Jessica Simpson and Mariah Carey among stars to spill secrets in 2020 celebrity memoirs

Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·11 min read
Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Simpson, Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey.(Photo: Getty Images)
Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Simpson, Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey. (Photo: Getty Images)

Seeing as we all have no social activities on the calendar — 2020! — the holidays seem like an especially good time for a book, and there has been no shortage of juicy celebrity reads this year.

Jessica Simpson’s memoir Open Book dominated the news early in the year pre-pandemic — a less chaotic time in the world, allowing us to overanalyze every dishy nugget — and not only became a bestseller, but landed her a massive deal with Amazon Studios. The book inspired a coming-of-age scripted series and an unscripted docuseries looking at what she’s been doing the last 10 years, including getting sober, as well as original essays.

Needless to say, Simpson’s 2020 has been better than most, but her book was a page-turner, putting it all out there, and she wasn’t alone in spilling secrets. Here are celebrity memoirs to consider...

Jessica Simpson’s Open Book

Open Book by Jessica Simpson via Dey Street Books
Open Book by Jessica Simpson via Dey Street Books

Simpson’s book was intended to be a motivational guide about how she was living her best life at the helm of a billion dollar fashion empire with her camera-ready family with husband Eric Johnson, but she didn’t want to live a lie. So the singer turned reality star, 40, wrote and wrote (with Kevin Carr O’Leary), revealing things she’d never before charmingly overshared (and she’s shared a lot). The result? One reveal after another: sexual abuse as a child, extreme dieting at the behest of a music exec, all the juicy details of her failed marriage to Nick Lachey, her forbidden romance with Johnny Knoxville, a messy romance with John Mayer, alcohol/pill addiction, body image and plastic surgery. And that’s just part of it, all delivered with Simpson’s candor and wit. At the end, you won’t want her to stop sharing, but you’ll also want to hug her for sharing as much as she did.

Published: Feb. 4

Imprint: Dey Street Books

Pages: 416

Mariah Carey’s The Meaning of Mariah Carey

(Photo: Henry Holt & Company)
The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey via Andy Cohen Books/Henry Holt and Co.

The iconic songstress, 50, shared her journey on her terms, dahling, so while there’s no mention of her age or specific years, it’s full of Lamb-loved stories. Many are sad struggles from her youth — growing up in a divorced home and witnessing domestic violence, experiencing racism as the daughter of a Black father and white mother and troubled siblings who were bad influences. And while she found her voice — and a record deal, going on to become a hitmaker supreme — Mimi felt like she was being held captive in her first marriage to older music exec Tommy Mottola. The Elusive Chanteuse also details her pivotal romance with Derek Jeter, her high-profile breakdown and years of being treated like “an ATM machine with a wig on” by family members who sold her out to tabloids. Carey hopes to follow Simpson with a screen adaption of her book.

Published: Sept. 29

Imprint: Andy Cohen Books/Henry Holt and Co.

Pages: 368

Alex Trebek’s The Answer Is . . . Reflections on My Life

The Answer Is . . . Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek (Photo: Simon & Schuster)
The Answer Is . . . Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek via Simon & Schuster)

Amid his brutal battle with pancreatic cancer, the Jeopardy! host found time to write a book, and it’s all now part of his legacy, after his November death at age 80. It’s a reluctant memoir from someone who was never big on self-promotion, describing himself in the tome as a “second-tier celebrity,” which wasn’t at all true. He wrote about his upbringing in Canada and despite bumps saying he didn’t have “any bad memories that affect my life.” The book reflects on his years hosting the iconic game show, and shares a look into his personal life — some of it humorous (his “damn good” toupee) and some of it not (the exhaustion of cancer treatments), but all of it with humility. He said the book was for everyone who supported him during his ordeal, writing, “I want people to know a little more about the person they have been cheering on for the past year.”

