A good read: The best celebrity memoirs of 2020

"The Meaning of Mariah Carey," a memoir.
“The Meaning of Mariah Carey,” a memoir.
(Ruven Afanador)

If the year 2020 gave us anything, it’s time — time at home, time away from regular life and time to cuddle up with a good book. And lucky for us, some of our most beloved celebrities gave us another gift in 2020, and that is the gift of a juicy, page-turning memoir for us to devour during quarantine.

Everyone from Jessica Simpson to Matthew McConaughey released an autobiography and they couldn’t have come at a better time. Here are some of the best.

Jessica Simpson
“Open Book,” February 2020
What it Covers: Jessica Simpson’s autobiography was released right before quarantine to rave reviews. Critics praised her openness (I mean, it’s called “Open Book”) and her willingness to discuss the highs and lows of her life and career, including her and former husband Nick Lachey’s MTV breakout reality hit, “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica,” which aired from 2003 to 2005 and jettisoned her and Lachey into another stratosphere of fame. She also discusses the strain that the show put on the marriage, childhood trauma, various other celebrity relationships (John Mayer , Tony Romo and Johnny Knoxville , to name a few), her sometimes troubled relationship with her father, her battles with addiction and body image and her health struggles. It’s hard to believe that Simpson has been in the public eye long enough to warrant a splashy memoir, but her career really took off in the early aughts, which means she’s managed to remain in the spotlight for nearly 20 years.
Best Reasons to Read: If you remember the tabloid blow-up that ensued following Simpson famously wearing a pair of ill-fitting “mom jeans” at a chili cook-off in Florida in 2009 and the global body-shaming she endured, this book is for you. It’s filled with tidbits from moments like this from life in the public eye (the details about her toxic relationship with Mayer are worth the price alone). The book also details her marriage and family life today, which comes full circle following her recovery from alcohol.

Jacket for "The Answer Is . . .Reflections on My Life" By Alex Trebek
(Simon & Schuster)

Alex Trebek
“The Answer Is: Reflections on My Life,” July 2020
What it Covers: Sadly, 2020 will also be known as the year that many of our most beloved public figures passed away. Alex Trebek was one such figure. After announcing his Stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2019 , his memoir, “The Answer Is: Reflections on My Life,” was released in July of 2020, just months before he eventually succumbed to the disease in November . Trebek’s memoir is bittersweet due to the circumstances of its release. The book charts his life and decades-long career, which began in 1984 when he debuted as the host of “Jeopardy!”
Best Reasons to Read: The book is filled with anecdotes and musings ranging from his thoughts on Will Ferrell’s iconic “Saturday Night Live” impersonation of him (Trebek loved it, by the way, although his favorite impersonation of himself goes to Eugene Levy from “SCTV”) to his thoughts on living with cancer. Each chapter is titled as an answer to a question, structured the same way as the show “Jeopardy!” For instance, in the chapter “What is Toughness?”, Trebek explains his definition of the word: “Interestingly, the longer I’ve lived with the cancer, the more my definition of ‘toughness’ has changed. I used to think not crying meant you were tough. Now I think crying means you’re tough. It means you’re strong enough to be honest and vulnerable. It means you’re not pretending.” Trebek’s book serves as a lasting reminder of his legacy.

"The Meaning of Mariah Carey," a memoir.
(Ruven Afanador)

Mariah Carey and Michaela Angela Davis
“The Meaning of Mariah Carey,” September 2020
What it Covers: As a connoisseur of celebrity biographies, I always appreciate when a celebrity author credits their co-author on the cover. Trust me, it doesn’t always happen. Most celebrities won’t even cop to using a co-author, let alone give them cover credits. But Mariah Carey included Michaela Angela Davis’ name on the cover, which should tell you a lot. Fans of Mimi won’t be surprised that her memoir, the long-awaited “The Meaning of Mariah Carey,” is beautifully written and thoughtfully executed. Despite employing a co-author, Mariah has some major skills in the writing department: she famously writes or co-writes her own songs. Not bad for a big-voiced diva who grew up in chaos and found herself living her dream life after meeting and marrying Sony record producer Tommy Mottola in the ‘90s.
Best Reasons to Read: Mottola might have helped propel Carey’s career, but her talent and work ethic has kept her there. The book delves into her troubled childhood, strained relationships with her family, marriage to the controlling Mottola, a steamy fling with Derek Jeter and more – warts and all. Critics argue that she neglected to discuss her quickie engagement to Australian billionaire James Packer in 2016 . In response, Carey told The Guardian that she only included relationships that mattered. In other words, she doesn’t know her.

Matthew McConaughey
“Greenlights,” October 2020
What it Covers: Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey knows how to live. His motto in life (and also the name of his charitable foundation) is stolen from a line of his character in 1993’s “Dazed and Confused”: “Just keep livin’.” At the time, McConaughey was struggling with the death of his father, so the line was particularly meaningful to him. It has stuck with him throughout his life, which he discusses in depth in his memoir, “Greenlights.” The book is based on his diaries and is riddled with stories and wisdom from his career spanning nearly four decades.
Best Reasons to Read: McConaughey has built a bit of a reputation: he’s the serious, award-winning leading man, but he’s also a carefree hippy stoner who was once arrested for playing bongo drums in the nude (he definitely touches on this in the book) — and it’s refreshing. The title comes from his belief that if you know how to deal with life’s inevitable challenges, you can enjoy a state of what he calls “catching greenlights.” “Greenlights mean go — advance, carry on, continue... In our lives, they are an affirmation of our way. They’re approvals, support, praise... We love greenlights. They don’t interfere with our direction.” He continues, “This is a book about catching greenlights and realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green.” Words of wisdom we can all use, particularly after a year like 2020.