Unconventional Paths

Memoirs from people living unconventional lives.

May 20, 2024

A Year By The Sea by Joan Anderson

A Year By The Sea
Thoughts Of An Unfinished Woman

Joan Anderson

During the years Joan Anderson was a loving wife and supportive mother, she had slowly and unconsciously replaced her own dreams with the needs of her family. With her sons grown, however, she realized that the family no longer centered on the home she provided, and her relationship with her husband had become stagnant. Like many women in her situation, Joan realized that she had neglected to nurture herself and, worse, to envision fulfilling goals for her future. As her husband received a wonderful job opportunity out-of-state, it seemed that the best part of her own life was finished. Shocking both of them, she refused to follow him to his new job and decided to retreat to a family cottage on Cape Cod.

Rebel Mother by Peter Andreas

Rebel Mother
My Childhood Chasing The Revolution

Peter Andreas

Carol Andreas was a traditional 1950s housewife from a small Mennonite town in central Kansas who became a radical feminist and Marxist revolutionary. From the late sixties to the early eighties, she went through multiple husbands and countless lovers while living in three states and five countries. She took her youngest son, Peter, with her wherever she went.

No Baggage by Clara Bensen

No Baggage
A Minimalist Tale Of Love And Wandering

Clara Bensen

Newly recovered from a quarter-life meltdown, Clara Bensen decided to test her comeback by signing up for an online dating account. She never expected to meet Jeff, a wildly energetic university professor with a reputation for bucking convention. They barely know each other’s last names when they agree to set out on a risky travel experiment spanning eight countries and three weeks. The catch? No hotel reservations, no plans, and best of all, no baggage. Clara’s story will resonate with adventurers and homebodies alike–it’s at once a romance, a travelogue, and a bright modern take on the age-old questions: How do you find the courage to explore beyond your comfort zone? Can you love someone without the need for labels and commitment? Is it possible to truly leave your baggage behind?

Spinster by Kate Bolick

Making A Life Of One’s Own

Kate Bolick

As a single woman, Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why she– along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing– remains unmarried. She shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless– the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.

Stuck In The Middle With You by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Stuck In The Middle With You
A Memoir Of Parenting In Three Genders

Jennifer Finney Boylan

Filled with interviews that examine the relationships with fathers and mothers, a memoir about gender and parenting follows the author as she transitioned from a man to a woman and from a father to a mother.

Cutting Back by Leslie Buck

Cutting Back
My Apprenticeship In The Gardens Of Kyoto

Leslie Buck

This absorbing debut memoir recounts an American gardener’s apprenticeship with the most prestigious gardening firm in Kyoto.

The Diary Of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The Diary Of A Bookseller

Shaun Bythell

When Bythell first thought of taking over the bookstore in the remote Scottish village of Wigtown, it seemed like a book-lover’s paradise. Here he details his experiences at the helm of The Book Shop, Scotland’s largest second hand bookstore: the delightfully unusual staff members, eccentric customers, odd townsfolk and surreal buying trips to old estates and auctions. As he struggled to build his business– and be polite– he is seduced by the charm of small-town life, and the peculiar characters he meets.

New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell

New Life, No Instructions

Gail Caldwell

Pulitizer Prize winner Gail Caldwell pens a memoir on how seemingly faint winds can blow us wildly off course; on how spending time with a beloved animal can benefit our basic humanity; and on what it means to overcome, at middle age, a multitude of blows.

Bright Precious Thing by Gail Caldwell

Bright Precious Thing

Gail Caldwell

Frank and revealing, this memoir chronicles what it was like for Gail Caldwell to grow up across the decades of the women’s movement. She confronts personal turning points, from abortion and illicit love to date rape and alcoholism, up through the #MeToo movement, that led her to see life as a bright precious thing. Another bright precious thing is a young neighborhood girl with whom Gail shares stories. The wise voice and deep feelings for life from Caldwell’s bestseller Let’s Take The Long Way Home are present again in Bright Precious Thing.

