Great Memoirs

Recommended Reading Lists


Here are recommended-reading lists for various types of memoirs. There's another page for articles and sites about Writing memoir, biography, or corporate history and yet another for Telling your story (as personal history -- writing your life story or a family history, leaving lessons learned). As time permits, I'll post reading lists of memoirs of interest in various categories -- both as good reading material and as models for those who are practicing life writing. Let me know if any other titles are good candidates, or if any titles appear on the wrong lists. Happy reading.
• Coming-of-age memoirs
• Memoirs and personal accounts of
vocation, avocation, occupation, profession, calling

• Memoirs of lives in medicine and related fields
• Memoirs of ordinary people (and lives lived outside the limelight)
• Memoirs of friendship, family, and other relationships
• Memoirs of celebrity, scandal, gossip, and secrets
• Graphic memoirs
• Short pieces of memoir writing
• Food memoirs and biographies
Memoirs of war and conflict
Memoirs of illness, crisis, disability,
differentness, and survival
(a reading list)
Memoirs of coping with chronic, rare, or invisible diseases,
including mental health problems

Memoirs about drug abuse, addiction, and recovery
Memoirs about struggling with cancer
Memoirs of, and other books about, caregiving
• Links to life-story-related sites, articles
What is the difference between a memoir and an autobiography (or memoirs)
Memoir, biography, and corporate history
(articles about the craft and business)
Disclosure: Click on a link here to get to Amazon and and I get a small referral fee for all of your purchases in that session of shopping. Clicking on the link adds nothing to your cost, and helps cover my costs for maintaining this site. Thanks for doing so!

COMING-OF-AGE MEMOIRS

• Allison, Dorothy. Bastard Out of Carolina (semi-fictionalized)
• Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
• Baker, Russell. Growing Up
• Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son
• Barber, Phyllis. How I Got Cultured: A Nevada Memoir (a Mormon childhood in Nevada)
• Barnes, Kim. In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country (a warm remembrance of growing up in 1970s Idaho, rebelling against her Pentecostal Christian parents as a teen)
• Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
• Beard, Jo Ann. The Boys of My Youth
• Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Graphic (comic) memoir of the popular lesbian comic artist (author of the long-running strip, Dykes to Watch Out For), whose father was ahigh school school teacher and director of the family-owned funeral home (hence Fun Home), and closeted homosexual, who killed himself soon after she came out.
• Benjamin, David. The Life and Times of the Last Kid Picked (nostalgic memoir of the joys of boyhood in 1950s Wisconsin)
• Burch, Jennings Michael. They Cage the Animals at Night (story of survival of a Brooklyn-born boy whose ill mother left him at an orphanage, said she'd return, and never did)
• Caplan, Cynthia. Why I'm Like This: True Stories
• Carr, Mary. The Liar’s Club. As Beth Kephart writes: Carr looks back on a childhood of "poverty, abuse, danger, hurting of every measure--and come up with a story written not to tattle...or blame...but to try to understand what breed of sadness, heartache, or shatter might lie at the bottom of her mother's supreme but never evil oddness."
• Charyn, Jerome. The Dark Lady of Belorusse (the Bronx in the 1940s)
• Childers, Mary. Welfare Brat (growing up poor in the Bronx in the 1960s)
• Coates, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood “Ta-Nehisi Coates is the young James Joyce of the hip-hop generation.”~Walter Mosley
• Coetzee, J. M.. Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life (life as a bookish adolescent, contemptuous of his weak father, overattached perhaps to his mother, growing up in cruel and narrow South African society in the years following World War II. Part of the acclaimed novelist's trilogy of fictionalized memoirs in one volume Scenes from Provincial Life: Boyhood, Youth, Summertime
• Cofer, Judith Ortiz. Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood
• Conroy, Frank. Stop-Time A Memoir
• Conroy, Pat. My Losing Season: A Memoir . "Loss is a fiercer, more uncompromising teacher, coldhearted but clear-eyed in its understanding that life is more dilemma than game, and more trial than free pass," writes Conroy, re-creating here the losing basketball season Conroy and his team endured during his senior year at the Citadel, 1966- 1967.
• Conway, Jill Ker. The Road from Coorain
• Crews, Harry E. A Childhood: The Biography of a Place.
• Crowell, Rodney. Chinaberry Sidewalks (growing up poor and white in east Texas, with parents who fight but love each other).(Jonathan Yardley's review, WashPost 1-14-11)
• Cunningham, Laura Shaine. Sleeping Arrangements
• Davidson, Sara. Loose Change: (three women coming of age at Berkeley in the 1960s)
• DeMuth, Mary E. Thin Places
• Dillard, Annie. An American Childhood, available in a collection of her three most popular works: Three by Annie Dillard, also available separately:
An American Childhood (growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s)
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (her account of one year's exploration on foot in the part of Virginia's Roanoke Valley through which Tinker Creek runs--beloved of many who write about nature, including Bill Harper in Stop Often 'n' Frequent)
The Writing Life (not a primer, but a reflection on what it means to write, what happens when you write. the way a life of writing can be)
• Dubus, Andre IIITownie ( the son of an eminent short story writer who sees him and his siblings Sundays writes about growing up the son of an overworked mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and violence.
• Edise, Faith & Nina Sichel, Eds.. Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global
• Ellroy, James. My Dark Places (crime writer explores mother’s murder)
• Fisher, Antwone Q. Finding Fish: A Memoir
• Flynn, Laura M. Swallow the Ocean (a memoir of life in San Francisco in the 1970s, as two sisters learn their mother's paranoid schizophrenia explains her strange behavior)
• Fowler, Connie May. When Katie Wakes: A Memoir
• Fox, Paula. Borrowed Finery: A Memoir Born in the 1920s to nomadic, bohemian parents, Paula Fox is left at birth in a Manhattan orphanage, then cared for by a poor yet cultivated minister in upstate New York. Her parents resurface. Never sharing more than a few moments with his daughter, Fox's father allows her to be shuttled from New York City to Cuba to Hollywood's seedy margins. Hence the "borrowed finery" of Fox's unusual beginnings.
• Fuller, Alexandra. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
• Gates, Henry Louis. Colored People: A Memoir
• Gildener, Catherine. Too Close to the Falls. This outstanding memoir, written from the child's viewpoint, tells of an unconventional childhood near Niagara Falls, NY--where, as an overactive 4-year-old, she is put to work in her father's pharmacy. Full of characters and charm.
• Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Wait Till Next Year (the historians 50s girlhood, bonding with her father over the Brooklyn Dodgers and her mother over books)
• Haack, Margie. The Exact Place (about growing up WAAAY north in Minnesota, in a three-room house with no running water, with a mother, a stepfather whose love and approval elude her, five siblings, and a dog--the exact place for a spiritual awakening.
• Hampl, Patricia. The Florist's Daughter. "Nothing is harder to grasp than the relentlessly modest life," writes Hampl, about her parents.
• Hart, Moss. Act One: An Autobiography “Moss Hart's Act One is not only the best book ever written about the American theater, but one of the great American autobiographies, by turns gripping, hilarious and searing.” ―Frank Rich
• Hickam, Homer. Rocket Boys (luminous memoir of 14-year-old in late 1950s who saw building rockets as a way out of a West Virginia mining town--made into a movie)
• Holloway, Monica. Driving with Dead People
• hooks, bell. Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood
• Hotchner, A.E.. King of the Hill (St. Louis during the Depression)
• Huxley, Elspeth. The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood
