memoir

A Fine Romance

By Susan Branch
5
Rated by Hannah Jane C.
Feb 19, 2016

I couldn’t have read A Fine Romance at a more perfect time. It was the perfect book to read while cooped up in a hospital room waiting for a loved one to heal. I sailed right along with Susan Branch and her husband, Joe, as they journeyed to England via ship and explored the country for two months. This book is not only Susan’s diary during their vacation in England, it is also a very informational and exhilarating guide to both well-known and hidden places in England, many of which belong to the National Trust. Above all else, this book is a journey of the senses, using a mixture of her

Aug 3, 2015

I'll cut to the chase: Listen to this book. Narrator Dion Graham turns an already great memoir by Dave Eggers into an absolutely entertaining bundle of ah-mazing. The words burst with personality and energy thanks to his narration, perfectly capturing the author's tone. (No surprise, turns out there are multiple Eggers-Graham audiobooks out there.) You'll forget you're basically listening to a giant monologue. 


So what's it about? In A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Eggers shares a heartfelt account of his life after suddenly becoming the guardian of his young brother when both

Mar 28, 2013

With interwoven recipes and memories, Molly Wizenberg divulges her story, a memoir that blossoms from a blog she created in the aftermath of her father’s death. 

While the stories are splotchy little essays that capture only fragments of Wizenberg’s life, they are immensely powerful.  After reading the chapter “La Boule Miche,” I immediately scurried to the kitchen and scrounged up a piece of salted dark chocolate and a leftover hunk of a baguette.  I suspect that I am not the only reader who has done this. 

I found myself reading entire paragraphs of this book out loud just to hear the

May 31, 2011

As a non-Christian reader, I found Isaacs’s memoir more whiney than snarky. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy some aspects of the book. But I found myself wondering why Isaacs repeatedly makes bone-headed personal and professional choices based on what she thinks God wants her to do. And then claims to have been “torched by God”.

 I was especially put off by Isaacs’s therapy sessions, where she engages in couples counseling in order to divorce God. Her counselor makes her imagine what God and Jesus say in their defense to all her whining. I mean snark. Again, why is she trying to second

May 3, 2011

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend time behind bars in a maximum security prison?  Award winning poet and writer Jimmy Santiago Baca knows exactly what it is like to be in prison.  A Place to Stand is Baca's memoir of his troubled early life, subsequent incarceration in prison at the age of 21 for selling drugs and how he turned his life around and be came an award winning poet and writer.

Baca's early life in New Mexico was not easy and unquestionably violent.  Abandoned by everyone he entered the legal system as an "orphan" and then as a  juvenile deliquent.  However, the

Mar 13, 2013

In A Private History of Awe, Scott Russell Sanders takes a thunderstorm and illustrates how it can dance across three generations. Sanders not only spotlights the beauty and spectacle a thunderstorm can create, but also its rude and wild fury.

This is one man’s deeply personal path of awe, a memoir of sorts, but mostly the story of how one soul can become so beautifully entangled in both life and death. Throughout the story of Sanders’ life are these spectacular vignettes of his newborn grandchild as she embarks on her new path and his mother, who is at the end of hers, creating a richly

Sep 25, 2013

Fourteen-year-old Jenny shares her daily life with her diary "Dee." Jenny's younger brother Ezra is a common topic.   You see, Ezra has autism and Jenny feels connected to him by an invisible cord which helps her keep track of him and his moods.  Jenny also feels responsible for keeping Ezra out of trouble and for protecting him from those who don't understand Ezra's actions and autism.


However, Jenny also wants to do all of the things that the other 14-year-old girls are doing at her school without having to worry about what's going on with Ezra.  While she is proud of Ezra and all of the

Bastards

By Mary Anna King
4
Rated by Hannah Jane C.
Feb 28, 2017

Mary Anna King’s first six years of life are anything but stable.  Three out of her five siblings are put up for adoption, and as a small child, Mary Anna tags along with her mother to meet with potential adoptive parents for each of her unborn sisters.  Mary Anna explores the many reasons for her mom’s unwanted pregnancies, and though she’s never certain of any particular one, she is sure about one thing.  She’s going to meet those sisters someday, no matter what.  Bastards is not only Mary Anna's journey of discovering who her adopted sisters are, but also discovering who she is and how

Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott
4
Rated by Melody B.K.
Jul 27, 2014

I'm not a writer but Anne Lamott makes me believe that I could be a great one.  Bird by Bird is a writing manual that reads like a memoir, a very funny, life affirming, let's get real memoir.  She reminds me a bit of Cheryl Strayed in her clarity and insight not only about writing but about relationships and priorities.  Lamott says, "if you want to know your characters, you have to hang out with them for awhile."   I highly recommend hanging out with Lamott.

