Memoirs – it’s a love-hate relationship!

I don’t like memoirs, but I read them anyway!  Why is that?  Because I’m drawn to stories about people.  I’ve certainly reviewed a bunch and enjoyed many, despite their self-indulgent tendencies.  Here’s what I mean:


a-moveable-feastA Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – Gave it 5 bookmarks because I love all things Hemingway.


widow's story

A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates – Oates went through a hard time after her husband died and she wasn’t afraid to share the scary parts.


battlehymnBattle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua – Didn’t like it but I read every page and was eager to discuss it at my book club.


halfbrokehorsesHalf Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls – This one has an easy flow.  I liked learning more about The Glass Castle family, but The Castle is better.


I'll Sleep When I'm DeadI’ll Sleep When I’m Dead by Crystal Zevon – I was more interested in Warren Zevon than Crystal, and she does a lot of name-dropping, but I thought she did a good job assembling these memories and showing Warren’s complicated personality.


MennoniteMennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen – Sometimes funny, but questionable motives in this one.


NightNight by Elie Wiesel – Hands down 5 bookmarks for this important read about surviving the Holocaust.


onceuponOnce Upon a Secret:  My Affair with President John F. Kennedy by Mimi Alford – Did you think sex and politics was a new thing?


The Art of AskingThe Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer – Palmer is a very interesting person and, although I felt a little duped by the title, I liked learning about her life and marriage to Neil Gaiman.


The Short and Tragic Life of Robert PeaceThe Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs – Indeed a tragic story about a super-smart guy who just couldn’t make it work.


throughmyeyesThrough My Eyes by Tim Tebow – Tebow! Tebow! Tebow! – We certainly had a lot of him a few years back.  College football fans will like this one – lots of play-by-play of important games, but definitely self-indulgent.


Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler – Poehler is down-to-earth and it was fun to relive some SNL moments.


Here are some excellent memoirs I’ve read but haven’t reviewed:

 Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom


If you like lists, you’ll like seeing what memoirs everyone should read:

Early Bird Books – 10 Famous Memoirs Everyone Should Read Once
Ranker – The Best Memoirs Ever Written
Amazon – Best Selling Memoirs
Amazon – 100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime


Now I want to read these:

  • Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen – I’ve heard it was excellent and hey, I’m from Jersey!
  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller – it’s amazing how much Helen Keller overcame.
  • West with the Night by Beryl Markham – Hemingway thought it was excellent and he told his editor that it was so good he was “was completely ashamed of (himself) as a writer.”
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – the wait list at the library is long, but I’m patient.

What memoirs or autobiographies are your favorites?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

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15 thoughts on “Memoirs – it’s a love-hate relationship!

  1. I’m not one for memoirs either but I read your Hemingway review and it made me add the book to my list – though goodness knows when I’ll get to it 🙂

  2. I enjoy some memoirs, even the hard to read ones (Night, for instance…a wonderful book, but very depressing), if they are well-written and not ego-driven. I don’t like the ones that gloss over the writer’s own faults and blame everyone else for whatever has gone wrong in their lives. But I do like the ones that are honest, thoughtful and give me a real insight into someone else’s life. And several of the ones you list do just that! Thanks!

    1. Yes, I agree, Night was a tough one to get through because it was so depressing. Such a terrible time in our history. I think once a memoir becomes too “ego-drive” as you say, it goes down a notch in quality. Thanks for stopping in and commenting, Ann!

  3. I was introduced to Rick Bragg’s autobiography “All Over but the Shoutin” as an American version of “Angela’s Ashes”. He is an incredible writer and makes you laugh and cry as you read about his hardscrabble life growing up in Alabama. It is a must read!!

  4. I enjoy reading memoirs but I don’t often go for them. Night by Elie Weisel I read when I was in college when I found out that years later, I was attending his alma mater.
    When Breath Becomes Air is such an appealing book. I’ve read excerpts and it is so well written but I haven’t mustered the courage to read the whole thing yet. It is just such an emotional book. I know I’m going to cry throughout.
    I have Sam Walton’s autobio (that they say he wrote on his death bed) on my TBR.
    http://runwright.net

  5. I don’t usually read memoirs, but I did love A Moveable Feast. I’ll have to give some of these others a try. I also liked Eat Pray Love for the chance to do some armchair traveling.

  6. I feel the exact same about memoirs! I’ve read many of those you list here. Night is beyond memoir to me – above and beyond any other book listed here. The Glass Castle was my favorite. I’ve got ‘When Breath..’ on my nightstand. I grew up in Jersey too but (gasp) am not a Springsteen fan. Great post- thanks!

  7. I realise I don’t read many memoirs either – but I do want to read the Hemmingway after your review and I can’t believe I haven’t read Night – that’s making it to my top to be read books! Like Anne Frank I imagine that to be a literary institutions in its own right, Otherwise I am ambivalent to many of these, although perhaps I shouldn’t be. I have friends writing their memoirs and I like the idea of reading these more personal everyday accounts – which often end up being anything but.

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