The Best Memoirs: The 2022 NBCC Autobiography Shortlist, recommended by Marion Winik

Autobiography is evolving; increasingly we find the field dominated by ‘genre-fluid’ books that plait memoir together with strands of cultural criticism, history, journalism or even poetry. Here, Marion Winik, the memoirist and critic, talks us through the five books that have been shortlisted in the National Book Critic’s Circle autobiography category—and describes the face of memoir in 2022.

The Best New Celebrity Memoirs, recommended by Sharon Marcus

While it’s easy to dismiss celebrity memoirs as offering cheap, voyeuristic thrills into the lives of famous people we like the look of, when they’re done well, they can give insight into challenges we all grapple with as human beings. They can also be very funny. Sharon Marcus, professor of literature at Columbia University and author of The Drama of Celebrity, recommends the best new celebrity memoirs.

The Best of Memoir: the 2020 NBCC Autobiography Shortlist, recommended by Mark Athitakis

From a brave account by the Stanford rape case survivor Chanel Miller to New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow’s gripping tale of investigating the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it’s been a golden year for autobiography. Veteran critic Mark Athitakis talks us through the memoirs that made this year’s National Book Critics Circle autobiography shortlist.

Margo Jefferson on Cultural Memoirs

The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic celebrates a form in constant flight from definition, that finds expression in hybrid texts and plays-within-plays, and that is as at home in high art as in pop culture.

Presidential memoirs (and biographies) as audiobooks, recommended by Robin Whitten

When you listen to presidential memoirs as audiobooks, you can hear an American president telling you their own story—at least when it comes to recent presidents. Going further back in time, biographies may be more useful. Veteran audiobook reviewer Robin Whitten, editor of Audiofile magazine, recommends the best audiobooks about US presidents, and explains the crucial role of professional narrators in bringing big books to life.

The best books on The Lives of Artists, recommended by Maria Loh

We live in an age obsessed with self-image. Technology has made the ‘selfie’ a ubiquitous form of social currency. Renaissance means may have been very different, but celebrity artists in Medici Florence dealt with many of the issues relating to identity and authorship that we grapple with today. Maria Loh, author of Still Lives: Death, Desire, and the Portrait of the Old Master, talks to Five Books about the curated self.

The Best Addiction Memoirs, recommended by Matt Rowland Hill

The author and recovering addict Matt Rowland Hill dissects the ‘addiction memoir’—its literary potential, its formal conventions and its offer of hope and catharsis—as he recommends five books that exemplify the form, from Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater to Mary Karr’s bestselling Lit.

Yiyun Li on the ‘Anti-memoir’

Yiyun Li, author of Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, on the sheer messiness of life, the irrelevance of ‘I’, and why brutal honesty is often the truest way to capture the people we love the most

Georgina Godwin on Memoirs of Zimbabwe

Via five engrossing memoirs, the Zimbabwe-born journalist Georgina Godwin talks wistfully about her country; amongst the older generation, she says, there is a feeling that Rhodesia was sold down the river by Britain and things needn’t have turned out the way they did.

The Best Political Diaries, recommended by Chris Mullin

The Labour MP on political diaries. A nugget from the day of the Norway debate, which brought down the Chamberlain government: ‘Sunny morning, went riding in Richmond Park. Strolled into the House for the Norway debate’