• Johnson, Diane.Flyover Lives. “Smart . . . perceptive . . . Flyover Lives is a memoir of the Midwest sure to charm readers . . . Johnson vividly reminds us that the country we’re all from is the unfamiliar one called the past.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR
• Jordan, June. Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood
• Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
• Kalish, Mildred Armstrong. Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
• Keister, Douglas. Heart-Land: Growing Up in the Middle of Everything . On growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the 1950s and 1960s.
• Kimmel, Haven. A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana (a funny, tender ode to childhood in a tiny town), followed by She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana
• Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts
• Knopp, Lisa. Flight Dreams: A Life in the Midwestern Landscape
• Kusz, Natalie. Road Song (fascinating yet gentle account of a girl's -- and family's -- survival in rural Alaska, despite her life-threatening deformity after being mauled by a sled dog and despite the 'eccentric' world view of an unforgettable father)
• Lauck, Jennifer. Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found. Stunning memoir in the amazing, authentic-feeling voice of a child experiencing trauma. Available on CD: talks on memoir writing and to therapists who treat posttraumatic stress disorder (in which Lauck outlines the path she took to process, and transcend, the trauma).
• Livingston, Sonja. Ghostbread a "lyrical memoir on what it means to hunger, showing that poverty can strengthen the spirit just as surely as it can grind it down" (Goodreads review).
• Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
• Lyden, Jackie. Daughter of the Queen of Sheba (NPR journalist's memoir of her mother's manic-depressive episodes)
• Martinez, Domingo. The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir (about growing up as one of the "in-between people" (who could pass as white) in Brownsville, a neglected rural barrio just north of the Mexican border)
• Mathebane, Mark. Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa
• McCarthy, Mary. Memories of a Catholic Girlhood
• McCourt, Frank. Angela’s Ashes (Irish poverty)
• McLain, Paula. Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses (foster care)
• Moehringer, J.R. The Tender Bar. This journalist's tender memories are associated with Uncle Charlie, a dysfunctional family, and a gin mill in Manhasset, a "lovely evocation of an ordinary place filled with ordinary people."
• Monette, Paul. Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story
• Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi (black in the South in the 1940s and 1950s)
• Murphy, Dervla. Wheels Within Wheels (as an only child living in rural Ireland, Murphy had an urgent desire to travel--and she wrote many books about her travels. Now, 35 pages into this beautifully written memoir set initially in Ireland, I am ready to put a deposit on a trip to Ireland, she describes it so enticingly.)
• Myers, Alyse. Who Do You Think YOu Are? (a dark and moving memoir of bad parenting in a working-class Jewish family in Queens in the 1960s)
• Nabokov, Vladimir. Speak Memory
• Pelzer,David. The Lost Boy: A Foster Child's Search for the Love of a Family
• Rhodes-Courter, Ashley. Three Little Words (depicts the author's nine years in the foster care system with more than a dozen "so-called mothers")
• Rios, Alberto. Capirotadas: A Nogales Memoir (an Arizona border town with an interesting cultural mix)
• Robinson, Holly. The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter. The charming story of a military brat whose father abruptly and inexplicably takes up breeding then little-known gerbils in the 1960s, keeps his obsession a secret from the Navy, discovers that the gerbils are useful for research, and becomes a major supplier of gerbils bred for research (that Holly’s younger sister dies from cystic fibrosis is another thread to the story).
• Rodriguez, Richard. Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
• Roth, Marco. The Scientists: A Family Romance (about growing up in a "rarefied corner of New York City Jewish society," in a family denying or hiding the truth: that his father, Eugene Roth, brother of Anne Roth Roiphe and the uncle of writer Katie Roiphe, was dying of AIDS. "A brave and honest examination of shifting cultural values, liberal hypocrisy, and privileged guilt" (The Coffin Factory and other reviewers)
• Russo, Richard. Elsewhere: A memoir (the novelist writes movingly and with humor of growing up the only child of a difficult single mother in an industrial white working class town that has seen better days)
• Ryan, Terry. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less
• Safran, Joshua Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid . Listen to this interview on Interfaith Voices: A Prayer for Sanity in Congress, My Mother, the Witch, and More (click on and listen to "From Wiccan Love Child to Orthodox Jew")
• Sartor, May. Miss American Pie: A Diary of Love, Secrets and Growing Up in the 1970s
• Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Satrapi’s graphic memoir of growing up in Tehran, Iran, from ages six to fourteen, during the Islamic Revolution -- in powerful black-and-white comic strip images. "Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family."
• Serotte, Brenda. The Fortune Teller's Kiss (growing up the youngest child in a clan of Sephardic (Turkish) Jews in the Bronx, as a child belly dancer who catches polio, as predicted by her fortune-telling grandma)
• Shteyngart, Gary. Little Failure: A Memoir. "It’s an immigrant story, a coming-of-age story, a becoming-a-writer story, and a becoming-a-mensch story, and in all these ways it is, unambivalently, a success.”—Meg Wolitzer, NPR
• Smith, Mary Tyrone. Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir (a bittersweet memoir of childhood in a blue-collar neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut, with an autistic older brother who couldn't bear sounds, combined with the mystery of a serial pedophile and the murder of a young girl.
• Simon, Kate. Bronx Primitive (growing up in a Jewish immigrant family)
• Sontag, Rachel. House Rules (a memoir about surviving and escaping life in a dysfunctional family ruled by a father who bullied and humiliated his children and his wife)
• Stevens, lan. On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language (how language and literature shape identity)
• Sting. Broken Music "Most of us have an urge, maybe more as we age, to circle back to the past and touch the places and things of childhood. When Sting did this, his creativity was reborn. Songs exploded from his head."--David Brooks
• Strauss, Jean. Beneath a Tall Tree (about adoption)
• Stringer, Lee. Sleepaway School (about his years at Hawthorne Cedar Knolls, a school for kids at risk)
• Taitz, Sonia. The Watchmaker's Daughter: A Memoir (Born into a world in which the Holocaust is discussed constantly by her insular concentration camp-surviving parents, Taitz seeks to heal both her parents and herself through travel, achievement, and a daring love affair, independence combined with tender dutifulness.)
• Taras, Stephanie Kadel. Mountain Girls.. The story of two girls' friendship and a tribute to and remembrance of the mountains and people of West Virginia.
• Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle
• Webber, Thomas. Flying Over 96th Street: Memoir of an East Harlem White Boy
• Wilkins, Joe. The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up on The Big Dry (growing up in the unforgiving, harsh world north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana in a drought-afflicted area called the Big Dry, a land that chews up old and young alike)
• Wilsey, Sean. Oh the Glory of It All (Wilsey mines for humor his memoir of growing up lonely in the lap of luxury--his "confusing, bittersweet childhood is, like the book itself, just the right mixture of comic and tragic")
• Wolff, Geoffrey. The Duke of Deception: The Memories of My Father (about their con-man father Duke Wolff)
• Wolff, Mishna. I'm Down: A Memoir (vignettes of growing up white, trying, like her father, to assimilate into Seattle's black culture)
• Wolff, Tobias. This Boy’s Life (about life with his abusive stepfather)
• Wright, Richard. Black Boy


