For Memoir Writing Month, News Editor shares recommended memoirs

By Katherine Coble || News Editor

November is a big month for writers. It’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and National Memoir Writing Month. This week I decided to look back on my favorite memoirs of the past few years, and here they are for you to enjoy! Whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or just like a good book, I hope this list gives you some inspiration for what to read next or how to approach your next memoir. 

“Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved” By Kate Bowler

“Everything Happens for a Reason” is a sucker-punch of a book, and if you read anything on this list, I hope it will be this one. Kate Bowler was a typical 35-year-old, a new mother and a professor of Christianity at Duke University. Her research specifically focused on the “prosperity gospel” – the evangelical concept that God rewards the worthy alone. It was at this moment that Kate Bowler was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. 

Bowler’s memoir is a heartbreaking, stunning exploration of grief and love and life, which begs the question: does everything happen for a reason? If not, how do we cope? Although short and sharp, Bowler’s work strikes where it hurts and articulates emotions many of us are too afraid to confront. It is her feeling that she has nothing left to lose that gives Kate Bowler her power.

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama

“Becoming” has topped the bestseller charts since it was first published in November 2018, and according to BBC News, sold more copies than any other book published that year. If any memoir deserves that popularity, “Becoming” is a strong candidate. Obama’s second book is split into three sections: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. Through these sections, she takes the reader through her life, from a child of Chicago’s South Side to a graduate of Princeton and Harvard, and eventually her experience as the wife of a politician who would later become president for eight years. 

Obama’s book has something for everyone: drama, nostalgia, and inspiration. Political junkies will appreciate the descriptions of campaign life and campaign decisions. Other chapters focus on the daily life of the Obamas in the most unusual family home possible – the White House. Michelle Obama has a strong story to tell, and she does not disappoint in “Becoming.” 

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” is perhaps the most whimsical memoir on this list, and certainly not for the faint of heart. Doughty, best known for her fascinating YouTube channel “Ask a Mortician” shares her witty observations from her first job after college – as an assistant at a crematorium. But it’s not all guts and gore. On the contrary, Doughty explores the meaning of death, why we are so afraid of it, and the ‘culture’ of the funeral industrial complex – the American tendency to act as though death never happened, or cover up the truth of what it does to our bodies. Her book is full of observations that will stick with you long after you finish reading it.

Senior Katie Coble is the News Editor. Her email is kcoble@fandm.edu.

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