What’s Your Story? My Top 5 Favorite Memoirs & Why do We Love Memoirs So Much?

What’s Your Story? My Top 5 Favorite Memoirs & Why do We Love Memoirs So Much? November 28, 2012

A memoir is almost always an easy read. I’m typically engrossed from the first word. Here’s my top 5 list. What are your top 5?

  • Cash by Johnny Cash
  • Night by Elie Weisel
  • Hannah’s Child by Stanley Hauerwas
  • Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner
  • Confessions by St. Augustine

Honorable mention would be Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott and the book of Nehemiah. Best fictional memoir is Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow – hands down. The next two memoirs on my list will most likely be Brennan Manning’s All is Grace, and Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor.

Why do we love memoir so much?

I think that we love memoir because we are all trying to make sense of our own story, and hearing someone else’s story helps. I think that we are all intuitively aware of whether or not we are living in the midst of a good and hopeful story, or a sad, lonely, or cynical story. The pain of living a bad story can be unbearable. Even those of us who feel as though we are living a good story have seasons where the story takes a turn for the worse. In those times we will often turn to other people, to hear their stories, and to find in them some sort of motivation or hope to carry on.

One of the most compelling facets of the Christian story is the idea that through Christ, we can become part of God’s story, and God’s story is a story of healing and redemption. As a Christian, I think the Christian story is the story that makes sense of all our other stories. I think it’s the only story that has the power to help us integrate our whole lives under the umbrella of God’s story. I love spiritual memoirs most of all because they combine the two pieces – the story of one person, and the story of God – and they show me how God’s redemption extends to places and people unknown. That means that your own story – your personal encounter with the divine – is of utmost importance to those people in your life who love you.

Here’s a recent sermon I gave talking about memoir.

What’s your top 5 list of best memoirs?

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  • abby

    i love “the color of water” by james mcbride… a sort of two for one in the memoir category!

  • Gene Wilder wrote a memoir called “Kiss Me Like a Stranger,” a great book.

  • Tim Suttle

    I bet that’s a good book, Ryan. I will be forever grateful to him for the movie blazing saddles… brilliant. I’m also considering ordering Barbara Brown Taylor’s “Leaving Church.” Have you read that?