1. Orange Is The New Black – Piper Kerman
This Netflix TV series has captured hearts and won awards. The show is a titillating blend of shame, longing, sex, tragedy, awkwardness, and humor. The book, less so. Much less so. In fact, the characters and events of the show are largely a creation of the Netflix screenwriters. The actual memoir it’s based on is regrettably tame, but Piper Kerman at least had the temerity to bring us an inside view of some place most of us (fortunately) will never see.
2. Girl, Interrupted – Susanna Kaysen
Back to the classics: Most will remember this inside-the-loony-bin story as a film starring Winona Ryder and Angelia Jolie. Like many adaptations, the film has stepped up the drama factor considerably – for example, Angelina Jolie’s memorable psychopath was a much smaller part of the real story, which has been turned into a fairly fast-paced, almost adventurous tale. Kaysen’s memoir is regarded as being well-written and insightful, and the author herself reportedly hated the movie.
3. Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
In some ways the original “Industry Expose,” this book blew the lid off the restaurant industry. Tony Bourdain’s book is gritty and revealing, and he doesn’t shy away from exploring his own personal failings as well as illuminating the darkest corners of the typical restaurant kitchen. It’s just a great read, and was even made into a short-lived although generally well-reviewed TV series starring Bradley Cooper.
4. Street Child – Justin Early
The 1984 academy award nominated documentary Streetwise was quite notable in its time. It showed an intimate look at a specific group of homeless youths in Seattle. Now, quite recently, one of those troubled young people is speaking out in a self-published memoir. It’s a fascinating read, despite the usual proofreading pitfalls of a self-published text, and the author has a gift for capturing place, time, and mood. Among the myriad tragedies of his life, one of Justin’s adopted street-sisters became a victim of the Green River Killer. His story touches on many aspects of recent American history that deserve to be remembered.
5. All That Jazz – Bob Fosse
In one of the most piquant takes on the memoir genre ever attempted, Jazz Dance Legend Bob Fosse made a film about his own death. And yes, he ultimately died in just about the exact way he predicted: from heart failure due to years of drinking, smoking, and amphetamines. For those of you who don’t know Fosse, he’s the dance inspiration for, well, everyone. Particularly Michael Jackson. The film has as much fascinating backstory as the man himself. He cast his own girlfriend as his girlfriend in the film – but he made her audition for the part. Fosse’s look at his own life is both megalomaniacal and self-deprecating; it’s also wickedly funny, deeply disturbing, and all-around amazing.
6. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes – Caitlin Doughty
Here’s something to get excited about: A famous Youtuber and mortician may get a chance at a television adaptation of her memoir. Her full book title is Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, and this alone should give you an idea of what you’re in for. If you have any love at all for witty, lighthearted goths – and who doesn’t? – this should be right up your alley. A TV version sounds like it could just about be the next Six Feet Under, but this time it will be true. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!