Searching for the perfect book can be difficult. There are so many different authors to choose from, and so many genres to decide on! Memoirs are a great resource to use when you want to learn about the lives of others and the lessons that they have learned. Here are eight memoirs that you should definitely read this summer!
1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
If you are in the mood for an inspiring memoir, then this is the one for you! Strayed reflects on her time spent hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995. While commenting on the intense physicality of this task, she also describes her experiences of abusing drugs, and the grief she felt after losing a family member close to her heart. This is ultimately a memoir about self-discovery, and we are all here for it.
2. This Boy’s Life: A Memoir by Tobias Wolff
Readers who possess a fascination with 1950s America will love this memoir. Wolff reflects on his difficult childhood as his mother, Rosemary, forms an abusive relationship with Dwight Hansen. Filled with boyish imagination, images of the American dream, and maturity, this memoir will leave you thinking about your own actions, relationships and positions in society.
3. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Good books that focus on mental illness are sometimes hard to come by. This memoir focuses on Kaysen’s time spent in a psychiatric hospital during the 1960s. Following a non-linear plot, Kaysen explores her time being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Syndrome, the women she met in the hospital, and her time spent out in the real world. With some appalling descriptions about the influence of the mind over the body, you’ll be left feeling shocked and more prepared to accept those who have it tougher in this world.
4. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
Praised for her experimental non-fiction prose, Maggie Nelson’s memoir is definitely worth a try! If you’re interested in gender and non-binary identities, then this book is perfect for you! Nelson isn’t afraid to critique social beauty standards and norms, and occasionally ponders death in this piece of writing. This is an intriguing and insightful work that is worth the read.
5. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
Though a little older than the other works that we have mentioned, this memoir still stands powerfully on our shelves. If the ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor is of any interest to you, then you will appreciate Orwell’s discussions of poverty in, you guessed it, both Paris and London. While exploring his encounters and the interesting characters he meets during his travels, Orwell also teaches us about the availability of work in these cities, and what happens to the body and mind as one lives alone in destitution.
6. Lucky by Alice Sebold
If you like The Lovely Bones, then you’ll be fascinated by this memoir. In fact, the former novel is actually based on Sebold’s experiences. Authorities informed Sebold that, where she was raped, another girl had been murdered. Her memoir focuses on her horrific experiences with her rapist, the misfortunes which befall her friends, and how her ideas eventually came to form her later novel. This memoir speaks out against sexual assault and abuse and urges us to take greater action against it.
7. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Memoirs are often grisly. This is because they are not afraid to reveal the dark truths of human nature. Walls opens up about her childhood, and the abusive parenting and schoolyard relationships that she encountered. Her blatant descriptions of poverty, alcohol addiction and her mother’s depression create a devastating, albeit insightful, literary work.
8. Night by Elie Wiesel
If you’re looking for a memoir that focuses on historical events, then you should give Wiesel’s work a read. Here, Wiesel recounts his experiences as a Jewish man imprisoned in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps with his father during 1944-1945. He expands on themes of human brutality, family and fear. Though solemn, this work is incredibly moving and definitely worth your time this summer.
Do you have any favourite memoirs? Comment your recommendations below!
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Creative writing major at the University of Melbourne! One of the few arts kids drinking coffee instead of tea. Slowly crying my way through Ulysses.