top of page

Memoirs on Audio Read by the Author (Update)

by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)

Selected Reviews

*I'm updating this list for 2024, and my latest recommendations are marked with an asterisk. Since "Audiobook Read by the Author" is a category in this year's Unabridged Podcast Reading Challenge, the time seemed right to look at this one again!

*Viola Davis's Finding Me ( | - Viola Davis's Finding Me is a powerful memoir in which Davis reflects on her childhood, coming of age, and career. She grew up in a household of poverty and abuse, which she shares with honesty and vulnerability. Her love for her parents and siblings emanates from every story, even when mired in suffering. As Davis begins to discover her talent and to pursue her ambitions for herself, she begins to understand who she is, as well. I highly recommend this one, particularly on audio!

*Dave Grohl's The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music ( | - You should read this book if you're a child of the 90s, a music fan, or just a lover of memoir. Actually, you should listen to this one, which is read by the author and covers everything from his childhood in Virginia, growing up with his brother and his single mom, a teacher, all the way through his experiences in both Nirvana and Foo Fighters. He's met and played with some pillars of music, including Tom Petty and Paul McCartney, and his stories about music are told with genuine love and appreciation for its history. I grinned through this whole book and just couldn't stop listening.

*Mikel Jollett's Hollywood Park ( | - Mikel Jollett's memoir Hollywood Park was all over the emotional spectrum for me: there were moments of great joy, of sadness, of shock, of delight, of horror, of disbelief. I'm so glad I listened--Jollett reads the audiobook himself, which lends it great power--though I imagine I would have been able to appreciate the beautiful writing even more in print.

Jollett's tale begins in his early childhood, shortly after his parents had left the Synanon cult and reclaimed Mikel and his older brother Tony. Synanon believed that children should be raised separately from their parents, so at six months, the boys were taken to live in a "school"/orphanage. Mikel had connected with Bonnie, one of the workers there, but had not experienced true connection with any adult. When his mother reclaims the boys, they have to try to establish a new understanding of what it means to live as a family.

Jollett wrote the early sections of the book to reflect his childish understanding, interpreting the stories his mother tells him through an innocent and uninformed lens. His father is not part of his life at this point, and so Mikel comes to know his mother well, along with the men who become father figures for Mikel and Tony.

While parts of the book are really difficult to listen to because they depict such hardship for a child, Jollett's perspective on his growing up is evocative, reflective, honest, and vulnerable. He shares his understanding of his mother and of Tony, of their impact on him, as they grow and change, and we see his relationship with his father as it becomes increasingly important to him.

I'm so glad that I went in not knowing much about the author or his life; the revelations gain power because I did not expect them. Hollywood Park offers such joy in the discovery of Jollett's growth as a human being who increasingly understands himself and those around him, who gains confidence in his identity and his talents, who comes to understand how best to express his life.

Saeed Jones’s How We Fight for Our Lives ( | - Saeed Jones's memoir How We Fight for Our Lives is brilliant and brutal. The story centers on Jones life as a young, black, gay man growing up in the American South and on his relationship with his single mother. Listening to Jones (who narrates the audiobook--I listened on Scribd) describe the ways that he defined his identity within and against Southern culture is fascinating and moving. Though he makes many deliberate decisions about how to be in the world, I appreciated the way that Jones accepted so much about about who he and his mother were as individuals and as a strong pair. Saeed and his mother, who practiced Buddhism in the midst of a staunchly evangelical family and culture, often avoided articulating certain things that they understood about themselves, and so sometimes, those declarations gave me goosebumps . . . or brought me to tears. I don't want to spoil anything about Jones's journey (and I think it's going to be hard to do justice to the book's power in a short book review--there's too much nuance for that), but I'll just say that his writing is the star. While I'm glad that I listened because of the power of Jones's voice in narrating his own story, I often wished for a text copy, too, because there were quotations I desperately wanted to mark. His style is not showy, but it's precise and contemplative. There's a sense of humor and a foundation of love that lie underneath the whole of the narrative. Hearing Jones revisit his life, experiences unbelievable and shocking and horrifying and joyful, is a beautiful reading (listening?) experience.

Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You ( | - Mary-Louise Parker is a writer. Yes, she's also an actor. But this memoir, told in a series of essays addressed to men in her life, men who are identified most often by station or function or position ("Dear Former Boyfriend," "Dear Mentor," and so on) rather than by name, is simply gorgeous. It's whimsical and serious and heartbreaking. When Parker has a confrontation with a taxi driver, fully committing to her rage at his driving at the wrong direction, and then breaks down because she's pregnant and alone and scared, I FELT every moment of her anger and her vulnerability and her sadness. And her empathy for this man who had come into contact with her at a bad time. (I should say here that I listened, via Scribd, and that Parker reads her book herself. I can't recommend her narration more--actors make great readers of their own memoirs, and her voice is so strong in the writing already. Just wow.) Through every moment of this book, Parker makes clear her independence, her love for her children, her love for her parents, her hopes and her heartbreaks. I can't recommend Dear Mr. You more.

Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table  ( | - Ruth Reichl's narration of her memoir Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table brings to life one of my favorite types of audiobooks: authors reading their own work, their own lives. The book, which covers Reichl's childhood through the beginning of her career as a food critic, provides a brilliant focus on her family, particularly her mother, who suffers from manic depression; her more distant father; and her amazing partner. In the midst of these stories, Reichl shares the gradual development of her love for food and cooking, and we see the way all of her experiences move toward her career. Funny, poignant, thoughtful reflection on her early life.

Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love  ( | - Inheritance is the second memoir by Dani Shapiro that I've read (I listened to Hourglass, which I also highly recommend). In Inheritance, Shapiro explores the aftermath of her accidental discovery that she was conceived by donor-assisted artificial insemination and that her father is not her biological father. As she searches for more information, she finds her donor father, Ben Walden, and contends with the knowledge that the Orthodox Jewish ancestry she's always known is not her birthright. Shapiro's writing is gorgeous: spare and reflective and precise. Her memoir takes on the very nature of identity, of what makes her who she is. Beautiful, stunning work.

Other Recommendations

Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason . . . And Other Lies I've Loved ( |

Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body ( |

Diane Guerrero’s In This Country We Love: My Family Divided (

Lara Love Hardin's The Many Lives of Mama Love: A Memoir of Lying, Stealing, Writing, and Healing ( |

Ellie Kemper’s My Squirrel Days ( |

Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele’s When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir ( |

Kiese Laymon’s Heavy: An American Memoir ( |

Sy Montgomery’s How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals ( |

Dan Pfeiffer’s Yes We (Still) Can: Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump ( |

Dani Shapiro’s Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage ( |

Safiya Sinclair's How to Say Babylon ( |

Amy Tan's The Opposite of Fate (

Lindy West’s Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman ( |

26 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page