You may have noticed an explosion in the publication of memoirs these past few years. Someone likes to write about his living experiments; someone else had an incredibly miserable childhood; or maybe someone just has a really funny personal blog. Well, I, for one, am thrilled with this trend! Whether it’s an opportunity to imagine a parallel life for myself, a way to learn from someone else’s experience, or a reminder of all that we humans have in common, I actually can’t stop reading these memoirs, nor do I want to.
I am currently reading Fit2 Fat 2Fit: The Unexpected Lessons from Gaining and Losing 75 Lbs. on Purpose, by Drew Manning, in which he describes his experience as a personal trainer who really wanted to understand where his clients were coming from when they struggled to lose weight or get in shape. It definitely falls in the category of wanting to learn from someone else’s experience, since I don’t want to try it myself!
Last week I read A Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure, by Rachel Friedman. Since college, I have played with the idea of traveling or living in another country on a grand adventure that would shake me out of my day to day habits and struggles. With this book, I could find out what another rule-following, by-the-book-living young woman experienced when she did just that.
Before that one, I read the story of a woman whose doctor did not detect her pregnancy – even after she listed all the classic symptoms – and who finally found out she was pregnant after she was six months along. Alice Eve Cohen’s What I Thought I Knew is both fascinating and appalling, and was another memoir I couldn’t put down.
A few months ago, I had to return and re-reserve Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Roads with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan, by Max Alexander, which chronicles the many ups and downs of building a sustainable, profitable, and useful battery business in Ghana. I usually give up on a book I can’t finish in three weeks, but I had to know how they fared as they doggedly pursued this dream.
I also went through a period of how-i-survived-hideous-illness-or-injury memoirs, including Learning To Breathe: One Woman’s Journey of Spirit and Survival, about Alison Wright’s near-death experience in a bus crash in Laos (as well as her many other adventures as a globe-trotting photojournalist) and My Life, Deleted, by Scott Bolzan, who lost his memory after falling and hitting his head on the bathroom floor. The best of those, though, was My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. This woman becomes a brain scientist twice! Talk about inspiring…
And then there are the spiritual memoirs, my absolute favorites:
Mary Pipher’s Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World tells the story of what happened after her book, Reviving Ophelia, became a surprise bestseller. Donald Miller decides to make a great story of his life in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion, by Sara Miles, describes her conversion experience of taking communion and follows it by leading her church to start a food bank. And of course, anything by Anne Lamott. I just started The Accidental Buddhist: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still, by Dinty W. Moore, and I’m looking forward to chapters like “Just Sitting: I Obsess a Lot, and Then I Get Distracted” and “Buddha Bug, Buddha Being: You Are What You Eat.”
What I can resist, for some reason, are celebrity memoirs or war memoirs. I’m just picky that way, although I’m sure I would make exceptions (Bossypants, for example, is one I’m tempted by, but haven’t tried yet). How about you? Are you a memoir fan? Have any suggestions or favorites? I could go on and on, but now it’s your turn.