10 Moving Memoirs To Help You Start The New Year Off Right

When the new year comes around, I always make myself all kinds of promises — to work out more, study harder, to shop less — but it isn't always easy to stick to my resolutions. This year, instead of listing the superficial changes I want to make, I'm pledging to make 2016 a healthier, happier, and more helpful year over all — all 366 days of it, but to do that, I'm going to need some motivation. I've put my goals on my vanity mirror, started keeping a journal of my progress, and even talked to my partner about my lifestyle resolution, and now I'm turning to moving memoirs to help start 2016 off right.

Reading someone else's life story can be inspiring, no matter what the context. The author can be a radical feminist leader or the daughter of abusive alcoholics, a famous comedian or an ordinary person. Their journeys, from the victories and breakthroughs to the heartaches and defeats, are what move readers. Reading a memoir is like being alongside someone as they face conflicts, navigate hardships, and figure out their own life. It's a reading experience that generates hope, inspires courage, and celebrates perseverance — and it's just what the librarian ordered for a motivational start to the year.

Everyone needs a little inspiration when it comes to starting fresh, so here are 10 memoirs with real stories that will help you get 2016 off on the right track.

1. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Since I was a teenager, I've looked to Gloria Steinem for inspiration, and her recent memoir, My Life on the Road has plenty of it. In it, Steinem chronicles not only her own life and personal growth, but the transformation of the people and places around her as the movement for equality grew. Moving and insightful, Steinem's memoir is the perfect read to get you off your butt and out on the streets, changing the world.

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2. Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer by Lynne Cox

Sports memoirs are inspiring by nature, but long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox's story is more than that. In Swimming to Antarctica, Cox shares her amazing tales of swimming the English Channel, the Bering Strait, Antarctica, and more, each story carrying with it a contagious feeling of triumph and spirit. Rich with detail, this is an awe-inspiring book for swimmers and non-swimmers alike.

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3. My Depression: A Picture Book by Elizabeth Swados

Elizabeth Swados uses both words and images to describe her ongoing struggle with depression in her aptly titled memoir, My Depression. Poignant and charming all at once, Swados's book is an honest and intimate look at depression, an illness thousands of Americans suffer from, that will touch readers in unexpected ways.

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4. Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick

In Spinster, Kate Bolick examines the culture of unmarried women, both past and present, through the lens of her own experiences with single life. Bold and inspiring, Spinster is not only Bolick's story, but the story of generations of single, childless women who chose to live their lives for themselves, no matter how many people asked them: "When are you going to settle down and start a family?" Bolick reminds us that it's OK if the answer to that question is never.

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5. The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

You've probably read the classic autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, so you already know how life changing Maya Angelou's writing can be. The Heart of a Woman is no different than her other autobiographical work — which is to say, it's a powerful, sincere and stirring portrait of one groundbreaking woman's life that needs to be on your reading list this year.

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6. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

You might know her from Portlandia, but Carrie Brownstein was rocking on stage with the feminist punk band, Sleater-Kinney, long before she was making you laugh as Toni in the feminist bookstore skits. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is Brownstein's frank memoir about her life as a musician, and everything — from critical acclaim to outright sexism — that came with it.

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7. Persepolis: The Story of Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Another illustrated memoir, Persepolis is breathtaking not only for its artwork, but for it's incredible storytelling. Marjane Satrapi uses comics to chronicle her childhood growing in Terhan, where she experienced the effects of the Islamic Revolution and the war with Iraq. Tragic yet funny, Persepolis is a compelling memoir that will change the way you see war, politics, and the undeniable strength of human beings.

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8. Lucky by Alice Sebold

A story that is not always easy to read, Alice Sebold's Lucky is the deeply personal story of the author's rape at 18, and the life-changing effects the traumatic experience had on her. Heartbreaking and even disturbing at times, Lucky is still filled with optimism and perseverance in the face of trauma. Bold and inspiring, Lucky can teach you a thing or two about staying strong.

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9. With or Without You: A Memoir by Domenica Ruta

For many, family members, especially parents, are the people we turn to for support, love, and protection, but not everyone has that luxury. Domenica Ruta's memoir, With or Without You, examines her complicated and toxic relationship with her mother, who despite all her flaws, Ruta loved anyways. An emotional, insightful read about the bond between mother and daughter, With or Without You is a dark book worth crying over.

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10. Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller

Hot off the press, Kelsey Miller chronicles her lifelong struggle with body image and weight loss in Big Girl, her hilarious, candid memoir that recounts all of the crash dieting and weight loss trends the author tried before learning how to love and care for her body the right way. An inspiring story for anyone who suffers from body image issues and confidence issues, Big Girl is a new book that needs to be on your radar.

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