[Go Top]

"So much happens to us all over the years. So much has happened within us and through us. We are to take time to remember what we can about it and what we dare. That's what taking the time to enter the room (called "Remember") means, I think. It means taking time to remember on purpose. It means not picking up a book for once or turning on the radio, but letting the mind journey gravely, deliberately, back through the years that have gone by but are not gone. It means a deeper, slower kind of remembering; it means remembering as a searching and finding. The room is there for all of us to enter if we choose."
~~ Frederick Buechner , “A Room Called Remember” from the book Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons

Memoirs of regular people
(and lives lived outside the limelight)

(See also the list of recommended coming-of-age memoirs)

Balsamroot by Mary Clearman Blew (while caring for a beloved aunt during her slide into dementia, wondering where Aunt Imogene goes when she falls "through the hole in her mind," Blew discovers a destructive but unstated family code of silence. About family ties and self-discovery.
A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana (Haven Kimmel's funny, tender ode to childhood in a tiny town, as she grows up in a state of benign neglect), followed by She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana, which features the transformation of Delonda, her downtrodden and greatly overweight mother, as she claims a life for herself.
Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl by Carol Bodensteiner. A charming, genuine account of rural life in middle America in the mid-1950s, when a family could make a living on 180 acres--a disappearing world.
Between Panic and Desire by Dinty W. Moore. Not so much a memoir as an unconventional essay-montage about a man and his culture--about "the disorienting experience of growing up in a postmodern world." "A curious meditation on family and bereavement, longing and fear, self-loathing and desire, 'Between Panic and Desire' unfolds in kaleidoscopic forms—a coroner’s report, a TV movie script, a Zen koan -- aptly reflecting the emergence of a fractured virtual America." Read review in Coal Hill Review.
The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers by Harry Bernstein. From Ed Pilkington's review in the Guardian: "Harry Bernstein grew up in a Lancashire street with Jews on one side and Christians on the other. Now, at the age of 96, he has written a memoir recalling the tensions that the split created." (If old age is keeping you from writing your memoirs, read this one.)
Miss American Pie: A Diary of Love, Secrets and Growing Up in the 1970s by Margaret Sartor. (Her diary, written from ages 13 to 18, captures changes going on in a teenager's life in rural Louisiana.
Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas. "In this smart meditation on place, Seeley gives to Kansas the time she never afforded it in her youth."—Kirkus Reviews, and Terese Svoboda writes "An honest inquiry into who we are wherever we are, and a brave meditation on mortality." Check out her blog on her RV tour.
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less, by Terry Ryan, with a foreword by Suze Orman. Married to a drinking man with violent tendencies, Mom kept food on the table by submitting rhymed jingles and advertising slogans of '25 words or less' to contests.
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams (a naturalist from northern Utah, who writes of the deaths of her mother, grandmother, and other women from cancer, the result of the U.S. government's ongoing nuclear weapons tests in the nearby Nevada desert)
Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life by Abigail Thomas -- a memoir in which a life is conveyed through vignettes, not through an A-to-Z story line. An excellent example of an alternative to traditional narrative.
This Path We Share: Reflecting on 60 Years of Marriage by Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad
Walking Beans Wasn't Something You Did With Your Dog: Stories Of Growing Up In And Around Small Towns In The Midwest by edited by Jean Tennant (stories by authors from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois and more -- thirty heartwarming, funny and dramatic stories about life in the Midwest, ranging from the days after the Depression to the more recent past.). Tennant did more such anthologies: Knee High by the Fourth of July: More Stories of Growing Up in and Around Small Towns in the Midwest and Amber Waves of Grain: Third in the Series of Stories About Growing Up in and Around Small Towns in the Midwest.
[Go Top]

MEMOIRS ABOUT FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY, AND OTHER RELATIONSHIPS


Disclosure: Click on a link here to get to Amazon and and I get a small referral fee for all of your purchases in that session of shopping. Clicking on the link adds nothing to your cost, and helps cover my costs for maintaining this site. Thanks for doing so!
After Visiting Friends: A Son's Memoir by Michael Hainey (the haunting and suspenseful story of a son’s quest to understand the mystery of his father’s death—a story about the secrets families keep and the role they play in making us who we are)
All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg, as well as Ava's Man and The Prince of Frogtown . Delightful reading from a born storyteller with a distinctively southern voice.
Ancestors: A Family History by William Maxwell, author of So Long, See You Tomorrow. Ancestors: A Family History is "an astonishing evocation of a vanished world, as he retraces, branch by branch, the history of his family, taking readers into the lives of settlers, itinerant preachers, and small businessmen, examining the way they saw their world and how they imagined the world to come."
Are You Somebody?: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O'Faolain. (One of 9 children in a "defeated Dublin household," with a reporter father who was seldom home and an alcoholic mother, and aspiring to write in a male-dominated literary culture, Irish journalist O'Faolain narrates her journey of self-discovery in the Dublin world in which "writing and drink mattered far more than women."
Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You by Sue William Silverman
Being Flynn by Nick Flynn, movie tie-in edition of the award-winning Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir , now a movie, "Being Flynn," the story of an estranged father and son reunited when the alcoholic, narcissistic father shows up at a homeless shelter where the son, now adult, is working. (Listen to Dave Davies interview on Fresh Air with Nick Flynn.
The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon by Donald Hall. A portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall puts it, against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months, at age 47. Not for the faint of heart: chapters about their loving marriage alternate with harrowing chapters about her illness.
Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman. "A witty, tender memoir of a son’s journey home to care for his irascible mother...an indelible portrait of a family and an exquisitely told tale of a prodigal son’s return."
Big Russ and Me: Father and Son: Lessons of Life by Tim Russert. Growing up in South Buffalo as the son of Big Russ, a hard-working man who worked two jobs to provide for his family and educate his children.
Blue Nights by Joan Didion (about the loss of her beloved child, and a reflection on the complexity of being adopted, as her daughter, Quintana Roo, was). Here's Hawley Roddick's review.
Best Seat in the House: A Father, a Daughter, a Journey Through Sports by Christine Brennan (memoir of the popular sports columnist, whose father encouraged her love of sports and her belief that she could make it in the male-dominated niche of journalism). Read the Politics & Prose bookstore review.
Between Them: Remembering My Parents by Richard Ford. “Every page of this little remembrance teems with Ford’s luxuriant prose, his moving and tender longing for his parents, and his affecting and intimate portrait of two people simply living life as best they can.” --Publishers Weekly
The Bill from My Father: A Memoir by Bernard Cooper. A "humorous, wrenching, but never boring exploration of a frustrating father-son relationship. Bernard's deceased brothers had pleased their father by becoming lawyers or private investigators, joining Dad's firm, and being heterosexual. Bernard did none of that and has to come to terms with the philandering, curmudgeonly father he wishes would grant even token approval instead of the itemized, two-million-dollar bill he'd once sent Bernard for his upbringing."~Booklist
The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon (a memoir in essays, ranging from his childhood in pre-war Sarajevo and his teenage chess career to his new life as a writer in Chicago after fleeing Sarajevo and his daughter's death from a rare brain tumor)
Brothers (and Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving by Donna Britt. She asks: It asks: Why, for so long, did she -- like millions of seemingly self-aware women -- rarely put herself first, unconsciously seeking to help her three brothers and her three sons (and other brothers).
