Memorable Memoirs

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The Memoir has become one of the best-selling genres on the book market. It causes a lot of controversy, and it usually generates plenty of hype and press, and then, of course, more memoirs from another perspective. Memoir is not fact, and it’s not fiction either. It’s memory: one person’s reflections on a life or an event, and (just like our own fishing stories), the story sometimes gets exaggerated.

Memoir offers one person an opportunity to tell a story, and usually, we can all learn a little along the way. Here’s a list of some of my favorite:

Memorable Memoirs from

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun: Gretchen Rubin packs truth on every page of this book. There’s almost too much to soak in. I’m still gleaning nuggets from her observations about the pursuit of happiness and what that means in everyday life.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess: In helping hurricane evacuees by welcoming them into her home, Jen Hatmaker gets a wake up call about her own life. She was abundantly rich, and she and her family needed to make some serious attitude adjustments in 7 areas of their lives: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress. Jen Hatmaker’s hilarious and brutally honest journal documents the excess in her life along with her journey to remove the excess in her life.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers: I need to buy this book and read it every day. Anne Lamott is a writer’s friend, and she’s the perfect voice of Christianity for me: funny, humble, convicting, and transparent.

The Glass Castle: I read this book in one sitting. It’s rich with detail and emotion chronicling Jeannette Walls and her family as they travel across the United States with her eccentric parents and their strange parenting philosophies. Walls is very honest about her family and all of its disasters, but she also carries a deep and very real affection for her parents. One of my all-time favorite books.

What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love: Several years ago, I purchased this book before a long flight. Carole Radizwill, a girl with middle class roots, grew up to be a journalist, and she soon found herself in the midst of American royalty – marrying an actual prince who also happened to be cousin and best friend to John F. Kennedy, Jr. Within the span of a month, Radizwill lost her husband to cancer and her best friends to the infamous plane crash near Martha’s Vineyard.

A Moveable Feast: Ernest Hemingway is an acquired taste, so I won’t be offended if you don’t love this one. This memoir is beautiful and heartbreaking, a little weird at times and poignant.

The Complete Persepolis: Having never been a huge graphic novel fan or even comic book fan, I was a bit skeptical reading an illustrated memoir, but this book is a fascinating firsthand account of a girl growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. It’s both funny and tragic.

Bread & Wine: This book addresses the table and its purpose in building community, opening our homes, and welcoming others into our lives.It’s full of heartwarming stories, delectable food descriptions, and yummy recipes.

The Wilder Life: A lifelong Laura Ingalls Wilder fan attempts to let a little more Laura in her life. You will find McClure does not see the Ingalls family as sacred, poking fun, raising eyebrows (Ma’s racism, Pa dressing in blackface, etc.), but the book shows deep love for the Ingalls story and all of its wonderful details. If you’ve ever wanted to twist hay into firewood or grind wheat flour with a coffee grinder, if you’ve ever considered making your own whatnot or wanted to churn butter, you will love this book. I wrote a longer review here.

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter: This book prompted me to read Persuasion again, one of my favorite of Jane Austen’s six completed novels. One man in his twenties examines all of Austen’s novels for a graduate school course, and he allows Austen’s words to help him grow up. This is a must-read for all fans of Jane Austen. It does use modern-day life situations and language.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: Donald Miller encounters a turning-point in his life when he meets a movie producer who wants to bring Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz to the big screen. Miller soon learns his real life is too boring for a movie, and he decides to start living in a way that tells a compelling story.

Bossypants: This book by Tina Fey caused uncontrollable shaking and tear-induced laughter. I constantly had to explain why I was laughing so hard while reading it. In a series of essays, Fey reveals her journey from childhood to college to building her career as a comedian in a male-dominated industry. (Language warning on this one.)

Sparkly Green Earrings: If you’ve been in the blogging world for any length of time, you’ll have heard about Big Mama. She’s a Texas girl, and she’s got a great little memoir about life as a mom and the learning curve that goes with it. So many of Melanie Shankle’s stories ring “home” to me, and if you are a Native Texan (or a mom), you’ll totally understand what I mean. She has a new book out, which I have not yet read, called The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life, and it’s a memoir about marriage.

About Kelly Wiggains

Kelly Wiggains, a high school English teacher turned homeschool mom, likes to surround herself with good literature, beautiful things, and big ideas, and she wants her home to reflect those things, too. She blogs, where she talks about everything From Literature to Living.

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