What is so interesting about autobiographies and memoirs is the ability to discover cultures, life experiences and histories so different from our own. Reading life stories allowed me to learn about Anchee Min's struggles in America after escaping Communist China in "The Cooked Seed"; Elie Wiesel's path to survival in his haunting Holocaust narrative, "Night"; and the guts and determination of Julie Andrews, one of the world's most beloved entertainers, in "Home". Whatever your reading interests, personal narratives offer a wide range of stories that are both inspiring and entertaining.
Although the terms autobiography and memoir are often used interchangeably, a distinction does exist between the two. Both are personal accounts of one life, but an autobiography covers the author's life from birth to present whereas a memoir typically covers a defined period of time or specific set of events that are central to the book.
Here is a list of titles* available at the Naperville Public Library:
The Autobiography of Mark Twain, volume one by Mark Twain (2010)
In the first complete and uncensored edition of his autobiography, one of America's foremost authors and humorists relates experiences lived, people encountered, places visited, and judgments rendered throughout his lifetime.
Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton (2011)
The chef of New York's East Village Prune restaurant presents an account of her search for meaning and purpose in the central rural New Jersey home of her youth, marked by a first chicken kill, an international backpacking tour, and the opening of a first restaurant.
Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011)
From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon, comedian Tina Fey reveals all, and proves that you're no one until someone calls you bossy.
The Death of Santini: A Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy (2013)
Chronicles the author's efforts to reconcile with his harsh fighter pilot father, who inspired "The Great Santini," recounting how at the end of his father's life, he defended the author from his critics while helping to heal family estrangements.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (2001)
A respected magazine editor and founder, a onetime spokesman for Generation X, offers a satiric, eloquent, and thoroughly tradition shattering memoir that discusses deaths of his parents from cancer, his raising of his younger brother, and more.
It's So Easy (and Other Lies) by Duff McKagan (2011)
A founding member of Guns N' Roses shares the story of his career and private life, covering the band's rise to fame, his successful battle with alcoholism, and his experiences as a husband and father.
Lit by Mary Karr (2009)
The author reveals how, shortly after giving birth to a child she adored, she drank herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of suicide before a spiritual awakening led her to sobriety.
Miles, the Autobiography by Miles Davis (1989)
In discussing his legendary forty-year career, [the late jazz icon] discusses music's "cool" era and fusion movement and offers candid views on fellow musicians, promoters, producers, critics, and his personal life.
Never Die Easy by Walter Payton (2000)
The late football great describes his love affair with his sport, his achievements on and off the field, his private life, his personal beliefs and goals, and his battle with the liver cancer that would claim his life in 1999.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)
An autobiographical portrait of marriage and motherhood by the acclaimed author details her struggle to come to terms with life and death, illness, sanity, personal upheaval, and grief.
*Book summaries provided by EBSCOhost NoveList Plus.