Comet's Tale

By Steven D. Wolf with Lynette Padwa
4
Rated by Hannah Jane C.
May 7, 2015

Comet, a rescued greyhound, will win you over with her lovable, graceful and insightful personality.  Steven Wolf rescues Comet from the horrors of greyhound racing, and in turn she rescues him when his debilitating back injuries leave him disabled and unable to participate in everyday life. 


Shortly after adopting Comet, Wolf stumbles upon the idea of training her to be a service dog.  Comet learns how to open doors, provide stability so that Wolf can hoist himself up, and even pulls Wolf’s wheelchair around the local airport.  While Comet is not your average working dog, she tackles every

May 5, 2017

In July of 2007, Catherine Tidd lost her husband, Brad, in an accident and suddenly found herself a 31-year-old widow with three small children. In Confessions of a Mediocre Widow, Tidd chronicles her experience with sudden widowhood and the journey of self-discovery her husband's loss prompted. 


The first half of the book focuses on the loss and immediate aftermath of Brad's death. Tidd discusses her last moments with Brad, the shock of his death, how her mind (like so many other widows) could only process the loss in pieces, the crowds of people in the days after, and her new relationship

May 11, 2016

Robert Benson always takes the question of “how to write a book” very seriously. For he was once "in the same spot and grateful for any help that might move [him] along . . . Sharing the things [he] knows about how a person goes about telling his story seems only right. Perhaps it is even, as the old prayer book says, a good and joyful thing.” He’s the perfect mentor to help nudge a new writer on her way.


One of my favorite things about Dancing on the Head of a Pen are the chapter titles. "Dark Marks on a Page", for instance, explains how different writers make their marks. Benson’s way is

Darkness Visible

By William Styron
5
Rated by Becky C.
Jan 14, 2015

William Styron was already an accomplished, award-winning author by the mid-1980s when he suffered a devastating episode of clinical depression. His novels The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice had made him famous and respected in the literary world. Meryl Streep won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the protagonist in the film version of Sophie’s Choice. To someone who had never experienced clinical depression, Styron must have appeared on top of the world.


Styron’s descent into severe depression, for which he was eventually hospitalized, is chronicled in

Jul 20, 2014

This memoir explores the life of Waris Dirie, recognized by many for her work as a model, and by others for her advocacy for human rights and a battle against female genital mutilation. The reader follows her from her early life as a nomad in the deserts of Somalia, to her difficult and sometimes dangerous journey to Mogadishu and eventually London. Working there as an underappreciated maid for her own family, she is "discovered", and sets off on an equally nomadic life as a model. Throughout her journey, Waris has to face the world with her own wits and tenacity. The best part of this story

Aug 11, 2015

If you’re a fan of Frances Mayes and  her Tuscan adventures, and even if you read this one when the book came out in 2010, I recommend listening to it on audio. In her southern Georgia drawl, Mayes narrates the third installment of her life in Italy after buying and renovating a dilapidated Italian farm house. Every Day in Tuscany is the third of her Cortona tales, following the ever popular Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany.


Here, she shares stories of the Italian countryside and the people she has grown to love, the food, wine and art she has enjoyed, and the home and garden that

Jun 8, 2016

The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams must be read together. The two books were originally meant to be one book, but Susan Branch’s life is so packed with living and inspiration that one book quickly became two very powerful volumes overflowing with growth, play, wisdom and a hefty dose of girl power. Though the books are heavy they are equally adorable, easy to tuck into and get lost for hours in. Susan Branch quickly becomes a sister within just a few pages and makes the reader feel like they are as much a part of her life as she is. 


The Fairytale Girl is a more than

Oct 9, 2019

“Every ten years or so, I either go back to therapy or I write a book in order to tell myself again, in a new way, my life story. This current version is death heavy, feminism heavy, whale heavy, but also multilayered, even multigenerational. I’m not only fifty-six but also seven, twelve, twenty-seven, thirty-four, and forty-eight. My story is like a choral piece with many different parts. In fact there are so many separate but connected narratives that I sometimes feel a temporal vertigo—I am all ages and no age at all.”--Darcey Steinke, Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of

Dec 23, 2015

Some memoirs are just necessary. They speak to some form of triumph that appeals to our own innate sense or hope that we, too, can overcome any kind of weird, unforeseen adversity life can hand us.  Such is the case with Anna Lyndsey’s remarkable Girl in the Dark: A Memoir, an exceptionally well-written and unforgettable book that takes the reader into some truly dark emotional and physical territory that most of us fortunately can only imagine.


