best memoirs of 2011

Best books of 2011 by Lisa

Like Liz mentioned in her best books of 2011 post, we read a f*ckload of books this year. And deciding which books made our favorites list was almost harder than deciding which movie Ryan Gosling looked hottest in this year. (For the record, after careful consideration, I've decided on Crazy, Stupid Love.) And even though it has NOTHING to do with this post...


Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

One more little thing before I get to my list o' books...what kind of end-of year post would this be without another AWESOME giveaway? (Liz gave away ten yesterday so of course I will too!)  Just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win a BUNDLE O' BOOKS that includes novels from Meg Mitchell Moore to Kristin Hannah to Jackie Collins to Meg Cabot!  Check out the picture below to see all TEN books the winner will receive. We'll choose the winners on Monday December 26th after 6pm PST.

So without further adieu, here's my list.  And don't forget to tell me what YOUR fave novels of 2011 were!


1. The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore You know that feeling you get when a book sucks you in so hard and so fast that you think about the story and the characters when you're not even reading it? That's what happened to me when I devoured Meg Mitchell Moore's debut novel. I found her book about what happens when all of the children come back home to their parent's house at the same time so engaging and powerful that it resonated with me long after I finished reading it. So much so, that I knew it would make this list long before I ever officially created it. The Arrivals makes the perfect gift for any book lover who likes to dive in and barely come up for air until she's reached the last page. (PS: It also has one of my favorite covers of the year.)


2.  A Year and Six Seconds: A Love Story by Isabel Gillies  When I wrote about Isabel Gillies just last month, I was crushing hard. Swooning. In love. All of the above. And let's just say, the crush has only deepened since. (I've re-read the book since writing that post and have to say it was even better the second time.) It's a beautifully written true story about the deep pain and loss of heartbreak and divorce and the deep resilience and sense of humor of love. Ladies, if you haven't yet read this memoir, treat yourself to a copy this Christmas.
3. The Violets of March by Sarah Jio  We named Sarah Jio our Lit IT Girl for a reason. I was so engrossed in this novel about riding a high for ten years and then having to start over that I could not put this debut novel down. And when I say couldn't put it down, that's not an exaggeration. I carried it with me everywhere and, at one point, was reading it while feeding my daughter. This novel makes a perfect gift for anyone who loves a good mystery and a good love story all rolled into one. (And BTW, Sarah Jio isn't done wowing us for 2011, she has a second fabulous novel, The Bungalow, coming out on December 27th. Yes, two in one year! Be looking for her 5 Loves and a Dud and, of course, a chance to win one of 5 copies of The Bungalow later this week!)
4. It's Hard Not to Hate You by Valerie Frankel   In a nutshell, I had a baby at the beginning of this year so I needed a damn good laugh (or a thousand million!).  And with this memoir, the hilarious Valerie Frankel may have just given me the best baby gift of all (sorry, Mom!) In a nutshell, after a health crisis and unlocking years of pent up rage, Frankel discovers that your Bitchy Twin might just be your funniest, most valuable and honest ally. One of the funniest books I read all year (and that's sayin' a lot because there a lot that had me laughing), there was no question this book was going to make my list. Put it in the stocking of anyone who needs a good, healthy LOL.
5. If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster  When one of my favorite authors of all time made her fiction debut, I felt like one of those crazy people that lines up for the latest Apple gadget or to try out for American Idol. I might as well have stayed up all night and slept in the rain on the sidewalk as I waited for this book to come out. And once I got my little mitts on it, I was over 'da moon (me and her million other fans!). It's a story that asks- can your marriage survive a DIY renovation? It follows Amish-zombie-teen- romance author Mia and her husband Mac (and their pets) as they go through the  funny-process of buying and renovating their first home in the Chicago suburbs that John Hughes’s movies made famous...and a lot more! The John Hughes references alone make this novel a must-read!
And one biography pic!
Y'all may not have known that, in addition to being a memoir whore, I'm also a biography whore!
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. In a word, fascinating.








Robert Rave's 5 Loves and a Dud

We love us some Robert Rave. And not just because he's cute! (Although he is very cute!) But because he's hilarious, writes sassy books and loves his mother! Awwww....

