It’s not that my fiancé doesn’t read. It’s that he normally reads stuff like this:
We’ll be going out to spend a few hours in the park, and he’ll take his Stochastic Calculus book or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity with him as “light reading.”
Paul always says that physics is like story-telling (with math). And sure, I’ll agree with that, but the stories I read are a bit different.
Since living with me, though, Paul’s reading habits have begun to change. It all started last year when I was reading Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees by Roger Fouts. I read some interesting bits to Paul, and the next thing I knew, he had convinced me to read the entire book out loud to him.
A few months later, I bought Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. I read a few bits out loud to Paul then put the book away to do other things. He promptly stole my Kindle and spent the next four hours reading. “Uh… Can I have my book back?” I asked at one point.
“This is such a good story,” he said, ignoring me. I didn’t get it back until he had finished it.
And that’s pretty much exactly what happened when I was reading Jennifer Buhl’s memoir, Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood’s Most Famous. Paul started reading it and refused to give it back until he had finished the whole thing. Annoying, I suppose, but when he said, “since meeting you, Eva, I’ve read so many good books I never would have read otherwise,” it was hard for me to complain.
Paul has definitely found his favorite genre: the personal memoir. When I’m reading a novel, he might ask me what it’s about or look up the plot on Wikipedia (Paul cares most about what happens, and he can’t stand not knowing the ending), but he doesn’t steal the book away from me the way he does with memoirs. What Paul can’t resist are true narratives.
Which is why, the other day, when I was reading Susannah Cahalan’s memoir: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, I turned my back for one second, and the next thing I knew, Paul had the book in hand, furiously flipping pages. “I can’t wait for you to read this, babe,” he said. “It’s such a good story.”
He binge-read the whole thing over the weekend and then complained that I hadn’t finished it yet because he wanted to discuss.
Even though I’m a fiction writer and an avid fiction reader, I like to mix things up with a well-written memoir every now and again. It’s really the story I like, whether it’s true or not.
Below is a list of some of my favorite memoirs, but in looking at lists on the Internet (like this one and this one), I see there are many more fabulous memoirs for me to to read. Yes, Paul will probably steal them from me and read them first, but that’s part of the fun, I suppose.
No one can resist a good story. Not even him.
Some of my favorite memoirs:
Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees by Roger Fouts – (A scientist teaches chimps to speak sign language.)
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (A heartbroken and thoroughly unprepared woman embarks on an intense hike and a journey of self-discovery.)
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (Stephen King gets personal about his writing and his demons of drugs and alcohol.)
The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar by Terri Cheney (Absolutely fascinating look at the highs and lows of a girl with bipolar disorder.)
Eat, Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert (Way better than the movie with Julia Roberts. This book made me want to meditate.)
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (Two old, fat men try hiking from Georgia to Maine; hilarious and informative.)
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (An account of a crazy, dirt-poor childhood with two parents who are terrible at parenting.)
Girl, Interrupted by Susannah Kaysen (A young girl gets diagnosed with borderline personality disorder at a mental hospital in the 60’s.)
Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck (A Harvard couple conceives a child with Down’s Syndrome and bizarre/miraculous things begin to happen.)
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman – (Definitely different from the TV show.)
Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood’s Most Famous by Jennifer Buhl – (A paparazzi photographer makes it big in the business and looks for love)
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (A young journalist contracts a mysterious disease that sends her into psychosis.)