The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy (author of a great fictional account of his father, The Great Santini). In this interview and story for USA Today, , Conroy says, "But a strange thing happened after the novel became a movie starring Robert Duvall. My dad, always in denial, treated it all as fiction, like I had made it all up, not toned it down. To prove that, he reinvented himself. After my mother divorced him (in 1975) he had the best second act I ever saw. He became the best uncle, the best brother, the best grandfather, the best friend."
Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, author of Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs
The End of Eve: A Memoir by Ariel Gore. At age 39, Ariel Gore has everything she’s always wanted; then her crazy, difficult, dying mother comes to end her days. Sad, funny, and wise look at the mother-daughter relationship.
Elsewhere by Richard Russo. Powerful memoir of Russo's enmeshed life with his difficult mother, and his discovery after his mother's death that she had lived with undiagnosed and untreated obsessive compulsive disorder.
The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss (foreword by Mary Battenwell). Doss chronicles how each of her adopted children, representing white, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Mexican, and Native American backgrounds, came to her and husband Carl, a Methodist minister
Fathers, Sons, & Brothers: The Men in My Family by Bret Lott (autobiographical essays reviewed by Michael Harris ("Men Behaving Badly, Madly and Gladly," Los Angeles Times 7-21-97)
Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick. "Rarely is the barbed edge of mother love described with such scorching wit and raw emotion as it is in Vivian Gornick's reissued memoir" about the literary critic's volatile relationship with her mother.
The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family by Roger Cohen. A remarkable chronicle of the quest for belonging across generations. An intimate and profoundly moving Jewish family history—a story of displacement, prejudice, hope, despair, and love. Read this powerful piece from it: The Battle to Belong: Depression and an Immigrant’s Struggle to Assimilate
Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant by Jennifer Grant. As a father the notably private actor kept a thorough family archive for his only child, a treasurer for a memoirist. A chronicle of the life behind the legend and of parental love.
Growing Up Patton: Reflections on Heroes, History, and Family Wisdom by Benjamin Patton and Jennifer Scruby (the grandson of General George S. Patton Jr., particularly on the relationship between the general and his son)
The Habit by Susan Morse. “Morse’s caustic, changeable, demanding, smarty-pants mother is a late-life Sharon Sedaris, had Sharon Sedaris lived and become an Orthodox Christian nun in her eighties, and Morse herself is a crackerjack guide.” ~Cynthia Kaplan
Hats & Eyeglasses: A Family Love Affair with Gambling by Martha Frankel
Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani (the story of identical twins torn apart by rape, addiction, and the twin's death at 28--about the complex relationship of the twins while both were alive, and of Christa's growth and healing after Cara is gone)
How I Came Into My Inheritance: And Other True Stories by Dorothy Gallagher, as well as Strangers in the House: Life Stories
I'm Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan. The memoir of a newspaper writer whose chance meeting with children's television icon Fred Rogers blossoms into a life-altering friendship. A two-hankie story about male friendship and encouragement.
Just Kids by Patti Smith. A budding songwriter named Patti Smith and a young photographer named Robert Mapplethorpe met at the Hotel Chelsea in 1969; a period piece about starving artists in NYC.
Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell. Dogs brought them together; illness (and grief) deepened the friendship. Highly recommended.
Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley. "LOSING MUM AND PUP is a subtle, fond, and, above all, honest chronicle of his celebrated parents [the conservative columnist and the glamorous socialite]...Buckley has pulled off what eludes many writers: he has written candidly but not unkindly about people whose vices and virtues he sees clearly."―Newsweek
Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield. Rolling Stone editor Rob Sheffield had nothing in common with the "hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl," Renee but their love of music. He was a "shy, skinny, Irish Catholic geek from Boston" and "she was warm and loud and impulsive." A "gentle, bittersweet reflection on love won and love irrevocably lost."-Booklist
The Low Road: A Scottish Family Memoir by Valerie Miner
Replacement Child by Judy Mandel. (Here's A Circuitous Road to Memoir (Mandel on how she organized her material, ASJAWord, 2-6-13)
The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy by Robert Leleux, in which he "describes his East Texas boyhood and coming of age under the tutelage of his eccentric, bewigged, flamboyant, and knowing mother."
A Memoir of Friendship: The Letters Between Carol Shields and Blanche Howard , ed. by Blanche and Allison Howard. See Goodreads quotes.
Pull Me Up: A Memoir by Dan Barry. A "generational memoir about growing up Irish and Catholic in a blue-collar family pn Long Island in the late 1950s and '60s, which (along with small-town journalism) he brings to life. Also about surviving a deadly illness.
The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt
Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My Family by David Berg. NY Times review: "He elegantly brings to life the rough-and-tumble boomtown that was 1960s-era Houston, and conveys with unflinching force the emotional damage his brother’s death did to his family."
Saul Bellow's Heart: A Son's Memoir by Greg Bellow. (Read James Lansdun's interesting review in the Guardian (5-24-13)
Sleeping Arrangements by Laura Shaine Cunningham (orphaned at 8, Laura was raised in the Bronx by two odd but memorable uncles)
Splitting the Difference: A Heart-Shaped Memoir by Tré Miller Rodriguez. At 18, Tré gave her newborn daughter up for adoption. At 19, her only sibling was killed in a car crash. At 34, her husband died of a sudden heart attack. But at 36, her teenage daughter found her on Facebook and began to reshape the course of Tré's life.
The Truth About Luck: What I Learned on My Road Trip with Grandma by Iain Reid. (Read this Globe & Mail review by Kathryn Borel, Memoir of time spent with Grandma reveals old truths, young wisdom.)
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett, an excellent example of a "warts and all" memoir, about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. When a devastating tsunami hit the coast of Sri Lanka, where economics professor Deraniyagala was vacationing in Sri Lanka when a devastating tsunami took the lives of her husband, parents and two young sons. Her story is about how she carried on when everything she loved was completely washed away.
What Becomes You by Aaron Raz Link and Hilda Raz. "Born ostensibly female, Sarah felt male, changed her name to Aaron, took testosterone injections, and survived life-threatening complications from a hysterectomy before undergoing a surgical sex change at 30. Raz writes of her child with rare and moving candor: "I'd given him a library card, braces, orthopedic shoes, glasses, but not what he needed, a sex change . . . now I felt useless in his life . . . I missed Sarah." Mother and son's poignant account becomes one of steadfast maternal love in the midst of changes only partly physical. Both knowingly return, always, to the terrain of the heart. As Link says, "If you want to survive, you must find a way to love what you are." ~Whitney Scott, Booklist
What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love by Carole Radziwill
What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past by Nancy K. Miller. "After her father’s death, Nancy K. Miller discovered a minuscule family archive: a handful of photographs, an unexplained land deed, a postcard from Argentina, unidentified locks of hair. These items had been passed down again and again, but what did they mean? Miller follows their traces from one distant relative to the next, across the country, and across an ocean. Her story, unlike the many family memoirs focused on the Holocaust, takes us back earlier in history to the world of pogroms and mass emigrations at the turn of the twentieth century."
When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine by Monica Wood. A poor family in Maine suffers the kind of loss as the Kennedys did, at about the same time; a vivid portrait of life in a paper-mill town. "On her own terms, wry and empathetic, Wood locates the melodies in the aftershock of sudden loss...That a memory piece as pacific and unassuming as When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine should be allowed a seat in the hothouse society of tell-alls is a tribute to the welcoming sensibility of its author and the knowing faith of her publisher. " Boston Globe

