By EW Staff
Updated December 17, 2011 at 03:00 PM EST

All week long, Shelf Life will be listing EW’s favorite books of 2011 — sorted into separate categories by genre. Click through the gallery to see our picks for the best memoirs and biographies of the year, starting, of course, with the lovely Tina Fey.

Tina Fey, Bossypants

From the EW review: “In this genially jumbled memoir-esque collection of riffs, essays, laundry lists, true stories, fantasy scenarios, SNL script excerpts, and embarrassing photos from the wilderness years before she received the gift of a flattering haircut, the great Miz Fey puts on the literary equivalent of a satisfying night of sketch comedy.”

Life Itself, Roger Ebert

From the EW review: “Ebert writes with unflinching candor about difficult subjects, including the cancer that has left him profoundly disfigured and unable to eat or speak. But this is not a depressing book. In the end, writing is what gives Ebert purpose.”

Lucking Out, James Wolcott

Chronicling his time as a young writer in New York City in the 1970s, Wolcott’s sharply written memoir details being made into one of film critic Pauline Kael’s “Paulettes,” becoming steeped in the burgeoning punk scene as he wrote for the Village Voice, and hobnobbing with literary legends like Gore Vidal.

Blue Nights, Joan Didion

From the EW review: “The book is an unblinking study of the author’s psyche in old age (Didion is 76). She is insistently coolheaded in assessing the accumulating frailties of a body that has always been bird-tiny.”

Reading My Father, Alexandra Styron

From the EW review: “Alexandra Styron is less concerned with airing her familial grievances than trying to track down and pinpoint the man behind the myth. Poring over archived correspondence and unpublished manuscripts, she learns more about the figure who towered over her early life than she ever knew before, as well as the depths of his many contradictions.”

House of Prayer No. 2, Mark Richard

From the EW review: “Mark Richard was labeled a ”special child.” He was special because of hip defects that led to a string of surgeries and bouts of walking funny… You’ll know after just two pages of his effortlessly killer prose that he’s special all right. But not for the reasons folks said back in Virginia in the 1960s.”

History of a Suicide, Jill Bialosky

From the EW review: “The portrait Bialosky presents of [her sister] Kim is a vivid one: a sweet little girl surrounded by adoring older sisters, a sensitive teenager longing for her absentee father, and finally, a broken young woman who, as she wrote in her devastating suicide note, got ‘tired of being lonely.'”

Townie, Andre Dubus III

From the EW review: “We watch [Dubus] transform from a terrorized weakling into a bodybuilding freak so jittery with rage that he becomes a kind of messed-up superhero always looking for a good (or at least passable) reason for a fight.”

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua

From the EW review: “Criticizing how other people raise their children is generally considered impolite. But Amy Chua’s memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother — chronicling her decision to raise her girls ‘the Chinese way’ — practically begs for debate. The Chinese way, according to Chua, is a form of tough love demonstrated through enforcement of strict and intense work habits. It also meant that her daughters, Sophia and Louisa, weren’t allowed to have playdates, sleepovers, or anything less than the top grades of their class.”