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Recommend Our Next Book Club Selection

booksNext week we will discuss our first book club selection of the year, The Fault in Our Stars. We will also choose our book for March/April. I’d like to do a memoir next, and I’m opening the field to recommendations starting… now. A recent publication date (within the last three to five years) is a bonus, as is a compelling story and strong narrative voice. Under 400 pages is always good, but not necessary. Go!

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GatorGirl GatorGirl February 20, 2014, 3:22 pm

Guess I should really get started reading that book!

LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed February 20, 2014, 3:37 pm

Oh hello my field of study!
Some recommendations: Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen
Just Kids by Patti Smith
If You Knew Then What I Know Now by Ryan Van Meter (collection of essays…but so great)
I’m trying not to full on geek out…I’ll leave it at three for now

raptor raptor February 20, 2014, 6:04 pm

Just Kids is sooooooooo good!

theattack theattack February 20, 2014, 3:38 pm

I haven’t read it myself, but A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier has been highly recommended. It’s in amazon’s list of 100 books to read before you die, along with The Fault In Our Stars, and my university made everyone read it a few years ago.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana February 20, 2014, 3:39 pm

I’ve already read it but A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers is one of my all-time favorite books.

avatar mertlej February 20, 2014, 5:18 pm

Have you read his newest book, The Circle?

bittergaymark bittergaymark February 20, 2014, 8:07 pm

Wait, wasn’t this revealed to largely be a fake memoir? Or am I thinking of someone else? EDIT: My mistake. I was thinking of James Frey. And the Oprah book club fiasco.

Cassie Cassie February 21, 2014, 1:25 pm

Yeah, it was James Frey. I was mad when I found out!

avatar bethany February 21, 2014, 2:07 pm

I read his books after all that came out, and just read them as if they were fiction, because the story was still really interesting.

theattack theattack February 20, 2014, 3:42 pm

Oh and one of my absolute favorites: The Color of Water.

Man’s Search for Meaning is also great, and is widely considered life-changing.

As soon as my cat gets out of my lap I’ll go check my bookshelves for more.

theattack theattack February 20, 2014, 3:59 pm

Okay, here’s my LibraryThing review for The Color of Water: A black man’s tribute to his white mother.

“The Color of Water is an excellent account of a family’s struggles with the collision of their own identities and desires against social norms and expectations throughout the twentieth century. A black man recounts his own life story and the story of his mysterious mother – a Jewish woman who long ago pushed herself away from her family and heritage. The two stories – of his mother and of himself and his siblings – form a framework to understand personal identity, especially with regards to race and ethnicity. The settings vary from a small southern town in the early twentieth century to Harlem in the 90s. The author conveys struggles with race, poverty, religion, personal identity, and social rejection, but more importantly he conveys success in overcoming those obstacles and being true to the self.”

Seriously it is SO GOOD. I had to read it for my Diversity class in college. I found it very thought-provoking.

avatar Daisy February 20, 2014, 5:08 pm

Very good book!

avatar Banana February 20, 2014, 3:43 pm

I don’t know if this counts, but I love “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” a collection of essays by David Foster Wallace, mostly on experiences he had — going on a cruise, attending the state fair, etc. There’s a lot to chew on there but it’s funny and it goes by fast (at least, compared to his fiction).

LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed February 20, 2014, 3:44 pm

DFW’s creative nonfiction is some of my favorite stuff!

raptor raptor February 20, 2014, 6:05 pm

The state fair essay is one of my favorite things ever.

avatar Lady Clare February 20, 2014, 3:48 pm

How about “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban”? It’s very good!

call-me-hobo call-me-hobo February 20, 2014, 3:50 pm

Leymah Gbowee’s “Mighty Be Our Powers” is such a powerful memoir! It’s about Liberia’s independence and the role she played in ending the Civil War

avatar csp February 20, 2014, 4:22 pm

I heard The Reason I Jump: The inner voice of a thirteen year old boy with autism is amazing. I haven’t read it but it is making the rounds on talk shows.

avatar csp February 20, 2014, 4:26 pm

I also heard Wild by Cheryl Strayed might be good. It is a hiking memoire.

LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed February 20, 2014, 4:29 pm

It is!

avatar rachel February 20, 2014, 4:47 pm

That was a book club book the first time we tried this, haha. But it IS good!

avatar csp February 20, 2014, 4:54 pm

Ha! That is where I heard it was good!

avatar csp February 20, 2014, 4:54 pm

That is where I heard it was good! I knew it was somewhere.

avatar bethany February 21, 2014, 2:09 pm


avatar bethany February 21, 2014, 2:10 pm

Except for the part with the horse. Just skip that part.

