Favorite Autobiographies and Memoirs
Autobiographies and memoirs - a popular, exciting, and mind-expanding way to learn about other people.
I love reading autobiographies and memoirs because they open a window on the lives of others. These writers have shared a part of their lives with us - and I find this fascinating. Most of the things I read about in these books will never happen to me.
What better way to learn about how other people live? With memoirs, you get a first-hand account of the most important events in the lives of others. This is a blessing beyond compare.
Autobiographies are typically written by celebrities wanting to share their life stories. Memoirs are written by writers who want to share an episode or series of events in their lives.
This page contains reviews of autobiographies and memoirs I've read - and also I've listed some that I'd like to read in the future. At the end there's a place for you to recommend your favorite memoirs and autobiographies to me.
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What I've Been Reading
Here are some of the autobiographies and memoirs I've read recently. This is an eclectic collection of books - including celebrities, Kindle self-published memoirs, and historical memoirs.
I read a lot, and these days I always want to be reading a memoir, so I'm adding to this section frequently. When I finish a book, I'll add it to the top of the list, for visibility.
Though this page mainly lists my favorite memoirs, I'll review them all.
Over the Top - How One Move Changed a Climber's Life
Do you have acrophobia?
I'll probably never have the guts to scale a cliff... so it is awesome that I can sit home and read about it.
Russell Fralick was eighteen when he got involved with cliff climbing during the break between his high school graduation and the start of college. He quickly became obsessed with it - both in training and in challenging himself to climb more difficult cliffs.
This book focuses on the cliff climbing experience - something many of us might not otherwise know about. The author's enthusiasm for his scary hobby is evident in every paragraph, on every page.
I learned a lot.
Alien in the Delta - A boy growing up in Southern Alabama...
Thankful Strother grew up in the 50's in Southern Alabama near the Mississippi delta. His parents were poor, his mother loved God, and they lived next to a 'juke joint' where people got drunk and had fights.
This is the kind of autobiograhpy that a person might write for his descendants, covering a wide swath of life, without focusing on any one issue. It is self-published and my copy contained a few typos.... that's the bad part. However... I found the book to be amusing, with many funny anecdotes that he had to share about his life. I learned about a wonderful man who spent time in the service, married, came home and had an amazing career. I love reading books like these.
Wide Awake and Dreaming - A Memoir of Narcolepsy
I'm so sad! This poor girl was only 22 when she started falling asleep in classes. She lost her muscle control when laughing and eventually even fell asleep when driving.
That was before her diagnosis... narcolepsy! A disaster, for this young woman who wanted to be a lawyer.
The book won the San Francisco Book Festival Award for Biography/Autobiography in 2013.
Web of Lies - Sarah Tate's sad account of being married for six years to a narcissist.
I'm writing a memoir similar to this one, and so, felt I had to read Sarah Tate's account of living with a narcissist husband for six years in Switzerland and France. Her narcissist was different than mine... in some ways. He was extremely delusional, often out of work, and simply not an involved, loving husband.
The book is a page-turner... I read it in only two days.
Passport Through Darkness - A memoir of missionary work in Sudan
This is a heartbreaking, enlightening memoir by a woman who was doing well as a high-paid executive... until Christ called her into the missionary field where she became aware of a den of neglected and abused child sex slaves in Portugal.
She was unable to turn from them, and worked for two years to convince Portuguese authorities to set the children free.
After that she went to Sudan, a country that supplied many child sex slaves to brothels in Europe. There she was confronted with such difficult circumstances, such abused and injured children and women, that she returned for months at a time, for years, trying to help them... usually as a lone white woman working in existing orphanages.
This story is tragic, beyond what anyone might expect. You will be shocked and distressed to learn of what's going on in Sudan. However it is a story that needed to be told, and one that I'm recommending everyone read... Christian or not. It isn't an overtly religious book but will appeal to anyone wanting to know more about the conditions for the poor and needy in Africa.
Back from the Abyss - Autobiography of a Low-Bottom Alky
Have you ever felt the need to read the autobiography of an alcoholic? Honestly, I never especially cared... but when I read Kieran Doherty's book, I was drawn in and my heart embraced the trauma and destitution of his sick and pathetic life.
