Like most people who love to read, it seems that everyone in my close circle of friends and family also loves to read. Maybe it’s as simple as “like attracting like” – we just naturally gravitate toward those people who share our same basic overall interests and world view. I find this especially true when it comes to books and reading. I was brought up in a family of readers, so that circle is already a given. My mother and sisters and I are frequenters of libraries and bookstores, and always have been. But friends are a bit different – we don’t ask friends, in the beginning of a friendship – if they are readers, or what their reading tastes are like. But mostly, in my life, my closest loved ones and friends have been great readers.
Lately, because I have been working on a memoir about being a sister, I have been reading a lot of memoirs. And I mean A LOT. And I’m not just reading them to see how other writers have tackled the writing of memoir, but because I love them. I love reading them. However, when I correspond with agents, they are often likely to say “the memoir market is really a tough sell.” Or, “I’m just not looking at (or selling) memoirs right now.” And yet there are, indeed, really great memoirs being published regularly.
And, since whenever a friend or family member asks me if I can recommend a good memoir (and I can never remember off the top of my head what I have just read) I decided to write down a list (of course it will never be complete) of memoirs I have read and thoroughly enjoyed, either recently or in the not-too-distant past. I hope you read them all too…
(P. S. This list doesn’t even include some of my favorite memoirs of all time, which I will re-visit some other day. Although This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff would likely top that list, and the movie also – with heartbreaking, brilliant performances by a very young Leonardo DiCaprio, and Robert De Niro.)
These are all pretty recent, and in no way a complete list: Inheritance (and all her books) by Dani Shapiro, Educated by Tara Westover, Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Rough Beauty by Karen Auvinen, After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood, The Hot One by Carolyn Murnick, The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper, Home Before Dark by Susan Cheever, Heartland by Sarah Smarsh, Old in Art School by Nell Painter, Beauty in the Broken Places by Allison Pataki, Unforgettable by Scott Simon, Jello Girls by Allie Rowbottom, Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan, The Best of Us by Joyce Maynard, Coming to My Senses by Alice Waters, A Beautiful. Terrible Thing by Jen Waite, My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul, Once We Were Sisters by Sheila Kohler, The Way We Weren’t by Jill Talbot, The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner, Welcome to Shirley by Kelly McMasters, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen, Beer Money by Frances Stroh
I’m definitely going to have to order some of these books and I can’t wait to read yours. ❤️
Ended up here after reading your story on Brevity Non-Fiction blog this morning. My memoir, Long Time, No See was published by University of Illinois Press back in 2003 and I’ve been leading memoir-writing classes in Chicago ever since. Most writers in my classes are “people of a certain age” (as I have come to call them after too much discussion about whether to use “seniors” or “older adults” or what not!) and I wonder…have you ever thought about leading a class like that yourself? It’s tremendously rewarding (one writer had her memoir published in 2016, another has hers coming out in early 2020,published by Tortoise Books). Not that it sounds like you need more to do! After reading some of your work here, I can just tell you’d be good at it. Pretty sure you’d enjoy it, too — I sure do!
Hi Beth, For some reason, I completely missed your comment on my blog! Thanks so much for reaching out. I have known about your work for a while now, as I think you live in the Chicago area as well. I am definitely too busy to add teaching to my life right now, but have taught writing classes in the past and really enjoyed it. Maybe someday I will go back to it, or at least participate in a conference as a panelist or something.