Two books to read in tandem. Read Francine Prose's story The Brothers Wolff (NY Times Magazine 2-5-89) about Tobias Wolff and Geoffrey Wolff, and compare their memoirs:
This Boy's Life: A Memoir by Tobias Wolff (a remarkable account of growing up, and especially about his relationship with his abusive stepfather)
The Duke of Deception: Memoirs of My Father by Geoffrey Wolff
[Back to Top]

Memoirs of celebrity, scandal,
gossip, and secrets

Bad Blood by Lorna Sage. "Nobody's unhappy family was ever quite like that of Lorna Sage, whose ruthlessly funny, excruciating, inspiring memoir Bad Blood won England's Whitbread Biography Award. She grew up in the '40s on the Welsh border, in the crossfire between her grandparents, a bitter, bibulous, bookish vicar resembling Jack Sprat and his short, "fat doll" of an ignorant wife. He preached earthy sermons about how one might prefer for a wife "Martha before dinner, Mary after dinner." His wife's "notion of marriage [was] that a man signed you up to have his wicked way with you and should spend the rest of his life paying through the nose." Grandma blackmailed the vicar with his diary of adultery, in which she scribbled vicious comments invaluable to the family historian."--from an Amazon review
The Boys Are Back by Simon Carr. "So there we are, a father and two sons in a household without role models, males together in a home different from anything I'd known—an idyllic Lost Boys' world with a house full of children and as few rules as possible."
I, Tina: My Life Story by Tina Turner with Kurt Loder, in which the legendary Tina Turner tells all about her life and career: from her humble beginnings in Nut Bush, TN; to her turbulent and volatile marriage to Ike Turner; and, finally, to her triumphant return and massive success. “Splendid...this is rock history with substance!” —Susan Brownmiller, Newsday
Leaving a Doll's House by Claire Bloom (her "avenging tome about her fraught marriage to Phillip Roth"). Even the reviews suck you in. See, for example, 'There's more to life than men' (The Telegraph, 3-18-02)
Must You Go?: My Life with Harold Pinter by Antonia Fraser. "It takes a daring biographer to turn her sharp eye on her own life as Antonia Fraser does so movingly and beautifully in her memoir Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter. It's a compelling diary of a passionate love affair, marriage, and 40-year conversation of two soul mates in the milieu of London's chattering classes."
—Tina Brown, The Daily Beast
My Ear at His Heart: Reading My Father by Hanif Kureishi. "It is family memoir, autobiography and cultural history combined. . . . With what feels like unmitigated honesty Kureishi successfully conveys the impression that in this book he has actually given us himself.” —The Sunday Times (London)
No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel by Janice Dickinson. Supermodel Dickinson's sex- and booze-soaked autobiography brings readers on a roller-coaster ride through the world of modeling, the emptiness of superficial relationships and the perils of drug addiction. Admitting that "terror is a great motivator," Dickinson fought like a tigress to establish her career. “Janice . . . speaks with the candor of Cher, the bite of Joan Rivers and the sexual bonhomie of Mae West.” (Liz Smith, New York Post)
Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey. "Wilsey's father was a distant, wealthy man who used a helicopter when a moped would do and whose mandates included squeegeeing the stall after every shower. Much of Wilsey's youth was spent as subservient to, or rebelling against this imposing man. But the maternal figures in Wilsey's childhood were no less affecting. His mother, a San Francisco society butterfly turned globe-trotting peace promoter, seemed to behave only in extremes--either trying to convince young Sean to commit suicide with her, or arranging impromptu meetings with the Pope and Mikhail Gorbachev. And Dede, his demon of a stepmother, would have made the Brothers Grimm shiver. " "It took the unlikely combination of the three of them--mother, father, stepmother--to make me who I am." It's a fairly basic conclusion after 479 pages of turning every stone, but it's also one that renders his story--more than shocking or glorious--human." --review by Brangien Davis
Oh the Hell of It All: A Life Beyond Imaginings by
Pat Montandon, Sean Wilsey's mother, in a sequel/​response to his memoir. Reared in Oklahoma, the daughter of Nazarene ministers, she fled in the 1960s for the excitement and glamour of San Francisco, where she created a life as a newspaper columnist, television host, and writer. Her best friend married her husband, a multimillionaire who left her 'high and dry' after their divorce.
Rage To Survive: The Etta James Story by Etta James and David Ritz. Born to a 14-year-old mother and raised by surrogate parents, blues and R&B star James started singing gospel in church at five, was discovered at 14 and had a rapid rise to fame. Nevertheless, her story is a disturbing saga of drug addiction, jail sentences for writing bad checks and stealing prescription drugs, involvements with the wrong men and anger at a disruptive and unstable mother who has refused to reveal who her daughter's father is. It's easy to see why James says she has been "raging through life." She claims it's the rage that keeps her going. Now, at the age of 56, she reports she has kicked the drug habit, reached an understanding with her mother and settled down with her husband and children, letting off steam by dirt biking.
Those who write memoirs know--the truth must be told (Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Independent, 1-18-10) The dishy tone of this piece, discovered belatedly 7 years after it was published, reminded me of a guilty secret: That many of us secretly read overrevelatory and gossipy memoirs that we don't admit we're enjoying. First, I'll link to the books she writes about (I get a tiny commission on any Amazon sales this link leads to) and then I'll add to the list, in no particular order. I paid for my own copies, but you can find most of them in the library.
Whatever...Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves by Maria Bello. Actress and activist Maria Bello made waves with her essay, “Coming Out as a Modern Family,” in the New York Times popular “Modern Love” column, in which she recalled telling her son that she had fallen in love with her best friend, a woman—and her relief at his easy and immediate acceptance with the phrase “Whatever Mom, love is love.” She made a compelling argument about the fluidity of partnerships, and how families today come in a myriad of designs. In her first book, Bello broadens her insights as she examines the idea of partnership in every woman’s life, and her own. She examines the myths that so many of us believe about partnership—that the partnership begins when the sex begins, that partnerships are static, that you have to love yourself before you can be loved, and turns them on their heads.
What have I left out? What do you recommend?
[Back to Top]

