Reading Memoir + Recommendations

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Some recommendations for how to get into memoir and autobiographies, and where to begin!

Book Recommendations
The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
On Writing by Stephen King
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
Just Kids by Patti Smith
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Truth in Memoir:
Favorite Memoirs (Will be updated in 2015):
Favorite Memoirs by Comedians:

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Climb The Stacks is a video series and blog dedicated to literature, featuring reviews and analysis of literary fiction, classic literature, and memoir.


Rachel Marshall says:

I really love memoirs – it feels so authentic and interesting. Very engaging genre of book. My Thirteenth Winter was one of my favorites! It's about a young girl who suffers from dyscalculia.

Hom ogénero says:

Thank you for sharing your knowledge about reading a Memoir. I am writing an essay about Trevor Noah's memoir "Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood" (2019 adapted for Young Readers). I was doing a search about G. Thomas Couser and this guided me to your informative priceless youtube video today. My mother tongue language is Nicaraguan Spanish. Regards,

Joseph Larson says:

Memoir is written by the person who experienced their life. Autobiography is written ABOUT someone, often famous (like past presidents/political figures/deceased celebrities, etc.). Memoirs sometimes have an actual writer who works with the person to produce the work, if the person doesn't feel they can't express their experiences well via writing.

Gemüsefreund26 says:

Have you read Stefan Zweig’s autobiography? I highly recommend it.

Shala Avans says:

The first memoir I ever read was Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso. It was difficult to read at times because the content was about the authors relationship with a pedophile when she was a child but at the same time I couldn't put it down. It is really eye opening about how children coming from dysfunctional homes are easy targets for pedophiles.

Tobias Carvalho says:

I really recommend Things the Grandchildren Should Know, a music memoir by Eels-frontman Mark Oliver Everett. You don't have to know the band (though I listened to it for a month after reading the book). It's a great memoir on love and loss, suicide and addiction.

Zuleyka Malave says:

I remember things from childhood and when I speak to my mother their accurate my husband is 10 years older and he said the older you get the more you recall and remember!

Geno Garcia says:

I've been on a memoir reading spree the last year or so, I'm super glad I found your channel!

Diego C. Estrada says:

I loved "The Invention of Solitude" by Paul Auster… It's amazing!

Suzie Wonder says:

I wish you would get to the books without talking soo much about your opinions that may not be important to your audience! Man you talk way too much!

Alia says:

Favorite autobiographies: J. S. Mill and Theodore Roosevelt.

Shawdi R says:

Persepolis was one I had read because my family is Iranian and I felt a deep connection to the book. My mom's side of the family left Iran right before the revolution, and my dad left after the Iran Iraq war so I have these two very different narratives to the same historical event. Marjan's story is very relatable though, because it is from a child's point of view so things are definitely simplified but in a way that doesn't blur the reality of the situation but rather unites many people's memories in a way that feels familiar. For instance, the scenes with her family were especially touching for me. Small things like her grandmother soaking her breasts in cold ice water with jasmines(?) to keep them perky. I thought that was a hilarious touch in an otherwise dark succession of events.

Ying Ying Shi says:

It feels like everyone could fall in love with your videos and book recommendations 🙂 Please keep on!

crazykenna says:

I would actually read Persepolis, and follow it with Reading Lolita in Tehran and also possibly Handmaids Tale (that book isn't a memoir but it was written around the time of the Iranian Revolution and it is just such a good companion in themes).

yafictionfreaks says:

You should check out "The Middle Place" by Kelli Corrigan. It is the first Memoir I read and was so surprised how much I loved it. I tend to stay away from sad subjects but saw the author interviewed and decided to try it. It's about a women who struggles with breast cancer.

Paint It Golden says:

Sickened: The True Story of a Lost Childhood by Julie Gregory 
I had to read this memoir for my english class and greatly enjoyed it. Definitely recommend!

IchBinDerVerlorene says:

If you've read a few mental health memoirs, I'd love to hear your opinions on them. It never occurred to me that there might be such a sub-genre. Sounds v. interesting to read about life from the perspective of someone who might experience the world very differently from the average person.

Rose Reads says:

Amazing recommendations! I discovered memoirs only last year and I've been playing catch up since. I would add Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit to that list – such an interesting fictionalised memoir and beautifully written as well

Stephanie D says:

An Unquiet Mind sounds so interesting, especially because I'm a psychology major. I read Daughter of the Queen of Sheba by Jacki Lyden which was very interesting, it was about how her mother had bi-polar disorder and growing up with her and how the family dealt with it

steakuccino says:

My absolute favorite memoirs are audiobooks of comedians' memoirs read by the authors. Why would anyone want to listen to someone else tell a person's story if that person is available to narrate? I have no idea. I find stories of people's lives gain so much more when told in their own voices. I would strongly recommend Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk with Me which, in addition to being hilarious, is also poignant and touching (in particular his discussion of his relationship with his mother). 

PaSTORY Time says:

I love memoir too, and adored just kids. Some recent memoirs I've enjoyed are fairyland by alysia Abbott, my Salinger year by joanna rakoff, and a short life of trouble by marcia tucker.
Happy holidays!

Kathleen Ann says:

Just Kids…

Kathleen Ann says:

I love On Writing by King. You've given me many other ideas for memoirs. I've been wanting to read just kids for awhile now.

leena norms says:

Loved this. Would love to read more memoir in 2015, really agree with all your points on the difference between memoir and autobio. Brilliantly assembled video! 🙂 my fave memoir is Definitely An Exclusive Love by . Joanne … Somebody 😉 xxx

BooksBooksBookss says:

I love memoir! This was a really great video explaining the genre and how to approach it. One thing I will say, though, is that while I agree that it's possible to enjoy a memoir that deals with actions you, as the reader, may not morally agree with (I actually think having to wrestle with your own beliefs makes the experience more meaningful), I don't think there is anything wrong with disliking a memoir because of ethical/moral choices involved (there are certain topics I find thoroughly unenjoyable), as long as you recognize your own bias and can realize your reaction doesn't inherently reflect badly on the work.

TimeAndChance says:

What are some classic memoirs written pre-1920? What do you think of Tolkien's attitude regarding his own memoirs: 'My written works are my memoirs'? How much sifting of the truth must one do when reading memoirs of a guy like NAZI Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbles (I realize this is an extreme case, but still relevant to historians etc.)?

Manki W says:

Thanks for this video! Memoir is one of my favorite genre too. Many of your recommendations were on my list already. Can't wait to see what you recommend in 2015!

NatalieSue25 says:

We already spoke about this on Twitter but I highly recommended Julia Alvarez's memoir in essays. I'm moving onto Allende's soon. Now that I know you have a fancy for the genre I will let you know if its worth a read. Wonderful video!

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