Lianne Lianne February 20, 2014, 4:28 pm

I haven’t read a memoir in a long time, so this will be a nice change for me!

avatar csp February 20, 2014, 4:30 pm

One more… The other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. I have always wanted to read this. It is about a man who grew up in a tough neighborhood and he went to be super successful and another man in the same neighborhood with the same name went to prison. And the similarities and differences in them. I saw him on Oprah but never read it.

othy othy February 20, 2014, 4:30 pm

I haven’t read it, but it’s on my list to read:

She’s such a fascinating, resilient person.

avatar sararosie43 February 20, 2014, 4:35 pm

“What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty

I read this a few months ago about recommended it to my mom who also loved it.

Its about Alice who passes out at spin class and wakes up thinking she is 29 when she is actually 39. At 29 she was happily married and pregnant with her 1st child, at 39 she is in a bitter divorce with 3 kids. She has to piece her life together and figure out what happened, it really is a great read and makes you think about the choices you make in your own life!

avatar rachel February 20, 2014, 4:50 pm

I sent Wendy the link to the Salon story about the woman with amnesia, and thought her book might be pretty cool, I Forgot to Remember by Su Meck. But no one commented about that link so maybe others don’t agree. Amnesia guys! It’s like straight out of a soap opera!

avatar csp February 20, 2014, 5:01 pm

I could do amnesia. Some of these memoires sound like such downers. I think that I want a good memoire but maybe not child soldier.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy February 20, 2014, 5:27 pm

I’m with you. No downers.

Cassie Cassie February 20, 2014, 6:28 pm

I prefer downer documentaries, because then they’re over in about 2 hours. I have to be in a certain mood to read a very serious memoir.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy February 20, 2014, 5:29 pm

I read the article and was intrigued but after reading some more preview pages on amazon, I got the feeling the book wouldn’t be terribly interesting. Like, it’s good as an article, but a whole story written by someone who neither remembers it nor is a writer maybe doesn’t work?

avatar rachel February 20, 2014, 5:34 pm

That’s fair. Mostly I kinda want to read it, but know I never will unless I have an excuse like this 🙂

avatar Tax Geek February 20, 2014, 10:15 pm

I read it over a weekend after reading the article. Could barely put it down.

Cassie Cassie February 20, 2014, 6:26 pm

I may not have commented, but I thought it would be good, too! I even saved it under my ‘Books to Get From the Library’ wishlist on Amazon. I second your recommendation.

Cassie Cassie February 20, 2014, 6:30 pm

Another memoir on amnesia I want to read is The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia by David Stuart MacLean.

avatar Daisy February 20, 2014, 5:08 pm

My recommendation for a very powerful book is “What is the What” by Valentino Achak Deng, with Dave Eggers. It’s a fictionalized memoir of Deng, one of the so-called ‘Lost Boys’ of 1980s Sudan.

From Amazon: Separated from his family when Arab militia destroy his village, Valentino joins thousands of other “Lost Boys,” beset by starvation, thirst and man-eating lions on their march to squalid refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, where Valentino pieces together a new life. He eventually reaches America, but finds his quest for safety, community and fulfillment in many ways even more difficult there than in the camps: he recalls, for instance, being robbed, beaten and held captive in his Atlanta apartment. Eggers’s limpid prose gives Valentino an unaffected, compelling voice and makes his narrative by turns harrowing, funny, bleak and lyrical. The result is a horrific account of the Sudanese tragedy, but also an emblematic saga of modernity-of the search for home and self in a world of unending upheaval.

Anyway, it’s a fascinating and too-often untold story and the writing is beautiful. I used to volunteer as an English teacher for Sudanese refugees here in Israel, and we read excerpts from the book in my classes. Seeing the students’ reactions to the story of another former refugee who went on to not only write a book but do many other great things (I won’t ruin the ending!) was truly remarkable. And I think you all would love it too! 🙂

avatar daisy February 20, 2014, 5:11 pm

Parts of this book are very depressing/disturbing — I can’t lie. But overall I found it very inspiring.

Lianne Lianne February 25, 2014, 11:47 am

I read What is the What for a class and really loved it.

