Best known as the frontwoman of alt-pop band Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner has redefined contemporary indie music with distinctive soundscapes that blend ethereal melodies and experimental production. Born in 1989 in South Korea and raised in Eugene, Oregon, she was inspired to take up music by Karen O and started performing at local open mics at 15.

In 2016, Zauner released Japanese Breakfast’s debut album, Psychopomp, capturing feelings of grief, loneliness, and longing over her mother’s recent passing. Along with followup albums Soft Sounds from Another Planet and Jubilee, the band’s garnered critical acclaim and a devoted global fan base for their unique fusion of emotive lyrics with rock, pop, and genre-defying arrangements.

Beyond music, Zauner is a celebrated writer whose poignant 2021 memoir Crying in H Mart spent 60 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Praised for its candid introspection and evocative storytelling, the book delves into her personal experiences of death, identity, food, and family.

In a reading list for Bookshop UK, Zauner shared 7 of the best memoirs she read in the years spent preparing to pen her own. She notes:

“I was delighted to discover the genre can take so many forms, can stretch just as imaginatively and in as many different directions as fiction, that the honesty and vulnerability inherent in the form possesses the potential to knock you back, to move and change you in a way entirely its own.

It felt fitting to compile this collection of my favorite memoirs, each of which touches on a theme fundamental to my own book: the joie de vivre and unctuous detail of food writing; the grit and passion that accompanies a music memoir; the raw, ravaging devastation of grief; the ineluctable disappointments and charmed gifts of inheritance. Below you’ll find some incredible books by some of my favorite writers who inspired Crying in H Mart and left a lasting impact on my psyche.”

Explore a selection of Zauner’s favorite memoirs below, and complement with the bookshelves of other iconic musicians and writers.

Michelle Zauner’s Reading List

Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited by Vladimir Nabokov

“I took a wonderful course on Nabokov my junior year at Bryn Mawr, which started with this memoir, and from that moment I really fell hard for the guy. I love how extra he is, as a writer and a person. Speak, Memory is a masterclass on what memoir can be.” -MZ

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (also rec’d by Elliot PageEmily Ratajkowski & Laurie Halse Anderson)

“I just adore this collection of essays; my copy is full of notes and underlines. Alexander Chee is an exceptional and unique voice.” -MZ

The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

“M.F.K. Fisher is one of my favorite food writers of all time. She is just so charming and hilarious and delightful. I also learned where the phrase ‘sea change’ comes from in this book.” -MZ

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (also rec’d by Elena Ferrante, Sam Harris & St. Vincent)

“What a heartbreaking memoir on grief by the absolute GOAT. Joan Didion’s writing is singular and perfect.” -MZ

A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines by Anthony Bourdain

“I love this collection so much. Anthony Bourdain, among all his charms and talents, was truly an exceptional writer. ‘Back to the Beach,’ one of the stories in this book, was a huge inspiration for my own book.” -MZ

Between Them: Remembering My Parents by Richard Ford

“Richard Ford’s writing really speaks to me. Rock Springs is one of my favorite short fiction collections of all time, and I love this memoir about his parents. I was inspired by the way he takes a magnifying glass to two outwardly ordinary people to show how they’re so extraordinary.” -MZ

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by  Viv Albertine

“One of my favorite rock memoirs. Viv Albertine has led fifty lives.” -MZ

(via Bookshop UK; photo by Valerie Chiang)

Looking for an Amazon alternative? Support local, independent booksellers by shopping Michelle Zauner’s reading list – and hundreds of other celebrity book recommendations – through Radical Reads’ Bookshop page.

Categories: Musicians Writers