Mariah Carey to Alex Trebek: Looking Back at 2020's Memoir-Filled Year

9:45 AM 12/11/2020

by Lexy Perez

As the country grappled with the novel coronavirus pandemic this year, a myriad of stars such as Matthew McConaughey, Mariah Carey and more shared their stories through books.

Greenlights - No Time Like the Future - Normal People
Courtesy of Crown Publishing; Courtesy of Flatiron Books; Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

As 2020 continues to deliver more than its fair share of challenging times, books have become a welcomed escape for many — for entertainment, knowledge, or just a moment of peace amid otherwise troubling times. With the release of anticipated fiction titles such as Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games prequel novel to surprise bestsellers such as Charles Yu's Interior Chinatown or Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half garnering attention, non-fiction books have also fared well this year — maybe even better than usual.

The NPD Group reports that adult non-fiction rose 3.3 percent this year compared to 2019 on sales of more than 257 million units through Nov. 28, 2020. "Non-fiction books of all kinds fared very well this year, bolstered by the excitement surrounding the presidential election and with the additional reading time afforded by pandemic mitigation orders," said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. "From political memoirs to nonfiction books about race, to political commentary and opinion, U.S. readers were reading books at a higher rate than usual."

Most notably this year was the fact that a myriad of Hollywood stars shared their reflections in new memoirs and offered readers the opportunity to immerse themselves in their personal stories.

Per NPD, the top three biographies/memoir works year-to-date from Hollywood stars through the week ending Nov 28, 2020 are Matthew McConaughey's Greenlights (300,695 print copies), Incomparable by Brie and Nikki Bella (54,402 print copies) and No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by Michael J. Fox (48,543 print copies).

Other notable memoirs released this year included Jessica Simpson's Open Book, Mariah Carey's The Meaning of Mariah Carey, Jim Carrey's Memoirs and Misinformation, Colin Jost's A Very Punchable Face, Sunny Hostin's I Am These Truths and more.

With a surplus of releases entertaining readers as they continue to self-isolate, other stars such as Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Patrick Stewart and Sharon Stone have already announced their upcoming memoirs that will be released.

Though most wrote their books prior to the novel coronavirus, some stars took moments to acknowledge the sudden new state of the world in their introductions or afterwords. Below, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look back at 13 of the year's Hollywood memoirs

  • Jessica Simpson

    Jessica Simpson may have had her fair share of the spotlight through her music, film career and a stint on reality television, but the singer was an "open book" for readers in her debut memoir released in February. Throughout Open Book, released in February by Dey Street Books, Simpson chronicles her early life growing up in Texas to her journey into stardom. From reflecting on auditioning for the infamous Mickey Mouse Club when she was 13-years-old to signing a record deal with Columbia, Simpson outlines her Hollywood journey that would lead to a successful music career and eventual billion-dollar apparel line. Apart from her successes and finding love with professional football star Eric Johnson (they share three children), Simpson also reveals she was sexually abused by the daughter of a family friend, details her secret alcohol addiction, addresses her highly publicized divorce from ex-husband Nick Lachey and enduring what she describes as an emotionally abusive relationship with musician and ex-boyfriend John Mayer. 

  • Mariah Carey

    Though she teased she would write a memoir for years, Mariah Carey finally told her story in her words in her debut memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey released in September from Andy Cohen Books. In the anticipated book, the legendary singer offers an unfiltered look at her life and successful career. Carey chronicles growing up in New York to jumpstarting her singing career by singing backup for Brenda K. Starr. She shares personal stories such as being witness to domestic violence when she was child, experiencing racism and colorism, being drugged by her sister and being discovered by Sony boss Tommy Mottola, whom she eventually married and later divorced after enduring what she describes as a manipulative and abusive relationship. Carey also details her high-profile relationships with Derek Jeter, onetime husband Nick Cannon (they share two children) and current boyfriend Bryan Tanaka. While promoting Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special, the singer teased that she’s currently in talks to adapt the memoir into either a limited series or a feature film.

  • Matthew McConaughey 

    In Greenlights, released in October from Crown Publishing, Matthew McConaughey meditates on the prominent moments in both his personal and professional life. The Oscar-winning actor takes readers on a journey as he revisits his thoughts, musings and experiences while also sharing photographs and his signature "bumperstickers." Whether describing growing up in Texas, sharing the backstories of some of his best-known screen roles including his breakout Dazed and Confused, explaining why he decided to bid farewell to the rom-com world and the real story behind his infamous naked arrest, McConaughey delivers a candid memoir but not without his signature aphorisms. Oh and best believe McConaughey shares the origin of his iconic "Alright, alright, alright" catchphrase. 

  • Alex Trebek 

    While in the midst of battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek told his story in a new memoir, The Answer Is… : Reflections on My Life (Simon & Schuster) released in July. The book provides personal anecdotes along with Trebek’s insight on a myriad of topics, including marriage, parenthood and finding success. The game show icon shares personal, comical anecdotes such as his encounter with Queen Elizabeth II; eating "four or five" hash brownies at a party, unaware that they contained drugs; growing and shaving his iconic mustache; coaching his kids' sports teams alongside actor Bryan Cranston; and reveals who gave his favorite Trebek impersonation. Having hosted Jeopardy! since 1984, Trebek also gives readers a look into his time hosting the show. In emotional moments, Trebek opened up about his cancer treatment, as well as finding contentment with the "good, full life" he's lived at 80 years old. Trebek passed away on Nov. 8 at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by family and friends. Jeopardy! paid tribute to their host of four decades during an episode: "He will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, his kindness and for his love of his family."

