As is probably unsurprising, given my bachelor’s degree in History, I’m a memoir junkie. I once joked that the reason I became a historian is that it was the only job where I would get paid to read other peoples diaries. As my love for memoirs *is* so deep, I’m going to split the category into regular memoirs (today’s post) and travel memoirs (or travelogues, if you prefer).
Links are to the American Amazon.com site, and order is not related to how much I love them.
Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody. You may know Cody better as the screenwriter for the movie “Juno” or as the writer behind “The United States of Tara,” but this is her memoir of her year stripping in Minnesota. If you liked either of those, you’ll like the books, which is written with the same tone; irreverent, lots of pop culture references, and when you least expect it, she’ll point your attention to the poignant moment over there in the corner. She will also make you laugh until you cry (I laughed on the subway like a maniac once reading this….luckily it was NYC, so people just thought I was crazy). I don’t recommend getting the Kindle version, as it becomes a pain in the ass to read her footnotes (and the footnotes are hilarious, read them!). In fact, I find it so funny that I pull it out when I just need something light and fun to read for a few days.
The Know it All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by AJ Jacobs. I know he’s more famous for The Year of Living Biblicaly, and I liked that too, but everyone’s heard about TYOLB and either read it or are firmly anti-reading it, as far as I can see. So instead, may I humbly suggest your read his story of trying to read the Encyclopedia all the way through? He talks about random facts from random entries, but also talks about his and his wife, Julie, and their attempts to get pregnant. He talks about how he is affected by his reading (compulsively adding stupid details to friends conversations, among other things). It’s a fun read, and I don’t think I can give it higher praise than to say I’ve read it something like 3 or 4 times in the last two years (that’s right…when I had a small kid).
Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady by Florence King. I read this for my undergrad thesis, which was on women’s colleges from 1920-1950 or so and when I was doing some googling, the book popped up. I was not expecting what arrived on my doorstep-totally useless for my thesis in the end, it’s King’s story of growing up the South with a Grandmother who wanted her to be a “Lady” a mom who was a tomboy and said “Fuck” a lot, and a British dad who just wanted to be left alone and read. There’s the tale of getting a certificate of virginity from a doctor, which her grandmother folds reverently. But there’s also the story of falling in love with a fellow female grad student at a deep south university and the problems and choices it brings to her life. Great read.
Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India by Anita Jain. Get this while it’s still in print! Anita is, like Ravi, an American born Indian (although she is FAR FAR more Indian than Ravi…which isn’t hard as I’m more Indian than Ravi). Frustrated with her search for love in NYC (weren’t we all?) she decides to go old school. She goes to Delhi to see if she can find a husband using any of the more traditional approaches. Although it starts off a search for a husband, Anita is fascinated by the complex world that is life for those under 30 in Delhi. If you’ve ever been interested in arranged marriages, or life in India, you’ll like this.
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflections by Carol Burnett. I love Carol Burnett. Period. If you liked the Carol Burnett Show, you’ll love it. If you don’t know what that is…don’t tell me because then I’ll feel old.
Imperfect Endings: A Daughter’s Tale of Life and Death by Zoe FitzGerald Carter. This was engrossing and, yet, incredibly hard to read. It starts with what seems to be a fairly innocent phone call…what date can Zoe and the girls come to DC to see her mom? But the hostility is evident as Zoe ducks the question–she doesn’t want to think about when she can make it to DC to help her mother kill herself. Margaret has been suffering from Parkinsons for 20 years, and she is in decline. Watching the family go through the struggle about end of life choices is heartbreaking.
Plane Insanity: A Flight Attendant’s Tales of Rage, Sex, and Queasiness at 30,000 Feet by Elliott Hester. Simply put, grab it the next time you’re about to get on a plane and it will give you some perspective on how bad it could REALLY be. Should be required reading for everyone who has ever dramatically moaned that the flight was “ruined” because of a 5 minute delay.
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. I liked Kerman right off because she never tries to feign that she was not responsible for the choices that led her to try being a drug mule. She accepts her sentence, and gets down to trying to make it through the year. She serves in a prison in Connecticut, and I found her descriptions of what daily life is like…sad. Obviously prison isn’t supposed to be rainbows and lollipops, but it really makes you think about prison sentences…who should get them and for what. I found it really thought-provoking and will definitely get around to reading it again (it’s a fairly new release…not out in paperback yet).
Sleep is for the Weak edited by Rita Arens. This is a “best of the mommy blogger” collection of stories. I knew and read most of the mommy bloggers already. I think what’s awesome about this short collection of stories is that it is so real and honest (and often funny) that it has a lot of character that heavily edited books don’t.
The Second Nine Months: One Woman Tells the Real Truth about Becoming a Mom. Finally by Vicki Glembocki. I would not be exaggerating to say this book was exactly what I needed when I saw it on a bookshelf over a year ago. E had come home the second time, and I was pumping away. I should have been thrilled, but mostly I was terrified and unhappy. There were days when I looked at E and just didn’t know what to do or feel…when I felt numb. SO much better than Brooke Shield’s “Down Came the Rain”…I felt like Vicki gave me permission to feel what I was feeling by the admission of her own story of depression, nursing issues, and wondering why, exactly, she had had a baby at all.