The book chronicles Lyndsey’s descent into a rare form of light sensitivity that prevents her from exposing her bare skin to all forms of light. It

Goodbye, Sweet Girl

By Kelly Sundberg
5
Rated by Cheryl M.
Oct 22, 2018

Kelly Sundberg's beautifully written memoir, Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival, is about her almost decade-long marriage to her husband Caleb. But it is more than a story of domestic violence and systematic abuse.  It's also about love, leaving, and moving from victim to victor.  Sundberg holds a PhD in Creative Nonfiction and before publishing her memoir worked as an essayist.  Her essay, "It Will Look Like a Sunset," was her first attempt at examining her marriage and telling the world about her abuse. This essay's literary success and Sundberg's desire to tell

Apr 19, 2010

here-if-you-need-pic.JPG Little book, big impact. Despite its small size this memoir is similar to other personal accounts written to reflect on life after a spouse dies. It joins the ranks of Calvin Trillin and Joan Didion searching for peace and paying tribute to their lost love. But while those authors lovingly look back on their long marriage, Kate Braestrup needs to face her future reality as a young wife and mother of four when her husband is killed in a car crash. This tragedy causes her to re-invent herself. She pursues her husband’s dream and becomes a Unitarian Universalist minister. She then becomes one of

Nov 1, 2018

I placed a hold on this book because of rave reviews without realizing the author , Jarrett J. Kroscozka, was known for his juvenile graphic novels about a Lunch Lady who fights crime and children's books Good Night, Monkey Boy and Peanut Butter and Jellyfish .  Hey, Kiddo How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father and Dealt with Family Addiction  is an honest and powerful depiction of his family and all its complications. When asked to draw a picture of his family in preschool, Jarrett was confused. Not only was his mom incarcerated for heroin related charges, but he had never met his father

Hook: A Memoir

By Randall Horton
5
Rated by Lisa A.
Oct 18, 2019

“We script our lives on reaction rather than action, meaning daily life is always in response to, or a reply to, a command or demand. The world uses us in that way...The world does this--holds us down.”― Randall Horton, Hook: A Memoir


Randall Horton and I have lived wildly different lives. His memoir, Hook, tells part of his story: as an undergrad at Howard University, as an addict, as a cocaine smuggler, as a prisoner, as a reader, as a poet, as an author, as an educator, as a mentor, as a friend. Yes, all of this is part of his story—and, like his story, the book itself is unique. It’s

Jan 19, 2017

I Am Big Bird is a must-see for fans of Sesame Street, Jim Henson, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, or all of the above. It’s a documentary focusing on the life of Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who plays both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, and also sometimes other famous Sesame Street characters like Bert. As I’m sure you already know, Sesame Street is like a big family where everyone helps one another to educate and entertain children. You will not only get the inside scoop on the puppets in this documentary, but you will also enjoy learning about Caroll Spinney, members of the Sesame Street team

Aug 20, 2010

im-down.jpgThe publishers tout this book as a funny memoir about a white girl who is raised in a poor, predominately African-American inner-city by her divorced dad who acts like a black man. I thought I would love it since I was the kind of white girl raised in a predominantly affluent, white suburb who felt stifled by mainstream culture and fantasized about living in a more diverse world. But after reading it, I was just plain sad.

I don’t think this book is about racial differences as much as it’s about class inequities. And bad parenting. It would have worked for me if Wolff hadn’t tried to be so

In Other Words

By Jhumpa Lahiri
5
Rated by Sarah A.
Aug 13, 2016

It’s pretty daunting to even attempt to recommend something written by the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies) and try to do it justice. She has presented us a beautifully written memoir in which she soulfully expresses the reasons why she feels compelled to master the Italian language – not only to speak it fluently as one who wants to live in the country, but to write it, one who yearns to express herself in another way, through a foreign language. Foreign as not just of another land, but foreign as unknown and unfamiliar and uncomfortable. She actually

Jun 25, 2013

In the introduction, Kaling says of herself, “I’m only marginally qualified to be giving advice at all. My body mass index is certainly not ideal, I frequently use my debit card to buy things that cost less than three dollars, because I never have cash on me, and my bedroom is so untidy it looks like vandals ransacked the Anthropologie Sale section. I’m kind of a mess.” And yet, she’s written a compelling, humorous memoir, with occasional advice. The advice she does offer is based on her own, real-life experiences and all the more valuable for its lack of childhood trauma.


As a writer

Jan 21, 2011

In her memoir of early life with photography icon Robert Mapplethorpe, Godmother of Punk Patti Smith has crafted an evocative tale of how two kids from New Jersey and Long Island, once factory workers and hustlers, rose to the upper echelons of the art world. And she does a good job with that. Enough to win the National Book Award. Enough to appear on The Colbert Report and gobs of other shows.

But it wasn’t the starving artists plucking lice from each other’s hair moving on to rubbing louse-free wigs with Warhol’s dandies that got me hooked. What I liked most about this book was the dear

Oct 2, 2013

Don’t be fooled, you’ll learn nothing about diabetes or owls here, but the random suggestion makes it all the more entertaining.  Shortly before this book was released, I had the privilege of attending “An Evening with David Sedaris” in Kansas City, where I got a preview of some of the hilarious treasures to come in Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.  Sedaris likes to test his pieces with various live audiences, tweaking them along the way until they are primed for publishing, and I was excited to hear some of my favorites again in their polished state. 


This collection is packed with a