On that note, his latest memoir Conversations and Cosmopolitans: Awkward Moments, Mixed Drinks and How a Mother and Son Shared Who They Really Are is co-written by mama Rave (Jane). How sweet is that?

Here's the skinny on Conversations and Cosmopolitans:  After moving from the Midwest to New York City at the age of twenty-one, Robert Rave finally found the resolve to mail a letter to his parents informing them that he was gay.  Once Robert was “out,” both he and his mother Jane felt a newfound freedom to be more honest with each other.  From the discrimination Jane experienced as a pregnant teenager in a small town, to Robert’s “manscaping,” almost no topic was off-limits in their conversations.  Soon, Robert was creating a “gay glossary” so that Jane could understand the lexicon and Jane was giving Robert the same dating advice that she used to give Robert’s older sister (“men are jerks”).

Sounds like a must-read memoir, right? Well, it could be yours! And you know the drill! Leave a comment and be entered to win one of FIVE copies! We'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, November 27th after 6PM PST.



1. HGTV.  Yeah, I realize this might not be groundbreaking or even remotely sexy.  However, I love this network.  It’s aspirational, it’s escapism, it’s everything.  From “Income Property” to “Design Star” and yes, the anchor of the channel and my favorite—“House Hunters.”  (It goes without saying that “House Hunters International” falls under that same umbrella.) It pretty much is the only channel that I leave on constantly.  Although, “Extreme Couponing” on TLC is so riveting and truth be told makes me panic when they’re standing in the checkout line. I also don’t find it a coincidence that “Hoarding: Buried Alive” is on the same network.

2. Jenna Lyons—Creative Director for J Crew.  I loved J Crew back in the early nineties, but then when I moved out of the Midwest my love affair with the clothing company ended. When Jenna Lyons came on board (and also Andy Spade) they took the brand to an entirely new level.  I know basically the world at large loves her, particularly the female demographic, but I have to speak up for the guys and also profess my love and loyalty to her. There’s really something for every guy in the J Crew men’s store.

3. Capri Blue Jar Candle.  I have two French Bulldogs and let’s just say they have very sensitive stomachs.  Also, I’m presently single.  Therefore, should I ever want to change my relationship status on Facebook again, I need to keep these candles burning constantly.  They smell that good. I’ve only ever seen these sold at Anthropologie, but you might be able to buy them elsewhere. I don’t know, Google it.

4. Frank Sinatra.  I’m really late to the party on this one, I know.  Maybe it’s because I’m thirty-seven and it took me a minute to wise-up, but now I’m hooked.  He’s really great for every occasion: lazy Sunday afternoon, the holidays, an intimate dinner, or my personal favorite—drinking wine!

5.  It’s basically an online pinboard, or inspiration board, and as well as a vision board (what’s up The Secret?).  I love finding new things online and what inspires other people—this website is all of that and more.  I’ve really made some awesome discoveries on there: stores, photos, and interior design ideas to name a few.


People who create Facebook profiles for their pets…And then friend request me.  I’m not lying, this has happened to me on several occasions.  I love my dogs.  In fact, they’re the closest thing that I have to children at the moment.  However, the most social networking they can and should have is humping my neighbor’s dog.

To find out more about Robert Rave, follow him on Twitter.




Isabel Gillies' 5 Loves and a Dud

Warning: Major girl crush alert! New York Times bestselling author and actress, Isabel Gillies is in 'da house. And we are giddy as a couple of school girls running around the playground. After reading her memoir, Happens Every Day: An All-To-True Story, which ended up on the New York Times bestseller list (no surprise as it was candid, ridiculously honest and beautifully written), we fell for her. And when we read the last page and closed that book, we wanted more.

And apparently we weren't the only ones who felt that way. Because Gillies has written a follow-up memoir, A Year and Six Seconds: A Love Story.  And dare we say it's even better than her last? You know when you're rooting for someone so much that you can actually feel it in your gut? That's how we felt for Isabel when we read her latest memoir about picking up the pieces after her husband leaves her for another woman. And even though by the title we pretty much knew it was all going to work out, we were still fully invested, riding the roller coaster with Gillies, her two young sons and even her parents. (Plus, she weaves the story in such a way that although you know it's coming, you have to wait for the love! But, don't worry, it's well worth it.)

