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4 Memoirs That Will Completely Change Your Outlook On Life

These tales of love and resilience are oh-so inspiring.

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photo collage of 4 memoirs to read, educated, the glass castle, man's search for meaning, the beauty in breaking
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Life is hard. It’s hard for everyone. We want to be happy, successful and loved, but we sometimes struggle to fulfill those desires. So, although everyone’s hard looks and feels different, the struggle itself is universal and, perhaps, the thing that connects us most.

We spend endless hours looking for how-tos — how to make X amount of dollars, find the love of your life, overcome adversity. Unfortunately, there is no script. The answers aren’t on TikTok, Google or in advice columns. They aren’t in a job, a new hair color or a boyfriend. Instead, we find answers one life experience at a time.

Hopefully, we learn and apply those lessons to the adversity that awaits. But every so often, a courageous person (who happens to be a great writer) shares their story, and we grow through their experience. Rather than struggle, we settle in with a memoir, and the inspiration, love and courage therein change our lives.

I asked Girlfriends about memoirs that changed their lives. Read on for the titles that were repeatedly mentioned.

Educated by Tara Westover

A #1 New York Times, Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Educated is brutal, tragic and, at times, painful to read. But it is chock-full of morals, inspiration and the hard truth that sometimes we need to break free from the people we love to chase the life we desire. Westover and her six siblings were raised by strict, survivalist Mormon parents in rural Idaho, where medical ailments were treated at home by herbs or “God’s pharmacy.” In preparation for the “end of days,” Westover and her siblings stockpile peaches and other emergency supplies and sleep within reach of their “head for the hills bag.” Her father believed that education was the government’s way of brainwashing students, so the children were never sent to school.

Westover stepped into a classroom for the first time at 17 years old, knowing that education was her pathway to freedom and that she had to leave the life she knew to claim the life she wanted. Educated is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring, and her writing is exceedingly honest. If you’ve ever needed to make a deep sacrifice or have struggled to lead a life that was authentically yours, Westover’s story will be a gift.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

If you find yourself endlessly looking for the answer to life’s most profound questions (How do I keep putting one foot in front of the other? What is the meaning of life? Do I have a purpose?), Frankl’s memoir is a must-read. And a must-re-read. It is not, however, a quick read. You will want to pause as you contemplate his undeniable wisdom.

Frankl quotes Nietzsche when he says, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” A Holocaust survivor, Frankl shares his observations and analyses of the impact of the torture and torment he and others endured in concentration camps and the significance of finding meaning through suffering for one’s survival. His deep suffering serves a greater purpose, and he explains it beautifully in a way that is undoubtedly life changing. If you are ready to embrace suffering once and for all, let Frankl show you the way.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Clear your weekend, stock up on coffee and snacks, sneak into your favorite reading nook and prepare to be transformed. You will want to wrap your arms around Jeannette Walls and smother her in love as you read about her childhood, which was wildly dysfunctional yet full of unconditional love. Her father, a genius with a vast imagination and palette for adventure, had a “little bit of a drinking situation.” When sober, he was charismatic and captivating, inspiring his kids to reach for the stars. When drunk, his words were harsh and abusive. He was unreliable, absent and painfully manipulative. Her Bohemian mother, a self-confessed “excitement addict,” wasn’t keen on domestic life — she’d rather paint a picture that would last a lifetime than cook a dinner that would be gone in 15 minutes.

Walls, with humility and candor, shares her life in a way that moves her readers regardless of whether they identify with knowing their mother has been homeless on the streets of New York City. This is a tale of life and resilience, and who doesn’t want to be moved by that?

The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper

Harper was raised in an abusive home and, later, was the victim of racism and sexism. As an African American physician, she found herself in a world that didn’t include many people who looked like her. She also found herself in a new city, newly single and starting a new job in a hospital in Central Philadelphia. Broken by life, time and again, Harper never folds. She is constantly observing, loving and healing others, with eyes wide open to life’s lessons and deeper meaning. The story she tells is one of healing. Just as she heals her patients with empathy and compassion, they help heal her.

Harper ultimately finds freedom in the gift of surrender. “After letting go, there is forgiveness; after forgiveness, there is faith. My key now was a radical alignment with truth, a radical faith that in leaning into love and letting go of everything else, the path unfolds as it should.” If you want to learn how to love, forgive and live in the present, this is the memoir for you.

What's your favorite memoir of all time? Or what's your favorite book? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle