Tag Archives: Memoir
Paperback: 272 pages
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”
What I got out of Bird by Bird is the love and respect for the craft. Writers shouldn’t get into writing because they want to be the next John Grisham or Jackie Collins, or to make thousands of dollars, or to see their name up in lights. Writers don’t write for fame, fortune or accolades. They write because they love the art and respect the craft.
This was the first book I’ve read by Anne Lamott, and I enjoyed her voice and writing style. She writes from the heart and in truth about the craft and her life. She doesn’t avoid difficult topics, and tackles them with humor.
She doesn’t sell you pipe dreams or pie in the sky fantasies about writing. She encourages you to write, and not stop, even if your work never gets published.
This excerpt spoke volumes to me:
“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose or their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on the boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
All in all, Bird by Bird is a wonderful book which I will read again. This is a book you will want to keep in your library. If you write or want to write, I highly recommend this book.
Anne Lamott is the New York Times bestselling author of Help, Thanks, Wow; Small Victories; Stitches; Some Assembly Required; Grace (Eventually); Plan B; Traveling Mercies; Bird by Bird; Operating Instructions, and the forthcoming Hallelujah Anyway. She is also the author of several novels, including Imperfect Birds and Rosie. A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in Northern California.
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
I’ve had this book on my book shelf for awhile. I was intending to read it, but never got to it until a week ago. Now I could kick myself for not reading it sooner.
In my opinion, On Writing is one of the best books on the craft of writing. Novelist Stephen King gives you the nuts and bolts of what it takes to be a writer.
If I were to sum up the book in a few words, it would be… “Read a lot, Write a lot.”
What I found encouraging (since I don’t have a college degree), is that Stephen King says it is not necessary to attend college to be a writer. He doesn’t deter people from attending college, he just says you don’t need a degree to write books. You just need to read a lot and write a lot. Every day. Without fail.
Writing requires work, discipline and perseverance to succeed. There are no short cuts.
On Writing is a goldmine filled with helpful nuggets. It is the kind of book you want to have in your library to refer to. I highly recommend it.
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Bill Hodges Trilogy, Revival, and Doctor Sleep. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story.
[Click to see my vlog review here: https://youtu.be/LniPt3nakdw]
The Glass Castle is one of the best memoirs I have ever read, and I have read many.
Jeannette Walls is a beautiful writer, and her memoir reads like novel. It is moving and unforgettable. It left a lasting impression on me.
If I were to describe this memoir in one word, it would be resilience.
If you have never read a memoir before or if you love memoirs, The Glass Castle is the one to read. I highly recommend it.
The New York Times bestselling memoir by Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three, who was falsely convicted of three murders and spent nearly eighteen years on Death Row—Life After Death is destined to be a classic of explosive, riveting prison literature.
I read an interview with John Grisham and the interviewer asked him what he was reading. He responded, a memoir called Life After Death by Damien Echols. He mentioned it was one of the best books he’s read in a long time. So I decided to get it.
When I began reading this book, I was riveted.
Damien Echols is an extraordinary writer. I was blown away by the way he writes. He is a true artist.
However, this book is no walk in the park. Nor is this the type of book I would normally gravitate to. Life is hard enough than to read about injustice to such severity, it made my blood boil.
I honestly do not know how Damien Echols survived it, much less, remained the positive person he is today with all the hell he endured. What resilience.
He was falsely accused and convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. He and two others were accused of murdering three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. They did not do it. Someone else did and they still haven’t found out who.
Imagine being a teenager and spending 18 years on death row for a crime you didn’t commit? Being beaten by guards and surrounded by mentally ill inmates. Prison is full of the mentally ill who are not getting the help they need. They are put in prison to rot, meanwhile they are not well.
His memoir was difficult to read. I found myself disgusted, angry, sad, disillusioned and broken for him and all those who are on death row or in solitary confinement who are innocent.
I can’t find the words to describe how provoking this book is. This book describes the absolute brokenness of our prison system. It also sheds light on the corruption that exists in our court system.
If Damien Echols was standing in front of me today, I would apologize to him on behalf of all the Christians in his life that turned him away from Christ.
He depicts with such accuracy the judgmental and critical nature of Christians. While reading his experiences outside and inside of prison, I was embarrassed and ashamed. Instead of Christians being a light in his life, they were the complete opposite.
There is no other word to describe it other than disgusting.
I would tell Mr. Nichols, those were not followers of Christ. Those were lost, broken people, who were ignorant, confused and didn’t know an ounce about loving others.
As a result of this, he is not a Christian today. He became a buddhist in prison. He was treated better by Buddhists than Christians. After what he went through, I can’t quite blame him.
There was one part where he describes that when there was an execution scheduled, Christians would appear, but not on any other time. It was as if they enjoyed the excitement of someone being executed.
I can’t write it the way he describes it in his book. He is truly brilliant and a gifted writer. His writing is palatable for you see and feel everything.
I am glad he is free now and with his wife Lorri who helped him the most. There were many others, but she was the persistent one, who never gave up.
He also made mention that the prison system is designed for those to be forgotten by society, including family and friends. He said what gave him some hope and kept him going was receiving encouraging letters from strangers.
Overall, I would have to say this was the best book I read in 2013. Yes, it was the hardest to read, but it was most certainly the best. I highly recommend it, but it’s definitely not for the faint at heart.
Damien Echols was born in 1974 and grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. At age eighteen he was wrongfully convicted of murder, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley, Jr. Echols received a death sentence and spent almost eighteen years on Death Row, until he, Baldwin, and Miss Kelley were released in 2011. The West Memphis Three have been the subject of Paradise Lost, a three-part documentary series produced by HBO, and West of Memphis, a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Echols is the author of a self-published memoir, Almost Home. He and his wife, Lorri Davis, live in Massachusetts.
It takes a lifetime to know what–and who–defines you.
When Alexandra Kuykendall became a mother, she knew she had to go back to the beginning. To that hot July afternoon in Barcelona when she met her father for the first time. The only daughter of a single, world-traveling mother and an absent artist father, Alexandra embarks on a soul-searching trip into the past to make sense of the layers of her life–both the memories she experienced and the ones she wished for.
The Artist’s Daughter will take you on a journey of discovery through childhood, marriage, and motherhood. Through short vignettes full of both wonder and heartache, Alexandra seeks answers to three life-defining questions: Am I lovable? Am I loved? Am I loving? If you long to better understand the path your life has taken, where it is heading, and who is guiding you, this revealing and refreshing story will push you toward those answers as it changes your heart.
I guess I should call myself a book reviewer of memoirs, since I seem to predominantly read them. The Artist’s Daughter does not disappoint.
Alexandra Kuykendall pens her story with such uniqueness and authenticity. I saw my reflection in many of the pages. I identified with her struggle for identity. Many of the questions she poses, I have asked myself. Reading her memoir, gave me permission to look deep within the recesses of my heart and evaluate if I am still harboring hurts, resentment and frustrations of unfulfilled expectations that were not met in my life.
Her journey parallels mine in many ways. I especially loved reading the truthfulness of her relationship with her father, her marriage and her experiences of motherhood. I appreciated the fact that she did not sugar coat or make it seem that all was perfect. I find many Christians hide behind a veneer of image and show, instead of keeping it real.
Alexandra Kuykendall doesn’t do this, she is honest as she exposes truth, even if it was messy. I appreciated the fact that she was vulnerable in telling her story with abandon.
There is something to admire and respect about her memoir. Her struggles as a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter, etc… I told her this in a private message and I will say it again here… Well done.
This is a beautiful memoir I highly recommend to women, whether single or married, with or without children.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Revell Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to review.
Alexandra Kuykendall is on staff at MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers) where she encourages mothers of young children to keep growing as they take on their new mothering identity. She is a regular contributor and consulting editor to MomSense magazine, Connections magazine, and the MOPS blog. A frequent speaker for MOPS, Alexandra has been featured on Good Morning America. As the mother of four young children, she continues to refine her mothering identity. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband, Derek, and their daughters.
The Dark Night of the Soul in the City That Never Sleeps.
At first glance, Rebekah Lyons’s life path seemed straightforward: walk the aisle, take the short road to motherhood, and build a family on a suburban cul-de-sac in the South.
But life looked radically different when her family relocated to the heart of New York City. She was forced to navigate a new normal with three kids, two toy poodles, and a minivan. Blindsided by crippling despair, Rebekah wrestled with bigger questions women often ask: Why am I here? Does my life matter?
In a Western culture driven by performance and Pinterest fantasies, her story echoes the rise of loneliness, depression, and anxiety that women are facing at all-time highs. Why are expectations and lifestyles breaking us down in unprecedented ways?
In this beautifully moving memoir of vulnerability, courage, and ultimately transformation, Rebekah shares her journey into the unknown—a thrilling, terrifying freefall that eventually led to flight. Searching for meaning, she stumbled on surrender, discovering that meaning follows surrender.
Rebekah found freedom when she faced her greatest fear, and she invites other women to do the same. For it is only when we freefall that we can truly fly.
As much as I enjoyed Rebekah Lyons writing style, there were certain aspects of her memoir that I found hard to relate or identify with.
I am a working mom and she is a stay at home mom. She is afforded opportunities most working and stay at home moms do not. Which is why I believe her story specifically speaks to mothers or women who are from her same socioeconomic background.
I do understand and can relate to the author’s feelings of angst and her struggles with anxiety and depression. Her struggle with wanting to find her specific calling besides that of being a wife and mother.
However, I have to be honest and say, most moms I know living in New York City do not have the time or luxury to go to someone’s apartment in the morning for bible study, or go on retreats, or even have time to just walk through Central Park while it’s snowing.
So if you are not of that lifestyle or demographic, it’s kind of hard to relate to her story or put yourself in the author’s shoes.
However, the author’s story is hers and I respect her life and experiences. I believe Rebekah Lyon’s memoir was candid, authentic and truthful. She didn’t hide, she exposed a lot of herself and her experiences, which I appreciated. I also find her to be a talented writer, so on that front, I enjoyed reading her memoir.
If there was one word I could use to describe her book, it would be surrender.
Freefall to Fly was about Rebekah Lyons journey to find God and herself. In the midst of it, God delivered her from severe and debilitating anxiety attacks. I found this aspect of her story to be encouraging, but I do not believe this is common.
Most people do not get delivered from anxiety because they cry out to God in desperation. This was the authors experience, which I respect, however, there are many who have to be on medication and that is no indication God loves them any less because they weren’t delivered.
In conclusion, I want to thank Handlebar Marketing and Tyndale Publishers for sending me a complimentary book to review.
Rebekah Lyons is a mother of three, wife of one, and dog walker of two living in New York City. She’s an old soul with a contemporary, honest voice who puts a new face on the struggles women face as they seek to live a life of meaning. As a self-confessed mess, Rebekah wears her heart on her sleeve, a benefit to friends and readers alike. She serves alongside her husband, Gabe, as cofounder of QIdeas, an organization that helps leaders winsomely engage culture.
After her parents are killed in a rare grizzly attack, the author is forced into a wilderness of grief. Turning to loves she learned from her father, Polson explores the perilous terrain of grief through music, the natural world, and her faith. Her travels take her from the suburbs of Seattle to the concert hall where she sings Mozart’s Requiem, and ultimately into the wilderness of Alaska’s remote Arctic and of her heart.
This deeply moving narrative is shot through with the human search for meaning in the face of tragedy. Polson’s deep appreciation for the untamed and remote wilderness of the Alaskan Arctic moves her story effortlessly between adventure, natural history, and sacred pilgrimage, as much an internal journey as a literal one. Readers who appreciate music or adventure narratives and the natural world or who are looking for new ways to understand loss will find guidance, solace, and a companionable voice in this extraordinary debut.
What could I possibly add to the wonderful description of this beautifully written book? My words are small and won’t adequately convey my true sentiments. My review will not do justice and encompass the beauty of this memoir, North of Hope.
Shannon Huffman Polson is a virtuoso. She is one of my heros. She writes with such brilliance, as she weaves her story of loss and hope. She takes you on her pilgrimage through the Alaskan Artic in search for answers. Her experiences will leave you breathless, in wonder and awe.
I love memoirs like this one, written with such depth, thoughtfulness and creativity. Besides which, Shannon Huffman Polson is an extraordinary writer.
I really enjoyed this memoir and was sad when it ended. I hope she writes more books.
I highly recommend North of Hope, it is brilliant. One of the best memoirs I have read in a long time.
Shannon Polson lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. She was a contributing writer to More Than 85Broads, and her work has appeared in Seattle and Alaska Magazines, Cirque Journal, Adventure Magazine, and Trachodon, among others. Polson graduated with a B.A. from Duke University in English Literature, an M.B.A. from the Tuck School at Dartmouth, and an M.F.A. from Seattle Pacific University. She served eight years as an attack helicopter pilot in the Army and worked five years in corporate marketing and management roles before turning to writing full time. Polson serves on the board of the Alaska Wilderness League and sings with the critically acclaimed Seattle Pro Musica. She has looked for adventure and challenge anywhere she can find it, scuba diving, sky diving and climbing around the world, including ascents of Denali and Kilimanjaro, and completing two Ironman triathlons. She and her family enjoy backpacking, any kind of skiing, paddling, and spending as much time outdoors as they can in the Western states and Alaska. In September 2009, Polson was awarded the Trailblazer Woman of Valor award from Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell.