My list of top memoirs and works of creative & narrative nonfiction

Silver Car x2

Among too many good books to list, these are important—or thrilled me to my toes:

Alexie, Sherman. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (Reviewed)

Baldwin, James. The Devil Finds Work (Watching movies while black. Reviewed.)

——. Notes of a Native Son (Discussed and Discussed and Discussed.)

Beard, Jo AnnThe Boys of My Youth

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Birkerts, Sven. The Art of Time in Memoir (Reviewed.)

Bradbury, Ray. Zen in the Art of Writing (Inspiring essays on craft.)

Bragg, Rick. All Over But the Shoutin’

Caldwell, GailLet’s Take the Long Way Home (Noted & Noted & Noted.)

Chapman, Matthew. Trials of the Monkey: An Accidental Memoir (Funny & poignant stealth memoir. Reviewed)

Chee, Alexander. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (Brave, searching, elegiac essays)

Christman, Jill. Darkroom: A Family Exposure

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me (Distressing, cynical about America, important. Reviewed.)

Crews, Harry. A Childhood: The Biography of a Place (Reviewed. Discussed. And major review and reconsideration for River Teeth.)

Dillard, AnnieAn American Childhood (Noted.)

——. For the Time Being (Reviewed.)

——. Living by Fiction (Reviewed.)

——. The Writing Life ( Reviewed.)

Dubus, Andre IIITownie (A gripping masterpiece.)

Dyer, GeoffOut of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence (Absurd, brilliant, hilarious.)

——. Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It (essays)

Eggers, Dave. Zeitoun (Reviewed.)

Franzen, JonathanThe Discomfort Zone: A Personal History

Gilbert, Richard. Shepherd: A Memoir (See book page for review links.)

Gopnik, AdamAngels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life (Reviewed.)

Gornick, Vivian. Fierce Attachments (Reviewed.)

——. The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir (Reviewed.)

Grealy, LucyThe Autobiography of a Face (Noted.)

Griffin, Susan. A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War (Reviewed.)

Griffith, DavidA Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America (Reviewed.)

Grimes, Tom. Mentor (Q&A)

Hampl, Patricia. Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime (Reviewed.)

Huber, SonyaPain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays From a Nervous System (Review and author interview)

Iversen, KristenFull Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats (Memoir braided with journalistic investigation; an important book.)

Jahren, Hope. Lab Girl

Jung, Carl. Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Kalanithi, Paul. When Breath Becomes Air (Reviewed)

Karr, Mary. Lit (Reviewed.)

Kimball, KristenThe Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love (Compelling story; beautifully written.)

Kimmel, Haven. A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Moreland, Indiana (Discussed.)

Kitchen, Judith. Distance and Direction (Reviewed.)

Klinkenborg, Verlyn. A Few Short Sentences About Writing (Reviewed with The Rural Life.)

——.The Rural Life (Reviewed.)

Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild

Kusz, Natalie. Road Song: A Memoir (reviewed.)

Laing, Olivia. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

Lethem, JonathanThe Disappointment Artist (“The Beards” is perfect.)

Larson, Thomas. The Sanctuary of Illness: A Memoir of Heart Disease (Review and Author Interview.)

Manguso, Sarah. The Two Kinds of Decay

Martin, LeeFrom Our House (A top-five memoir. Reviewed.)

——. Such a Life (Memoir essays. Review, Interview.)

Moody, Rick. The Black Veil

Moore, Dinty WBetween Panic and Desire (A postmodern peach.)

Nabokov, Vladimir. Speak, Memory (Reviewed.)

Naughton, Lara. The Jaguar Man (Inspiring, uplifting, humbling.)

Offutt, ChrisMy Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir

O’Rourke, Meghan. The Long Goodbye: A Memoir (Reviewed.)

Orr, GregoryThe Blessing (Reviewed, Q&A and Orr’s Guest Post on memoir.)

Patchett, AnnTruth and Beauty

Perry, Michael. Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time (A portrait of small-town America and its first-responders by one up to his eyeballs in both. Oh, and he’s a bone-crushingly good writer. Reviewed.)

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

Prum, Richard O. The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us (Thrilling, important. Reviewed.)

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen (Reviewed.)

Rapp, EmilyPoster Child (A physical disability but an inner transformation. Reviewed.)

Ray, JanisseEcology of a Cracker Childhood

Richard, Mark. House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer’s Journey Home (Discussed.)

Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet (Discussed.)

Roorbach, BillTemple Stream: A Rural Odyssey (Reviewed.)

Roth, PhilipPatrimony

Ruta, Domenica. With or Without You: A Memoir (Great on time shifts, writer “now.”)

Schrand, Brandon R. Works Cited: An Alphabetical Odyssey of Mayhem and Misbehavior (Reviewed & Discussed.)

Sedaris, David. Me Talk Pretty One day

——When You are Engulfed in Flames

Shapiro, DaniStill Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life (Essential inspiration. Discussed.)

Shields, DavidThe Thing About Life is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (Discussed.)

——How Literature Saved My Life  (Or: Reality Hunger II. Or maybe his actual manifesto . . . )

Silverman, Sue William. The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew

Slater, Lauren. Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir

Smith, AlisonName All the Animals (A top five memoir. Reviewed and Discussed.)

Smith, Patti. M Train (Reviewed.)

Solnit, RebeccaThe Faraway Nearby (Reviewed & Discussed & Discussed & Discussed.)

Stephens, Liz. The Days are Gods (Reviewed, Q&A.)

Strauss, DarinHalf a Life (Truly a great book—a top five memoir. Reviewed.)

Strayed, CherylWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail (Analysis.)

Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (a remarkable religious synthesis. Discussed.)

Updike, JohnSelf-Consciousness (A classic on the order of Nabokov’s, though Updike is much more likable. Reviewed.)

Urrea, Luis Alberto. The Devil’s Highway: A True Story (Reviewed.)

Welty, EudoraOne Writer’s Beginnings (Discussed.)

White, E.B. One Man’s Meat (Discussed.)

Winterson, JeanetteWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Reflective, expository; distilled rigor; still-raw pain. Reviewed.)

Wood, MonicaWhen We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine (Stellar. Lovely, heartbreaking—a top five memoir. Reviewed and Q&A.)

Woolf, VirginiaA Room of One’s Own (Reviewed.)

——. Moments of Being (Noted & Noted.)

Wolff, TobiasIn Pharaoh’s Army

——. This Boy’s Life

Wright, Richard. Notes of a Native Son

——. Black Boy