11 Fascinating Memoirs By Women With Out-Of-The-Ordinary Careers

By Kerri Jarema

Chances are that you or someone you know has dreamed of being a writer, an actor, a comedian, maybe even a politician. And there are no shortage of memoirs by women in those groups to relate to and inspire you. But you've probably never thought about all of the many memoirs by people outside of those typically coveted careers. Have you ever wanted to be a war coorespondent or a radio personality or a medical examiner? Maybe not, but how interesting would it be to read from the perspectives of all of the above. Well, you're in luck because three of the 11 memoirs below are from women who have had these unusual careers, and more besides.

For those of us who are firmly entrenched in our own careers, these books are a fantastic way to vicariously live through women who took other paths, made interesting choices. And for anyone who is still not quite sure what career they want, or is looking to make a big change, maybe these fascinating memoirs can give you a little inspiration to get off of your desk chair, or out from behind the counter, and start dreaming some new, and decidedly exciting, job-related dreams.

'I'll Drink To That: A Life In Style, With A Twist' by Betty Halbreich

Betty Halbreich spent 40 years as a personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, where she worked with socialites, stars and women off the street, becoming a legend herself in the process. In I'll Drink To That, she chronicles her early life, the personal turmoil she went through after her two decade long marriage ended, and, of course, her life helping women face their closets and their mirrors every day with gumption.

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'Jackie's Girl: My Life With The Kennedy Family' by Kathy McKeon

In 1964, Kathy McKeon was just 19 years old and newly arrived from Ireland when she was hired as the personal assistant to former first lady Jackie Kennedy. The next 13 years of her life were spent in Jackie's service, during which Kathy not only played a crucial role in raising young Caroline and John Jr., but also had a front-row seat to some of the 20th century’s most significant events. Jackie's Girl is an endearing coming-of-age memoir about the lessons about life and love she learned from the glamorous first lady.

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'Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers To When You Work In The White House' by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, from the then-senator's early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office. Full of hilarious, never-before-told stories, Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? is an intimate portrait of a president, a book about how to get stuff done, and the story of how one woman challenged, again and again, what a "White House official" is supposed to look like.

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'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From The Crematory' by Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty was a 20-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre when she took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

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'Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, And The Making Of A Medical Examiner' by Judy Melinek

Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. She threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation, performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives. Working Stiff chronicles Judy's two years of training, taking readers behind the police tape of some of the most harrowing deaths in the Big Apple, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11, the subsequent anthrax bio-terrorism attack, and the disastrous crash of American Airlines flight 587.

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'Hammer Head: The Making Of A Carpenter' by Nina MacLaughlin

Nina MacLaughlin spent her twenties working at a Boston newspaper, sitting behind a desk and staring at a screen. Yearning for more tangible work, she applied for a job she saw on Craigslist—Carpenter’s Assistant: Women strongly encouraged to apply—despite being a Classics major who couldn't tell a Phillips from a flathead screwdriver. She got the job, and in Hammer Head she tells the rich and entertaining story of becoming a carpenter.

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'Lab Girl' by Hope Jahren

Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

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'Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina' by Misty Copeland

As the only African American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland made history. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, anxious 13-year-old to become a ground-breaking ballerina. With Life In Motion Misty opens a window into the life of a professional ballerina who lives life center stage: from behind the scenes at her first auditions to her triumphant roles in some of the most iconic ballets.

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'Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life Of A Critic In Disguise' by Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, knows that as the most important food critic in the country, you need to be anonymous when reviewing some of the most high-profile establishments in the biggest restaurant town in the world...a charge she took very seriously, taking on the guise of a series of eccentric personalities In Garlic and Sapphires she reveals the comic absurdity, artifice, and excellence of the epicurean world and reflecs on how one's outer appearance can influence one's inner character, expectations, and appetites.

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'My Voice: A Memoir' by Angie Martinez

Radio icon Angie Martinez has been called "The Voice of New York." Now that voice speaks out about her experiences at the helm of the #1 radio show in the country and her unlikely path to the heart of hip-hop music. In her 20 years behind the mic at New York City's two biggest hip-hop stations—Hot 97 and Power 105.1—Angie Martinez has become an entertainment legend. In the same no-holds-barred style of her radio show, Angie shares stories from behind-the-scenes of her interviews, and reflects on her career climb and personal life.

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'Dirty Wars And Polished Silver: The Life And Times Of A War Correspondent Turned Ambassatrix' By Lynda Schuster

Dirty Wars and Polished Silver is the story of her Lynda Schuster's life abroad as a foreign correspondent in war-torn countries, and as the wife of a U. S. Ambassador. It chronicles her experiences reporting on uprisings in the jungles of Mexico, dodging rocket fire in Lebanon, and being held hostage in Angola. But even after her second marriage, when she traded in the bombs and bravado of journalism for the life as the wife of U. S. diplomat, all the black-tie parties and genteel grooming in the world could not protect her from the violence of war.

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