  • Rachel Bloom

    After struggling to feel "normal" her entire life, Rachel Bloom explores the concept and her metamorphosis into becoming someone who finds happiness with being different in her debut book, I Want To Be Where the Normal People Are (Grand Central Publishing), released in November. In her book, the actress shares compilation of essays and personal narratives that recount both comical and heartfelt stories such as dealing with bullies, finding her identity and jumpstarting her professional career with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stardom. Though readers can expect fun quirks such as a musical theater chapter, Harry Potter fan fiction and even a section written from the perspective of her dog, Wiley, the actress also shines a light on her emotional stories such as her highs and lows of her mental health journey and her daughter's birth coinciding with the death of the songwriter and her close friend, Adam Schlesinger. 

  • Michael J. Fox

    In Michael J. Fox's fourth memoir, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality (Flatiron Books), released in November, Fox reflects and reassesses his optimistic perspective after enduring new health challenges. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 29, the actor has had his fair share of obstacles while remaining hopeful, but in his recent memoir, Fox questions whether having an optimistic perspective all the time is doing more harm than good. Throughout his memoir, Fox writes about experiencing a myriad of health obstacles, being forced to learn how to walk again after undergoing surgery to remove a tumor and reflects on being faced with the gradual progression of his Parkinson's Disease. Fox also shares the moment he began his sobriety, his favorite career role and what led him to a second retirement. 

  • Sunny Hostin

    In her memoir released in September, I Am These Truths: A Memoir of Identity, Justice and Living Between Worlds (HarperOne), Emmy-winning legal journalist and The View co-host Sunny Hostin shares personal accounts that helped shape her as a woman. Growing up as the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, Hostin chronicles navigating two worlds as a biracial woman and shares personal anecdotes from her school years, motherhood as well as her legal career and time working on The View. True to her title, Hostin isn't afraid to be an open book to tell readers her "truths" as she shares her thoughts and experiences all the while hoping to deliver a story that would be important to young women of color.

  • Jim Carrey

    Jim Carrey was searching for someone to pen essays inspired by his paintings when he became acquainted with writer Dana Vachon. However, the finished project took a different turn and resulted in his book, Memoirs and Misinformation (Alfred A. Knopf), released in July. Throughout the book, Carrey and Vachon present a semi-autobiographical novel described as "a deconstruction of persona" in which they narrate a story about acting, Hollywood, agents, celebrity, privilege, friendship, romance, addiction to relevance, fear of personal erasure and "a cataclysmic ending of the world." The book's release also resulted in a Dumb & Dumber reunion as Carrey's co-star and friend Jeff Daniels narrated the audiobook production. 

  • Colin Jost

    Colin Jost may bring the funny while co-anchoring Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, but the comedian also brings the laughter in his debut memoir, A Very Punchable Face released in July by Crown Publishing. Before going live from Studio 8H at NBC's headquarters in 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Jost spent his early life growing up on Staten Island. In his book, he narrates having to commute three hours a day to school to eventually attending Harvard at the same time the Mark Zuckerberg- Facebook era was beginning. Jost hilariously details a myriad of accounts from his personal life such as performing in college cafeterias to Jimmy Buffet saving his life. Jost also takes readers behind the scenes at SNL to hosting the Emmys. Behind the laughs, Jost also gets vulnerable as he reflects on his mother being on the scene during Sept. 11. 

  • Lenny Kravitz

    Lenny Kravitz breaks down the first 25 years of his life up until the release Let Love Rule in 1989 in a memoir that pays homage to his debut album's title, Let Love Rule. The book, released in October from Henry Holt and Co., follows Kravitz as a young boy growing up with a news executive father, Sy, and his television star mother, Roxie Roker. The rock star candidly shares his early experiences with racism, the tensions he endured at home, a complicated relationship with his father, and finding salvation through music. As readers follow Kravitz's stories, the singer details his spiritual self-discovery and growth as a musician, songwriter, producer and performer. Kravitz also reflects on finding a muse in ex-wife Lisa Bonet. 

  • Brie and Nikki Bella

    Readers may know twins Brie and Nikki Bella for their success in the WWE world, starring on hit shows Total Divas and Total Bellas or as hosts of a weekly podcast and YouTube Channel, but the twins are ready to give readers more insight into who they are through their book, Incomparable, released in May from Gallery Books.From detailing their childhoods, suffering loss, addiction struggles and Nikki recounting the trauma she endured after being sexually assaulted twice as a teen, the WWE stars turned successful moguls write candidly about their past to explain how they molded into the strong women they are today. Nikki and Brie may be identical twins but they offer their own perspectives and personal stories as individuals. Through their accounts they are able to offer hope to readers that they can do anything by working hard, turning negatives into positives and being the heroes of their own stories. 

  • Michelle Buteau

    In Survival of the Thickest (Gallery Books), stand-up comedian, actress and host Michelle Buteau shares a collection of essays that gives readers insight into notable moments in her life while also still delivering some laughs. Throughout her book, released in December, Buteau, who has starred in films and shows such as Someone Great, Russian Doll, Always Be My Maybe, First Wives Club and Tales of the City, chronicles her upbringing, school years and comical accounts from her friendship and dating disasters. She doesn't shy from having frank discussions on desire and sexuality, self-acceptance and her experiences with racism. Buteau may normally succeed in making audiences laugh but expect some tears too as Buteau also details personal stories such as working as a newsroom editor during September 11, discovering that she had a benign brain tumor and struggled with infertility. 

  • Cazzie David

    Cazzie David may be the daughter of Curb Your Enthusiasm creator-star Larry David and activist Laurie David, but the 26-year-old writer is putting a spotlight on herself as she shares personal stories in a collection of essays, No One Asked for This (Mariner Books), released in November. In the book, the young writer writes about a myriad of moments from her life with humor and wit. Whether writing about the shame from hookups, her painful breakup from SNL star Pete Davidson, enduring panic attacks to growing up with her comedy legend father, David offers a relatable look at her generation.