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki February 20, 2014, 5:11 pm

I like Running With Scissors (Augusten Burroughs) but it’s not in the last 5 years. I think it was written in 2002.
I also like I Love Yous Are for White People (Lac Su) which was written in 2009.
But, the absolute BEST is Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess). Love, love, love this book.

avatar rachel February 20, 2014, 5:34 pm

Ooh, I’d love to read Jenny Lawson’s book.

shanshantastic shanshantastic February 21, 2014, 9:15 am

PLEASE OH PLEASE can we read this one? I love Jenny Lawson.

Cassie Cassie February 20, 2014, 7:08 pm

Here are my recommendations:
– The Late Homecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang. I own it, have read it, and it’s excellent. It’s an amazing recounting of the experiences of the Hmong people in Laos, their flight to refugee camps in Thailand, and resettling in America told through her parents’ and grandmother’s experiences. I strongly recommend it (and, it’s not a downer!). It has high reviews on Amazon, as well.

Some that I have not read but am interested in reading:
– The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia by David Stuart MacLean, which also has high reviews on Amazon. It’s the memoir of a man who woke up on a train platform in India with no knowledge of who he is. He had been taking anti-malaria pills while in India on a Fulbright scholarship and the medication ended up causing amnesia. He goes back to the U.S. but has no memory of his past, his family, or the woman he loved.
– Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked by James Lasdun. This seems like an interesting memoir on stalking, because the author (a male creative writing teacher) recounts his experiences being stalked by one of his female students. It sounds good, but it has mixed reviews because apparently he likes to go off on tangents that have nothing to do with stalking or being stalked.

hyggelig hyggelig February 20, 2014, 7:27 pm

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. I loved it, so funny!

avatar jlyfsh February 20, 2014, 7:35 pm

If anyone wants a good non-fiction book and enjoys kind of science-y things try out the Big Oyster ). It’s all about the rise and fall of the oyster and how it relates to the city of New York and immigration, Wall St, industrialization, etc. It’s just such an interesting read. It also talks about the rise and fall of some of New York’s most well known restaurants some of which are still around. It’s kind of random and most people might not be interested but it’s cool!

Also the Secret life of Lobsters. I’m in the middle of it now and I’m really enjoying it! Once again not everyone’s cup of tea 🙂

avatar AliceInDairyland February 20, 2014, 7:59 pm

And now… for some animal-based memoirs that got good reviews on amazon (haven’t read any yet)…

Since there are a lot of cat lovers….

This second one sounds like it might be just perfect for DW!!!

avatar JoanJ February 20, 2014, 9:01 pm

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou), Scoundrel Time (political, by Lillian Hellman), My Story (Ingrid Bergman, surprisingly hilarious), Bossypants (Tina Fey), Autobiography of a Face (ok, kind of a downer), and Colleen Dewhurst’s (NY theatre world in the 1970s; actress who played Marilla in Anne of Green Gables, for those who are familiar) book are all good.

theattack theattack February 20, 2014, 10:20 pm

Yes to Bossypants, because I already own it and haven’t read it yet! I would love a reason to read about Maya Angelou as well.

Cassie Cassie February 21, 2014, 1:41 pm

Also, I’ve heard Mindy Kaling’s memoir is good.

LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed February 21, 2014, 1:42 pm

It is!

theattack theattack February 21, 2014, 2:01 pm

Yes I loved it! I forgot that would be considered a memoir because it was seemed like pure comedy. Mindy is underrated.

avatar Portia February 22, 2014, 10:25 am

I also would like to read Mindy Kaling’s book.

avatar Christy February 21, 2014, 7:51 am

This isn’t a memoir, and it’s not released yet, but I have two copies of The Vacationers to give to DC-area DWers if we ever read that book. (It comes out in May.)

avatar lindsaybob February 21, 2014, 5:36 pm

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman is a great read. It’s the book on which the Netflix series is based, but the book is actually quite different to the show.

Roxy_84 Roxy_84 February 21, 2014, 10:00 pm

I saw someone above suggested Jenny Lawson’s book…highly recommend!

avatar Reilly February 22, 2014, 5:05 pm

Oh my- this is my first DW comment after lurking in the shadows for many years. BUT I just wanted to throw this book into the ring- it’s a fictionalized account of actual events, so only vaguely qualifies as a memoir- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. It is about one family (of many that actually existed) raising a chimpanzee and a human child concurrently. It’s pretty remarkable and has lots of interesting questions about families, speciesism, animal testing, etc. without an agenda. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16176440-we-are-all-completely-beside-ourselves

avatar AliceInDairyland February 23, 2014, 12:32 pm

OMG I want to read this. I will read this!!