All That You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr

All That You Leave Behind

Erin Lee Carr

A celebrated journalist, bestselling author, and recovering addict, David Carr was in the prime of his career when he collapsed in the newsroom of The New York Times in 2015. Shattered by his death, his daughter Erin Lee Carr, an up-and-coming documentary filmmaker at age twenty-seven, began combing through the entirety of their shared correspondence–1,936 items in total. What started as an exercise in grief quickly grew into an active investigation: Did her father’s writings contain the answers to the questions of how to move forward in life and work without your biggest champion by your side? How could she fill the space left behind by a man who had come to embody journalistic integrity, rigor, and hard reporting, whose mentorship meant everything not just to her, but to the many who served alongside him?

Yoga by Emmanuel Carrere


Emmanuel Carrere

Emmanuel Carrere is a renowned writer. After decades of emotional upheaval, he has begun to live successfully–he is healthy; he works; he loves. He practices meditation, striving to observe the world without evaluating it. In this state of heightened awareness, he sets out for a ten-day silent retreat in the French heartland, leaving his phone, his books, and his daily life behind. But he’s also gathering material for his next book, which he thinks will be a pleasant, useful introduction to yoga. Four days later, there’s a tap on the window: something has happened. Forced to leave the retreat early, he returns to a Paris in crisis. Life is derailed. His city is in turmoil. His work-in-progress falters. His marriage begins to unravel, as does his entanglement with another woman. He wavers between opposites–between self-destruction and self-control; sanity and madness; elation and despair. The story he has told about himself falls away. And still, he continues to live.

The Legs Are The Last To Go by Diahann Carroll

The Legs Are The Last To Go
Aging, Acting, Marrying, And Other Things I Learned The Hard Way

Diahann Carroll

The barrier-breaking actress best known for her roles in Julia and Grey’s Anatomy discusses her four marriages, including her courtship with Sidney Poitier, the racial and sexual politics that shaped her roles in Hollywood and on Broadway, and the personal cost of her career.

My Life In France by Julia Child

My Life In France

Julia Child

Here is the captivating story of Julia Child’s years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found “her true calling.” From the moment she and her husband Paul, who worked for the USIS, arrived in the fall of 1948, Julia had an awakening that changed her life. Soon this tall, outspoken gal from Pasadena, California, who didn’t speak a word of French and knew nothing about the country, was steeped in the language, chatting with purveyors in the local markets, and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu. She teamed up with two fellow gourmettes, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, to help them with a book on French cooking for Americans. Filled with her husband’s beautiful black-and-white photographs as well as family snapshots, this memoir is laced with wonderful stories about the French character, particularly in the world of food, and the way of life that Julia embraced so wholeheartedly. Bon appetit!

We'll Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn

We’ll Always Have Paris
A Mother/daughter Memoir

Jennifer Coburn

Jennifer Coburn has always been terrified of dying young. It’s the reason she drops everything during the summers on a quest to travel through Europe with her daughter, Katie, before it’s too late. Even though her husband can’t join them, even though she’s nervous about the journey, and even though she’s perfectly healthy, she spends three to four weeks per trip jamming Katie’s mental photo album with memories. In this heartwarming generational love story, Jennifer reveals how their adventures helped relinquish her fear of dying– for the sake of living.

This Story Will Change by Elizabeth Crane

This Story Will Change
After The Happily Ever After

Elizabeth Crane

Life is a work-in-progress, full of mystery and unexpected twists. The only certain thing is that whatever story you think you are telling yourself about your life, is that story will change. And then it will change again. One minute Elizabeth Crane and her husband of fifteen years are fixing up their old house in upstate New York, finally settling down roots after stints in Chicago, Texas, and Brooklyn, and the next she finds herself separated and in couples’ therapy, living in a luxury apartment in the city with a old friend and his kid. It’s understood that the fancy apartment and bonus family are temporary, but the situation brings unexpected comfort and much-needed healing for wounds even older than her strained marriage. Crafting the story as the very events chronicled are unfolding, Crane writes from a place of guarded hope and possibility, hyper aware that the conclusion she draws in the immediate aftermath might differ from what a future analysis might yield.

