The Best Biographies & Memoirs of August

Here are a few of our favorite biographies and memoirs for August. See more of our picks, and all of the Best Books of the Month. [This post has been updated to acknowledge the fact that the current month is August, not July.]

Rabbit200In many ways Patricia Williams’ has led an extraordinary life. Raised in a family of alcoholics and hustlers, she was at ground zero when the crack epidemic of the 1980s hit the impoverished neighborhoods of inner city Atlanta. Her mother taught her to roll drunks by the time she was eight; if they were hungry enough she and her siblings would go to the ER and wait for the candy stripers to come through with sandwiches for waiting families. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the third grade Williams—nicknamed Rabbit—first saw the possibility of a different life, thanks to a teacher who took a sympathetic interest. But the rules and role models in the rest of her world had a stronger pull, and soon enough Williams began to model the success she saw every day—in the drug dealers. As you read Williams’ memoir it’s impossible not to be shocked and bewildered. But you will also feel compassion. And Williams not only allows you to laugh, she makes it damn near impossible not to. Her wit and levity, hand-in-hand with hardship, mistakes, and self-discovery, makes Williams’ memoir, Rabbit, impressive and memorable. --Seira Wilson

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The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed by Scott Parazynski
Imagine a Venn diagram with three circles: All humans living and dead, humans who have traveled into space, and humans who have climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest. The intersection would contain one human: Scott Parazynski. The Sky Below, written with Susy Flory, chronicles five Space Shuttle Missions, two trips to the roof of the world, and more amazing adventures than you'd think humanly possible.
 
 

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It's Not Yet Dark: A Memoir by Simon Fitzmaurice
In 2008, Fitzmaurice was told he had four years to live following a diagnosis of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Rather than resigning himself to his fate, he fought against the fatal disease, prolonging his life through the use of a ventilator. With the aid of an eye-gaze computer, Fitzmaurice used the time to write It's Not Dark Yet, a stunning rumination on family, humanity, and what it means to be alive.
 

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Happiness: A Memoir: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham
I don't know about you, but I've found that things rarely go as planned. They sure didn't for Harpham, who - suddenly, unexpectedly - found herself as the single mother of a baby girl facing serious illness. But things didn't go as expected from there either. Happiness is a testament to life's uncertain, unknowable paths, full of wisdom, humor, and  - wait for it - humanity.
 

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Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope by John Saunders
With a happy family and a successful career at ESPN, John Saunders appeared to be leading an ideal existence. Off-camera, he harbored a secret: debilitating depression that threatened everything he held dear, including his life. In this autobiography, Saunders lays bare his struggles, and the story is as harrowing as it is inspirational, a journey through our darkest pathways where the only way out is through. Made all the more profound by his unexpected death in 2016, Playing Hurt is a testament to human will, generosity, and the triumph of optimism.
 

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