We live in an age where we have more technological capability, more devices, more apps, more social media avenues to give us greater access to immediate information and services. Not to mention an infinitesimal number of perspectives and reams of historical data. Yet, in my sixty-one years, I’ve never seen our country as disconnected or divided socially and politically.
To keep my equilibrium, for the past few years I have resolved—perhaps subconsciously on some days and more overtly on others—that I need to keep telling my stories to do my part to neutralize the negativity that predominates our lives. To uphold my own personal truths. To influence what and who I can through my writing. Even if only a handful of people are really interested in reading what I have to say. (If you’re an aspiring, independent and/or self-published author, you know what I mean.)
I’ve also realized I need to read more true stories. Memoirs by ordinary and extraordinary people. Gifted authors who are writing about universal themes: the desire to examine, understand and celebrate the family we came from; the calling to sometimes create a different sense of family, community and belonging; the need for unconditional love and authentic acceptance; the ironic interdependence of our lives in a chaotic world; the rightful quest for equality and personal opportunity; the fundamental need for a safe home and refuge; and the daunting struggle to repair the human spirit and find peace after a significant loss.
So, as the summer winds down (or in my case continues on here in the heat of the desert), I encourage you to devote time to an inspirational true story that feeds your spirit. Of course, I’d be delighted if you read any of my three memoirs—An Unobstructed View, Tales of a Rollercoaster Operator, or From Fertile Ground—because they explore the themes I’ve described above. You can find information about each of them here on my website.
But there are many other memoirs about universal human conditions that may appeal to you. Consider these five, which I’ve read in 2018 (or am currently reading) and highly recommend. All are authentic stories written by gifted authors with distinctive voices.
Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me—by Bill Hayes. This is a tender memoir about the relationship between the writer and Oliver Sacks, noted neurologist and author. It’s perfectly seasoned with observations about love, loss, and the random creative connections between total strangers in New York.
Life Is So Good—by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman. Originally published in 2000, this is the epic story of one man’s remarkable journey throughout the twentieth century and how he learned to read at ninety-eight years old.
Between Them: Remembering My Parents—by Richard Ford. Author of the iconic Frank Bascombe books, this is Ford’s first work of nonfiction. It’s a stirring, candid and intimate narrative about parental love.
The Best of Us—by Joyce Maynard. Published in 2017, this is an unbridled ode of love and loss, laced with indelible and bittersweet moments Joyce shared with her husband Jim as he battled pancreatic cancer.
Love, Bill—by Jan Krulick-Belin. After her father dies when she is six years old, the author believes she will never really know the man he was. But decades later Jan discovers letters that lead her on an extraordinary journey following her father’s actual footsteps during World War II.