I was talking casually with a coworker about good audiobooks the other day, and her eyes lit up when she mentioned Janis Ian's autobiography on MP3. The particular charm of this audiobook (Society's Child) was that the folk singer performed her own book - and began each chapter with one of her songs. My colleague was enthralled through all 20-some hours of audio. I was impressed by her enthusiasm.
And it got me thinking. I claim not to read much nonfiction, but when pressed to list some of my favorite books, a few among them are memoirs. There's something about the creative license of memoirs (which are not always synonymous with autobiographies) that can tempt me away from the world of fiction. A good memoir can read like a brilliant diary or even a novel, and the pleasure is all in the humanity of it because it's entirely real.
Check out these memoirs that impressed a fiction lover (synopses from our catalog and NoveList):
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The child of an alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother discusses her family's nomadic upbringing, during which she and her siblings fended for themselves while their parents outmaneuvered bill collectors and the authorities.
- This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff
The author chronicles the tumultuous events of his early life, discussing his parents' divorce, the nomadic wanderings with his mother that followed, and the strange and eventful process of growing up.
- Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
A portrait of Chris McCandless chronicles his decision to withdraw from society and adopt the persona of Alexander Supertramp, offering insight into his beliefs about the wilderness and his tragic death in the Alaskan wilderness.
- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
The author, former editor of French Elle magazine, describes the rare stroke to the brain stem that left his mind intact in a nearly totally paralyzed body.
- All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
A country veterinary surgeon in Yorkshire describes the joys and trials of his profession and recalls his early career and experiences with his unique clientele.