Friday, June 1, 2018

Memoir Junkie

I am a memoir junkie. My book group refuses to read them---we only read novels and the occasional short story collection. But I love memoir. I read it, I write it and I teach it. Many of my students are writing memoirs.  They are the people I discuss memoir with. My college friend Rachel Hoffman Greenwald asked me to list my favorite memoirs and another friend just asked for a few recommendations to take on vacation with her. Here's my list. I love adding to it so if you have recommendations, please let me know. 

Memoirs and Essay Collections:


Sherman Alexie, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, great memoir about Alexie’s relationship with his bipolar mother. He is a native American poet, recently accused of sexual harassment, but book is still great.
George Hodgman, Bettyville, wonderful memoir about gay former Vanity Fair writer who moves home to take care of his aging mother, who won't acknowledge his sexuality.
Paul Kalinithi, When Breath Becomes Air, memoir about young surgeon who has cancer.
Mary Karr, Lit, great memoir about Karr’s marriage, alcoholism and deeply flawed mother. Karr is a poet and teaches at Syracuse, she’s brilliant.
Mary Karr, Liar’s Club, great memoir about Karr’s childhood and relationship with father.
Adrienne Lieve, The Rules Do Not Apply, great memoir by bisexual New Yorker writer who miscarries in Eastern Europe.
Ariel Leve, An Abbreviated Life, writer’s NYC artist mother has borderline personality disorder.
Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, From My Life, I Write to You in Your Life, writer has nervous breakdown and writes her way out of it by reading and writing about great books.
Phillip Lopate, A Mother’s Tale, Lopate teaches creative non-fiction at Columbia, taped conversations with his mother before she died and wrote memoir about it.
Phillip Lopate, The Art of the Personal Essay---there are so many brilliant, devastating, hysterical and inspiring essays in here. Check out: Consolation to His Wife by Plutarch; Of a Monstrous Child by Michel de Montaigne; On Marriage by Robert Louis Stevenson; Going Out for a Walk by Max Beerbohm; The Death of the Moth by Virginia Woolf; Such, Such Were the Joys by George Orwell; Aunt Harriet by Hubert Butler; He and I by Natalia Ginzburg; Meatless Days by Sara Suleri; Once More to the Lake by E.B. White; Once a Tramp, Always, by MFK Fisher; Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin; Split at the Root by Adrienne Rich; Goodbye to All That by Joan Didion; Do He Have Your Number, Mr. Jeffrey? by Gayle Pemberton; Under the Influence by Scott Russell Sanders. This book is my bible and is especially helpful if you are writing your own memoir.
Joyce Maynard, The Best of Us, memoir about Maynard’s second marriage to nice man who dies.
Joyce Maynard, At Home in the World, memoir about Maynard’s affair with JD Salinger; she dropped out of Yale to go live with him in New Hampshire.
Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior: Doyle Melton was bulimic, alcoholic, and unhappy in her marriage. She shares all. This book is hard to put down.
Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life. More from Melton. She writes about the challenges and ultimate deterioration of her marriage, as well as her emergence as a terrific writer. After the book was published, she married the two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women's World Cup Champion, Abby Wambach.
JR Moehringer, The Tender Bar. Great memoir about a guy who was raised by a single mother and grew up in a bar.
Dani Shapiro, Hourglass, Time, Memory, Marriage. Interesting, intimate look at author’s marriage. Shapiro also wrote Still Writing and Devotion. Still Writing is about her life as a writer, Devotion is about her search for spirituality.
JD Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Great memoir about a guy who grows up with drug addict mother and loving grandparents and becomes Marine/Yale law school-educated lawyer/venture capitalist, mentored by Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
Jennifer Weiner, Hungry Heart:  Adventures in Life, Love & Art. Wonderful collection of essays. Author’s father was mentally ill psychiatrist who became crack addict; author’s mother came out in middle age, after four kids. In addition to writing about her parents, Weiner writes about rowing crew at Princeton and getting thrown off the team for being overweight, the influence of John McPhee on her writing, her pregnancies and miscarriage, her kids, her marriage, her sister, her battles on Twitter and her beautiful, brilliant career as a novelist writing about and for women. I keep buying this book as gifts for people I love. Read it---you won't be sorry.
Surprisingly Good Celebrity Memoirs: My younger son David read these memoirs and I listened to them on Audible. It’s a total pleasure to listen to these people read their own work if you do have Audible.


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