This memoir was painful for me to read because I missed my sister Adrienne even more. Sometimes, I put the book down for days, but I always picked it back up because I had to know more about Debra Ginsberg and her three sisters. An honest story that is guaranteed to touch your heart, Ginsburg weaves the narrative so effortlessly that I barely noticed the transitions from past to present. How she manages this feat, I'll never know.
An excellent well-written memoir, David Sheff writes about his struggles with his son Nic (see below), a meth addict. Although I wanted to reach through the pages many times and shake Sheff, tell him to give up already, I have to admire his love and tenacity in the face of addiction. I could never be that forgiving.
I read this memoir right before the film came out. It must be nice to travel the world after a bitter divorce followed by a love affair destined to end. Gilbert makes it difficult to like her in the book with her numerous, unnecessary parenthetical asides and her assumptions that readers want to know her every thought. Skip the book and see the movie starring Julia Roberts—it's better.
These 20 stories of "women's true-life tales of friendships that blew up, burned out, or faded away" made me feel better about the friends that I have lost in the past. The two stories that resonated the most with me were Ann Hood's "How I Lost Her" and Helen Schulman's "First in Her Class."
In person, Ms. Dumas is a delight when she tells stories about her family's experiences in America. Unfortunately, her oral skills don't translate to the page. While her tales remain funny, her writing lacks the comedic timing her stories deserve.
The Glass Castle*
By Jeannette Walls
This memoir won every possible book award and it deserves them all. Walls tells her compelling story so vividly that you can practically feel her hunger and share her embarrassment.
This book has been sitting on my shelf for some time. I bought it because I love Prairie Home Companion, but after 150 pages, I couldn't stomach Keillor's complete disgust of conservative Americans in our country. I am proud of the diversity of our heritage. (Still love your show, Mr. Keillor!)
I adore Sela Ward as an actress so I really wanted to love her book. Although the writing isn't bad and the book has a theme, it isn't a true memoir; it is written more like a biography. I wasn't interested in her story until she narrowed the focus on her search for a home.
A fantastic title for an otherwise mediocre book, A Long Way Gone remains a powerful story, but I wish someone else had told it. Beah is not the strongest writer; the many mechanical errors throughout the text were distracting from his heart-wrenching tale of growing up as a child soldier in Africa.
To say this book changed my life is an understatement. Committing suicide in Santa Fe? Makes sense to me. Walking into the ocean—yep, I've wanted to dive in and never look back. I was reading my reflection only to a heightened degree.
I cried, I laughed, and then I thanked Winston for being such a wonderful dog compared to Marley! This memoir is not only a story about a man's relationship with his dog, but it is also about marriage, children, and everyday problems we all face ... Grogan shows us how his family faced their obstacles—with Marley at their side.
By Christopher Hitchens
As stark as its book cover, Hitchens' last book is raw, powerful, and devastating. I couldn't put it down because I can relate. Cancer is a bitch.
If you like sick, twisted, smart humor, you will love Brenda Cullerton's memoir about her unusual family (they make the people Augusten Burroughs stayed with seem normal). I seriously laughed out loud—read it. Now. You won't regret it.
Although I didn't like Angela's Ashes, I was willing to give McCourt's Teacher Man a chance. As a former teacher, I was curious about his experiences in the classroom. His unique approach to teaching and his obvious passion for learning made this memoir an enjoyable read.
The things that need doing
By Sean Manning
I decided to read this memoir after it was panned by the New York Times. I consider the book a learning experience of what not to do in terms of structure, narrative, content, and theme. How and why did this book get published?
The only reason I bothered with this memoir was I wanted to compare it with David Sheff's Beautiful Boy. I thought it would be interesting to read the same story (essentially) from two different points of view. Otherwise, I don't recommend this book. The writing is weak, and it's hard to have any empathy for Nic, an addict who just won't—or can't—quit.
Why We Suck
A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid
I borrowed this book from my sister-in-law even though I'm not a big Denis Leary fan. Well, I didn't make it past p. 100. After insulting just about every lower-class female profession (e.g., stripping) and suggesting that women only did such things due to abusive childhoods, I closed the book. What does he know? He's a f**king man!
I wanted so desperately to connect to Didion's grief—to feel her pain, and yet I felt cheated after reading this memoir. Not only did she withhold valuable information that might have changed any reader's opinion about her daughter, but she also withheld herself.
Ben Franklin’s Almanac of Wit, Wisdom, and Practical Advice
By the editors of The Old Farmer’s Almanac
This book is great if you only have time to read a few paragraphs. I skip the recipes, but the household tips are terrific. For example, improve the smell in your refrigerator by soaking a cotton ball in vanilla extract and leaving it in the fridge overnight.
The Diary of Frida Kahlo
An Intimate Self-Portrait
Introduction by Carlos Fuentes
I liked Frida Kahlo after seeing the film Frida; I fell in love with her after viewing her paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Her art isn't really my taste, but the passion and intensity behind her work is fantastic. This diary, which includes an English translation, reveals her inner soul as well as contains many colorful sketches that have never been shown before.
Since Sedaris writes humorous short stories, I felt this book belonged in my "Other Nonfiction" category as opposed to "Memoirs." Although Dress Your Family is not quite as funny as Me Talk Pretty One Day, I still laughed out loud at certain stories and in particular at certain lines.
I haven't eaten read meat in 20 years, but I don't know how anyone could after reading this book. In-N-Out Burger, however, does receive high praise from the author and its consumers; the company has maintained quality control by keeping the business within the family.
The History of America's Future 1584 to 2069
By William Strauss and Neil Howe
This book fascinates me. The cyclical nature of America's generations will amaze you, too. By understanding our history, the authors accurately predicted America's future including the current economic crisis.
A Hundred Little Hitlers
The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America
Author Elinor Langer tells the shocking story of the beating and subsequent death of an Ethiopian immigrant in Portland, Oregon, in November 1988. By helping readers understand how racism evolves over generations, Langer reveals the many facets to a complex narrative. I wouldn't say this book is an easy read due to its content, but it is a must-read.
I’m not a scientist, but I’m fascinated by the concept of quantum physics. The material in this book is dense so I only read about half a chapter at a time. I may not understand every concept, but I am always thrilled by the information.
The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever
I LOVE this book. Some of the information is outdated (who wears gloves anymore?), but learning about materials, colors, patterns, and what clothes work best for your figure is invaluable advice that I will always treasure.
The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman
By Marjorie Shostak
I read this story to become more acquainted with the Kung people, but I was pleasantly surprised by this piece of well-written narrative nonfiction.
The One Hundred
A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own
From War and Peace to The Cat in the Hat, authors Bond & Sheedy reveal the trials and tribulations of many famous, if not your favorite, books. They also shed light on the writers behind these unforgettable works of literature.
At first, I wasn't enthusiastic about this book. I'm not fond of required reading even though it's common in academia. After the first 200 pages, I started to appreciate the depth and scope of Warren's story, which is a loosely fictionalized account of Governor Huey Long from Louisiana. Don't watch the movies though (two were made); the book is by far better.
Sedaris's first book contains mostly fictional short stories, and all of them failed to entertain me. The characters are unrealistic, and the message "I am a gay man who loves my dick" is overbearing and unnecessary. However, the four essays at the end of the book show Sedaris's real talent—telling true tales with a humorous twist.
Even though Fisher is known for her novels, she often bases them on her own experiences. I found it difficult to feel sympathy for the main character Suzanne, who suffers from Bipolar Disorder. The disease didn't bother me, but Suzanne's abandonment of her daughter did.
This book was recommended reading in my master's writing program, but I didn't start it until after I graduated. Although Ms. Welty easily establishes character through dialogue and action, I don't always find the plots of her stories interesting. In fact, I stopped reading one of the longest short stories in the collection "The Wide Net" because I was bored.
For full disclosure purposes, Will and I are friends; we went to graduate school together. His first published work Entrekin contains fictional shorts stories, poetry, and true tales. My favorite selections are A Little Heaven and What I Saw That Day.
Fifty Shades of Grey*
By E.L. James
Oh my. Wow. Holy cow. This book needs to be renamed Fifty Shades of Crap. BTW--it's not erotica; it's a romance.
Even though this novel won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a movie, I had no idea what it was about. WOW. Cunningham's tight writing that includes three narratives is truly spellbounding, but this book needs a warning label: do not read when you are depressed.
Naughty is right! This is not your Harlequin romance; be prepared for some serious erotica that mixes sex and story effortlessly.
Love in the Asylum
By Lisa Carey A woman on an airplane gave me this book; she said that I had to read it. When I finally sat down to read this novel (six years later), I finished it in two days. The complexity of the story, which includes three narratives, is impressive, but the heart of the plot and characters moved me to tears.
For full disclosure purposes, Will and I are friends; we went to graduate school together. This story will absolutely warm your heart. While I don't particularly like the structure (i.e., breaking of the fourth wall), I adore the characters and admire their struggle to make their relationship work.
By Jeffrey Eugenides
One of the best novels that I've read in a long time, Middlesex is so engaging, one wonders if the book is actually disguising a deeply touching true story.
Nine Stories By J.D. Salinger
I liked Catcher in the Rye, but these nine short stories by the same author left me cold.
Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog
By Garth Stein
Told from a dog's POV, this story is fabulous—especially if you love your pets. Absolutely heartfelt and heartbreaking, this book made me laugh and cry.
The author of Strangers on a Train doesn't disappoint with her five novels about Tom Ripley, the most famous one being The Talented Mr. Ripley. Almost every book is outstanding except for Ripley's game; when Tom disappears for over half the story, the plot loses its momentum.
