Often, serendipity plays a role in putting the perfect book in my hands at just the right time. That is the experience I had last week, when I happened to be finishing Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu on the same day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases related to same-sex marriage. In the book, Chu, a journalist who grew up in California and now lives in New York, sets out on a year-long pilgrimage to ask tough why so many people who read the same scriptures and follow the same God can end up at radically different conclusions on issues of faith, the church and homosexuality.
Outlaw Platoon is one of the most difficult and most addictive books I have read in a long time. Although it is not as philosophical or analytical as other war memoirs I’ve read (Karl Marlantes’ What It Is Like to Go to War? comes to mind), Outlaw Platoon is effective as a snapshot of what war is like for soldiers today who haven’t yet had time to look back or process these experiences fully.
I have to admit that I went into Where the Peacocks Sing with a little trepidation. I’m often very hot or cold with memoirs and fiction of this style, loves stories in exotic places where a shallow person comes to realize the True Meaning of Love/Life/Home/Family through a relationship with someone else. And this story — a woman who loves Jimmy Choo shoes falls in love with a modest Indian man who then turns out to be part of a wealthy Indian family — seemed like it could be an excellent travel story or be too close to chick lit for my taste.
In One Hundred Names for Love, author Diane Ackerman writes about the five years after Paul’s stroke — his daily struggles to make himself known, the challenges an illness that takes away language does to a relationship built on words, and the process of designing a new life in the wake of a condition that all but destroys what used to be.
I love to read memoirs, but the one subgenre, if you will, that I tend to avoid is the dysfunctional family memoir. However, if you package a dysfunctional family story in a comic book? I can’t stay away.
(Aside: I HATE the phrase “graphic memoir” because it makes me think I’m talking about extremely violent or memoirs with a lot of explicit sex, which I am not. But you can’t call them “comic books” or “graphic novels” and the phase “memoirs in comic book form” is so clumsy… I just don’t know. Does someone have a better description?)
Melanie Hoffert grew up on a farm near Wyndmere, North Dakota, a town of around 500 people on the edge of the prairie. Like many young people in rural America, Hoffert became part of a growing pattern of out-migration, moving to the Twin Cities to pursue her career and escape the pressured silence that surrounded her deepest secret.
I think cheated a little bit, splitting out my favorite memoirs from my favorite nonfiction since technically memoirs are also nonfiction. But, this way I got to highlight even more of my favorite books from the year, and there’s nothing wrong with that, right?
This week, Book Riot, a bookish website I regularly contribute too, published it’s Best Books of 2012 list. For the list, editors asked each Riot writer to share two of their favorite books published in 2012. It is, I would venture to guess, one of the more eclectic best of the year lists, and I’ve already added books to my toppling TBR pile from reading it.
As much as I love a good foodie memoir, one of the things that never rings quite true with me is the sophistication of the food — memoirs about food seem, inevitably, to be about people with palates that are more refined than average. But food is memory and family and important even when the only spices used on a roast chicken are garlic powder and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, as Alex Witchel elegantly and poignantly points out in her memoir All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia, With Refreshments.
At 24 years old, Susannah Cahalan was poised to begin her adult life, setting out on her first post-college job and just settling into her first serious relationship. A month later, Cahalan woke up strapped to a hospital bed, unable to move or speak, after a terrifying autoimmune disorder almost took her mind and her life. In Brain on Fire, Cahalan reconstructs her month of madness through medical records, interviews with friends and family, and a journal her father kept throughout her ordeal to tell the story of what happens when our brains betray us.