stack of 3 books plus open book with pen. Title: Top Ten Tuesday

#TopTenTuesday: 10 Memoirs That Taught Me the Power of Life Stories

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Here’s how it works: Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl assigns a topic for each Tuesday. If you check this link, you’ll find she’s assigned topics for several future weeks so you can plan ahead. She adds, “create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list . . . Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you!”

Each week Jana posts a Linky on her blog where you can (if you want) share a link to your post and check out other bloggers’ posts.

Today’s topic for #TopTenTuesday is comfort reads, “books or kinds of books you turn to when you need to escape.”

I don’t exactly read to escape. I think that escape may be the result that occurs when I read, because I read primarily to immerse myself in a world different from my daily reality. But I don’t pick up particular books in order to achieve that end. Instead, I read books that I think have something to teach me.

So today, in lieu of comfort reads, I offer 10 memoirs, listed in no particular order, that taught me the power of life stories.

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd

This is one of the most powerful memoirs I’ve ever read. Sue Monk Kidd discusses the recognition that the spiritual basis of her life no longer fit her concept of what her life should be and how that recognition changed her.

Comfort by Ann Hood

This is another of the most powerful memoirs I’ve read. Writer Ann Hood explores how she endured the death by sudden illness of her five-year-old daughter

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

In this stunning memoir of grief, Joan Didion writes about her experiences of the year after the sudden death of John Gregory Dunne, her husband, almost constant companion, and first reader and editor for nearly 40 years.

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

When Lucy Grealy was 10 years old, surgery to remove a malignant tumor from her lower jaw resulted in radical deformation of her face that haunted her all her life. Reading this slim volume left me with a lot of unanswered questions and made me realize how difficult thinking and writing about one’s painful experiences must be.

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett

After Lucy Grealy’s death, her friend Ann Patchett wrote this reflection on Grealy’s life and their friendship.

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

I still see lots of comments about how bleak and disparing this memoir of childhood is, but I see it as an appropriately voiced expression of a child’s wonder and love of family and life.

Note Found in a Bottle by Susan Cheever

With a chilling opening description, Susan Cheever, daughter of writer John Cheever, examines her life within a culture that used alcohol as a means of dealing with all sorts of ailments, both physical and emotional. 

The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr

This book about writer Mary Karr’s early life is a seminal work in the contemporary development of the memoir form.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan 

Scroll down the page linked here to read Susannah Cahalan’s account of her mysterious disease and the nearly miraculous discovery and treatment that saved her.

The Color of Water by James McBride

James McBride’s memoir pays tribute to his mother and also examines how her life story affects his own.


The 20 Most Influential Memoirs of All Time

10 Intimate Celebrity Memoirs That Make Terrific Beach Reads

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

4 thoughts on “#TopTenTuesday: 10 Memoirs That Taught Me the Power of Life Stories”

    1. Mary Daniels Brown

      Yes, Brain on Fire was so well done. I was surprised Cahalan was so young when she wrote it. And what an experience to go through! Thanks for visiting and commenting, Meaghan.

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