Your Favorite Memoirs

February 14, 2014 @ 10:09 am | Filed under:


My Helene Hanff kick (about which more later) continues—after Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, I tore through Q’s Legacy, and yesterday when Underfoot in Show Business arrived via interlibrary loan, I squealed and quit work half an hour early to dive in. This binge got me thinking about how much I enjoy memoir. I asked my Facebook friends what their favorites are, and the list could swallow a whole year of reading time. I think you should be able to view it even if you aren’t on Facebook—or does FB make you log in to read anything there, even the public threads?

I’ll try to get the list moved over here at some point, but I’m afraid I won’t have any free time until I’ve finished reading  Underfoot. Oh Helene, Helene, I wish you’d written thirty memoirs.


Wait! I realized I could just paste in the thread. But then I worried my friends might not want their names and faces plastered on my blog, so I’ve stripped out everything except the book comments. Forgive the lack of formatting!

Please add your own favorites in the comments! I have a few to contribute too, later. And happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.


Gladys Taber’s Stillmeadow Books.

Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place

Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl

The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls

Someone already said Glass Castle, so I’ll throw in A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel.

Any of Caroline Knapp’s.

Seven Storey Mountain

Glass Castle for me too.

Like all of the above but Glass Castle, hands down not only my favorite memoir but a favorite book of all time.

I really liked Rumer Godden’s– and I’m on a Godden kick this week– A Time To Dance, No Time To Weep is the first volume and A House with Four Rooms is the second.

The Egg and I by . . . Betty MacDonald, I think?

Beyond Dark Hills Jesse Stuart

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior

My favorite genre,so hard to pick. Ambulance Girl, Glass Castle, On Gold Mountain , any Annie LaMott, Helen Hanff, Florence King, Alexandra Fuller, Thunderbolt Kid, any Mitford,Quentin Crisp, Christopher Isherwood …..

Glass Castle.

Good call on Betty MacDonald and Florence King. Add Shirley Jackson (Life Among the Savages) to that list.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

I liked The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong (think you’d really like it) and I like Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, too.

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

Nancy and Lawrence Goldstone’s Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World (one of my favorites and since you like 84, Charing Cross Road you might enjoy this one).

I loved Sidney Poitier’s Measure of a Man.

It’s Always Something by Gilda Radner.

Angela’s Ashes

Period Piece, Raverat

An American Childhood by Annie Dillard

Love all Gladys Faber, and Anne Morrow Linbergh. And for comic fun, Bill Bryson’s Walk in the Woods!

Anything by Nancy Mitford.

Not So Wild A Dream by Eric Sevareid. Brilliantly written.

Not Even Wrong by Paul Collins. The only “autism memoir” I love. He is amazing.

I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but The Glass Castle has stuck with me.

The Girl From Yam Hill

A Private History of Awe by Scott Russell Sanders

I’ve been meaning to read WILD forever now and I always loved IN PATAGONIA by Bruce Chatwin–which is maybe more travelogue than memoir–but it has stayed with me.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson is just so funny and learning about Australia is fascinating.

The Middle Place. Or any of Anne Lamotts.

The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven. But I haven’t read many.

O I love this! I’m so into memoirs recently, I love to hear people telling their stories. What a great resource this list is. I hate to have to choose a favorite anything, but let me add from recent reading Journal of Best Practices. I don’t think I saw Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage on this list yet, which I’m thinking might have been your recommendation.

I’m crazy about memoirs. Our book club read “Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio:How My Mother Raised 10 Children on 25 Words or Less” a few years ago. It’s still one of my top favorites. My least fave….A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates.

So hard to pick just one. Of course I loved Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle….

Katherine Graham: Personal History

So many! But Drinking: A Love Story, by Caroline Knapp, is up there.

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14 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Jenny says:

    I am just reading “Bring on the Girls” by PG Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, about their experiences writing Broadway musicals in the 1920s. Loving it!

