Recommended Life Stories and Memoirs to Read

As author Bob Mayer wisely put it, writers’ first books tend to be blood-lettings.

What that means is writers compose stories about their own lives (memoirs or life stories) – for catharsis, or to just tell their story because they need to tell it. Month by month, I continue to see that everyone wants to write a memoir or life story, even though such things don’t sell well and are often written like a diary, not a book. (That said, agents will be hesitant to take on anything that’s a tough sell.)

Just today at a book signing in Tennessee, a young writer came up and said she was writing a life story about her uncle and wanted some advice. I wanted to recommend some good memoir and life story books but couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head. After we finished talking, I brought the subject up with some other writers and asked for some good recommendations. These are the three they immediately came up with:

      1. The Color of Water, by James McBride
      2. Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt
      3. Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom

Bottom line: “Personal story is dead,” as agent Chip MacGregor said in a previous post. However, if you are determined to write yours, make sure you are reading excellent memoir writing. The three books above seem like a good start.

For more on personal story writing as well as when it might actually be beneficial to self-publish such a book, see this previous post.

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