Yesterday I talked about memoir and that fine balance of telling our life story and letting God do the quiet work before sharing. Since I do love what a memoir can accomplish, I thought I’d share my favorites.
In my opinion, these are memoirs done well: They stick to a theme, they draw us in, and yet they don’t give too much information while at the same time giving enough to not feel vague. These are a reminder that while memoirs tell real experiences, the art of storytelling applies to this genre.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
This is the memoir most hope to write, I think. Poetic, slow, and beautiful imagery. I read this in college at a time when (at least, in my circle) you had to love Annie Dillard to have any credibility. But, it’s easy to love her – to soak in her writing and be reminded that life is about noticing.
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
I love most of Lamott’s memoirs, and this one wasn’t my favorite while I was reading it but it is the one that has “stuck” over the past few years. This is probably the most honest and true book on new motherhood out there. You almost need a couple months between phases to read it because she so accurately describes those first crazy, squishy, sleepy months.
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
Life is both broken and beautiful. This is the theme of my favorite of Niequist’s memoirs. I found this one to be her most honest and relatable – she does a beautiful job of sharing hard things but of connecting her own life experience to a broader audience. Her voice is fresh and she is still building an audience with this book, characteristics that strengthen it, I think.
Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
This is one of the books that changed the way I eat and view food. For a year, Kingsolver and her family commit to eating within 50 miles of their home. They grow most of it, buy a lot from neighbors, and live without a lot. Kingsolver combines food activism, facts, and her own experience to create an experience that connects readers to her own story. While we have never gone this extreme, it opened my eyes to the importance of eating locally and the benefit of living without certain foods.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
I actually did not like this book at all when I read it. I couldn’t believe anyone could live such a dysfunctional childhood. But the more stories I’ve heard, the more I’ve come to realize that it is within the realm of possibility. (Thankfully, I haven’t heard many as extreme as Walls’ childhood, but some shared common threads.) What I credit Walls with is the ability to write a memoir that sticks in my mind. I didn’t connect with her at all and yet, it’s been over 8 years since I’ve read it and I still remember it clearly. That’s good storytelling.
What are your favorite memoirs? How do they influence the way you read the author’s other work?
This post is Day 11 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.