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Need Help Finding Inspiration for Writing Your Memoir? Read These Books!

Here are some recommendations for memoirs to read

By Audrey Quinn

Do you want to write your own memoir but can’t seem to figure out how to start? Or are you struggling to find a common theme to pull what you’ve written so far together? 

Take a break from writing and dive into some excellent examples of memoir writing by picking up one of our top-recommended books below!

Five Must-Read Memoirs

Through the Groves by Anne Hull

Anne Hull is a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist for her work at The Washington Post chronicling the horrifying abuse and neglect veterans suffered at Walter Reed Hospital, which contributed to national reforms of veterans’ healthcare.

She’s also a gay woman who grew up in Central Florida in the 1960s. 

Through the Groves is her first memoir, and it’s rich with imagery and stories so vivid and visceral you may need to set the book down and blink a few times to get your bearings (as I certainly did). 

I personally read Hull’s book in two days, and highly recommend it. It weaves an incredible picture of her and her family, their struggles with her father’s alcoholism, and how all of this is happening as Florida itself is being paved over, bulldozed, and permanently altered each decade that passes. 

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Thi Bui is a Vietnamese-American graphic novelist and illustrator. 

Her memoir, The Best We Could Do, is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel chronicling her parents’ journey to the United States, parenthood, her and her family’s experiences as immigrants, and particularly motherhood, both Thi’s own and her own mother’s. 

I highly recommend her book. Like Through the Groves, this was another one I could not stop reading once I started. The ending has one of my favorite scenes: it’s Thi watching her son play in the water, and thinking the words to herself “And I think maybe he can be free.”

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

Sarah M. Broom is an American writer from New Orleans. Her memoir, The Yellow House, chronicles her family’s history over the past 100 years in New Orleans East, leading up to the eventual destruction of her childhood home during Hurricane Katrina. 

Her incredibly personal book also covers broad themes of race, class, and inequality, in New Orleans and the United States as a whole. 

Unlike the previous two books, I haven’t read Broom’s memoir (yet!) but it’s received numerous praise and awards, including the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2019. 

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher is best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, but she was also an activist, particularly relating to mental health causes (she was openly Bipolar and struggled with addiction). 

Interestingly, her memoir Wishful Drinking was adapted from Fisher’s one-woman Broadway show of the same name! Wishful Drinking is a fairly short memoir at just 176 pages, but it packs a punch. 

Fisher mixes humor with grim truths to chronicle what it was like to be thrust into the Hollywood limelight as a teenager, as well as deal with relationship woes, substance abuse, and heartbreak of all shapes and sizes. 

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers is an American writer, as well as a philanthropist: along with writing his best-selling memoir and founding the literary journal Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Eggers co-founded the literacy project 826 Valencia, the human rights group Voice of Witness, and founded ScholarMatch (an organization which pairs donors with college students who cannot afford tuition). 

Eggers’ memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, deals with Eggers’ sudden orphaning when both of his parents die from cancer in his early 20s. Eggers takes stewardship of his little brother, Toph, and the book follows his struggle to wear both hats of “parent” and “sibling,” whilst dealing with his own life as a young adult. 

I also haven’t read this memoir, but came across it during research for this blog post and wanted to include it here because it sounds incredible. Reviewers have said that Eggers’ style of writing is most similar to prose and stream-of-consciousness in his memoir, which gives it a unique voice and is probably one of the reasons it is now on the New York Times bestsellers list!

Hopefully one of these stunning works of nonfiction will awaken your own memoir-writing spark! Whatever your story is, remember that it is YOURS and you alone can tell it.

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