6 Memoirs You Can’t Help Reading in the Author’s Voice

When it comes to famous people writing their memoirs, there are two basic categories: those who you know on some level are famous, but whose appearance escapes you, and those whose names immediately elicit an overriding urge to perform an impersonation. When those people—like the six on this list—write a memoir, you can’t help but hear them speaking in your head as you read.

Nevertheless, by Alec Baldwin
Baldwin’s been acting for more than three decades, and while the precise shape of his career has gone from impossibly handsome leading man to impossibly hilarious comic actor, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the menacing rasp of his voice. While he once used his voice—like a peaty Scotch—to play villains and smooth heroes, in recent years he’s used it to sell outrageous comedic line readings, or abandoned it altogether to mimic President Trump on Saturday Night Live. You can’t but imagine Baldwin whispering in your ear as you read about his professional highs and lows, his personal struggles with addiction, and his political thoughts and ambitions.

Leonard, by Willliam Shatner
Thanks to his signature staccato delivery, Shatner will forever be on everyone’s celebrity impersonation list. He developed that style very deliberately as a young stage actor, seeking a way to stand out and hold the audience’s attention. While it’s easy to mock, it’s also undeniably effective, bringing drama and propulsion to any line, simply because he stops when you expect him to rush forward and rushes forward when you expect him to stop. That unpredictability is what has made him iconic, and as you read his tender, grieving account of his five-decade friendship with Leonard Nimoy, you’ll find yourself involuntarily slipping into that stilted, jerky way of speaking.

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah has not only leaped onto the national stage by taking on the hosting duties for The Daily Show, he’s published a fascinating memoir about his childhood and young adult years in South Africa. Born as the result of an illegal interracial relationship in the final years of apartheid, Noah is equal parts hilarious and serious as he recounts his prank-filled childhood in a poor, violence-plagued neighborhood. If you’ve seen even one episode of The Daily Show, or any of his standup comedy work, his gentle South African accent imbues every word in the book. Because there are so few South African celebrities in the USA, Noah’s accent is unusual enough to stick with you, ringing in your ears as you read.

Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen’s gravelly voice, monotone delivery, and Jersey accent are distinct pieces of his persona; he’s always sounded like that guy in a Jets jersey who’s been sitting at the corner bar for the last hundred years or so, ready to throw down on any issue—politics, culture, whether you can get good pizza anywhere but New York and New Jersey (you cannot). That down-to-earth attitude has always been part of Springsteen’s appeal as the bard of the working class, and when you read his fascinating journey from teenager, to struggling musician in danger of losing his recording contract, to rock superstar, you’ll hear his voice rasping in your head.

An American Life, by Ronald Reagan
The Great Communicator had one of the most distinctive speaking voices in history; people who weren’t even alive when he was president can break out a Reaganesque “Well…” Reagan’s style was so distinct, it leaps off the page of this memoir from the first word, and whatever your politics there’s something incredibly comforting about imagining the Gipper sitting in your living room, telling you his life story in the warm, gregarious style that first made him a film and television star, and later, an era-defining politician. The fact that Regan’s life was one of the most interesting and unpredictable in history is just a bonus.

The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher
The world lost a treasure when Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016—not only an iconic actor who defined one of the most famous roles in science fiction and fantasy, but a sharp-witted writer who turned her tumultuous life into hilarious, heartbreaking stories. When reading her various memoirs, you can’t help but hear the sharply-enunciated, lip-glossed diction of Princess Leia, who somehow bit off lines like “Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking, Nerf-herder!” with elegant fury. As she grew older, Fisher’s fury subsided into a world-weary, gimlet-eyed wit, but that voice, and the way she seemed to carve every consonant out of diamond, is what you’re going to hear when you read her words.

 

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