Mr. Doherty was a professional journalist (he has passed on now) and a good one at that - so I guarantee this is a story that won't bore you... it is very well-written. It is definitely a page-turner.
He got my sympathy right away by writing about his questionable origins as an adopted child with no clues as to the identities of his original parents.
His adoptive parents were kind and decent, and life was fairly good for the young man until he was introduced to alcohol at a family gathering. Something inside went "click-click" and produced a comforting feeling of well-being that he learned to crave.
I've never been an alcoholic. Even though there are alcoholics in my family tree, the gene must have missed me because nothing in me clicks when I drink alcohol, except a thought that what I drank tasted awful. No great feeling of well-being comes over me.
Not so with Kieran Doherty, whose life became a series of empty bottles, broken promises, irrational actions, and deep misgivings.
You will enjoy reading his story. It is a shame that he didn't live to see the publication of this book, but when you read it - you'll understand why.
The Hiding Place - by Corrie Ten Boom
This is a moving memoir about a Christian woman's experiences during World War II in Europe.
Corrie Ten Boom lived with her father and older sister in the Beje, a house in Haarlem, in the Netherlands. Her father was a respected watch maker and repairman and Corrie, who never married, followed him into that profession.
During World War II while her country was occupied by the Germans, Corrie worked for the resistance and hid many Jews in her home and in other locations. Consequently, her home was raided; she and many members of her family were arrested.
Corrie was treated horribly in the jail and later, in a concentration camp.
This book is a classic of Christian literature. Corrie Ten Boom's faith and devotion to the Word of God are inspirational. I learned many spiritual lessons from this book - mostly from Corrie's descriptions of her sister Betsie's spiritual outlook on life.
Very recommended. Easy to read. It kept my attention all the way through.
Autobiography of a Yogi - by Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda wrote his memoirs to give us a detailed record of his childhood, his decision to seek enlightenment, and his philosophy and work as a Yogi.
This is the recommended introduction to Kriya Yoga from the Self Realization Fellowship.
The chapters in the book each detail a separate incident or issue from Yogananda's life. I appreciated this format. For example, one chapter tells the story of his meeting a certain guru or saint. Then the next chapter will be another story from his life... how he ran away from home to look for a guru, or how he met his guru, finally, and stories about his guru's ashram.
His guru insisted that he be well-educated, so Yogananda went to college in India, and founded a school for young boys there. His guru always knew that Yogananda would be the one to take the teachings of Kriya Yoga to the United States of America.
Paramahansa Yogananda was deeply devoted to Jesus and often quoted from the Bible in this book. That surprised me as I would have thought he'd be teaching more about Hindu gods or goddesses. He did mention a few of those, but didn't dwell on Hinduism. Most of his stories about India were about gurus and the Indian culture he was raised in.
I was very touched by this book, and fascinated by one chapter in which his guru returned from the dead to tell him many secrets about the afterlife. Worth reading!
A Stolen Life - by Jaycee Dugard
Everyone's heart goes out to this girl who was kidnapped and imprisoned at the tender age of 11. As I listened to the audiobook version of the book (read by Dugard herself) I was impressed by how she coped with years of abuse, focusing on her need for a pet! Available on Kindle, in a hardcover edition, and as an audiobook.
My Extraordinary, Ordinary Life - By Sissy Spacek
I love this book, mainly because I love Sissy Spacek's acting and singing. She's a versatile, talented actress. In Coal Miner's Daughter, a movie she won an Oscar for Best Actress for, she sang Loretta Lynn songs beautifully.
Sissy is more than that. She's a small town girl with tales to tell of her family and upbringing in Quitman, Texas.
Her book covers her life from her grandparent's lives to her marriage and motherhood, and her life as a down-home neighbor in Virginia.