Published: July 21

Imprint: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 290

Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (Photo: Crown)
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey via Crown

Like the man himself, 51-year-old McConaughey’s memoir is unconventional. He spent 52 days alone in the desert with no electricity to write it, based on diaries he kept from childhood through his shirtless rom-com years and eventual Oscar win. The end result avoids salaciousness, for instance, saying he was sexually abused but purposely not sharing more, or detailing his many famous past loves. Instead, he shared stories of his wild Texas roots, his take on his infamous bongo arrest, falling in love with wife Camila and reflections on his career. All with catchphrases (“alright, alright, alright,” “Just keep livin’”) and his guide to catching “greenlights” through life.

Published: Oct. 20

Imprint: Crown

Pages: 304

Lenny Kravitz’s Let Love Rule

Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz (Photo: Henry Holt and Co.)
Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz (Photo: Henry Holt and Co.)

The endlessly cool singer-songwriter-guitarist, 56, writes about the first 25 years of his career — up through falling madly in love with ex-wife Lisa Bonet. And it’s a story of “opposites,” he writes, being, “Black and white. Jewish and Christian” and loving both “the Jackson 5 and Led Zeppelin,” all described as the “yins and yangs” that both balance him and feed his curiosity. The book isn’t about his stardom, he promised that part of his story in a later book, but his upbringing with his news executive dad, Sy Kravitz, and TV star mom, Roxie Roker, who divorced, as well as how he developed his unique musical style, after holding out for the right deal.

Published: Oct. 6

Imprint: Henry Holt and Co.

Pages: 272

Alicia Keys’s More Myself: A Journey

More Myself: A Journey by Alicia Keys via Flatiron Books
More Myself: A Journey by Alicia Keys via Flatiron Books

The acclaimed songstress’s headline-making decision to stop wearing makeup in 2016 was part of a larger look at herself — and how she spent so many years not honoring her own worth. The part autobiography, part narrative documentary sees the 39-year-old revisiting her past — her complex relationship with her dad — starting at age 7 as well as her climb to fame, with her early years in the business playing the role of a people-pleaser. That led her to question who she really is — as far as her place in the world and the music industry — at a time, during this pandemic, when many others have been doing the same.

Published: March 31

Imprint: Flatiron Books

Pages: 272

Barack Obama’s A Promised Land

A Promised Land by Barack Obama via Crown
A Promised Land by Barack Obama via Crown

The former president, 59, is no newbie to publishing, but this, the first part of a planned two-part series, focuses heavily on his political career. With a great amount of self-reflection, he revisits his young life and getting into politics, then becoming our first Black president, running up through the events surrounding the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden. He isn’t stingy on details, with the book being close to 800 pages, and some of the best are stories about his famous family, including intimate conversations with Michelle and parenting stories of Malia and Sasha.

Published: Nov. 17

Imprint: Crown

Pages: 768

Michael J. Fox’s No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality

No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by Michael J. Fox via Flatiron Books
No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by Michael J. Fox via Flatiron Books

The beloved star of Back to the Future and Family Ties, 59, questions whether he oversold the idea of hope, amid his three decades battle with Parkinson’s disease, as his health woes mounted and he found himself undergoing surgery for a tumor, relearning to walk and then fracturing his arm and needing surgery in recent years. The result is the beloved star, now retired from acting, being more honest about the pain of living with the degenerative disorder, including poignant reflections like how it feels being pushed in a wheelchair, heartbreakingly comparing himself to luggage, writing, “I’m not expected to say much. Just sit still.”