    I remember loving Jean Kerr’s books about her family.

    “Cheaper By the Dozen” and “Belles on their Toes” by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth get reread every so often.

    For a new one, “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson (be aware, salty language) was a keeper.

  2. Penny says:

    I like essays, such as EB White’s “One Man’s Meat”, or any of Noel Perrin’s books of essays “First Person Rural, Second Person Rural:, .” etc.

    I also liked Cheaper by the Dozen, and I Remember Mama.

    Great list – I will be bringing it to the local library for sure! Thanks 🙂

  3. Bethany says:

    One of my favorites is _An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination_
    by Elizabeth McCracken

  4. Dianna says:

    I like family memoirs: Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on the Toes by Frank Gilbreth Jr. Also The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers by Maria Von Trapp. So funny, all of them! I also loved Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires, in which she dresses up in disguises to review restaurants. Again, funny, but I also love the food descriptions and insights into human nature.

  5. Anne says:

    My favorite genre!!!

    I also loved Jean Kerr’s books!

    Loosely related to those are Karen, and With Love From Karen by Marie Killilea. (They were neighbors and friends of the Kerrs.)

    Ruth, a Portrait by Patricia Cornwell. This is a fabulous biography of Ruth Bell Graham, made more interesting because Patricia Cornwell was a friend of Ruth’s but not a professing Christian.

    Maria, and The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp.

    Fear No Evil, by Natan Sharansky (Russian dissident)

    A Midwife’s Story, by Penny Armstrong (Midwife to the Amish)

    Evidence Not Seen, by Denise Deibler Rose (Missionary in Indonesia during WWII)

    Prague Winter, by Madeleine Albright (Part bio, part history of Czechoslovakia during WWII)

    Who Gets the Drumstick, by Helen Beardsley (Mother/stepmother to 19, movie Yours, Mine, and Ours was based on this book–but the book is so much better!)

    My Life in France, by Julia Child

    In the Presence of My Enemies, by Gracia Burnham (Missionary to the Philippines, kidnapped by terrorists along with her husband)

    Safe Passage, by Ida Cook (Two opera-mad sisters found a way to help several dozen Jews get out of Europe before WWII)

    The Family Nobody Wanted, by Helen Doss (Family adopts 12 children)

    Barbara Bush, by Barbara Bush. No matter what your politics, she just has a great sense of humor.

    Papa Married a Mormon, by John Fitzgerald. (Author of the Great Brain series for children. This is such a great read. Have read it over and over again for years.)

  6. Ellie says:

    Amazing how many of these i’ve read and loved!

    Madeleine L’Engle’s Summer of the Great-Grandmother is probably my favorite of all her memoirs — though I own them all and have reread them to pieces.

    Rumer Godden’s memoirs are not to be missed!

    Recently, have very much enjoyed Jennifer Worth’s Call the Midwife trilogy. So very well written, quite gripping.

  7. Leah H says:

    Loved Cheaper by the Dozen and Maria Von Trapp. Just finished The Way of Duty by Richard and Joy Buel. Fascinating story of a remarkable woman who lived in Revolutionary America.

  8. Kirsten says:

    One I love that hasn’t been mentioned yet is Rocket Boys by Homer Hickham Jr. I loved it and think it should be required reading for all teenage boys.

  9. katiewondergirl says:

    The Shape of the Eye by the poet George Estreich.

  10. mamacrow says:

    Joyce Grenfell’s autiobiographies – Requests the pleasure, and In Pleasant Places. Wonderful. Also Agatha Christie’s autobiography.

  11. Kathryn says:

    Ooh, yes! Joyce Grenfell! I think you would love Elizabeth Goudge’s autobiography, The Joy of the Snow, and I don’t think anyone has mentioned Gerald Durrell or James Herriot.

  12. Elizabeth Virdon says:

    Oh. My. Goodness.

    Do you KNOW how many of these books we have in common? 🙂