And one guess what we're going to tell you next!

Yup. You got it. If you leave a comment, you'll be entered to win one of five copies of A Year And Six Seconds: A Love Story. We'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, November 9th after 6p.m. EST.



1. Aquaphor. I discovered Aquaphor (the most perfect solution on the planet) when I had babies. I don’t know who told me to get it, a doctor, another parent, a magazine, but when I did my life changed. It’s like Vaseline but with a magic ingredient in it. I used to rub the viscous, smooth ointment into whatever red, chapped, questionable mark that was on the baby and it would just go away. I started putting it on my lips, rubbing it into my hands, having it on my bedside --  and now there is not a drawer or purse that you won’t find a little or big tube of it -  this genius, inexpensive, healer of all things. Sometimes even a bad mood.

2. Nora Ephron and Woody Allen.  I put these two together because I love them both so much. The other night during a snow storm (in October, please) my husband Peter and I watched Hannah And Her Sisters, a Woody Allen film from the eighties, and I tell you, I went to sleep thinking all is right with the world. Same thing happens if I read or watch ANYTHING that Nora Ephron has a hand in creating. Yes they make the most intuitive observations, yes they are smart and funny, yes they predominately write about New York, but it’s something about their tone that speaks to my soul. Their point of view is very often right along side mine, not always, but a lot. I am just so happy they do what they do. I will never get enough of it.

3. Cook Books!  Goodness how I love to read cookbooks. First of all they usually are so beautiful and heavy. If I didn’t need them in the kitchen I would keep all of mine in the bedroom (and in fact I have about five at all times in there as many nights, I read them before sleep). My mother had lots of wonderful cookbooks. I can picture her in front of her red shelf perusing each spine for one she wanted to pull out and use. I think sometimes her fingers even fluttered in anticipation of one of her old friends tumbling into her arms to be brought into the kitchen. I am the same. I love my cookbooks like friends. I know all of them, visit them on a weekly basis and thank them when they have done something awesome for me, like help me cook for my family. Love them! I also LOVE getting them as presents!

4. The Weather.  Yup. Love the weather. To me the weather is one of the best ways to feel in touch with this amazing universe we live in. Sometimes it’s dark, heavy and full of anticipation. Sometimes it’s bright, vivid and invigorating. Sometimes it makes you stay inside and play Monopoly, sometimes it makes you jump into an ocean. I love how it changes and I love how we are all utterly affected by it. It’s an equalizer. It’s more powerful than us. It’s the first thing most people think about. It’s something to hope for and something to work with. And in the North Eastern part of The United States, if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change.

5. LOVE.  The last love has to be love. I almost don’t know what to say because the word is so big, it’s so complex, it’s what I like to write about, it’s what we are all consumed with, and I think it is what keeps the world going.

How are we so amazing that we can feel love? How did we get so lucky? To me, it’s the most interesting and phenomenal part about being human (I’m not saying animals don’t feel love, I think they do, but I’m talking about humans). Just writing about all these things I love is making me feel so good and changed from a half and hour ago, when I was not thinking about love. Love changes you and usually for the better. What about FALLLING IN LOVE? That is like a hurricane of amazing. I could go on, but definitely the last “love” is love.


ANXIETY.  I am plagued with anxiety. I think I might have a bit of a disorder. How I wish I was very calm and steady, but alas, lots and lots of the time I feel it’s all not going to be okay. Now, I have spent my life trying to fix this, and I have made progress. But it still can disturb my sleep, make me get in a fight or worry until I have trouble breathing. Anxiety is a little worse than a dud. I think of a dud more like a bad movie, but a bad movie can give me anxiety. Waste of time! Waste of money! What if I wrote a dud movie or book!!! See, anxiety.

Thanks, Isabel!


Liz & Lisa

To find out more about the lovely and talented Isabel Gillies, visit her website and follow her on Twitter.