and struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues and Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner’s beloved 2021 memoir about family, food, grief and growing up Korean American to Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which ushered in a new era of celebrity memoir.
The 31 Best Celebrity Memoirs of All Time
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In 2020, The New York Times ranked Viola Davis ninth on its list of the greatest actors of the 21st century. In her 2022 memoir, Davis reflects on family, love, motherhood and acting. From her childhood in a crumbling apartment in Rhode Island with an abusive, alcoholic father to her time at Juilliard to the present, she writes in intimate detail about the courageousness, grit and almost unmatched talent that helped her get to where she is today.
Jennette McCurdy went to her first acting audition at six years old. Her mother’s dream was for her daughter to become a star, and McCurdy would do anything to make her happy, which ended up meaning extreme diets, sharing her diaries, emails and income with her mother and more. In I’m Glad My Mom Died, she recounts, in unflinching detail, her experience as a child actor. She writes candidly of being riddled with anxiety, shame and self-loathing, issues that only get worse when her mother dies of cancer. But then, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, McCurdy embarks on recovery and decides, for the first time in her life, what she really wants.
You might know Michelle Zauner as the indie rock sensation Japanese Breakfast, but she’s also a lauded writer whose debut memoir, Crying in H Mart, shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. She opens up about growing up one of the few Asian-American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon, struggling with her mother's high expectations of her and treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over food. Following her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, Zauner began to reckon with her identity and eventually reclaim the gifts of taste, language and history her mother had given her.
After publishing four novels, Fisher turner her writerly focus inward, adapting her successful one-woman stage show into a darkly funny and raw book about growing up as Hollywood royalty, landing the role of a lifetime at 19 years old and learning from failed relationships, all while struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues. One of the best celebrity memoirs of all time, Fisher’s book strikes the ideal balance between gossip-y entertainment and razor-sharp commentary.
“I’m not great at being a movie star,” Posey (Dazed and Confused, You’ve Got Mail) writes in her first book. “It’s either too boring or too much work.” In You’re on an Airplane, the actress opens up about her colorful childhood, life on the set and the realities of fame, from growing up in the South with her car salesman father and fun-loving mother (who put fake lashes on Posey when she was an infant) to the financial implications of preferring small indie films to big budget studio movies.
Essence named Obama’s autobiography one of the most impactful Black books of the past 50 years, and it even inspired a Netflix documentary (although we recommend reading the book first). In it, she talks about her childhood on the South Side of Chicago, the struggles of early (and late) motherhood and, obviously, her time spent at the White House during her husband Barack’s eight years as President.
After the massive success of Juno (2007), Elliot Page became a beloved actor. His dreams were coming true, but the pressure to perform the part of young starlet suffocated him. As he navigated criticism and abuse from some of the most powerful people in Hollywood, he often stayed silent, until enough was enough and he came out as a trans man in 2020. Pageboy is a timely and deeply intimate memoir about what it was like growing up—particularly in the public eye—while hiding who you truly are.
Growing up in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians) was scolded for having big feelings or strong reactions and told not to “make a scene.” And even though she spent most of her childhood suppressing her feelings, she found an early outlet in community theater, where acting became her refuge. Making a Scene sees the actress reflect on her childhood, young love, sexual assault and how she made it in Hollywood.
New York in the 1960s NYC was full of art, music, poetry and bohemian spirit. Or, at least, that’s the way it seemed to Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, back when they were just kids. Smith’s remarkable memoir tells their love story, against the backdrop of a gritty city during a magical time.
At the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony, Barack Obama said of Cicely Tyson, “In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history.” In her 2021 memoir, published shortly before her death at age 96, the legendary actress’s writes candidly about her beginnings in East Harlem, her relationships (including a rocky marriage to Miles Davis) and the racial and gender stereotyping that shaped her seven-decade career.
Before she was Liz Lemon, Fey was a quirky kid from Pennsylvania who dreamed of becoming a comedian. Unlike some celebrity tell-alls, Fey’s keeps it light and laugh-out-loud funny, covering everything from recurring stress dreams (which weirdly involve her middle school gym teacher) to being called bossy (which she considers a compliment). Basically, you know a title is one of the best celebrity memoirs ever when it spawns a host of similar books, as Fey’s Bossypants has done.
The late, great Bourdain is largely to thank for the food memoir genre as we know it today. In the book that launched his career, Bourdain quickly strips the glamour away from the chef’s life, writing crudely (but hilariously) about what goes on behind the counter of a busy New York bistro—sex, drugs and escargots.
Born to a white Swiss father and a Black Xhosa mother, Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth (his parents' union was punishable by five years in prison). His moving and searingly funny memoir is about making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, with a keen sense of humor and a mother's unconventional, unconditional love.
Geena Davis was three years old when she announced she was going to be in movies. In this funny and candid memoir, Davis recounts playing everything from an amnesiac assassin to the parent of a rodent, her eccentric childhood, her relationships and her role in the fight gender parity in Hollywood.
This Will Only Hurt a Little strikes the perfect balance between juicy celebrity memoir and actually-great book that’s brimming with funny stories—that have nothing to do with celebrity. There’s celebrity gossip and airings of grievances, but Philipps also wades into more serious waters, detailing a teenage sexual assault, having an abortion and struggling with postpartum depression. She’s also frank about sexism and body-shaming in the entertainment industry, but includes more promising anecdotes, like how director Paul Feig didn’t want her to feel pressured to lose weight after being cast in Freaks and Geeks.