Graphic memoirs


Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman (the story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father's story and history itself). And there's more: Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began (Part II moves us from the barracks of Auschwitz to the bungalows of the Catskills).
Stitches: A Memoir by David Small (" the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who awakes one day from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he has been transformed into a virtual mute—a vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot. From horror to hope, Small proceeds to graphically portray an almost unbelievable descent into adolescent hell and the difficult road to physical, emotional, and artistic recovery.")
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution)
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (in which she charts her fraught relationship with her late father). Controversial in states like South Carolina (see story in "Christian Science Monitor" "because it graphically shows lesbian acts."
American Splendor and More American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar, stories by Harvey Pekor, illustrations by Kevin Brown, Gregory Budgett, Robert Crumb, and others.

and this one, which is ABOUT the subject.
Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures by Elisabeth El Refaie
[Back to Top]

Memoirs of lives in medicine and related fields


• Brown, Theresa. The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives. One nurse's eight-hour shift on a cancer ward.
• Gawande, Atul. Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science
• Gawande, Atul.Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance And be sure to read Gawande's wonderful Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
• Grim, Pamela. Just Here Trying to Save a Few Lives: Tales of Life and Death in the ER
• Groopman, Jerome. Second Opinions: Stories of Intuition and Choice in the Changing World of Medicine
• Haynes, Jane. Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I Am? ("an unflinching journal of her life as a psychotherapist, revealing as much about the author as her patients")
• Hazzard, Kevin. A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back “A former paramedic's visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta's mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe."
• Jordan, Justin. And Then I Cried: Stories of a Mortuary NCO (details life as an Air Force Mortuary Non Commissioned Officer, working at deployed locations and stateside)
• Juahar, Sandeep. Intern: A Doctor's Initiation
• Klass, Perri. A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years As A Medical Student
• Konner, Melvin. Becoming a Doctor: A Journey of Initiation in Medical School
• Lynch, Thomas. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade
• Marion, Robert. The Intern Blues: The Timeless Classic About the Making of a Doctor
• McCarthy, Matt. The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician's First Year. Candid memoir of McCarthy’s intern year at a New York hospital provides a scorchingly frank look at how doctors are made--a window on to hospital life and the black-comic paradox of becoming a doctor: How do you learn to save lives in a job where there is no practice? From near-peer mentoring and the immersion process of medical training -- internship as "drinking from the firehose."
• Melinek, Judy. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner (on becoming a forensic pathologist, but with more reality than you get on CSI)
• Ofri, Danielle. Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue
• Rosenthal, Elisabeth. An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back. A memoir not of a medical profession but of what has gone wrong with the medical profession. Must reading.
• Salamon, Julie. Hospital: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus, Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God and Diversity on Steroids
• Seltzer, Richard. Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery; Confessions of a Knife
• Stone, John. In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine
• Transue, Emily. On Call: A Doctor's Days and Nights in Residency
• Vertosick, Frank. When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales from Neurosurgery and Why We Hurt: The Natural History of Pain
• Watkins, Melanie. Taking My Medicine: My Journey from Teenage Mother to Physician
[Back to Top]


Short pieces of memoir writing


Around the House and In the Garden: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Healing, and Home Improvement by Dominique Browning. A comforting collection of essays about recreating your home and garden when you have been uprooted, displaced, or divorced. By the same author: Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas & Found Happiness (a humorous and moving book about losing a job and winning a life)
My Absent Father (Jane Smiley, The New Yorker, 10-3-14) Her father's gift of absence helped provide her with a childhood of freedom.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti: From Lost Boy to Poet (the poet looking back, at age 96, in Wall Street Journal, 9-9-15) The beat poet endures a childhood of frequent abandonment—then helps create a literary community in San Francisco with City Lights bookstore.
Filter Fish (Oliver Sacks, New Yorker, 9-14-15) At life’s end, rediscovering the joys of a childhood favorite, gefilte fish.
American Lives: A Reader, ed. by Alicia Christensen, intro. by Tobias Wolff (with contributions by Laurie Alberts, Marvin V. Arnett, Charles Barber, Mary Felstiner, Eli Hastings, Sonya Huber, Jonathan Johnson, Ted Kooser, Dinah Lenney, Aaron Raz Link, Lee Martin, Dinty W. Moore, Hilda Raz, Mimi Schwartz, Brenda Serotte, Fan Shen, Peggy Shumaker, Natalia Rachel Singer, Floyd Skloot, John Skoyles, and Janet Sternburg_
The Bishop's Daughter (a father, a faith, a secret) by Honor Moore (The New Yorker, 3-3-08)
The Daily Miracle: Life with the mavericks and oddballs at the Herald Tribune, by William Zinsser (American Scholar, Winter 2008)
Growing Up Buckley (Christopher Buckley, "Mum and Pup and Me," New York Times Magazine, 4-22-09)
Held Hostage by History by Sandy M. Fernandez (Washington Post Magazine, 1-29-06), an adult child reconciles her memories of immigrating to the U.S. from war-torn Nicaragua with what she is discovering about her parents' experience of the same period
Bumping into Mr. Ravioli (Adam Gopnik, New Yorker, 9-30-02)
Jewish Like Me by Amy Fine Collins (Vanity Fair 5-30-08).The author reflects on her lifelong role—above and below the Mason-Dixon Line—of being the only Jew in the room, and how an unexpected declaration by her daughter helped her reconstitute her identity.
The Oxford Project (photo project gives "voice" to backbone of America)
Paradise of Lies by Staceyann Chin (Lives, The New York Times Magazine, 2-17-08). "My mother ran away to Montreal shortly after my birth and left me behind in Jamaica. And the wealthy Chinese man from Montego Bay — whose name she gave me — denied he ever had any relations with her."
Soaps of Our Lives . Soap operas as her mother knew (and acted in) them. (Liz Welch, NY Times Op-Ed, 12-12-09)
Still Here Thinking of You: A Second Chance with Our Mothers (Joan Potter, Susan Hodara, Vicki Addesso, and Lori Toppe). Months after forming a writers group, four women from very different backgrounds found themselves unexpectedly writing about their mothers. In the process, not only did their understanding of one another deepen, but their perceptions of their mothers were transformed.
This Old Man. Life in the nineties. (Roger Angell's powerful New Yorker essay on life in his nineties.) "Recent and not so recent surveys (including the six-decades-long Grant Study of the lives of some nineteen-forties Harvard graduates) confirm that a majority of us people over seventy-five keep surprising ourselves with happiness. Put me on that list."
[Go Top]

MEMOIRS AND PERSONAL ACCOUNTS OF
VOCATION, AVOCATION, OCCUPATION, PROFESSION, "CALLING"

In other words: Work
See also Memoirs of lives in medicine and related fields

Buy a book from Amazon after clicking on a link here and we get a small referral fee. This helps cover fees for site hosting and link-checking (which on this site is time-consuming).

