I am nosy and I love learning about the lives of others—partly because it makes me feel more normal. Reading about other people is one of the more socially acceptable ways to learn about the idiosyncrasies and sordid histories of real people. Generally, I can’t get behind biographies, autobiographies, let alone any other type of nonfiction. But stick a well-written memoir in my hands, and I’m hooked from beginning to end.
Because memoirs are artistic retellings of a life, they are more narrative and have more of a story structure than other nonfiction genres. According to Wikipedia, “Memoirs are structured differently from formal autobiographies (which tend to encompass the writer’s entire life span), focusing rather on the development of his or her personality… [The memoir] is therefore more focused and flexible than the traditional arc of birth to old age as found in an autobiography.”
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
This book documents the author’s childhood with an alcoholic father and unattentive mother. Under these circumstances, Walls and her siblings were forced to fend for themselves, providing their own food, shelter and clothing–even if it meant picking through dumpsters.
The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
In this book, Rodriguez shares her experience growing up in the shadow of low expectations, reveals how she was able to fake her own pregnancy, and reveals all that she learned from the experience. Stereotypes, and how one girl found the strength to come out from the shadow of low expectations to forge a bright future for herself.
America’s Boy: A Memoir by Wade Rouse
Born in 1965 into a small town in the heartland of America, Wade Rouse didn’t quite fit in. He struggles with his own identity through the loss of a brother and the traumas of being different.
Breaking Night by Liz Murray
The memoir of a young woman who at age 15 was living on the streets but survived to make it to Harvard.