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By Mary Karr
352 pages; Penguin Classics

Because Karr started a truth-telling revolution.

Karr grew up in East Texas with a hard-drinking father (who played dominoes with his drinking pals in the "Liar's Club") and an enigmatic, alcoholic, mentally ill mother, who is described as Nervous with a capital N. Her dad toiled in the oil fields, while her mother—married a total of seven times—painted, read literature and raged. Karr was raped and sexually assaulted again before the age of 9. Yet, her rendering of a brutal childhood is at times wickedly funny and always movingly illuminating, thanks to kick-ass storytelling and a poet's ear. Published in 1995, The Liar's Club opened the floodgates for women wanting to tell the whole truth. — Dawn Raffel