Emily Ratajkowski is a model, actress, entrepreneur, and social media influencer. Her first book, My Body, is a collection of essays in which she draws on her own experiences to interrogate the ways our culture commodifies female sexuality and beauty.
The Reckonings by Lacy M. Johnson (2018).
I have reread this book several times in the past few years. It's always the first book I recommend to friends. Lacy M. Johnson covers everything from feminism to global warming through an intertwining of cultural references and extremely raw personal narratives. She tackles big questions about justice, forgiveness, and survival with poetic, sharp writing. Buy it here.
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In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (2019).
Carmen Maria Machado takes the traditional memoir and turns it on its head. She builds her story as one would a house: slowly, diligently, piece by piece. By doing so, Machado masterfully creates an experience for the reader that I have not encountered in any other memoir. Buy it here.
Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett (2004).
Patchett is an excellent essayist, but this book is a memoir, chronicling her relationship with writer Lucy Grealy. I read Truth and Beauty in my early 20s, but it made such an impression that it remains fresh in my mind. I don't think there is a book that better captures the intimacy and intensity of female friendships. There is so much raw honesty in this book. Buy it here.
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison (2014).
This book's first essay, about Jamison's part-time work as a "medical actor" performing maladies for medical students to diagnose, might be my favorite of all time. Jamison's ability to beautifully move from one complex idea and feeling to the next is remarkable. Buy it here.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (2018).
Another impressive essay collection, this one was recommended to me by Sweetbitter novelist Stephanie Danler while I was writing My Body. Chee, a novelist, revisits various episodes from his own life as he examines how any of us constructs an identity across a lifetime. Buy it here.
Self-Help by Lorrie Moore (1985).
I read this book, which is Lorrie Moore's debut short-story collection, when I first moved to New York City in my early 20s. No one compares to Moore, and this is her masterpiece. Buy it here.
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