18 of 25
By Jeannette Walls
288 pages; Scribner

Because she captivated us with the first sentence and never let us go.

"I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster," Walls begins. In this searing memoir, she relates her hardscrabble childhood with two eccentric—and deteriorating—parents. The family lived like nomads and, later, in poverty as their father drank and their mother fell deeper into dysfunction. Walls managed to escape a desperate situation with her kindness, humor and generosity of spirit intact. — Dawn Raffel