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Non-Fiction > Memoirs & Biographies

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message 1: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments This is a place for you to talk about and recommend your favorite Memoirs and (Auto-)Biographies.


message 2: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Among my very favorite memoirs is definitely The Memoirs of Elias Canetti: The Tongue Set Free/The Torch in My Ear/The Play of the Eyes. Written in a beautiful language, this trilogy not only portraits the nobelprize winner's early years, it is also a vivid account of the 20's and 30's in Bulgaria, England, Germany, Switzerland and Austria as well as an interesting portrait of artists and writers, among them Robert Musil, Hermann Broch and Bertold Brecht.


message 3: by Dhanaraj (last edited Aug 29, 2013 07:03AM) (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments One of my favourite biographies that I read in the recent times is A Song for Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai: Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb. I loved the book.

Another interesting memoir that I read in the recent times is Christ Stopped At Eboli.

Another important autobiographical work that I read and consider it an important work is Survival in Auschwitz.

Franz Kafka's Letter to My Father is another tragic work that I have read.


message 4: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Dhanaraj, that is a great selection! I haven't read the the first two, but they sound very interesting. The latter two certainly belong to my list of favorite memoirs as well.


message 5: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments The first one is also religious. But anyone can read it also. It is an intersting portrait of a person who had all the reason to hate the world and yet chose to love the world.


message 6: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments That's beautifully put. I guess every now and then we all need a book like this to remind us.


message 9: by Gill (new)

Gill | 5720 comments Amber wrote: "The ones I've enjoyed are Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist which is by michael j fox, Heartbreak & Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story, Hollywood Monster: A Walk Down Elm St..."

Amber, I read an interview with Michael j Fox recently. The book sounds interesting.


message 10: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberterminatorofgoodreads) It does Gill. You would actually enjoy it. It's how he stays optimistic about stuff. Michael J. Fox is a good storyteller much like Robert Englund is in his novel.


message 11: by Julia (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) I was deeply moved by Unbowed, the memoir of Wangari Maathai who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for the Green Belt Movement she started in Kenya. PBS has a good 9 minute video of this incredible woman: http://video.pbs.org/video/2053414803/


message 12: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments If anyone interested in the biography of the 14th century Italian saint, Catherine of Siena, I would highly recommend the biography written by Sigrid Undset (Catherine of Siena). The biography is well written.


message 13: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie I didn't know Sigrid Undset wrote biographies! You learn something every day.

Bios and autobiographies are my favorite genre. American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer is just one book that I have read recently and really, really enjoyed. You really understand how people thought during the Cold War.


message 14: by EleonoraF (new)

EleonoraF (eleonora1679) I really liked Open


message 15: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments @ Chrissie: Sigrid Undset wrote some biographies on Catholic saints.


message 16: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ Will definitely look for some of these mentioned above. I am reading Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir and then on to A House in the Sky for a buddy read.


message 17: by Chrissie (last edited Mar 30, 2014 10:11PM) (new)

Chrissie Here are few more that I have really enjoyed:
Ava's Man

Allende's Paula and The House of the Spirits(HF but really about her grandmother and family.
In my view Allende's newer books just do not compare to the earlier books she wrote about her family.)

Portrait of a Turkish Family

I will go on thinking but I am having trouble with how my bookshelves work nowadays. I cannot find books. Can anybody tell me how to change back to the old style of our book shelves, ie without book covers, where you could go to one shelf and see ALL the shelves each book is registered on. (Now you have to click on each book.) Previously you could find books both on the favorites and bio shelves, just by skimming the column. Frustrating.


message 18: by EleonoraF (new)

EleonoraF (eleonora1679) I recommend one of my favorite books, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter


message 19: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I am slightly unsure whether to place this here or in history however Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination by Otto Dov Kulka is without a doubt one of the best books I've read this year, if not ever.
It is not an easy read, however strange as it sounds regarding the subject, it is a beautiful book more than anything, and a bit of a life changer.I am aware this sounds a bit dramatic, it did however really change my way of looking at things, at looking closely at my own process of remembering or imagening a personal past, though my past has obviously happened outside of the landscapes of death as he describes them, outside of Poland of 1944 and the family camp of Birkenau/Auschwitz.

Otto Dov Kulka is known for his scientific research on the Holocaust and the development of the Jewish community during and post WWII, these however are his personal reflections on his past while revisiting places like Auschwitz. And most of all it's a book about how we remember who we've been.

Strongly recommended.


message 20: by Gill (new)

Gill | 5720 comments I endorse everything that Jenny says. I think this has been a life-changing book for me.


message 21: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ For me as well.


message 22: by Chrissie (last edited Apr 22, 2014 02:58AM) (new)

Chrissie Yesterday I finished We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals and I definitely recommend it to all those interested in the Victorian era and literature. The history is easy to understand and interestingly drawn so you care to know. The lives of Victoria and Albert are interesting. What childhoods! Maybe the most important information is that it would have been more correct to call the period the "Albertian Era"! If you want to know more about the book you can check out my review. Hemophilia and the Crimean War and the 1851 Science Exposition in London. Did you know that was the very first one? They became such a rage.

But basically you come to understand why what we call Victorian is Victorian, except that it should have been called "Albertian"!


message 23: by Pink (new)

Pink Jenny wrote: "I am slightly unsure whether to place this here or in history however Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination by Otto Dov Kulka is without a dou..."

