2008 Year In Review ~ Memoirs

Memoir – As a literary genre, a memoir (from the French: mémoire from the Latin memoria, meaning “memory”), or a reminiscence, forms a subclass of autobiography
– although the terms ‘memoir’ and ‘autobiography’ are today almost
interchangeable. The author of a memoir may be referred to as a
memoirist. -Wikipedia

have read quite a few memoirs this year, about a tenth of the books I’ve read can be counted as such.  Right now I am reading
Wife In The North
by Judith O’Reilly which will be number 10.  I’m having a hard time getting into this last one and I don’t know if it’s because I was expecting it to go in a much different direction than what’s been written so far, or if I am just burnt out on the genre I hadn’t read extensively before this year.  

I have read some amazing stories about fascinating and heartbreaking life events (relatives lost at sea, stillborn first children, bi-polar disorder, and midwives living in restrictive communities), and most have been articulate, engaging and well-written.  Something about memoirs is elusive to me.  I enjoy reading them, yet I don’t know if the form is one that I can fully embrace. They are essentially a less formal version of  autobiography, and more specific by nature in that they can concentrate solely on a particular time or events, but somehow I feel more distance from memoirs than with other forms of non-fiction.  I’m not even sure that all I just said is true.  The definite thing  I know is that even though I have read some really good ones, I am still working through how I feel about them.

All that being said Monique and the Mango Rains is a must read.  So good. Loved! It’s really quite excellent.


An Exact Replica of A Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
An Unquiet Mind by Kaye Redfield Jamison
The Black Notebooks by Toi Dericotte
The Bookmaker by Michael J. Agovino
bone black by bell hooks
Home Girl by Judith Matloff
Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg
Lost by Cathy Ostlere
Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway


I would try and do a year in review post, but it would be too long and
I am just not that disciplined, so I will be breaking these up over the last days of 2008.

Care to join me? Name some memoirs or a favorite memoir that you have read this year? How do you feel about memoirs? Like reading them?


Other Year In Review Posts:

Unfinished Business

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  1. I have put Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway in my wish list. Thanks!
    I read ” The road to losy innocence by Somaly Mam” and that was Excellent!

  2. I like well-written memoirs although I haven’t read any recently. I do have copies of Monique and the Mango Rains and A Glass Castle to look forward to. I will also be reading Scheisshaus Luck by Pierre Berger and The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman for the Jewish Literature Challenge in the next three months. I may have even more in my library if I look hard enough. I haven’t seen a reading challenge for this genre. Perhaps you could create one that’s not too demanding? We might get some really good ideas from others for new ones. I’d sign up. Some of my favourite memoirs:
    Memoirs of a Woman Doctor by Nawal El Saadawi (Egypt)
    Memoirs From the Women’s Prison by Nawal El Saadawi
    Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron (about depresion)
    The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (about books)
    The Peddler’s Grandson: Growing Up Jewish in Mississippi by Edward Cohen
    Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James
    Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness by John M. Hull
    Child of the Dark by Carolin Maria de Jesus (Brazil)
    Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth

  3. I swear this whole post wasn’t up when I left my last comment. My favorite memoirs of the year are The Longest Trip Home, Tears of the Desert, and An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination. I haven’t read Monique and the Mango Rains, but it’s on my wish list.

  4. I didn’t read too many this year, either. I would recommend The Diving Bell and the Butterfly / Jean-Dominic Bauby and if this counts: Wind, Sand, Stars / Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

  5. Have you read About Alice by Calvin Trillin? I’ve read it twice and listened to it once. It’s Calvin’s tribute to his wife. It’s an A+ piece (less than 100 pages). (keep tissues nearby!)