Lovers of The Office, The Mindy Project and The Sex Lives of College Girls will delight in Kaling’s 2011 New York Times bestseller. Kaling offers a glimpse into her inner monologue in this delightfully neurotic account of her thoughts on fame (she wants just enough never to have to worry about being convicted of murder), friendship and her journey from the writers' room to sitcom star.
This tell-all memoir from Jessica Simpson was a big deal before it was even published, with Simpson exposing the truths of her marriage with Nick Lachey, her struggles with alcohol and celebrity spotlight and her incredible (if oft-overlooked) success as a fashion mogul. It’s refreshing and honest and Simpson says it all in her own words. And in case you’re more of an audiobook lover, the recording also includes access to six new original songs by the artist performed throughout the book, along with some favorites fans know and love.
Before there was Insecure, there was The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae’s award-winning web series that spawned this debut collection. In it, Rae covers everything from cybersex in the early days of the internet to navigating the perils of eating out alone and learning to accept yourself, it’s a funny, unabashedly awkward collection of deeply relatable essays.
The best celebrity memoirs are those that make the reader reconsider everything they thought they knew about the celebrity. In this honest, layered book that combines storytelling and her own poetry, actress and activist Anderson takes back control of her life’s narrative. Growing up on Vancouver Island, she eventually overcame her deep shyness and fell into a glamorous Hollywood life, eventually finding herself tabloid fodder, at the height of one of the most toxic eras of paparazzi. Now, having gone back to the island where she grew up, after a memorable run on Chicago on Broadway, Anderson is reclaiming her free spirit.
The self-deprecating humor begins at the title of this book: a nickname from the author’s immigrant mother for not getting into an Ivy League school. (The family also changed his first name to Gary from Igor, because he “had enough problems already.”) It’s a hilarious, touching recollection of the awkwardness of shaping an American identity in his adopted home of Queens and beyond.
In 2017, Edward Enninful became the first Black editor in chief of British Vogue (a position he has since left). Born in Ghana in 1972, he fell in love with fashion early on. After his family escaped to London following a political coup, he dealt with racist, repressive attitudes in Britain, finding solace from the harsh realities of life in fashion. In his 2022 memoir, Enninful chronicles his rise from model to stylist to writer and, at age 18, fashion director of i-D magazine. Even those with nary a passing interest in the fashion industry will appreciate Enninful’s story.
Kendrick's clever wit shines in her effortlessly honest and quirky compilation of life tales. You'll love the story of how she once had to pick a butt double for a film role and why she thinks Zac Efron could actually start a cult.
From her itinerant childhood to her career as a journalist (including and the founding of Ms. magazine) and her first experience with social activism among women in India, My Life on the Road is a fascinating account of the noted writer, organizer, activist and feminists’ incredible adventures up through the early 2010s.
Misty Copeland made history as the first African American principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre. But according to the dancer, her unprecedented rise wouldn’t have happened without her mentor, Raven Wilkinson, who fought to be taken seriously as a Black ballerina in the ‘50s and ‘60s. The Wind at My Back tells the story of two unapologetically Black ballerinas, their friendship and how they changed each other—and the dance world—forever.
Gary Janetti is a TV writer who’s widely known for his Instagram account, on which he posts funny memes about the royal family. In this essay collection, he explores the moments in his life that have defined him, from the summers he spent in his twenties pursuing the perfect tan and the perfect man to his unlikely friendship in high school with a nun who shared his love of soap operas.
To fans of SNL, The Other Two and a host of other programs, Molly Shannon is unshakably delightful. Behind the scenes, though, the actress’s life has been less than charmed. At age four, Shannon lost her mother, baby sister and cousin in a car accident with her father at the wheel. Raised by her grieving father, she developed her gift for improvising and role-playing before venturing to New York City and Los Angeles to make a name for herself. Documenting her rise to stardom, Hello, Molly is jam-packed with behind-the-scenes stories as well as candid meditations of grief and resilience.
This 2013 memoir by then-20-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Yousafzai (who was attacked by the Taliban for her outspokenness on the importance of girls’ education) should be required reading for anyone. It’s an inspiring, first-person account of how anyone can change the world with enough passion and perseverance.
This 2020 book from bestselling author, mom and speaker Doyle is equal parts intimate memoir and wake-up call. It’s the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. Doyle writes about navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and learning to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries and unleash our truest, wildest selves.
Written after the death of her husband and in the midst of the serious illness of her daughter, this book is Didion’s attempt to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness.” Incorporating medical and psychological research on grief and illness, she writes beautifully—if not emotionally—about what it’s like to lose someone.
Some of the best celebrity memoirs center on career highs and lows rather than the author’s personal life. Diane Keaton’s 2011 memoir is not one of those. Focusing on her relationships rather than her career, Keaton’s book reads like a love letter to her mother, her two children and the men with whom she was romantically involved (hello, Al Pacino and Warren Beatty).
In addition to creating, writing and producing Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and producing Bridgerton, Rhimes is the best-selling author of an incredible memoir jam-packed with life advice. While poignantly and humorously chronicling her childhood and rise to success, Rhimes dishes out tips for achieving your goals—necessary for those wholly uncertain post-college years.