Memoir is truly one of my favorite genres. There’s something about reading a story, getting lost in it, and then remembering, “this is someone’s real life!” I’ve read lots of memoirs, true stories and biographies, and I summed up my top 5 favorites below. This post contains Amazon affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase using one of these links, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a small commission to help support this blog.
If you haven’t read Jeanette Walls excruciatingly honest memoir, you should! I read it years ago and recommend it as often as I can, especially to high school students. Walls story is sad at times, but ultimately, it’s hopeful because her story shows us how you create the life you want to live. Not only is it a page turner, but it’s one that will leave you ruminating about it for a long time.
Side note: I also loved her other book about her maternal grandmother, Half Broke Horses. (But read The Glass Castle first!)
Okay, technically this one isn’t a memoir because it was written by Laura Hillenbrand about Louis Zamperini’s life, but it is so well done. (You guys have all read this one, right?) It’s a story of survival and courage. There’s a reason they call these World War II heroes the “greatest generation.” It’s a story about faith and forgiveness and redemption. Even if you saw the movie, (which was good- not amazing- but good) trust me, you HAVE to read this. I also loved how this was about World War 2 on the Pacific and Japanese front instead of the European front.
In addition, there’s a young adult adaptation that I used when I was teaching high school. It’s perfect for middle and high schoolers. It includes historical pictures, gets right to the point, and takes out some of the more sensitive subject matter. However, it leaves out some of the details I found most interesting, as well as most of the beautiful redemption story at the end. Here’s a link to the YA adaptation if it’s something you want to read with your kids.
I read this book when several friends and acquaintances were trying to understand their children’s autism diagnosis. This narrative memoir is a fascinating insight into the way that Robison views the world as someone with Asperger’s syndrome. Several of the stories from this book have stuck with me as an important reminder that some people process events entirely differently from me, but we share common human desires and emotions.
Jacques Lusseyran writes his story of being a young boy in France who loses his sight in a freak accident, but never felt sorry for himself. He simply said that he always saw light, even after his blindness. When he closed his eyes, he would be consumed by what he describes as, “A light so continuous and so intense was so far beyond my comprehension that sometimes I doubted it.” This light would become his moral compass, and would later lead him to use his unique people-reading skills in the French Resistance. This book will restore your faith in humanity and believe in the innate goodness that we all come to earth with.
Side note: I read All the Light we Cannot See before reading this book and later found out that a lot of the inspiration for the young French blind girl in that book was Jacques Lusseyran.
I didn’t read this until 2016 and it really was life changing for me. A couple ideas really resonated with me, and caused me to become more intentional about self-knowledge and my own happiness. My key take away from the book was that intentionally working on your own happiness isn’t selfish. Being your happiest YOU makes your family and the world happier.
Gretchen explains her deep research into the subject of happiness, and then candidly shares her own personal experiences applying different principles. I’ve become a “Gretchen” fan. I listen to her podcast and have read several other of her books. My second favorite book of hers, Better than Before is all about creating better habits.
Happy Reading! I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these, or if you have any great memoirs you’d add to the list.