Memoirs show us the world through someone else’s perspective, and can impact our own outlook on life, work, and the way we approach relationships. They can even help us unlock our full potential. Plus, amidst the merriment of the holiday season, immersing ourselves in someone else’s story can be a powerful pause and a chance to regain perspective. 

We asked our Thrive community to share the memoirs that have shifted their perspectives, and we were so inspired by the books they recommended. Which of these will you add to your reading list in 2020?

I Am Malala 

“The most inspiring memoir I read this year was I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. I am always inspired by stories of women who stand up for their rights, and her story is particularly courageous.” 

 —Madeleine Arthur, actress, Los Angeles, CA

He Said/She Said

“One of my favorite books of the year was Gigi Gorgeous’ memoir, where she shares her incredible, personal journey about her transition. Everyone who reads it can relate to her story and inspiring words, especially within the LGBTQ community. It’s an exciting, emotional, and educational must-read. Books like these open up hearts and minds, and help people live in a world with more understanding and love.”

—August Getty, fashion designer, philanthropist, and founder of fashion brand August Getty Atelier, Los Angeles, CA

Man’s Search for Meaning

“Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning told of creating a life of love even in Auschwitz. Frankl was no more or less human than I am. Whatever mood I find myself in, I know that he created meaning in his life, and I can, too.”

—Joshua Spodek, Ph.D., M.B.A., author, New York, NY

Down and Out in Paris and London 

“This memoir completely changed my view of the human condition. It reminded me that we’re all wired to connect and to be kind, and sometimes we just forget that. Sometimes, we might be down on our luck, and just need another human to look us in the eye and acknowledge us. Even if you don’t have any spare change, simply showing someone you see them can be enough.”

—Kara Byers, editor, Sydney, Australia

The Glass Castle

“Jeannette Walls’ memoir is a miraculous story of overcoming extreme poverty, and miraculously winding up with a Park Avenue address. It completely changed my perspective by providing awareness as to how much we truly take for granted. After reading this book, I’m so much more appreciative of all the good that surrounds me, and I know for certain that any problems I may have could definitely be way worse.”

—Tiffany Damon, student, Cypress, TX

The Choice 

“Dr. Edith Eger’s memoir is a life-changing book that I’ve read a couple of times already. Dr. Eger is a real hero. She rebuilt her life in the most incredible way after being a victim of some horrific atrocities. She finds forgiveness to carry on in service to others with love, beauty, purpose, and vigor that still carries her through into her nineties. It’s all a choice in how we respond to what has happened to us.”

—Harriet Cabelly, therapist and positive psychology coach, Long Island, NY

Just Mercy

“The book that changed my perspective is Bryan Stevenson’s memoir, Just Mercy. It is an incredibly powerful story of Bryan’s journey as a pro-bono lawyer to help the poor, condemned, and incarcerated. He tells stories of deep injustice — people who were never given the right to a fair trial, who had false evidence stacked against them, and who were the victims of racist police officers and judges. Bryan’s view that ‘we are more than the worst thing we’ve ever done’ has forever changed my perspective.”

—Esther Hallmeyer, public relations, Bend, OR

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

“Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years was the memoir that prompted me to start my blog, ‘Impossible.’ It’s about shifting to look at your life like a story, and how you can make sure you write a good one.”

—Joel Runyon, founder of IMPOSSIBLE, Austin, TX

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

“This memoir by Jung Chang resonated with me, as I was able to see a reflection of my own Thai American journey. It reminded me of my grandmother’s, mother’s, and my struggles with urban migration, immigration, socioeconomic mobility, generational connection, and individuality. It helped me value the unseen history and worlds every person carries with them, and it urged me to strive to see nuance in a world framed dichotomously.”

—Pam Kingpetcharat, adjunct assistant professor of public service, New York, NY

Is there a memoir that particularly inspired you this year? Tell us about it in the comments!

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.