I’m not a great reader of memoir, preferring fiction to the true stories of celebrities, some of whom have misconceived ideas about how much the public wish to know about their lives. Yet if well-written and honest, a memoir gives the reader an insight into the background of someone we think we know and in most cases there are surprises.
I would recommend the following books for readers who prefer non-fiction or for those who are looking for a change from fictional narrative. My suggestions are diverse yet what they all have in common is a determination to succeed despite humble and in some cases, difficult, beginnings.
‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama, which details almost as much about her husband as herself, presents a candid reflection, offering a window into her life. Michelle writes about how ambition and hard work helped her journey from her family’s Chicago working-class neighbourhood to the White House and beyond. ‘Becoming’ is the deeply personal account of a woman who never expected to find herself a household name across the world.
Jeanette Winterson waited until her strong-minded deeply religious mother had passed away before she shared the truth about her bleak childhood in Accrington. She was often hungry, sometimes left all night on the doorstep by a mother whose religious excesses were pervasive and relentless. ‘Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal’ fascinated me as the story unfolded and I imagined Jeanette living a parallel life to my own loving, gentle upbringing not many miles away in Blackburn.
‘Windswept and Interesting’ by Billy Connolly gives an insight into the comedian’s early years in a tough part of Glasgow. Billy’s mother walked out on him and his sister when they were small and they found little love in the house of their aunts. We thoroughly enjoyed listening to Billy telling his own story. The audio version helped to pass the hours of a long car journey to the south of France. The tale is brutal in parts, but as you would expect, humour is ever-present and there were many times when we laughed out loud. Ultimately, the joy of his adulthood, outweighed the sadness of his childhood.
If you are searching for something to read and prefer contemporary fiction, you may like to consider my novels or the short story collection. They are available from Amazon (Kindle or paperback) or through the website. For book clubs who need multiple copies, please get in touch for a discount. You will also find discussion questions available to download from the website.
You don’t have to be famous to write your own memoir and many of us have fascinating stories to tell. In the meantime, I sincerely hope the summer holidays bring you good books and plenty of time to read them.