Five Memoirs That Changed My Life

Okay, maybe they didn’t change my life in any cosmic way but they dramatically shifted my perspective on my colourful upbringing. Instead of finding fault in the struggles my sisters and I overcame as kids growing up in our chaotic household, I have learned to be grateful for it. I am thankful for those exact struggles we faced because I am proud of the people we’ve become.

People always seem to poke fun at me for some of my book recommendations because from their perspective, the ‘themes’ of these books are unfortunate, sad, dark, and full of tragedy. But I don’t see it that way at all. These books, I realize now with much introspection, have a common thread throughout them that fascinate me. They are all coming-of-age stories. The authors write about overcoming childhoods fraught with pain, personal obstacles, and familial strains. At the very core, they are all relatable tales. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, they have not only survived but learned to thrive and create fulfilling lives for themselves. Yes, all of their stories were flecked with individual shame, disappointment, and sorrow, but ultimately these authors speak more about forgiveness, fearlessness, acceptance, and success. And that is inspiring.

I won’t do a review of each book in this post because to be honest, I just can’t compete with the synopses you can find on Goodreads (also, I’ve previously reviewed them on my blog).  

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Goodreads Rating: 4.28/5 (958,000 votes)

Overall Theme: poverty, neglect, unconventional childhood

Thoughts: My people are probably sick of hearing me recommend this book but I can’t help it. The year I stumbled upon this book in Chapters, I either lent it out or gifted it to every reader I knew. I know I have multiple copies around the house just in case I run into anyone who needs a good book to read.

“One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree. I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight. Mom frowned at me. “You’d be destroying what makes it special,” she said. “It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.” -Jeannette Walls

North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person

Goodreads Rating: 4.21/5 (10,000 votes)

Overall Theme: poverty, nature, wilderness, unusual upbringing, neglect

Thoughts: This book really resonated with me because the author’s desperate need to feel accepted in her community of friends and peers could be felt through the pages of her book (that, in itself, was extremely relatable).

“There is a unique strength born from a youth spent longing for something different.” -Cea Sunrise Person

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Goodreads Rating: 4.24/5 (35,000 votes)

Overall Theme: polygamy, poverty, cult, abuse, blended family

Thoughts: This book provoked strong feelings for me. My heart broke for this little girl but she ultimately found her own healing through forgiveness.

“I wanted nothing more out of life than I did to keep my family together and make sure they were safe. The memory of those days reminds me of how exhausted I had been, but my siblings gave my life purpose, they were my bridge from pain to healing, from past to future. They are as much the authors of my survival as I am of theirs.” -Ruth Wariner

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park, Maryanne Vollers

Goodreads Rating: 4.39/5 (42,000 votes)

Overall Theme: North Korea, poverty, political turmoil, human trafficking, enslavement

Thoughts: I have always been extremely transfixed by everything North Korea, mainly because it is such a secluded and dystopian state. There is a lot to unpack with this book but it was engrossing from the very beginning.

“When you have more words to describe the world, you increase your ability to think complex thoughts.” -Yeonmi Park

A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

Goodreads Rating: 4.19/5 (29,000 votes)

Overall Theme: systemic racism, disenfranchisement, marginalization, poverty, addiction

Thoughts: Please don’t let the title of this book or the author’s name fool you. This book should not be overlooked. It provides a raw and honest look into the young, harrowing life of Cupcake Brown who was failed by the child protection system. This book reflects on how deep-rooted racism played a key part in the oppression of the writer’s life and brings you along her journey while she reignites her boisterous voice.

“You’re not always going to be able to see the big picture. But you’ve got to know that, no matter what, you’ll be okay. Keep praying.” -Cupcake Brown

I’m always looking for good book recommendations, what are some of your favourite memoirs?

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33 thoughts on “Five Memoirs That Changed My Life

    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting Hayley! Yes, I wholeheartedly recommend these books. I don’t think they’re for everyone (and I get it) but if you don’t like one of them I don’t think you’d like the rest of them lol… so I do hope you enjoy them! 🙂 Would be glad to hear your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great blog post! I’ve read The Glass Castle, although it was many years back. It was … tragic, for sure. I felt so sorry for her sister with the vision issues and her younger sister and all of them, actually!

    I’ve written my own memoir but I haven’t found an agent for it, and I’ve already sent it out to all the agents. I suspect it’s just going to go into the Meg vault, because I have no desire to self-publish it. If you ever want to read it, let me know! (No pressure whatsoever.) It definitely fits the bill of what you like in a memoir! 😮

    I need to read more memoirs!! I think it’s a genre I should get into!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!! Memoirs are probably my favourite genre to read. I love reading about extraordinary lives, but even the ordinary stories compel me too. To me, there’s something so magical about delving into someone’s unique life and seeing how they coped with what they were given.

      I admire you so much for being able to put pen to paper for your own memoir- I have dreams of being able to do the same but haven’t had the courage/chance to start! Still a goal of mine! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. These all sound like interesting books! I most want to read North of Normal — definitely sounds like something that could be relatable and deep and interesting and thought provoking

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, Helen! Yes, I hope you get a chance to read it too. I think you’d enjoy it (but if you don’t, don’t hate me lol always makes me a bit nervous to recommend books to people I don’t know intimately which is why this post made me a bit nervous)- interested to know what you think if you get a chance to read it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for sharing! And don’t be nervous about sharing books that you enjoy. Share what you love & there will be someone out there who will love it as much as you 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The Glass Castle sounds like an amazing read. You mentioned that Jeannette Walls was your favourite author – and I’m definitely going to add this to my TBR.

    I used read memoirs as a teen but haven’t since then. I feel like memoirs make me feel like I should be living my life like this person but I’d rather take my own path. So I decided that memoirs were to be read once I’m older and more sorted. 🙈 Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    • An interesting perspective, I’ve never thought about it from that angle before but I totally get it! Whatever brings you joy I totally support and encourage 🙂 Thanks for reading as always!


  4. these sound like a wonderful set of books. I think I’ve read Glass Castle, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I can’t remember. I like these coming of age types of stories as well. Thanks for adding more books to my reading list!

    Liked by 1 person

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