I've never heard of this before, but after all the endorsements I've added it to my TBR


message 24: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie In the beginning I didn't enjoyMargaret Fuller: A New American Life, but by the end I thought it was worth four stars. A very interesting woman and the times she lived through are made particularly interesting by the author too. Before reading the book I knew nothing about the Siege of Rome in 1849! Very exciting and there is lots to think about concerning her choice of husband. The book won the 2014 Pulitzer for biography.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

I've just started reading My Own Country by Abraham Verghese. It tells the story of the beginning of AIDS in the 1980s in rural America and is written by a doctor working there at the time. He's also written fiction and it's therefore an extremely well written account of that time


message 27: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ He is a good writer, Heather. Let me know how you liked this one, sounds very interesting.

I am reading My Salinger Year


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Diane, I really enjoyed it. Fascinating account if his life and of the beginnings of HIV/AIDS. I would recommend the boom


message 29: by Gill (last edited Jun 12, 2014 01:22PM) (new)

Gill | 5720 comments I'm not sure where to post this; I've just come across this statement from Walter Benjamin, (I was led to it by Christa Wolf)

Excavation and Memory
Language has unmistakably made plain that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past, but rather a medium. It is the medium of that which is experienced, just as the earth is the medium in which ancient cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging. Above all, he must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil. For the ”matter itself” is no more than the strata which yield their long-sought secrets only to the most meticulous investigation. That is to say, they yield those images that, severed from all earlier associations, reside as treasures in the sober rooms of our later insights––like torsos in a collector’s gallery. It is undoubtedly useful to plan excavations methodically. Yet no less indispensable is the cautious probing of the spade in the dark loam. And the man who merely makes an inventory of his findings, while failing to establish the exact location of where in today’s ground the ancient treasures have been stored up, cheats himself of his richest prize. In this sense, for authentic memories, it is far less important that the investigator report on them than that he mark, quite precisely, the site where he gained possession of them. Epic and rhapsodic in the strictest sense, genuine memory must therefore yield an image of the person who remembers, in the same way a good archaeological report not only informs us about the strata from which its findings originate, but also gives an account of the strata which first had to be broken through.


message 30: by B the BookAddict (new)

B the BookAddict (bthebookaddict) | 8315 comments So, so true, Gill.


message 31: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments @ Gill: It is a lovely quote and it is not a surprise that Christa Wolf had indicated this to you.


message 32: by Ann (last edited Jun 13, 2014 04:10PM) (new)

Ann I recently read Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and I loved it. It's an interesting, touching and funny memoir about growing up in Africa. I also read a novel masquerading as a memoir, Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls. It's about her grandmother and written in the first person so it seems like it's a memoir. It's a really good book. It has scenes with Walls' mother who is in The Glass Castle which I plan to read.


message 34: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Judy wrote: "Ann wrote: "I recently read Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and I loved it. It's an interesting, touching and funny memoir about growing up in Africa. I also read a novel masqueradi..."



Judy, absolutely all of Fuller's memoirs are fantastic. I wasn't that thrilled with The Legend of Colton H. Bryant, but that is fiction based on a real event and it is not about her own family.


message 35: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Judy, I prefer her memoirs. i have given every single one of them five stars, BUT I did not do that with her fiction. It was quite a disappointment when I thought Fuller could no wrong.


message 36: by Alice (new)

Alice Poon (alice_poon) I've read Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt by Saul Friedländer, which gives an interesting insight into the private life of Kafka. This biography did help me understand Kafka's The Metamorphosis a little better.


message 37: by Ann (new)

Ann Judy, I've read only the one memoir but Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is on my TBR list (which seems to grow every time I read a post on AAB!).
Chrissie, I didn't know Fuller wrote any fiction. Too bad they aren't up to the memoirs. I guess I'll stick to her nonfiction.


message 38: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Ann, yeah, all her memoirs are great.


message 39: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Alice wrote: "I've read Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt by Saul Friedländer, which gives an interesting insight into the private life of Kafka. This biography did help me..."

Sounds like great book Alice!


message 40: by Alannah (new)

Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11965 comments Mod
Need to start paying more attention to this thread. I still have two memoirs/biographies to read for my 2014 challenge.


message 41: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Judy wrote: "Chrissie wrote: "Judy, I prefer her memoirs. i have given every single one of them five stars, BUT I did not do that with her fiction. It was quite a disappointment when I thought Fuller could no w..."

Judy, I too liked Walls' first and second book. I gave both four stars. Thanks for warning me about the third. I have not read that.


message 42: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Judy, thank you for explaining. I switched the novel to my maybe shelf. I REALLY appreciate warnings about books since I have way too many begging to be erad.


message 43: by Alice (new)

Alice Poon (alice_poon) I read Simone de Beauvoir's Wartime Diary a few years ago and liked it very much. It is an intimate account of Beauvoir's experiences during World War II, in which she laid bare her deepest feelings about her love relationships with Jean-Paul Satre and Jacques-Laurent Bost and other girlfriends.


message 45: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) Jenny wrote: "Among my very favorite memoirs is definitely The Memoirs of Elias Canetti: The Tongue Set Free/The Torch in My Ear/The Play of the Eyes. Written in a beautiful language, this trilogy ..."

This is a very old post I'm replying to, but I wanted to say it is one of my favorite memoirs, too. I love Elias Canetti, he's my favorite author ever and I've read basically each one of his books.


message 46: by Shirley J (new)

Shirley J (fastreader) Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, The Glass Castle, Half Broke Horses will also remain on my list of most memorable memoirs.

Other memoirs on that list are: The Liars' Club and Breaking Clean

On my TBR shelf are Scribbling the Cat, Lit and West with the Night.


message 48: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Shirley, you should read all of Fuller's memoirs! They are all great. I liked Walls' too, but not as much.


message 49: by Ann (new)

Ann I also loved Fuller's books but I haven't read her latest, Leaving Before the Rains Come.


message 50: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Ann, I SOOOO want to read her latest but it is still not available to me. :0(


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