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Must-Read Memoirs for Family Historians

When it comes to writing, one of the first pieces of advice I received was to read.....and read a lot. Besides writing a lot to improve your skills, reading in copious amounts will also make you a better writer as well. Whether you intend to write your family history or wish to write a memoir or turn your family history into a novel, one of the best ways to prepare for this path is to have your nose in a book or these days a Kindle

As a huge advocate for writing your family history, you will always find me encouraging you to read books particularly in the kind of genre that would most interest a family historian.  Memoirs, novels based on real life stories and historical fiction are my books of choice. 

I have assembled a list, a few of my favourite memoirs/family history books thus far; I will keep you posted on others and offer reviews from time to time. If you haven’t read some of these books on this list I encourage you to do so.

If your not a writer, or not interested in writing a memoir or family history, you will love them just the same. I love fiction but nothing beats a real story about real people. 

1.       Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
2.       A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
3.       Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
4.       Angela’s Ashes Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
5.       The Diary of Anne Frank  by Anne Frank
6.       Night by Elie Wiesel
ea   Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Do you have a must-read memoir? Leave me a comment I’m always looking for a good read!


MNFamilyHistorian said...

I know you're recommending we read fiction, and I agree wholeheartedly, but does deliberately falsified non-fiction count? Is James Frey's book written well enough to overlook its dubious provenance?

Biff Barnes said...

Great advice, Lynn!
Another title we've included in family history writing classes is The Deeds of My Fathers by Paul David Pope.

Lynn Palermo said...

@MNFamilyHistorian A Million Little Pieces is an incredible read despite the controversy. By the way Oprah has since apologized for her part in the debacle. I recommend it highly, it just should of had a disclaimer the way many memoirs do with regards to "creative license."

Linda Gartz said...

A great list -- I've read all except A Million Little Pieces, but hear it's incredible. The reason to read it would be to get ideas for good writing. I read Glass Castle over and over as I write to figure out how she does it.

I've been on a mission to read memoir these past few years so here are a few more:

Family by Ian Frazier--a true family history with incredible writing and detail, tracing family from Ohio and Indiana (and back from there ) with letters, diaries, sermons and his own visits to home towns. He writes often for the New Yorker.

Just now reading: Sleeping Arrangements by Laura Cunningham-- charming, happy. sad, shocking. Try LIfesaving by Judith Barrington; The Road From Coorain by Jill Ker Conway (growing up in Australia; eventually becomes first woman president-- of Smith College. One of my favorites.)
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy (more memoir than family history - great writing). Mary Gordon's the Shadow Man. Road Song by Natalie Kusz. And please don't miss my just about favorite: Growing Up, the Pulitzer prize-winning memoir by Russell Baker: funny, poignant, wry with a clear theme.
I have many more but don't want to hog the comment space.

Thank you again, Lynn, for keeping us moving forward on our family histories and providing the tools to do so!

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks for the list Linda, I will definitely look them up especially your favourite. I have one I recently purchased but have not finished reading but I thought of you, the author has included pictures of documents and various finds throughout the book, the name is 13 rue Therese, A Novel by Elena Mauli Shapiro. I'll review it here when I'm done it.

Susan said...

Thanks for the list, I have not long finished reading Angela's Ashes and could not put it down once I started. The only other one I have read is The Diary of Anne Frank. Think a visit to the bookshop is on the cards.

And thanks for stopping by my blog and welcoming me to Geneabloggers :)

Shelley said...

Thanks for a great list of books, Linda. I love Jeannette Wells' work and had the pleasure of meeting her at a book signing for Half-Broke Horses. She's friendly, down-to-earth, and delightful to talk to.

Thanks, too, for encouraging us to keep writing our own stories!