Memoir: To Live Life Twice

" To write one's life is to live it twice". Patricia Hampl

First I began writing memoir. It helped me make sense of the events of my life. Then I began to read memoir. It helped validate in my mind that other authors had to make sense of the events in their lives. Below is a list of memoir books that did just that.
First on the list is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I read her book in a week-end. I kept stopping to remind myself that she survived to reveal this sad, funny, moving memoir. It is her story of a childhood that included adventure, colorful characters, a father that wanted to design a “glass castle”, and living conditions that break your heart. In an honest voice she reminds us that teachers are important and writing can help you make sense of your life as you live it.
Next from my list is Name All the Animals by Alison Smith. Smith’s coming of age memoir captures her adolescent years and how grief can affect all aspects of life. The death of her only brother and the events that follow cause her to question her Catholic faith, her relationship with her parents, and her own demons. Grief can take on many faces and Smith tells her story with honesty and courage.
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is the third on my list. In the forward she states “ I was not abused, abandoned, or locked up as a child.” In a fresh way she writes of an ordinary life. The book begins with a timeline, then is organized in alphabetical order as an encyclopedia would be. Under C you can read about Capricious and under P Parking Ticket. She has taken random thoughts, insights, and truth and arranged them to make sense. It made me laugh as I also recalled memories of childhood foods, cream rinse, and 1975. You want to call Amy,meet her for coffee, and reminisce.. Also, I love memoir that makes you laugh.
A few more on my list… Liars’ Club by Mary Karr ,The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, In The Wilderness by Kim Barnes, Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, and Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett.


  1. I write long arduous journals and I've always found it interesting what one learns while writing about their own life.
    I've never read another persons memoir though, very interesting.

  2. I agree with you. Journals have been very helpful to me also. It was when I began to explore memoir with my students that I saw differences in their writing.

  3. I share your interest in memoirs of unconventional families. Have you read Space: A Memoir by Jesse Lee Kercheval? I think you'd enjoy it.

  4. I have not, but will! Thanks!


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