Saturday, May 3, 2014


When we at Why Not Books were considering titles for the memoirs of the late Carolyn Goodman, mother of slain civil rights worker Andrew Goodman and a civil rights icon herself, we harkened back to a particular story she told:

When my youngest son David was seven years old, he came running home from school one day, breathless with excitement. In his hands he held a large piece of construction paper smothered in assorted colors, lines, shapes, and squiggles. In the eyes of a seven-year-old, it was a creation of unmatched brilliance, Monet and Degas and O’Keeffe all rolled into one. In fact, that’s quite literally what it looked like. With the flamboyance only a true artist can exude, David boomed into our Upper West Side apartment, raised his magnum opus, and proudly declared, “Mom, come here! Look at my mantelpiece!”

 A masterpiece is essentially the product of another’s estimation. Someone else reviews your life’s work and pronounces judgment. But a mantelpiece is a personal statement of values and choices, your life’s work presented as a museum of the self… My life has been a work of art—a wondrous, colorful, tragic, flawed, intimate and epic work of art. This is my story. This is my mantelpiece.

So that’s what it became—MY MANTELPIECE: A Memoir of Survival and Social Justice.

Selecting a title for a well-known person’s autobiography or memoir can be a challenge. For some reason, iIf you’re an unknown with a remarkable story, it seems easier to choose evocative titles like Girl, Interrupted (Susanna Kaysen), The Color of Water (James McBride), or Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi). But when you’re a celebrity of some sort, it can be a bit trickier. And not always successful.

We at the Why Not 100 have ranked 69 of the more interesting choices through the years. Those at the top of the list are wonderful. Those at the bottom are wince-inducing. You be the judge where the line is drawn.

1. Me (Katherine Hepburn)

2. The Memoirs of an Amnesiac (Oscar Levant)

3. Long Walk to Freedom (Nelson Mandela)

4. I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow, Cause I Get Better Looking Every Day (Joe Namath)

5. Kiss and Make-Up (Gene Simmons)

6. Last Words (George Carlin)

7. Up From Slavery (Booker T. Washington)

8. An Unseemly Man (Larry Flynt)

9. Born Standing Up (Steve Martin)

10. I’m Still Hungry (Carnie Wilson)

11. Wishful Drinking (Carrie Fisher)

12. The Bedwetter (Sarah Silverman)

13. Leading With My Chin (Jay Leno)

14. Getting It Through My Thick Skull (Mary Jo Buttafuoco)

15. Things I Did and Things I Think I Did (filmmaker Jean Negulesco)

16. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)

17. It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here (Charles Grodin)

18. Open (Andre Agassi)

19. My Wicked Wicked Ways (Errol Flynn)

20. Living History (Hillary Clinton)

21. Then Again (Diane Keaton)

22. The Moon’s a Balloon (David Niven)

23. Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion (David Brinkley)

24. They Made a Monkee Out of Me (Davy Jones)

25. Flashing Before My Eyes (Dick Schaap)

26. Speak, Memory (Vladimir Nabokov)

27. Please Don’t Shoot My Dog, Mister (Jackie Cooper)

28. Out of Sync (Lance Bass)

29. Hitting Back (Wimbledon champ Andy Murray)

30. Me Moir (British comic Vic Reeves, aka Jim Moir)

31. The Measure of a Man (Sidney Poitier)

32. Happy Accidents (Jane Lynch)

33. Does the Noise in My Head Bother You (Steven Tyler)

34. The Kid Stays in the Picture (Robert Evans)

35. I Am Not Spock (Leonard Nimoy)

36. Most Talkative (Andy Cohen)

37. Dreams from My Father (Barack Obama)

38. This Time Together (Carol Burnett)

39. Dispatches from the Edge (Anderson Cooper)

40. Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned (Alan Alda)

41. Dirty Blonde (Courtney Love)

42. I, Shithead (punk rocker Joey Keithley)

43. Lou’s on First (Lou Costello)

44. Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? (Mindy Kaling)

45. Bossypants (Tina Fey)

46. Landing on My Feet (Kerri Strug)

47. Surprised by Joy (C.S. Lewis)

48. A Book (Desi Arnaz)

49. Anorther Book (Desi Arnaz)

50. Belly Laughs (pregnant Jenny McCarthy)

51. Larger Than Life (Eddie Large)

52. It’s All About a Ball (Alan Ball)

53. Let’s Talk About Pep (Sandy “Pepa” Denton)

54. The Stone Cold Truth (Stone Cold Steve Austin)

55. All You Need is Ears (Beatles producer George Martin)

56. It’s Not About the Bike (Lance Armstrong)

57. Winking at Life (Wink Martindale)

58. Lettin’ It All Hang Out (RuPaul)

59. Losing My Virginity (Richard Branson)

60. Back Stage With the Original Hollywood Square (Peter Marshall)

61. Nerd Do Well (Simon Pegg)

62. Hitch-22 (Christopher Hitchens)

63. My Booky Wook (Russell Brand)

64. sTORI Telling (Tori Spelling)

65. The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz (Ron Jeremy)

66. Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea (Chelsea Handler)

67. Just Farr Fun (Jamie Farr)

68. Mountain, Get Out of My Way (Montel Williams)

69. Don’t Hassel the Hoff (David Hasselhoff)


  1. Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me (R. Kelly)

    Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?: A Memoir (George Clinton)

  2. larger than life [eddie large]

  3. Thanks for this list. It gave me the idea to create the best Autobiography Quotes. Keep up with the good work!

  4. this helped me a lot with homework