▪ “Bettyville,” by George Hodgman (Viking). In this achingly tender memoir by a gay New York-based son who returns to tiny Paris, Mo., to care for his failing 90-year-old mother, Hodgman pulls off the difficult trick of mining small-town inhabitants for humor without slipping into meanness.
▪ “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau). Plaintive, poignant and directly from the heart, Coates’ essay on race and being black in America today, written as a letter to his son, is as genuinely human as it is provocative. Winner of a National Book Award.
▪ “The Fly Trap,” by Fredrik Sjoberg (Pantheon). In this poetic and wry memoir, Sjoberg, an entomologist living on a small island off the Swedish coast, transforms a niche subject into one of widespread appeal, musing on the pleasures of country life and the line between avocation and obsession.
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▪ “M Train,” by Patti Smith (Knopf). Following her previous memoir about her early years in New York’s creative cauldron, this collection of linked pieces and wanderings captures Smith’s perceptive and gentle way of regarding the world, art, life and loss.
▪ “My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers her Family’s Nazi Past,” by Jennifer Teege (The Experiment). The author plucks a book off a German library shelf and is stunned to learn her grandfather was an infamous Nazi commandant. Her haunted genealogy plunges her into a severe depression and a determination to discover who she is and who her family was.
▪ “My Life on the Road,” by Gloria Steinem (Random House). The most prominent feminist of our times gives a deeply personal account of a life spent traveling constantly not by force but by choice. Behind-the-scenes accounts of pivotal political moments are beaded with inspiring stories of real people who have crossed her path.
▪ “My Journey,” by Donna Karan (Ballantine). The New York fashion icon details her rise from Long Island suburbia to Anne Klein to launching her own couture line. Between all the fabric swatches and runways are plenty of elements that make for great storytelling: romance, celebrity gossip and deep emotion.
▪ “Negroland: A Memoir,” by Margo Jefferson (Pantheon). The former New York Times critic chronicles a lifetime as a member of Chicago’s black elite.
▪ “The Seven Good Years,” by Etgar Keret (Riverhead Books). This marvelous memoir by a leading Israeli writer chronicles the period between the birth of his son and the death of his father with hilarity and profoundly moving observations.
▪ “Silver Screen Fiend,” by Patton Oswalt (Scribner). Comedian Patton Oswalt’s “boring addiction memoir” is a feast for film buffs, but more entrancing are his honest accounts of climbing (and occasionally stumbling) up the comedy ladder.
▪ “The Sweden File: Memoir of an American Expatriate, Letters and Comments,” by Bruce Stevens Proctor (Westphalia). This Vietnam-era book presents the perspective of a young conscientious objector exiled to 1960s Sweden. Compiled and edited by Alan Robert Proctor.
▪ “Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA,” by Robert Kaplan (W.W. Norton & Co.): Using personal background interwoven with legal strategy, Kaplan tells the story behind the headlines chronicling this watershed case seeking justice for a widow.