Book picks: Memoirs to get you thinking

memoirheader2I love a good story. If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time you’ve probably already picked up on that. Recently I’ve discovered a new (to me) genre of storytelling that I find just delightful. Memoirs are nothing new, in fact they may be the oldest form of storytelling there is, but I’ve noticed a new trend where a writer reflects on a specific time frame, usually a year, or a certain event in their life. Often there is some sort of challenge attached – My Year of…fill in the blank. I am fascinated by these kinds of stories, even if I would never attempt to live like they do, because it’s just so interesting to read how others live their actual lives. If you think you’d like to give this genre a try, here are a few memoirs to get you started:

  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubinmemoir1
  • Rubin is a master researcher and data collector, and she presents her findings in story-form. I read her book Better than Before which was about habit formation, and found it so applicable, I was eager to pick up this earlier work. The Happiness Project is just what it sounds like. Rubin takes a year to put her research on happiness into practice by applying everything she’s learned to her own life. She tackles a different area each month, such as marriage, parenting, work, fun, etc. It’s so interesting to read how applying all her heavy research actually makes her happier. Or not. Because not everything works. Since I am trying to be more intentional about staying present in the day to day and truly owning my life, rather than searching for distraction from it, I found Gretchen’s experiences to be very compelling.
  • Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoymemoir2In this gentle, poetic memoir Purifoy tells the story of her family’s first year of living in a centuries-old farmhouse. They wanted to build a simpler life and dreamed of connecting more with nature and their neighbors. Christie is so vulnerable and transparent as she describes returning from working abroad as missionaries, her struggle with infertility and postpartum depression, and what happens when your dream coming true doesn’t exactly feel like you thought it would. Her story struck many familiar chords in my heart, and I loved how she fit her tale to the rhythm of the seasons. It was also fun living vicariously through her in a creaky old farmhouse, but not actually having to do all the work associated with such a huge project. 😉

I am very familiar with L’Ingle’s fiction writing but I hadn’t heard of this memoir until Anne recommended it on her blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. This glimpse into the mental process and raw, real feelings of a master writer was absolutely fascinating. L’Ingle tells the story of moving from Manhattan to a tiny town and huge old house (I’m seeing a pattern here) where her husband gives up his successful career in theater to run the town grocery store. (!!) She relates the heartbreak of having her story rejected (A Wrinkle in Time was sent back for years before a publisher finally took a chance on it) and describes a bit of what it’s like to be a writer of her caliber and run in high-brow literary circles (it’s not exactly what you’d think). She even relates her spiritual struggles and doubts, but how she just can’t give up on her faith. It felt like such a privilege to see inside her private world, and though in some places it got a bit esoteric and convoluted, in the end I felt a little bit like Madeline and I could be friends.

What Falls from the Sky by Esther Emerymemoir4This definitely fits under the “year challenge” category. Emery chronicles her almost spur of the moment decision to go for a year without using the internet. What she learned was completely unexpected, both to her and to me as the reader. Emery had been on the fast track to the top of her field when she went off the road both literally and figuratively and was forced to re-evaluate her entire existence. She speaks of brokenness and healing in her marriage and motherhood, and how giving up the internet led her eventually to reclaim the faith she had lost in childhood. Although some of her conclusions were pretty radical, I definitely resonated with wanting to pull back from being so influenced by the on-line world. This story is challenging and thought-provoking, and prompts a necessary conversation as we become more and more immersed in this digital age.

  • Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Grahammemoir5Let’s end on a lighter note. If you are a Gilmore Girls fan you already recognize the author as the actress who played Lorelei, the mother in the mother/daughter duo. In this memoir she recounts what it was like to start out as an actress, how she landed the role she felt she was made to play, what happened when the series ended without its’ creator and writing team, and what it was like to revisit the character she had loved and played so well. I’m a total GG junky, having watched the show back when we had to wait a week between episodes and months between seasons! I binged my favorite episodes before the four-part sequel came out, then two of my girlfriends and I had the ultimate watch party and finished all four parts in one sitting. I had some mixed feelings about the sequel, but on the whole it was so delightful to watch the characters that I had know for years as though their lives as moved on just as mine had. This story was a wonderful companion to my Gilmore Girls fandom, but even if you’re not a GG fan, Graham is a surprisingly fun and interesting writer that is worth reading.

You’re turn! Have you read any memoirs or “my year of” books that you think I’d enjoy? Please share!

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