• Abbott, Shirley. The Bookmaker’s Daughter: A Memory Unbound
• Addario, Lynsey It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War. CJR story, Why it pays to work the fringes,calls it a photojournalist's "story of guts, professional ambition, and personal growth that will be familiar to a generation of journalists who came of age on the battlefields of America’s war on terror after the attacks of September 11, 2001."
• Anner, Zach. If at Birth You Don't Succeed: My Adventures with Disaster and Destiny A "frank and devilishly funny" book about an award-winning comedian who "recounts his journey from being what he calls a 'crappy baby' [with cerebral palsy. 'the sexiest of the palsies,' to] the host of his own travel show and an improbable workout guru."
• Armstrong, Karen. The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness. Anderson's memoir of leaving the life of a Roman Catholic nun in 1969 to join the secular world, "a stunningly poignant account about the nature of spiritual growth."
• Ashton-Warner, Sylvia. Teacher (most memorable scenes: teaching children how to read)
• Axelrod, David. Believer: My Forty Years in Politics
• Bair, Julene. The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning . Bair has inherited part of a farming empire, and her family's role in depletion of a rapidly disappearing aquifer on the vast western plains haunts her. As traditional ways of life collide with industrial realities, Bair must dramatically change course.
• Baryshnikov, Mikhail. Baryshnikov at Work (in his own words, what it was like to dance his most popular productions)
• Bochco, Steven. Truth Is a Total Defense: My Fifty Years in Television. By the man who brought us “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” “NYPD Blue,” and “Murder in the First."
• Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
• Bouton, Jim. Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball In the Big League. Bouton writes frankly and with humor in this tell-all about his season playing with the Seattle Pilots (after blowing his pitching arm playing for the Yankees). In 1970, when the book came out, he was considered a traitor for exposing the dark side of players' lives (alcohol, drugs, gambling, looking up women's skirts) and the dark underside of baseball economics (with players making less than $20,000 a year, before baseball players became agents in a free market). One of the best sports books ever, now available with new material.
• Branson, Richard. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way
• Brennan, Christine Brennan. Best Seat in the House: A Father, a Daughter, a Journey Through Sports (memoir of the popular columnist, one of the first women to make it in the male-dominated world of sports journalism).
• Bullock-Prado, Gesine. Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker. A former Hollywood film developer and sister to actress Sandra Bullock recounts the joys and heartbreaks of running her own patisserie in Montpelier, Vermont.
• Carson, D.A. Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson
• Cheever, Ben. Selling Ben Cheever: Back to Square One in a Service Economy (aware of his failure as the writing child of a famous novelist father, Cheever takes on a series of jobs in retail America, planning to write about them).
• Cherry, Mike. On High Steel: The Education of an Ironworker (a great book about construction workers on very tall structures)
• Conover, Ted. Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing A first-hand account of life inside the penal system.
• Conroy, Pat. The Water Is Wide (early Conroy nonfiction about teaching Gullah children on a South Carolina island)
• Cowser, Robert. Dream Season: A Professor Joins America’s Oldest Semi-Pro Football Team
• Cranston, Bryan. A Life in Parts. The star of "Breaking Bad" gives us both the coming-of-age story of an abandoned son and stories that convey how he became the actor who could so successfully play the dark and gritty role on cable TV that made him famous.
• Crawford, Arlo. A Farm Dies Once a Year: A Memoir
• Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (a journalist’s account of trying to live on what she makes as a waitress, a cleaning woman, a nursing home aide, and a Wal-Mart employee)
• Emmins, Alan. Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners. The side of his van reads “Crime Scene Cleaners: Homicides, Suicides and Accidental Death.”
• Evans, Robert. The Kid Stays in the Picture. His 30 years in Hollywood and the film business.
• Fair, Eric. Consequence: A Memoir. Matter-of-factly chronicles his experiences as an interrogator in prisons, including the infamous Abu Ghraib, as a civilian contractor for the secretive yet notorious CACI (Consolidated Analysis Center, Incorporated). Repulsed at first by methods he saw clearly as torture, he then gets on with the job, which then haunts him.
• Flair, Ric and Charlotte. Second Nature: The Legacy of Ric Flair and the Rise of Charlotte (father-and daughter wrestlers). Michael Schaub's enticing review: Wooooo! 'Second Nature' Is a Winningly Unadorned Memoir of the Wrestling Life (NPR, 9-19-17)
• Franken, Al. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. See Al Franken’s Memoir Is the Best Political Book of 2017 (Alex Shephard, New Republic, 5-31-17)
• Gandhi, Mahatma. Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
• Gawande, Atul. Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science
• Gawande, Atul. Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance
• Gottlieb, Robert. Avid Reader: A Life. One of the few book editors with name recognition tells stories about his authors and editing experiences, and in the process also describes major changes in the book publishing industry over the years (as well as some pastimes that may surprise you). A good read, highlighting his successes.
• Gottlieb, Robert. Anatomy of a Publisher: The story of Farrar,, Straus, & Giroux (New Yorker, 8-12-13), a fascinating and informative review of Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America's Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux by Boris Kachk.
• Griffin, Gail. Calling: Essays on Teaching in the Mother Tongue
• Grim, Pamela. Just Here Trying to Save a Few Lives: Tales of Life and Death in the ER
• Groopman, Jerome. Second Opinions: Stories of Intuition and Choice in the Changing World of Medicine
• Hamper, Ben. Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line (a shoprat’s life on the General Motors assembly line)
• Hayes, Helen with Sanford Dody. On Reflection: An Autobiography. The sequel: A Gift of Joy.. Life in the theater, from an actress who kept her private life private.
• Haynes, Jane. Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I Am? ("an unflinching journal of her life as a psychotherapist, revealing as much about the author as her patients")
• Hazzard, Kevin. A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back “A former paramedic's visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta's mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe."
• Hertzel, Laurie. News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist (how a talented journalist working for a small-city--Duluth--newspaper on the cusp of transformation stumbled on the story of her career, captured in They Took My Father: Finnish Americans in Stalin's Russia by Mayme Sevander with Laurie Hertzel
• Hoover, Dwight W. A Good Day's Work: An Iowa Farm in the Great Depression
• Iacocca, Lee and William NovakIacocca: An Autobiography
• Jahren, Hope. Lab Girl Warm, witty, illuminating memoir of a geobiologist, a fascinating look at plants, and a moving portrait of a friendship. "Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life." See NY Times review. (Melissa Hobrook Pierson, 4-8-16)
• Jordan, Justin. And Then I Cried: Stories of a Mortuary NCO (details life as an Air Force Mortuary Non Commissioned Officer, working at deployed locations and stateside)
• Juahar, Sandeep. Intern: A Doctor's Initiation
• Kennedy, Harold J. No pickle, no performance: An irreverent theatrical excursion from Tallulah to Travolta "Hands down the most entertaining theatrical memoir," full of back-stage tales from Broadway and touring companies--Steve Taravella.
• Kimes, Martha. Ivy Briefs: True Tales of a Neurotic Law Student
• King, Gilbert. Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America. Not a memoir, but a vivid story about civil rights lawyers who, when they went to argue cases in the South, didn't know if they would live to come home. “Devil in the Grove is a compelling look at the case that forged Thurgood Marshall’s perception of himself as a crusader for civil rights. . . . King’s style [is] at once suspenseful and historically meticulous” (Christian Science Monitor )
• Kirkland, Gelsey. Dancing on My Grave (about her life as a ballerina and her struggles with eating disorders and drug addiction)
• Kirkland, Gelsey. The Shape of Love: The Story of 'Dancing on My Grave' (about her return to dancing, after a battle with drug addiction--you can find used copies)
• Klass, Perri. A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years As A Medical Student
• Korda, Michael Another Life: A Memoir of Other People (An "idiosyncratic history of book publishing’s shift from small, founder-driven houses into a junior wing of the entertainment industry," writes Michael Agger in this entertaining New Yorker review "...the book is overlong in the way that long, boozy publishing lunches are overlong, but the stories are entertaining and even instructive." A deliciously gossipy and often bitchy book, well-written and revealing.
• Larson, Jayne Amelia. Driving the Saudis: A Chauffeur's Tale of the World's Richest Princesses (plus their servants, nannies, and one royal hairdresser)
• Lipsky, David. Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point. Lipsky follows a future generation of army officers from their proving grounds to their barracks. Though initially ill-disposed toward the military, Lipsky eventually found that "of all the young people I'd met, the West Point cadets—although they are grand, epic complainers—were the happiest."
• Lynch, Thomas. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade
• Lynn, Loretta, with George Vecsey. Coal Miner’s Daughter (from her childhood in Butcher Holler to a life in country music)
• Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley)
• Markham, Beryl. West with the Night. Raised in East Africa, where she apprenticed with her father as a trainer and breeder of racehorses, she became a bush pilot in the 1930s and was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. A classic memoir, beautifully written.
• Martin, Steve. Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
• McDonell, Terry. The Accidental Life: An Editor's Notes on Writing and Writers Informative, (good) gossipy, and informative notes on magazine writers prominent in the 1970s and 1980s (such as Hunter Thompson, George Plimpton, Tom Robbins, Margot Kidder, Helen Gurley Brown, Liz Tilberis, Richard Price, David Carr), and inside stories about magazines he edited (Outside, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated).
• Melinek, Judy. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner (on becoming a forensic pathologist, but with more reality than you get on CSI)
• Menaker, Daniel.My Mistake "A wry, witty, often tender memoir by a former New Yorker editor, magazine writer, and book publisher who offers great tales of a life in words"
• Metz, Don. Confessions of a Country Architect
• Moody, Ralph. Little Britches, Man of the Family
• Moody, Ralph. Horse of a Different Color: Reminiscences of a Kansas Drover (ranching in the early 20th century)
• Neville, Susan. Iconography: A Writer’s Meditation
• Osborne, Steve. The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop. What caught my attention was his storytelling on The Moth, which you can listen to online.
• Peterson, Eugene H. The Pastor: A Memoir
• Pouillon, Nora. My Organic Life: How a Pioneering Chef Helped Shape the Way We Eat Today. An interesting account of how one woman with "no credentials" who loved cooking turned that love into a powerful career--indeed, a mission. You won't shop the same after you read it. See Liza Mundy's Washingtonian review, Nora Pouillon’s Memoir Reminds Us How Rotten DC Food Used to Be .
• Rafkin, Louise. Other People’s Dirt: A Housecleaner’s Curious Adventures
• Rakoff, Joanna.My Salinger Year. Writing about her year working for the then-eccentric Harold Ober literary agency, which in the late '90s resisted computers, Rakoff captures life as a low-paid novice in book publishing--also, at an angle, about the reclusive author J.D. Salinger. Very readable. See review in The Millions.
• Reichl, Ruth. Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table A noted food critic's memoirs.
• Reichl, Ruth. Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise (memoirs of the New York Times food critic)
• Reynolds, Burt, with Jon Winokur. But Enough About Me: A Memoir
• Robinson, Holly. The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter. The charming story of a military brat whose father abruptly and inexplicably takes up breeding then little-known gerbils in the 1960s, keeps his obsession a secret from the Navy, discovers that the gerbils are useful for research, and becomes a major supplier of gerbils bred for research (that Holly’s younger sister dies from cystic fibrosis is another thread to the story).
• Ruhlman, Michael. The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America and The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection (about cooking as an art form); and The Reach of a Chef: Professional Cooks in the Age of Celebrity (a journalist-chef's exploration of the world of the chef).
• Sacks, Oliver. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (a famed neurologist's case studies of patients with strange neurological disorders)
• Seltzer, Richard. Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery; Confessions of a Knife
• Shetterly, Margot Lee. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
• Simpson, John. The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary. See Barton Swaim's review: Democratizing the Oxford English Dictionary (WSJ, 11-4-16). The longtime editor of the OED takes readers inside the lexicographical revolution.
• Sloan, William. My Years with General Motors
• Smith, Dennis. Firefighters: Their Lives in Their Own Words
• Sterling, Joy. A Cultivated Life: A Year in a California Vineyard
• Stone, John. In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine
• Sundaram, Anjan. The Stringer PW review: "The author skillfully captures the smallest details of life in a destitute land, blending the sordid history of Congo with his battle to forge a career in a troubled and forsaken country."
• Teresa of Avila. The Way of Perfection
• Tomsky, Jacob. Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality Life spent (and misspent) in the hotel industry.
• Transue, Emily. On Call: A Doctor's Days and Nights in Residency
• Turow, Scott. One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School. He is best known, of course, for writing legal thrillers.
• Unger, Zak. Working Fire: The Making of a Fireman (a rookie’s year in the Oakland Fire Department)
• Vertosick, Frank. When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales from Neurosurgery and Why We Hurt: The Natural History of Pain
• Walton, Sam. Sam Walton: Made In America
• Young, Ginny Carson. Peregrina: Unexpected Adventures of an American Consul
• Rivka Galchen, part 2 of What’s the Best Book About Work? (Bookends, NY Times Sunday Book review, 9-8-15) "Literature has given us especially brilliant stories about office work — “Bartleby the Scrivener,” by Melville; “Something Happened,” by Joseph Heller; “Then We Came to the End,” by Joshua Ferris — and, also, oddly enough, about working in hotels: “An American Tragedy,” by Theodore Dreiser; “I Served the King of England,” by Bohumil Hrabal; “Confessions of Felix Krull,” by Thomas Mann. Another through-line, of work that is miserable to do, can be traced from Émile Zola to Upton Sinclair to Barbara Ehrenreich. But then there are books that are about work not by having some kind of work as their subject matter, but instead by being incarnations of an extraordinary amount of work: a luxurious, wonderful kind of work, the elective work of learning.
Payday (a bibliography of North American Working Class Autobiographies, compiled by Cheryl Cline)
Top 10 books about working life (Joanna Biggs, The Guardian, 4-29-15)