Nora Ephron by Kristin Marguerite Doidge

Nora Ephron

Kristin Marguerite Doidge

Nora Ephron: A Biography is the first comprehensive portrait of the Manhattan-born girl who forged a path of her own, earning accolades and adoration from critics and fans alike. Author Kristin Marguerite Doidge explores the tremendous successes and disappointing failures Ephron sustained in her career as a popular essayist turned screenwriter turned film director. She redefined the modern rom-com genre with bestselling books such as Heartburn and hit movies including When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Julie & Julia. Doidge also examines the private life Ephron tried to keep in balance with her insatiable ambition. Based on rare archival research and numerous interviews with some of Ephron’s closest friends, collaborators, and award-winning colleagues including actors Tom Hanks and Caroline Aaron, comedian Martin Short, composer George Fenton, and lifelong friends from Wellesley to New York to Hollywood–as well as interviews Ephron herself gave throughout her career–award-winning journalist and cultural critic Doidge has written a captivating story of the life of a creative writer whose passion for the perfect one-liner and ferocious drive to succeed revolutionized journalism, comedy, and film.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle


Glennon Doyle

There is a voice of longing inside every woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good mothers, daughters, partners, employees, citizens, and friends. We believe all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives, relationships, and world, and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful. We hide our simmering discontent–even from ourselves. Until we reach our boiling point. Four years ago, Glennon Doyle–bestselling Oprah-endorsed author, renowned activist and humanitarian, wife and mother of three–was speaking at a conference when a woman entered the room. Glennon looked at her and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. Soon she realized that they came to her from within. Glennon was finally hearing her own voice–the voice that had been silenced by decades of cultural conditioning, numbing addictions, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl Glennon had been before the world told her who to be. She vowed to never again abandon herself. She decided to build a life of her own–one based on her individual desire, intuition, and imagination. She would reclaim her true, untamed self.

I'll Push You by Patrick Gray, Justin Skeesuck

I’ll Push You
A Journey Of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, And One Wheelchair

Patrick Gray, Justin Skeesuck

Two best friends, 500 miles, one wheelchair, and the challenge of a lifetime. Friendship takes on new meaning in this true story of Justin and Patrick, born less than two days apart in the same hospital. Best friends their whole lives, they grew up together, went to school together, and were best man in each other’s weddings. When Justin was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease that robbed him of the use of his arms and legs, Patrick was there, helping to feed and care for him in ways he’d never imagined. Determined to live life to the fullest, the friends refused to give into despair or let physical limitations control what was possible for Justin. So when Justin heard about the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile trek through Spain, he wondered aloud to Patrick whether the two of them could ever do it. Patrick’s immediate response was: “I’ll push you.” I’ll Push You is the real-life story of this incredible journey. A travel adventure full of love, humor, and spiritual truth, it exemplifies what every friendship is meant to be and shows what it means to never find yourself alone. You’ll discover how love and faith can push past all limits–and make us the best versions of ourselves.

How I Got To Be Whoever It Is I Am by Charles Grodin

How I Got To Be Whoever It Is I Am

Charles Grodin

Successful actor, author, and activist, Charles Grodin, looks back at the major events and private moments that have shaped his life. And, since Grodin is one of the best storytellers around, he can’t help but entertain while offering insight gained from a wealth of experience.

I Live A Life Like Yours by Jan Grue

I Live A Life Like Yours

Jan Grue

Jan Grue was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at the age of three. His story unfolds as he sifts through his youth with his parents and sister in Norway, his years of study around the world, and his current life as a professor, husband, and father. Interspersed among these memories are elegant, astonishingly wise reflections on the world, social structures, disability, loss, relationships, and the body: in short, on what it means to be human. I Live a Life Like Yours is a love story. It is rich with loss, sorrow, and joy, and with the details of one life. It is a story about accepting one’s own body and limitations, and learning to love life as it is while remaining open to hope and discovery.

