50 Memoirs and Autobiographies that should be in your reading list

“Every time an old person dies, it’s like a library burning down.” – Alex Haley

Weeks ago, Scribblory commenced a “5-Day Memoir Challenge” on Facebook and Instagram. It is quite akin to the “7-Day Book Challenge” albeit this one (1) runs for five days, (2) is limited to one genre–which is memoir, and (3) requires the challenged to post not only a photo of the book cover but also its brief, Google-able synopsis.

The purpose of this is to create a reading list, and in effect, promote the beauty of the genre since we’ve noticed that memoirs are not much hunted for by readers and book lovers in the Philippines.

The 5-Day Memoir Challenge turned out to be a real challenge. Of course, there were still few–mostly, wide readers–who finished it smooth and easy. But majority of those who were tapped found five days to be enough for the mere five memoirs they’ve read. Some ran out and did not finish the challenge. Others totally refused. There was also an apparent confusion between memoirs and autobiographies, which was understandable given their slippery differences.

Still, through the 5-Day Memoir Challenge, we were able to create an interesting reading list that goes as long as 50. For your better browsing, we categorized the books into four–Spiritual, Inspirational, Writing, References. Here it is:

A. Spiritual

  1. Confessions of St. Augustine by St. Augustine
  2. Crossroads: Musings of a Millenial about the Youth and God by Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo
  3. Finding You: A Memoir on Dreams, Detours and Destiny by Elaine Marie Factor
  4. Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
  5. Memoirs of a Happy Failure by Alive von Hildebrand
  6. Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux

B. Inspirational

  1. A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
  2. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
  3. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  4. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  5. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  6. Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir by Cyndi Lauper
  7. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
  8. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  9. Educated by Tara Westover
  10. Falling Leaves: The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah
  11. For the Love of a Child by Betty Mahmoody
  12. Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach
  13. Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir by Hilary Mantel
  14. I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
  15. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  16. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  17. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
  18. My Sergei: A Love Story by Ekaterina Gordeeva
  19. One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens
  20. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg
  21. Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business by Gary Erickson with Lois Lorentzen
  22. Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations by William H. Mcraven
  23. Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
  24. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  25. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
  26. The Life of P.T. Barnum by P.T. Barnum
  27. The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
  28. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  29. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
  30. ‘Tis by Frank McCourt
  31. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
  32. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  33. When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss
  34. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  35. Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo by Zlata Filipovic

C. Writing

  1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  2. Literary Life: A Second Memoir by Larry McMurty
  3. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  4. On Writing Well: A Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
  5. Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past by William Zinsser
  6. Writing Places: The Life Journey of a Writer and Teacher by William Zinsser

D. References

  1. Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg
  2. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
  3. The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative by Thomas Larson

It’s amazing how people can turn personal, true-to-life stories into a good, tangible literature. Come to think of it: Memoirs are books taken directly from people’s actual library of life. Their treasures are real, their lessons are tried and tested. We simply don’t see why they shouldn’t be read.

P.S: Special thanks to the Scribblory Writers Group for spearheading the 5-Day Memoir Challenge!

“Life is library-building….Imagine a tireless typewriter that spells words every minute of your life. It runs as you breathe. It types the words in your head. Stories fill your world inside and out. In fact, stories are the world’s soul. They are a sign of life, of movement of breath.” – an excerpt from Scribbling from Memory by Elaine Marie Factor

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