May’s Best New Biographies and Memoirs

A new book from one of the funniest memoirists of our time leads off our list of the best bios and memoirs of the month. Legendary figures from the world of sports, acting, and even modeling also have books out—not to mention the nation’s funniest, most improbable politician.

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002), by David Sedaris
Any new David Sedaris book is a reason to celebrate. He’s one of our great observers, finding deep meaning and, more importantly, reasons to laugh, in even the most mundane events. For decades now, he’s been celebrating the weirdo in all of us. He’s doing something different with his latest: presenting excerpts of his own diaries from 1977 to 2002. Fortunately, his past self is every bit as funny and trenchant as his present-day incarnation.

Papi: My Story, by David Ortiz and Michael Holley
Barely six months into retirement, Ortiz tells the story of a long career in baseball, culminating in a 14-year run with the Boston Red Sox that saw the storied franchise go from perpetual loserdom to one of the winningest teams in MLB. For Sox fans, and baseball lovers in general, he brings an insider’s view of the recent history of the sport, and shares stories of his rough childhood in the Dominican Republic and his journey to American citizenship in 2008.

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken
The title alone proves that nine years in that most beloved American institution haven’t dulled the Minnesota Senator’s sense of humor. In his first book since his rather improbable career change from comedian to politician, Franken offers a candid memoir of his closely fought first election as well as the dramatic, historic, and occasionally funny events that have happened since.

This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare, by Gabourey Sidibe
The Oscar-nominated actress seemed to come from nowhere when she made her acclaimed appearance in Les Daniels’ 2009 film Precious. But, of course, nobody comes from nowhere. Sidibe discusses her Bed-Stuy/Harlem upbringing with a polygamous father and a mom who made money by singing in the subway, as reveals the story of her surprising and sometimes unsettling rise to fame in a world that didn’t always seem ready for her. Now an actress on the hit TV show Empire, Gabby also talks about race, body image, and fashion with all the wit and style that made her a star.

Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Over the course of half a century, legends Abdul-Jabbar and Coach John Wooden cultivated one of the deepest, most significant friendships in sports history. The late Wooden has been the subject of several books—and written several himself—on the subject of his on-and-off the court success strategies, but this personal memoir describes the man that a young basketball player met at the age of 18, and the profound influence the two had on each other for the rest of their lives.

Are You Anybody?, by Jeffrey Tambor
As a comedian and character actor, Tambor created legendary characters even before becoming a household name, playing memorable sidekicks on The Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development before taking on the lead role in the groundbreaking Transparent. His memoir covers the scope of his life and career, from his childhood as a self-described “fat Hungarian-Jewish kid with a lisp” to his creative zenith as an actor.

A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like, by Ashley Graham
Frequently described a “plus-sized” model, Ashley Graham took the modeling world by storm with her 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover. In her new memoir, she talks about her life and career in a series of photo-filled essays, and shares inspiring stories of breaking stereotypes and acceptance of all body types, shapes, and weights.

Iron Ambition: My Life with Cus D’Amato, by Mike Tyson and Larry Sloman
Cus D’Amato had already had a legendary career as a boxing manager, training both Floyd Patterson and José Torres, when he met `13-year-old Mike Tyson. D’Amato’s star seemed to be on the decline, until he proclaimed the young Tyson the future heavyweight champion of the world. An earlier memoir, Undisputed Truth, detailed Tyson’s life as a surrogate son to the trainer. This book digs deeper into D’Amato’s legacy as a fighter in and out of the ring, and into the life lessons that he passed along to Tyson.

Between Them: Remembering My Parents, by Richard Ford
Ford has written several bestselling novels and many short stories, but this is his first memoir. In it, he works to uncover the lives of his parents, rural Arkansans who lived and raised their child on the road. Going beyond the facts of their lives, Ford looks to reconstruct their hopes and dreams, writing not just a biography but a book about the distance by which we often view our parents.

Odd Birds, by Ian Harding
Pretty Little Liars star Ian Harding discusses life as a young celebrity through a unique lens: his love of birding. The 7-time Teen Choice Award Winner tells a series of stories from his life and career, frequently about navigating the tricky divide between celebrity and authenticity. He’s an avid bird-watcher, and each story features a bird as either a literal or metaphorical storytelling device.

Whose story most intrigues you?


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