Published: Nov. 17

Imprint: Flatiron Books

Pages: 256

Woody Allen’s Apropos of Nothing

Apropos of Nothing by Woody Allen
Apropos of Nothing by Woody Allen via Arcade Publishing

You may have heard about this one from the controversial director, which was canceled by Hachette Book Group after an employee protest and pressure from Allen’s estranged son Ronan Farrow (whose Catch and Kill was published by another of the company’s imprints). The 85-year-old’s book was then suddenly released by Arcade Publishing soon after. The memoir details the storyteller’s life, from his childhood in Brooklyn through his career in film — as well as his side of his relationship with Mia Farrow, his affair with her adoptive daughter (now wife) Soon-Yi Previn and the subsequent child-abuse allegations against him related to daughter Dylan Farrow. As for the decision to publish it, Arcade editor Jeannette Seaver said, "In this strange time, when truth is too often dismissed as 'fake news,' we as publishers prefer to give voice to a respected artist, rather than bow to those determined to silence him."

Published: March 23

Imprint: Arcade Publishing

Pages: 498

And some more...

Val Kilmer’s I'm Your Huckleberry: A Memoir

The Top Gun actor, 60, writes about past loves, his cancer battle and making movies, including playing his role of Ice Man, which recently reunited him with Tom Cruise for the sequel, taking “up where we left off.” (Published: April 21; imprint: Simon & Schuster); pages: 320)

Hilarie Burton Morgan’s The Rural Diaries

The One Tree Hill alum, 38, shares her journey falling in love with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and creating their life together on Mischief Farm, a 100-acre working farm in Rhinebeck, N.Y. with their two kids as well as cows, ducks, chickens, alpacas and an in love donkey and emu named Jack and Diane. (Published: May 5; imprint: HarperOne; pages: 224)

Dolly Parton’s Dolly Parton, Songteller

The country music queen, 74, came out with this memoir/song primer which tells the stories of her many hit songs alongside where she was in her life journey. It includes lyrics, never-before-seen photos and her retelling of life events. (Published: Nov. 17; imprint: Chronicle Books LLC pages: 651)

Diane Keaton’s Brother and Sister

The Oscar-winning actress, 74, details growing up with her younger brother and best friend, Randy, as how their paths diverged and he led “a life lived on the other side of normal,” struggling with mental illness — and now dementia. (Published: Feb. 4; imprint: Knopf; pages: 176)

Maurice Benard’s Nothing General About It: How Love (and Lithium) Saved Me On and Off General Hospital

The acclaimed daytime TV star who plays Sonny Corinthos, 57, writes about living with bipolar disorder, and how his early years were plagued by manic outbursts, hallucinations and suicidal tendencies, which led to his being institutionalized. (Published: April 7; imprint: William Morrow; pages: 256)

India Oxenberg’s Still Learning

The 29-year-old daughter of Catherine Oxenberg shares her first-person account of being lured into and, seven years later, escaping from the secret society within the NXIVM sex cult, DOS, which was created by Keith Raniere, who has since been sentenced to life in prison for it. (Published: Oct. 27; imprint: Audible Studios)

Colin Jost’s A Very Punchable Face

The Saturday Night Live head writer and Weekend Update co-anchor, 38, has loads of funny (and weird!) observations, from his days growing up in Staten Island to life at 30 Rock. While he doesn’t share much about now-wife Scarlett Johansson, it’s entertaining enough that you don’t care. (Published: July 14; imprint: Crown; pages: 336)

Melody Thomas Scott’s Always Young and Restless: My Life On and Off America's #1 Daytime Drama

The long-time soap superstar writes about growing up with her hoarder grandmother who pushed her into showbiz, enduring sexual abuse in the process, and how being on the sets — with Clint Eastwood and Alfred Hitchcock — was the escape she needed from her horrific home. The 64-year-old also shares stories about stirring up trouble in Genoa City as Nikki Newman since 1979 and recent plastic surgery. (Published: Aug. 18; imprint: Diversion Books; pages: 288)

Brie and Nikki Bella’s Incomparable

The Bella Twins (real names: Stephanie Nicole Garcia-Colace and Brianna Monique Danielson) of course co-authored their co-memoir about growing up with loss and abuse and going on to entertain with their acrobatics in the ring on WWE, from which they are now retired, and going on to reality super stardom on Total Bellas and Total Divas. (Published: May 5; imprint: Crown; pages: 336)

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