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The memoir has blossomed in popularity for many reasons, starting with the changing nature of the fiction and the fact that everyone has a story to tell. As a result, hundreds of memoirs that deserve to make this list didn’t, simply because of space. From tomes written by former presidents (The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant) to pioneers of the punk rock movement (Just Kids by Patti Smith), there is an abundant source of must-read memoirs that could fill many libraries.
Here is a list of some of the best recent memoirs that you won’t want to miss.
A recent, extraordinary work, Bettyville is the story of how Hodgman, a veteran magazine and book editor leaves his home in New York City to care for his mother (the titular Betty) in small-town Missouri as she begins to fall into the throes of dementia. An underlying issue in the book is that Hodgman is gay, which his mom has never quite acknowledged. Touching and enjoyable on every page as well as acutely funny, this is one of my favorite nonfiction reads of the past several years.
Let Me Finish, by Roger Angell
For many decades, Roger Angell has written for and worked as an editor at The New Yorker, where he’s essentially royalty (due to his long tenure with the magazine and as the son of Katharine White and the stepson of E.B. White). These personal, perfectly written essays reflect on multiple themes and characters that have come up in his very long life, in a way that lights up every page.
Tony Horwitz, one of the best nonfiction writers of our time, died suddenly just in May, leaving behind an amazing output. Confederates in the Attic is the book that brought him national attention, and deservedly so. In this book, which is philosophical, disturbing, and relentlessly funny, Horwitz explores the remnants of the civil war as remembered, imagined, and, famously, reenacted–across the American South.
Mary Karr’s first memoir is the story of an astoundingly dysfunctional Texas family–is a whole lot funnier than that description may sounds. As a bonus, since coming under the spell of Karr’s rollicking memoir may tempt you to write your own, Karr will teach you precisely how to do so (as well as some reasons you might not want to) in her latest book, The Art of Memoir.
Don’t Let’s Don’t Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
Extraordinary tales of a one-of-a-kind childhood in southern Africa, full of hardship (repeated bouts of malaria are nearly a punchline in Fuller’s absurdly stoic family), an unbelievable amount of drinking (the family refers to themselves once as “Alcoholics Unanimous”), violence (between the white settlers, including Fuller’s father, and the black guerrillas) and an astonishing amount of humor. The sequels are also a delight to read.
Time on Fire: My Comedy of Terrors by Evan Handler
Based on Evan Handler’s off-Broadway play, this is the most engaging-yet-harrowing memoir you’ll read of one person’s brutal, even torturous, experiences at the hands of one of New York’s most famous cancer hospitals. Handler, one of today’s distinctive character actors (if you didn’t love him in Californication, you’ll recognize him as the bald guy who married Charlotte on Sex and the City), pulls no punches in describing what he was put through as a 24-year-old with a rare and hard to treat cancer: acute myeloid leukemia.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
By all rights, these memoirs of extraordinary hardship in Ireland and New York should be dreary and depressing, but the good humor and level head of the author make all this misery not just readable but uplifting. (His ear for dialogue and lively use of the present tense help as well.) That Frank McCourt can recall so much with such precision, down to the names and nicknames of almost every character he’s met since toddlerhood, may strike some readers as unbelievable, but I’ve been a believer ever since I spotted this article by a former student of his confirming McCourt’s photographic memory). And if you love Angela’s Ashes, McCourt also published two sequels: ‘Tis and Teacher Man.
Family Man by Calvin Trillin
Calvin Trillin’s Family Man, a slender volume brimming with warmth and humor, is my favorite book written about parenthood. (His Alice, Let’s Eat is also my favorite book about food.) Both are the work of the brilliant, longtime New Yorker writer equally beloved for his use of language, his sense of humor, and the gentle descriptions he provides of his life and culinary adventures with his beloved wife Alice and their two daughters in and outside of their Greenwich Village home.
July 7, 2019 at 04:02PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs