Memoirs

I have discovered how much fun memoirs can be – sort of like fiction, but real (sort of).  I’m drawn to the quirky and out of the ordinary.  Here are some of the ones I’ve enjoyed most.

A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson

I liked this book – the ideas of thinking deliberately about the life one builds for oneself, not just going along with the status quo. I was glad to see the author come back to her marriage, since I think marriages are precious.

Cottage for Sale–Must Be Moved: A Woman Moves a House to Make a Home by Kate Whouley

I really enjoyed this tale of moving a house. Kate shared her experience, her life, and much of her emotion in such an honest way. Very enjoyable.

The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A. J. Jacobs (Mr. Jacobs has a couple of other books out that are also fun)

Funny, interesting, and ultimately likeable. My only complaint was the occasional use of curse words – didn’t really see the point. I found myself “google-ing” various topics the author raised, just to learn a little more. I might even take up encyclopedia reading myself!

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody (if you like this one he has seven more – all as interesting and fun to read as this one)

Such a straight-forward tale of Mr. Moody’s life with his family as a young boy. Every page resonated with both love and admiration for his parents (particularly his father) and his own boyish exploration of his world, his abilities, his character. Lovely.

Growing Up Moffett: The Rise and Fall of Innocence in a Pathos Plagued Year by Sarah E. Moffett

The first half of the book I kept thinking, “why is she writing this book? yes, she’s clever, and yes, there are some funny moments, but who is this person and why is her life worth writing a public memoir?” Then the meat of the memoir appeared – and I ended this book being grateful that Ms. Moffett shared her personal experience of something that is universal, and yet still so difficult to navigate. In addition, it is clear that her extensive reading has impacted her ability to write a coherent and ultimately satisfying story arch. The ending where she offers to tell her sister a story is a nice conclusion to a book full of stories that truly tell who the Moffetts are as a family. Very well done.

The Film Club: A Memoir by David Gilmour

This book is interesting in that there are at least two different levels of things going on here. On one level, there are funny, insightful, and intelligent comments on a multitude of films – why the are significant, and even scenes to watch for. On another level, there is a dad seeking to figure out how to maintain a relationship with his son who has given up on school – not only keep a relationship, but somehow help steer this child in a direction that doesn’t doom him forever to “driving a taxicab” (the author’s words, not mine). On yet another level, this is the story of a boy becoming a man, seen from the viewpoint of an older, more experienced man. I like books that offer so much! Things that were mildly offensive – a liberal use of profanity, and casual reference to the son’s drinking, sex, and very occasional drug use. I admire the author’s son for letting his father put so much of himself out there for the readers – very brave. And as a parent, I found the care with which the author negotiated his relationship with his son very touching.

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief by Ann Hood

I admire Ms. Hood’s willingness and ability to share such a private grief. I liked that she didn’t end with everything being “all better”. Her acknowledgment that there would be a part of her that would never stop grieving the loss of Grace reflects truth. The initial agony of loss may ease, but I don’t think it ever truly goes away. It’s learning to live with this new part of life that makes her journey a triumph.

Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own by Doreen Orion

This was a funny and heartwarming memoir of a couple’s year traveling the country in their conversion bus. The author has a gift for poking fun at herself, her husband, and all the experiences they had – without being caustic or unkind. There was real affection in the writing and some “self-realization” without being heavy-handed. Very enjoyable.

Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey by Rachel Simon

This is a memoir that reads like a novel – in a good way. Ms. Simon has interwoven her year riding the bus with her sister, who is mentally disabled, with memories of her past and her family. Both narratives serve to enrich and shed light on each other. This is as much a book about Ms. Simon’s own growth as it is about her sister, Beth. And really, isn’t that what people are in the end – who they are because of who they spend time with, who they live with and around. A very rewarding read.

Ultra Marathon Man by Dean Karnazes

One of my first adventures into memoirs, this tells the story of Mr. Karnazes and how he fell into running and how that running was extreme!  I loved the stories of calling a pizza delivery guy to meet him along his run for a midnight meal, or the race where he ran alone, what other runners were running as a relay team – each member running the equivalent of a marathon, he running the entire thing.  There are some amazing feats related in this book.  I’m the farthest thing from a runner, but I found the author’s obsession with running fascinating. I’m always amazed at the lengths to which people will push themselves physically in pursuit of their passion. Plus, amazing stuff about practicalities of eating and equipment and planning etc. for the lengthy runs he routinely executes. Interesting stuff.

Lois on the Loose: One Woman, One Motorcycle, 20,000 Miles Across the Americas by Lois Pryce

Ms. Pryce rides a dirt bike from Canada to the tip of Argentina.  She has a series of wild adventures, riding parts of the journey with friends, others alone, and still others with people she meets along the way.  What an amazing journey!  I can’t even imagine daring to go the places Lois goes.  She’s fearless!  Coherent writing and lots of interesting experiences.

There are more memoirs, people!  If you want my take on all the memoirs I’ve read (including some more popular ones that I didn’t include here) just go to my LibraryThing page and enjoy!

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