As Mason Cooley once said, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” From Hogwarts and Narnia to East Egg and the Pequod, books have the power to transport us to different times and cities, even an alternate universe. As an avid reader, I most enjoy books that show me what it may be like to “walk in another person’s shoes,” so to speak. And, for me, there is no better way to do that than with a good memoir.
A memoir is a “narrative composed from personal experience.” While I enjoy reading about the lives of my favorite athletes and musicians, I most enjoy the stories told by those individuals whom I have never heard of. Memoirs written by non-celebrities provide a new perspective and never fail to teach me something new about life and circumstance. Here a just a few of my personal favorites:
“Educated” – Born to a survivalist family in rural Idaho, Tara Westover did not attend school, never once visited a doctor and spent her days working on her family’s junkyard. Torn between family loyalty and a thirst for education, Westover began to educate herself and went on to study at Brigham Young University, Harvard University and Cambridge University. This book is wonderfully written and impossible to put down.
“The Bright Hour” – How do you live each day, knowing it may be your last? Nina Riggs explores motherhood, marriage and friendships, and the legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson, her great-great-great grandfather, in this beautiful and heartbreaking memoir about living life to the fullest while diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“Relish: My Life in the Kitchen” – A graphic memoir of food and family, Lucy Knisley not only provides us with an inside look at her upbringing, but each chapter ends with a new recipe for the reader to try. Wonderful for “foodies,” this memoir is not to be missed.
“I am, I am, I am: Seventeen Brushes with Death” – Many of us could not imagine having a single near-death experience but Maggie O’Farrell has lived through seventeen. Illnesses, accidents, attacks and a mother’s determination to protect her daughter, this book illustrates just how precious and miraculous life can be.
“From the Corner of the Oval” – Beck Dorey-Stein applied for a job posting she saw on Craigslist, Inc. and suddenly she was stenographer in the Obama Administration. From jogging next to POTUS on a treadmill in a hotel gym to seeing his reactions to the gut-wrenching events that took place in Orlando and Sandy Hook, Dorey-Stein has seen it all. This book provides an excellent look inside The White House, with some juicy West Wing relationship drama thrown in. Think “Sex and the City” meets “The West Wing.”
For more memoirs that are anything but ordinary, visit the list of recommended reads in our catalog!
Photo courtesy of the author.