The Glass Castle - by Jeannette Walls
Raised by eccentric nomads, Jeannette Walls opens this memoir by describing how she looked out the window of a taxi in NYC while heading for a party, to see her mother finding treasures in a dumpster. The older Walls raised Jeannette and three siblings as homeless wanderers until they were forced to settle in West Virginia. Her mother, an artist, and her father, an intellectual alcoholic, gave Jeannette a memorable childhood worth writing about. This is the hardcover version; also available in paperback, Kindle, audiobook, and Audible download versions. [The paperback version was #75 in Books at Amazon in July 2010.]
Just Kids - By rock star Patti Smith, called "The Godmother of Punk," who wrote about her relationship with an artist, Robert Mapplethorpe.
Patti Smith had a vividly distressing on and off relationship with photographic artist, Robert Mapplethorpe, in the 1960s and beyond.
Their lives of art and confusion in New York City, long ago, make for good reading, and though Patti doesn't get emotional in this book, you can hear the under-current mixing trauma with compassion.
They lived in the Hotel Chelsea and encountered rock stars of the day, including Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.
Here's what I'm reading this week. I almost always have an autobiography or memoir in progress.
I'm currently reading ... - A Year of No Sugar
We all know that sugar isn't good for us. Some people actually do something about it, and give up eating sugar. This mom talked her husband and kids into joining her on her quest to live an entire year with no sugar.
What's on My Memoir TBR List
These are the memoirs I'm planning to read soon. I'm always looking for new ideas about what to read, so if you have any suggestions for autobiographies and memoirs you don't see listed here, please let me know in the comment section at the end of this page.
Joni, An Unforgettable Story - A memoir by Joni Eareckson Tada
I was at my Thursday evening Christian book study when the ladies there started talking about Joni Eareckson Tada, and how much they admired her. They recommended this book.
I remembered having a copy of the book in my TBR pile, but when I got home, I couldn't find it. That's not surprising as I gave away 90% of my books a few months ago right before I moved to Idaho.
Then a couple of days later, I noticed a copy of Joni had been placed in our apartment community's "lending library" bookcase.
Of course, I snagged that book, and brought it home. I believe God wants me to read this book!
All I know about it so far... is that Joni is an artist and Christian who was injured and is a quadriplegic. Apparently she has lived a full and happy life anyway.
Just got these memoirs... - Will read them soon.
Rosalind Goforth's memories of being a missionary in China with her husband, Jonathan Goforth - who also was a prolific author.
Mike Medberry was visiting "Craters of the Moon National Monument" which is in Central Idaho... when he had a massive stroke and nearly died. This book is his testimony of the long recovery process he went through.
This memoir explores the Greek term, "Acedia" ... a spiritual condition of inability to care. Kathleen Norris shares her own experience with acedia.
Waging Peace - This is Neil Young's memoir. Do you love the music?
I'm a long-time fan of Neil Young's music so of course I want to read about his life. How about you?
This book follows a trail of life events, not always chronologically, to let readers into Neil Young's inner circle where they can share his choice truths, celebrate his music and know the secrets of his life.
Neil Young says, "Life is exciting." Let him show you why.
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife - Let Dr. Eben Alexander tell you what it is like to have a near death experience.
He was a skeptic, but now, he's not.
Brain surgeon Dr. Eben Alexander experienced the unthinkable and unexpected. He caught a rare brain disease and was in a coma for a week.
Just as his doctors planned on ending his life, his eyes flew open and he roared back to life. And friends, he has an amazing story to tell.
Interview with Dr. Eben Alexander, author of "Proof of Heaven" - About his near death experience.
A Long Way Gone - by Ishmael Beah
The powerful story of an innocent albeit mischievous twelve-year-old boy kidnapped into Sierra Leone rebel forces, initiated into a life of killing and cruelty. The book ends with his ultimate redemption and words of hope for others in similar situations.
A word for memoir writers
I'm interested in reading your memoirs, for review.
If you're planning to write an autobiography or memoir, you'll want to read as many as possible to get a good grasp of what is expected in the genre. I'm also starting to review autobiographies and memoirs at my new site, Activated Memories. If you have written a memoir you would like for me to review, please contact me there.
What are your favorite autobiographies and memoirs? I'd love to know!