Chapter 7 - All About Me!


I have found that I really enjoy reading memoirs and biographies. Sometimes I want to know about a famous person, many times the memoir is not about someone I know at all, and often the selection is a recommendation from a customer. (When that happens it is like meeting the friend of a friend!) In my experience it seems that everyone has a story. These stories are what make us human and are interesting to me. Memoirs often help me put my own worries in place or give me encouragement to do things. Biographies sometimes delve deep into what made a person tick. Either way they are a window into someone else's work, dreams, and experiences. Here are some memoirs or biographies I've read lately.


All About Me! by Mel Brooks - I listened to this book through my libro.fm account which was a true delight as it was voiced by Mel Brooks himself. In this wonderful memoir Brooks details his life from childhood on really concentrating on his showbusiness days from early TV through his iconic movies. The memoir is funny, poignant, and extremely interesting. I warn you though, you will want to watch all his movies when you finish!


Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History by Lea Ypi - I read this as an advanced reader copy but the book was published January 18. As Americans we are happy when a former Communist/Socialist country shrugs off its shackles and moves towards what we consider a free democracy-based state. What we never consider perhaps is what happens to the people and institutions in that country when that occurs. Free by Lea Ypi is a recounting of exactly that in Albania in 1991. Having grown up with the indoctrination inherent in a communist state, as a child Ypi doesn't consider herself not free to follow her dreams. Her parents know differently. They know her life is already plotted and there will be little she can do to change the course. While there is some irony in Ypi's conclusions, the book does make you think.


Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner - Growing up as the one of the only Asian kids in her schools in Eugene Oregon and constantly struggling with her mother's high expectations, Zauner's times of solace were bonding with her mother over food in her grandmother's tiny kitchen in Seoul. Moving to the East Coast for college and finding her way in New York, Michelle finds her Koreaness all but vanishing. After her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, Michelle again finds her path back to her identity.


The Liar's Club by Mary Karr - "For generations my ancestors had been strapping skillets onto their oxen and walking west. It turned out to be impossible for me to “run away” in the sense other American teenagers did. Any movement at all was taken for progress in my family." Published in 1995 and considered one of the best 50 memoirs ever, Mary Karr led the way in reviving the genre. Growing up in Texas, the child of a serial-marrying mother and oil-refinery worker father, Karr acknowledges that she grew up skinny and mean. Darkly humorous and filled with eccentric people, the memoir aptly captures growing up in 1970's Texas.


Private Battles: How the War Almost Defeated Us by Simon Garfield - While not a memoir per se, this book follows four private British citizens as they wrote of their World War II experiences in an honest, moving, humorous, and brave way. These people were part of the Mass Observers group started in the late 1930's when war in Europe seemed inevitable. Citizens were asked to keep accounts of their lives and send the information in to the government to be archived. This is one of three compilations Simon Garfield produced about this time in history.


Do you have any favorite memoirs or autobiographies? Please let me know.