Memoirs are not always the first place we turn to for on-screen adaptations. We're so used to seeing big blockbusters being churned out from YA fantasy and adult romantic comedies, that we rarely think about the real life stories we might be missing. And sure, there are tons of biopics out there, but so many of them aren't taken directly from source material written by the subjects themselves. And, beyond that, even fewer memoirs are turned into television shows.
But with the recent popularity of Netflix's Girlboss, the series based on the business memoir by Sophia Amoruso, and the news that Mindy Kaling has optioned Alyssa Mastromonaco's White House memoir Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? for TV, the time is ripe to look back at other fascinating memoirs that could transition to the small screen.
The 11 books assembled below are some of the most fascinating real-life stories to be shared in the past few years. From musicians to comedians to feminist icons, these stories are dramatic, hilarious, heartbreaking and relatable; filled with all of the drama necessary to make some seriously riveting television. Add these to your TBR and then start thinking up your dream casts... and then maybe start petitioning Netflix and the networks to get these on the air while you're at it? Hey, it can't hurt, right?
1'The Woman I Wanted To Be' by Diane Von Furstenberg
Diane Von Furstenberg is one of the biggest and most revered fashion designers in the world but, of course, that wasn't always the case. In her book Von Furstenberg reflects on her extraordinary life from her childhood in Brussels to her days as a young, jet-set princess, to creating the dress that came to symbolize independence and power for an entire generation of women. The mix of glamorous fashion, high stakes business, dramatic love lives and one supremely bad ass lady? This series has practically already written itself.
2'The Glass Castle' by Jeanette Walls
Jeanette Walls' memoir focuses on her dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant childhood. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered. Family dramas always make for excellent television, and this one would be no different.
3'Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)' by Mindy Kaling
Sure, Kaling has already optioned Alyssa Mastromonaco's memoir for the small screen, but with The Mindy Project set to end after this upcoming season, we're going to be missing Kaling on TV. Her first memoir, hilarious and relatable as it is, would make the perfect jumping off point for a new series. Who wouldn't want to watch her awkward childhood or her time playing Ben Affleck in her Off-Broadway show play out on screen? And get some more behind the scenes insight into her time as a writer on The Office? Seriously, any time period a show version of this book focused on would be lol-inducing, obsession-worthy entertainment.
4'Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood' by Trevor Noah
Comedian Trevor Noah shares his unconventional childhood in this made-for-TV memoir. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from the government. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa's tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother were finally able to living openly and freely. His book covers everything between those years and would likely make a show that is equal parts heartwrenching and humorous.
5'My Life On The Road' by Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem is a cultural and feminist icon, but we have never seen her whole story on screen. Her most recent memoir would make the perfect source material for a TV show as it tells a part of her story that has never been heard before: a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. A road trip story mixed with a 60s atmosphere and fierce feminism? Yes, please.
6'Furiously Happy' by Jenny Lawson
Humor writer Jenny Lawson's second book explores her lifelong battle with mental illness, and it has been billed as "A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety." Would anything make a more relatable, laugh out loud series than that? Probably not. This is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it's about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. The world definitely needs more reality tinged with hilarity, and more open discussions about real people dealing with real illnesses...a series that has both is definitely primed for the small screen.
7'To Selena, With Love' by Chris Perez
Chris Perez had already been trying to turn his memoir into a television series, and it's obvious why. Interest in his late-wife and cultural icon Selena Quintanilla Perez has only continued to grow since her death in 1995, and the premiere of the Selena movie in 1998. To Selena, With Love shares intimate memories and never-before-seen photos of their life together and introduces the fans to a side of Selena that they have never seen before, both on stage and off. Importantly, it also clarifies certain misconceptions about her life and death. Though, unfortunately, it doesn't look like this series will be happening any time soon, fans can still hold out hope.
8'Just Kids' by Patti Smith
Beloved artist and punk icon Patti Smith's memoir of coming-of-age as a creative in New York City during the 1960s and 1970s would make the perfect Netflix series. Smith's writing is atmospheric, which would lend to some beautiful imagery, while her sometimes tumultuous relationship with best friend Robert Mapplethorpe would make for some serious drama. Never was a memoir better suited to the ultimate summer season binge watch.
9'Bossypants' by Tina Fey
Fey's memoir was one of the first in a wave of new books by our favorite funny ladies (including Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, Issa Rae and Phoebe Robinson) and it's the perfect mix of anecdotes and advice that would make it a fantastic series. Fey shares tales from her early days as a self-professed nerd to her fledging improve comedy days to SNL, and doesn't shy away from her personal triumphs and hardships that have made her an icon for so many. Also, if Fey's track record with TV (30 Rock and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) is any indication, this show would be super smart and absolutely hilarious.
10'Life Itself' by Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert is not only the best-known film critic of our time, but his life story is one of the most interesting and heartbreakingly hopeful. After four decades on television Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. In 2006, complications from thyroid cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. In this candid personal history, written before his death in 2013, Ebert chronicled it all: his loves, losses, and obsessions; his struggle and recovery from alcoholism; his years at the Sun-Times; and his life-changing collaboration with Gene Siskel. The enterainment business always makes for a great on-screen portrayal, and this one would definitely get two thumbs up.
11'Wishful Drinking' by Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher was known for her honesty and wit, and we need her light more than ever. So, naturally, her memoir would make and ideal television series. Fisher tells the true story of her life, from growing up with famous parents to her world-famous role as Princess Leia, to battling addiction and manic depression. Fisher covers everything from having Elizabeth Taylor as a stepmother, to marriages, divorces and motherhood. It's all self-deprecating, funny and so necessary. It's a TV match made in heaven...or, err, space.