A well-known romance writer, Bradley combines a complex character and erotica in this story about a courtesan who falls in love for the first time in her life. While the sex scenes are realistic and steamy, they are not as wicked as I expected.
This book offers practical how-to tips for query letters, one of the hardest things for all writers to write. The author provides numerous examples to illustrate various techniques. I highly recommend it!
Getting found using Google, social media, and blogs
A truly inspiring book that breaks the "rules" about writing in many ways. My favorite chapter title, "Why women who do too much housework should neglect it for their writing." I've been saying the same thing to my husband for years!
Living to Tell the Tale: A Guide to Writing Memoir*
By Jane Taylor McDonnell
This practical how-to guide for writing memoir is extremely useful if you are new to the form.
The Making of a Poem
A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms
By Mark Strand and Eavan Boland
This required text helped me understand a variety of poetic forms as well as exposed me to many poets.
Over 50 writers contributed stories about their worst moments in the public eye. Many of them relate to book signings (e.g., no one shows up), but sometimes writers—like everyone else—say the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person.
Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write*
By Elizabeth Lyon
This how-to book is fantastic. I followed the instructions and my first book proposal won sixth place in a national competition. Every aspiring nonfiction writer should own Lyon's brilliant book.
By Syd Field
I could not have survived my first screenwriting class without this book.
Search Engine Optimization (all-in-one) for Dummies
By Bruce Clay and Susan Esparza
If you have a website, you need this book. I learned how to use key words effectively, how to exchange links, how to become listed in directories, and more! A must-read for ALL website owners who want to increase traffic to their site.
Stand up Poetry
Edited by Charles Harper Webb
This book taught me poetry comes in many forms; it also inspired to expand beyond my own comfort zone as a writer.
78 Reasons why your book may never get published and 14
reasons why it just might
By Pat Walsh
Literary agent Lisa Cron recommended this book to me. It's entertaining and enlightening.
This book does its job well: it is easy to use, easy to understand, and easy to read. However, the 2010 edition is already outdated, which is typical for any book about social media. By the time the book is published, something has changed.
Why I Write
By George Orwell
"From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer." This series of essays (including Why I Write) by Orwell is an inspiring and excellent read for any writer.
Writing out the Storm
Reading or writing your way through serious illness or injury
This book was recommended to me and my husband while we were going through a particularly difficult time in our marriage. We continue to do the exercises, and it has helped us understand each other so much better—not to mention save us a fortune on therapy bills!
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Translated by Pancham Sinh
As one of the oldest surviving texts on yoga practice, this book is a must-read for all yogis. Though some of the recommendations don't make sense in today's society (e.g., rubbing your body with cow dung ashes mixed with water), many do. Everyone could learn to breathe better and concentrate more.
The How to Happiness
A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want
By Sonia Lyubomirsky
This book takes a scientific approach to finding happiness and it makes complete sense. Did you know we are born with a happiness set point but we can improve it? Practical exercises will help you find your way to happiness. Given the nature of the book, I don't recommend buying the Kindle edition like I did.
I used to be terrified of chanting, but now I find it soothing and necessary for meditation. This book is fantastic because it explains the purpose of mantras and provides mantras for common problems. Make sure you buy the book that comes with the CD so you learn how to chant each mantra properly.
Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga*
By Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison
This book has a brief meditation for each day. It covers everything from the eight limbs of yoga to religion and other spiritual beliefs. An easy and enjoyable read.
Most of the advice offered in this book isn't new (e.g., "Don't ever confuse ... your life and your work"). I wish the pictures had captions because they were far more interesting than the conventional wisdom.
I bought this book as part of my EMAO experience. Jackie Warner's blunt style is exactly what I want in a trainer. Her food tips are excellent, and her power circuit training routines will kick your ass.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
Translated by Robert A. F. Thurman
An actual guidebook on how to transition from the land of the living to the various world of the betweens, this book is a fascinating read.
The Untethered Soul
The Journey Beyond Yourself
By Michael A. Singer
I don't know how to explain this book except to say it will change your entire perspective of how you see yourself and your actions. Your life can only improve by reading it.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali*
Chanted by Sonia Nelson
This chanting tutorial of the Yoga Sutras contains four CDs; the book is currently out of print, but you don't need it in order to learn the Sutras. I love Nelson's pacing; this collection is truly for a beginner. I eventually chanted every Sutra.
A Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Yoga and Ayurveda for Health and Fitness
Plump captures the essence of allure so magically that you understand why she cheats on her spouse multiple times even if you can't forgive her (I do). Highly recommended by Agent Betsy Lerner and well worth the read.
It's tragic that this author died of cancer before seeing her debut novel published. This book is outstanding: the characters are well written; the plot produces surprise twists; and the outcome may shock you.