As someone who grew up watching Little House on the Prairie (and never stopped), it's possible that I experience a disproportionate level of excitement every time a former cast member publishes a memoir. Want to know my best book of 2016? Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl's Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me by Charlotte Stewart. Is this a legit choice that will stand up in academic circles? Probably not, but it's the best time I had reading anything last year, thanks to Stewart's candid, sassy, and self-deprecating tone (or that of her astutely chosen ghostwriter).
Whether discussing her friendship with Jim Morrison, her ill-fated marriage to Tim Considine (of Shaggy Dog and My Three Sons fame), years of alcoholism, her bout with breast cancer, or that time she hooked up with Ralph Waite of The Waltons, Stewart remains real and relatable.The book is dishy and fun, yet never feels exploitative. Sure she names names, but she willingly owns all of her mistakes. It should also be noted that Stewart has worked closely with David Lynch, both in Eraserhead and in Twin Peaks (including the 2017 reboot), so there are plenty of local references for Washingtonians.
Once you've finished Stewart's book, you'll probably want to check out Alison Arngrim's delightful (and sometimes heart-wrenching) memoir. It's no surprise that she and Stewart are still friends, and after reading this book you'll probably want to be nasty Nellie Oleson's best friend too. Arngrim is funny, brave, and blunt in
Melissa Gilbert also offers up her own dishy account of Hollywood life, recounting sweet stories from the set of Little House on The Prairie, her romance with Rob Lowe, marriage to Bruce Boxleitner, and her own struggles with substance abuse in
If you're itching to eat a dinner just like Ma would have made, Gilbert shares recipes that recreate some of the meals seen on the show as well as family favorites from her own kitchen. (Spoiler: prairie fried chicken came from KFC! Fun fact: Melissa hates raisins!) This unique cookbook also includes behind-the-scenes stories from Little House, candid snapshots, and vintage magazine clippings, creating a fun scrapbook effect in
Though a late addition to the Little House cast, Melissa Francis offers up a surprisingly gripping tale of life as a child actress laboring under the unforgiving eye of the ultimate nightmare of a stage mother in
This canon wouldn't be complete without Melissa Sue Anderson's two cents, but hers is easily the least compelling of the memoirs (and the shortest). Anderson reveals next to nothing of her inner life and occasionally resorts to recounting the plots of various Little House episodes. Amusingly, Stewart, Arngrim, and Gilbert all mention that Anderson was hard to get to know and didn't quite fit in with the others on set. Relive the time Mary Ingalls married Adam Kendall in
With any luck, more cast members will release memoirs in the coming years, making us all forget that this beloved show ended its run 34 years ago.