9 Memoirs About Real Women With Unusual Careers — From Midwives To Morticians

by Melissa Ragsdale

What do you want to be when you grow up? I've personally been trying to answer that question since I was a little kid. But here's one thing I have learned: There are more options than your typical nine-to-five office job, and these nonfiction books about unconventional career paths might just inspire you to explore a few of them.

Have you ever wondered about the daily life of a mortician? Are you curious about what it's really like to be a 911 operator? Do you daydream of becoming a secret agent for the CIA? Or maybe you just want to know what it's like being a female ship captain? Each of these books will give you a fascinating, behind-the-scenes glimpse at these less-talked-about career paths. Whether you're shopping for a new career for yourself, or you just want to get a peek at another world, these memoirs will open your eyes to worlds you didn't even realize existed. Maybe they'll make you thankful for the job you have, or maybe they'll even give you some ideas about a different direction you could go with your life.

No matter what your current work life is like, clock in to a whole new career with one of these nine memoirs:

'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory' by Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty details how she unexpectedly took a job at a crematorium in her 20s, and went on to became a licensed mortician.

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'Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner' by Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

You probably see medical examiners all the time on detective TV shows, but in this memoir Dr. Judy Melinek tells you what forensic pathology is really all about. This book takes "behind the police tape on the tough cases Dr. Melinek has personally worked, including the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th.

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'The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times' by Jennifer Worth

You might recognize this book from its TV adaptation, Call the Midwife. The memoir follows Jennifer Worth's experiences as a midwife in 1950s in London's East End, and it's both a fascinating account of the job and an eye-opening portrait of that time period.

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'Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat' by Caroline Burau

Can you imagine being a 911 operator? Caroline Burau takes you into the real world of being an emergency dispatcher in her memoir, which will give you a renewed appreciation for the people who dedicate their lives to helping others through catastrophes.

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'Hack: How I Stopped Worrying About What to Do with My Life and Started Driving a Yellow Cab' by Melissa Plaut

Melissa Plaut never expected to become a cabbie. But in her late 20s,, she took the test and became one of NYC's few female cab drivers.

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'The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey' by Linda Greenlaw

Ship-captaining is an intense, dangerous, and largely male-dominated industry. And yet Linda Greenlaw became a ship captain. In her memoir, she details exactly what it took to get there — and what it was like to experience the grueling reality of the ocean, day after day.

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'Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks' by Andrea Lankford

There's way more to being a park ranger than meets the eye. In this captivating memoir, Andrea Lankford details the 12 years she spent working as a park ranger — and tells the stories of everything from escorting baby sea turtles to pursuing criminals on horseback.

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'Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm' by Erin Byers Murray

In 2009, Erin Byers Marray ditched the city to take a job at an oyster farm in Massachusetts. Her memoir is an eye-opening look into a sector of the food industry that you've probably never thought twice about.

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'Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House' by Valerie Plame Wilson

Have you ever daydreamed about what it would be like to work for the CIA? In this memoir, Valerie Plame Wilson gives you a behind-the-scenes look of her life as a real-life spy.... and tells the juicy tale of the scandal that blew her cover to the world.

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