Stay True by Hua Hsu

Stay True

Hua Hsu

From the New Yorker staff writer Hua Hsu, a gripping memoir on friendship, grief, the search for self, and the solace that can be found through art. In the eyes of 18-year-old Hua Hsu, the problem with Ken–with his passion for Dave Matthews, Abercrombie & Fitch, and his fraternity–is that he is exactly like everyone else. Ken, whose Japanese American family has been in the United States for generations, is mainstream; for Hua, a first-generation Taiwanese American who has a ‘zine and haunts Bay Area record shops, Ken represents all that he defines himself in opposition to. The only thing Hua and Ken have in common is that, however they engage with it, American culture doesn’t seem to have a place for either of them. But despite his first impressions, Hua and Ken become best friends, a friendship built of late-night conversations over cigarettes, long drives along the California coast, and the textbook successes and humiliations of everyday college life. And then violently, senselessly, Ken is gone, killed in a carjacking, not even three years after the day they first meet. Determined to hold on to all that was left of his best friend–his memories–Hua turned to writing. Stay True is the book he’s been working on ever since. A coming-of-age story that details both the ordinary and extraordinary, Stay True is a bracing memoir about growing up, and about moving through the world in search of meaning and belonging.

Negroland by Margo Jefferson


Margo Jefferson

At once incendiary and icy, mischievous, and provocative, celebratory and elegiac, a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, and American culture through the prism of the author’s rarefied upbringing and education among a black elite concerned to distance itself from whites and the black generality, while tirelessly measuring itself against both. Born in 1947 in upper-crust black Chicago–her father was for years head of pediatrics at Provident, at the time the nation’s oldest black hospital; her mother was a socialite– Margo Jefferson has spent most of her life among (call them what you will) the colored aristocracy, the colored elite, the blue-vein society. Since the nineteenth century they have stood apart, these inhabitants of Negroland, “a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.” Reckoning with the strictures and demands of Negroland at crucial historical moments– the civil rights movement, the dawn of feminism, the fallacy of post-racial America– Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions.

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

The Rules Do Not Apply

Ariel Levy

In 2012, at age 38, when she left on a reporting trip to Mongolia, Ariel Levy thought she had figured it out: she was married, pregnant, successful on her own terms, financially secure. A month later, none of that was true. ‘People have been telling me since I was a little girl that I was too fervent, too forceful, too much. I thought I had harnessed the power of my own strength and greed and love to a life that could contain it. But it has exploded.’ In gorgeous, moving, humorous, sharp, and unforgettable prose, with pointillist portraits of a girl and then a young woman coming of age, Levy describes her own ill-fated assumptions: thinking that anything is possible, that the old rules do not apply; that marriage doesn’t have to mean monogamy; that gender and sexuality are fluid; that aging doesn’t have to mean infertility. This is a searing story, written with humor, brilliance, and insight, that is at once personal and universal–a story about realizing that life is so often beyond our control, and how we forge ahead despite that. In telling her own story, Levy has captured a portrait of our time, of the shifting forces in values, women and gender in American culture, of what has changed and what has remained.

We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu

We Were Dreamers
An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story

Simu Liu

We Were Dreamers is the superhero origin story of Simu Liu, Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first leading Asian superhero, who grew up torn between China and Canada, until he found the courage to dream like his parents before him. Witty, honest, inspiring and relatable, We Were Dreamers weaves together the narratives of two generations in a Chinese immigrant family who are inextricably tied to one another even as they are torn apart by deep cultural misunderstanding. Let’s just say, it’s really hard to be seen as cool amongst your peers when your parents assign you hours of extra homework every night. And it’s similarly hard to admit to those parents, years later, not only that you’ve lost your respectable accounting job–the one they invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in to prepare you for–but also that you kinda want to be an actor. Going beyond his own experiences, Simu tells the story of his parents’ decision to leave him behind to be raised by his grandparents while they sought a future in North America, and of the shock and loss he experienced when the father he hardly even remembered showed up one day to take him away from the only home he had ever known. He offers a no-holds-barred look at the struggles he and his parents experienced as they tried to become a family while dealing with culture gaps, racism and wildly conflicting definitions of success. And he shares many entertaining stories of his own incredible path to success, from the acting gigs he landed through Craigslist ads to dressing up as Spider-Man at kids’ birthday parties and serving as Pete Wentz’s stunt double on a Fall Out Boy music video. Ultimately, it is Simu’s singular determination to make his dreams come true that not only leads him to succeed as an actor but also opens the door to reconciliation with his parents. For by the time he is thirty–the same age his parents were when they immigrated–he recognizes that he and his parents have much in common, most notably their courage to dream, and to dream big. We Were Dreamers is a story about growing up as a third-culture kid, about losing and finding family, and about making your own luck. More than one family’s story, it is part of a larger narrative about Asian Canadian culture–a colorful and nuanced tale that is worthy of being told and deserving of a wide readership.