And on the same theme, different genres (many of these recommended on the National Book Critics Circle blog Critical Mass):
• Ferris, Joshua. Then We Came to the End. This funny, award-winning debut novel(written in first-person plural) has been called "The Office meets Kafka": a group of writers and designers at a Chicago ad agency face layoffs during the dot.com bust. Another novel filled with firings: Personal Days by Ed Park.
• Heller, Joseph. Something Happened (working in an ad agency, circa the period of the TV series Mad Men
• Levine, Philip. What Work Is (a poet's "hymn of praise for all the workers of America," winner of the National Book Award in 1991. (Reviewed by Jane Ciabattari, NBCC blog)
• Terkel, Studs. Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. Brilliantly edited oral histories by the master interviewer.
• Rachman, Tom. The Imperfectionists (follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters and editors of an English-language newspaper in Rome), comment by Ben Griffin
• Tyson, Neil deGrasse. The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist . Read excerpt here.. "His description of his own shock at seeing himself on television--a black man sought as an expert on something other than being black--is powerfully moving."
• Varty, Boyd. Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home, a memoir of "one family’s passion to restore our broken connection to nature," by creating and sustaining a sanctuary for wild animals and people in the African bush (e.g., Mandela went there to recover, after released from prison).
[Go Top]


Food Memoirs and Biographies


• Abu-Jaber, Diana. The Language of Baklava (growing up with a food-obsessed Jordanian father, an immigrant who "cooked to remember where he came from and pass that connection on to his children."
• Achatz, Grant. Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat (a great chef's account of "how his drive to cook immaculate food fueled his miraculous triumph over tongue cancer."
• Apple, Jr., R.W.. Far Flung and Well Fed
• Bienvenu, Marcelle. Who's Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make A Roux? A Cajun/​Creole Family Album Cookbook (more cookbook than memoir, and apparently the recipes are great--but there's also a lot about the Cajun/​Creole family traditions)
• Bemelmans, Ludwig. Hotel Bemelmans (behind-the-scenes account of a great hotel by a writer who worked at the Ritz and who wrote the Madeline books)
• Bijan, Donia. • Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen. “Chapter by chapter, Bijan recreates the memory-menu of her life, incorporating recipes for the dishes that most poignantly capture the past for her. By its heart-plucking end, this literary feast accomplishes what only the best meals do, bestowing not only a satisfying culinary experience but also a larger appreciation of life’s precious table.”~National Geographic Traveler
• Birnbaum, Molly. Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way. At 22, a head injury obliterated her sense of smell, destroying her dream of becoming a chef. The moving story of a pilgrimage (with no recipes!).
• Bociurkiw, Marusya. Comfort Food for Breakups: The Memoir of a Hungry Girl
• Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen Confidential Updated Ed: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.)
• Boyle, T.C.. Talk Talk (a novel about identity theft that some criticize for too much food writing--not a problem for foodies!)
• Buford, Bill. Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany
• Chang, T. Susan. A Spoonful of Promises: Stories & Recipes from a Well-Tempered Table. A heartfelt, poignant, often funny collection of stories about food, family, intimacy, and the ties that bind.
• Child, Julia. My Life in France (delicious!)
• Child, Julia about: Noel Riley Fitch, Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child; Nancy Verdi Barr, Backstage with Julia: My Years with Julia Child; and Julie Powell, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen
• Claiborne, Craig. A Feast Made for Laughter
• Colwin, Laurie. Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
• Ehrlich, Elizabeth. Miriam's Kitchen: A Memoir
• Ephron, Nora. Heartburn (Memoir, disguised as novel, with recipes and outrage)
• Epstein, Jason. Eating: A Memoir
• Ferrary, Jeannette. Out of the Kitchen: Adventures of a Food Writer
• Fisher, M.F.K.. The Art of Eating (brings together the wonderful Fisher’s Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet for Gourmets)
• Fussell, Betty. My Kitchen Wars
• Greene, Gael. Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess
• Guinta, Edvige. The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture
• Hamilton, Gabrielle. Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
• Haney, John. Fair Shares for All: A Memoir of Family and Food (growing up hungry in London’s East End)
• Hesser, Amanda, ed. Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table (essays from the New York Times)
• Jaffrey, Madhur. Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India
• Jones, Judith. The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food (Knopf’s legendary cookbook editor)
• Kingsolver, Kingsolver. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (about the year they lived without processed foods)
• Liebling, A.J.. Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris
• Maisto, Michele. The Gastronomy of Marriage
• Mayle, Peter. A Year in Provence; French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew
• McNamee, Peter. Alice Waters and Chez Panisse
• Miller, Leslie, ed. Women Who Eat: A New Generation on the Glory of Food
• Mitchell, Joseph. Up in the Old Hotel (especially “All You Can Hold for Five Bucks”)
• Mones, Nicole. The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel (a novel, but a great gift for foodies)
• Murray, Erin Byers. Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm. Murray quit her unfulfilling job, looking for more fulfilling work -- and provides in this memoir a "behind-the-scenes tour of the oyster world."
• Orwell, Joseph. Down and Out in Paris and London (you will never feel the same about a restaurant meal again)
• O’Neill, Molly. Mostly True: A Memoir of Family, Food, and Baseball
• Pepin, Jacques. The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen
• Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (this is bigger than a memoir) and The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World
• Reichl, Ruth. Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table (the early years); Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
• Richman, Alan. Fork It Over: The Intrepid Adventures of a Professional Eater
• Roberts, Doris. Are You Hungry, Dear? Life, Laughs, and Lasagna
• Samuelson, Marcus. Yes, Chef (life story of the celebrity chef born in Ethiopia, who survived TB, was adopted by a Swedish family and grew up in Sweden, then came to America and became the youngest chef ever to get the NY Times three-star rating. Listen to interview on Fresh Air radio.
• Sedaris, David. Me Talk Pretty One Day (he’s funny, and there’s a food story)
• Sheraton, Mimi. Eating My Words: An Appetite for Life
• Slater, Nigel. The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater and Toast
• Steingarten, Jeffrey. The Man Who Ate Everything
• Trillin, Calvin. The Tummy Trilogy (or any of his books)
• Villas, James. Between Bites: Memoirs of a Hungry Hedonist
• Volk, Patricia. Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family Volk's memoir about her relationship with her mother, Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me, was inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli's memoir, Shocking Life
• West, Michael Lee. Consuming Passions: A Food-Obsessed Life
• White, Marco Pierre. The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness, and the Making of a Great Chef .

Anthologies:


• Berkeley, Ellen Perry, ed. At Grandmother's Table: Women Write about Food, Life and the Enduring Bond between Grandmothers and Granddaughters (68 women share stories of their grandmothers, and a recipe)
• Bodger, Lorraine. Eater's Digest: 400 Delectable Readings about Food and Drink
• Hesser, Amanda. Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table (essays from the New York Times, with recipes)
• Hughes, Holly. Best Food Writing 2008
In My Mother's Kitchen: 25 Writers on Love, Cooking, and Family (contributions by Maya Angelou, Jennifer Appel, Holly Clegg, M. F. K. Fisher, Rosemary Gong, Tina Miller, Kitty Morse, Michel Nishan, - Christina Orchid, Ruth Reichl, Julie Sahni, Nigel Slate, Walter Staib, James Villas, Joyce White
• Miller, Leslie. Women Who Eat: A New Generation on the Glory of Food
• Ruhlman, The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America. If you like that you may want to read his The Reach of a Chef: Professional Cooks in the Age of Celebrity
• Witherspoon, Kimberly and Andrew Freidman. Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs

[Go Top]


Memoir- and life-story-related sites and articles

Books to help you get started writing your life story (a recommended reading list)
Compelling Stories, if Not Literature (Abigail Zuger, MD, NYTimes, 6-28-10, on the nature, benefits, uses, limits, and appeal of personal health-or illness-related memoirs, including tales of survival)
Confessing for Voyeurs: The Age of the Literary Memoir Is Now, by James Atlas (New York Times, 5-12-96)
Dawn Thurston's advice on memoir writing
How to Write Your Memoir (an excellent piece by Joe Kita, Reader's Digest, January 2009)
James Frey's Morning After, by Evgenia Peretz (Vanity Fair June 2008)
Links to useful sites and resources about memoir writing (Pat McNees, Writers and Editors)
13 Beautifully Written Memoirs You'll Think Are Actually Novels (E Ce Miller, Bustle, 5-28-15), She writes briefly about Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, Dreams of Trespass by Fatima Mernissi, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, The Liars Club by Mary Karr, False Papers by André Aciman, Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick, Island of Bones by Joy Castro, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah, An American Childhood by Annie Dillard, West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Memoirs of illness, crisis,disability, differentness, and survival (a reading list)
Michael Greenberg's breakdown lowdown (Joyce Carol Oates' review in TLS of a memoir of Greenberg's daughter's mental illness, and an interesting piece on the genre)
My Father's Voice (Taylor Plimpton on George Plimpton, New Yorker, 6-17-12)
Ghostwriting and collaboration (Writers and Editors, you'll find several stories about memoirs)
The Proust Questionnaire (Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, 5-6-10)
"The Red Leather Diary," by Lily Koppel. Lori Rotskoff (Chicago Tribune 5-17-08) on how a 22-year-old reporter came to revive a 90-year-old woman's teen years
Telling Your Story. Resources for writing your memoir, telling your family story, capturing a personal history (Pat McNees site)
Types of Autobiographic Writing (Tristine Rainer's site) "A MEMOIR puts a frame onto life by limiting what is included."

[Go Top]