5 Favorite Memoirs

Monday, February 25, 2019

This may just be my favorite genre.  When someone asks for a book recommendation, my mind almost always goes here first.  I love memoirs for many reasons.  They're an intimate look into a life and way of living that is often so different than my own, they broaden my perspective, the stories are often inspiring and always thought provoking.  And they're true; fiction can't hold a handle to reality.  Here are a few of my favorites.

1.  All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg.  This is a tribute to the power of motherly love and selflessness, the burdens of poverty and hate, hardship and  achieving success.  Part memoir and part confession, this book has it all.  Bragg is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who tells the story of his life, the mother who sacrificed everything to give it to him, and how he finally thanks her.

2.  When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  This is one of the most reflective, moving and beautifully written memoirs I have ever read.   A brilliant neurosurgeon with the world at his feet, Kalanithi is unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.  After a life of moving relentlessly forward, with clear and single purpose, he is forced to stop and question what makes life worth living in the face of death.  His observations are poignant and inspiring, this book is a wonder.

3.  Educated by Tara Westover.  I have recommended this book dozens of times and it is universally loved.  Westover has such a compelling story to share and a true gift for sharing it.  A must read.

4.  The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to his White Mother by James McBride.  The son of a black minister father and white Polish immigrant mother and one of 12 children, McBride had anything but a typical childhood.  While grappling with his race and identify, his mother taught him that "God is the color of water."   McBride doesn't sugarcoat the struggles and shortcomings of his life, and his honesty makes you cheer for him all the more as he achieves personal and professional success. Another stunning tribute to the strength and impact of mothers.

5. Expecting Adam by Martha Beck.  When Beck unexpectedly becomes pregnant with her second child, in the midst of her grueling academic endeavors at Harvard, her well planned life is thrown into chaos.  When she and her husband discover that their future son has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome, the core of who they are and what they believe is shaken as they struggle to come to terms and move forward.  Equal parts heart wrenching and hilarious, Beck is a gifted writer and I love this story.


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