Lizz Free Or Die by Lizz Winstead

Lizz Free Or Die

Lizz Winstead

In this collection of autobiographical essays, Winstead (co-creator of The Daily Show) vividly recounts how she fought to find her own voice, both as a comedian and as a woman, and how humor became her most powerful weapon in confronting life’s challenges. Growing up in the Midwest, the youngest child of conservative Catholic parents, Winstead learned early in her life that the straightforward questions she posed to various authority figures around her prompted many startled looks and uncomfortable silences, but few answers. Yet she didn’t let that stop her from pursuing her dreams. Funny and biting, honest and poignant, this no-holds-barred collection gives an in-depth look into the life of one of today’s most influential comic voices.

Maeve In America by Maeve Higgins

Maeve In America
Essays By A Girl From Somewhere Else

Maeve Higgins

Maeve Higgins was a bestselling author and comedian in her native Ireland when, at the grand old age of thirty-one, she left the only home she’d ever known in search of something more and found herself in New York City. Together, the essays in Maeve in America create a smart, funny, and revealing portrait of a woman who aims for the stars but sometimes hits the ceiling and the inimitable city that helped make her who she is.

Shelf Life by Nadia Wassef

Shelf Life
Chronicles Of A Cairo Bookseller

Nadia Wassef

Cairo, 2002. with her sister, Hind, and their friend, Nihal, Wassef founded Diwan, a fiercely independent bookstore. They were three young women with no business degrees, no formal training, and nothing to lose. At the time, culture was languishing under government mismanagement, and books were considered a luxury, not a necessity. Ten years later, Diwan had become a rousing success, with ten locations, 150 employees, and a fervent fan base. Here she tells the story of this journey, her impassioned regulars, and the many people, who said Diwan would never work.

Carsick by John Waters


John Waters

John Waters is putting his life on the line. Armed with wit, a pencil-thin mustache, and a cardboard sign that reads “I’m Not Psycho,” he hitchhikes across America from Baltimore to San Francisco, braving lonely roads and treacherous drivers. But who should we be more worried about, the delicate film director with genteel manners or the unsuspecting travelers transporting the Pope of Trash?

Travels In Vermeer by Michael White

Travels In Vermeer

Michael White

A lyrical and intimate account of how a poet, in the midst of a bad divorce, finds consolation and grace through viewing the paintings of Vermeer, in six world cities. In the midst of a divorce (in which the custody of his young daughter is at stake) and over the course of a year, the poet Michael White, travels to Amsterdam, The Hague, Delft, London, Washington, and New York to view the paintings of Johannes Vermeer, an artist obsessed with romance and the inner life.

Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden

Nothing Daunted
The Unexpected Education Of Two Society Girls In The West

Dorothy Wickenden

Derived from a widely read and much beloved New Yorker piece about Wickenden’s grandmother and her grandmother’s best friend who left their affluent East Coast lives to “rough it” as teachers in the wilds of Colorado in 1916.

The Fixed Stars by Molly Wizenberg

The Fixed Stars

Molly Wizenberg

At age thirty-six, while serving on a jury, author Molly Wizenberg found herself drawn to a female attorney she hardly knew. Married to a man for nearly a decade and mother to a toddler, Wizenberg tried to return to her life as she knew it, but she felt that something inside her had changed irrevocably. Instead, she would discover that the trajectory of our lives is rarely as smooth or as logical as we’d like to believe. Like many of us, Wizenberg had long understood sexual orientation as a stable part of ourselves: we’re ‘born this way.’ Suddenly she realized that her story was more complicated. Who was she, she wondered, if something at her very core could change so radically? The Fixed Stars is a taut, electrifying memoir exploring timely and timeless questions about desire, identity, and the limits and possibilities of family. In honest and searing prose, Wizenberg forges a new path: through the murk of separation and divorce, coming out to family and friends, learning to co-parent a young child, and realizing a new vision of love. The result is a frank and moving story about letting go of rigid definitions and ideals that no longer fit, and learning instead who we really are.