H often teases me about falling asleep through movies and television shows. I’m just not that interested if there isn’t some kind of relationship element in the story. What makes people tick – that’s what inspires me. And my relational preferences cross over into books.
At the heart of memoir is brave vulnerability; intimate life details like two girlfriends in bunk beds on a hot summer night sharing stories and secrets. It’s the underside of life shown through word pictures that gives me hope.
Mostly, memoir writing holds up a mirror. In each story, we see a silhouette of our true selves, a distinguishing outline that offers revelation and insight.
We don’t have to agree to be inspired by someone, that’s the joy of memoir.
While each of these books captures unique voice, they all have a special place on my bookshelves. Today, I’m continuing my weekly posts on books that have a prominent place in my heart with eight memoirs. I started with 8 (Fiction) Books I Can’t Put Down and 12 (Non-Fiction) Authors Who Influence Me.
I found this book when my best friend shared a new-to-me author’s website and this book was listed in her writers toolbox of reads. Serendipity at its finest, don’t you think? Baker’s tale of growing up under the cloud of depression between world wars paints an accurate, informing and courageous story that sticks in my memory like sweet taffy chewed slowly to savor it. You’ll experience every emotion.
I think this may be my favorite memoir, perhaps because I can identify with much of her story. Walls tells the sobering tale of growing up in a dysfunctional family that paints a fine line between mental illness associated with alcoholism and parental neglect. I took it as a great compliment when my agent told me that my writing reminds him of Walls.
For the girl who loves finding redemption this one is lacking in that category. But in typical Patchett form, this story of a 20-year friendship with Lucy Grealy, the notable author of Autobiography of a Face, haunted me for weeks. In exquisite storytelling, she vulnerably exposes the joy and dark side of friendship with Lucy, who suffers to find identity after losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer. I read Grealy’s bestseller afteward and found it riveting. Found them both at my used bookstore. Score!
I’m not choosing this one just because Michelle is a dear friend but because it is truly one of my favorite reads ever. I actually read her book in one Sunday, which is a first for me. Michelle is funny, painstakingly honest and thoughtful about finding relationship with God as a “spiritual misfit.” Anyone who feels like an outsider in typical Christian culture (which is probably all of us) will identity with Michelle’s journey. You’ll laugh out loud and then find yourself tearing up throughout her stories. The Cheez-it story seems to be the most memorable. Curious?
I can’t remember if I read this before or after my first trip to Rwanda but it has perhaps done more to shape my faith than any other memoir. As Immaculee tells the tragic but redemptive story of survival through the 1994 genocide, I found myself thinking, What would I do and how would I react if faced with her circumstances. It made me stand back, take a sobering look at my faith and begin making some changes. You will need Kleenex but it’s worth it.
Because truthfully, he could write about eating burnt toast and I would love it. Buechner shares about a childhood moment; a morning he anticipates an outing with his father that becomes the most tragic day of his life, one he questions throughout adulthood. He has a way, always, of turning everyday life we often overlook into extraordinary moments of pondering.
In the last book of his life, I sense Manning has nothing to lose as he shares openly and honestly about living as a Christian with the limp of alcoholism. It is stunningly authentic; true to his “Ragamuffin” status. He makes brokenness a state of simple beauty.
What memoirs would you add to this list?
For more book recommendations in different genres, click on my What I Read tab.