Best Books on Writing Memoir

These are some of my favorite books on writing memoir.  They’re not listed in order of preference or publication date, and they all offer something wonderful.

 

Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature — Edited by Meredith Maran

This is a great place to read other authors’ views on the reliability of memoir, the ethics of disclosure, protecting privacy, and more key issues of memoir. These are inspiring perspectives you won’t find elsewhere.

 

Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining and Publishing Creative Nonfiction — Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola

Emily Dickinson writes, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” This book is filled with information about how to move beyond cold fact to create elegant nonfiction that makes the most of your individual slant on the world.

 

The Autobiographer’s Handbook — Edited by Jennifer Traig

Every chapter focuses on a different aspect of memoir writing and features various viewpoints on handling that aspect when writing. Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes) and Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) are among the writers included. This is one of my favorites.

 

The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story — Linda Jo Myers

Memoir writing can be a journey of emotional and physical healing. This author walks the reader through that territory.

 

Legacy: A Step By Step Guide to Writing the Personal Essay — Linda Spence

A good brainstorming book. Stimulating questions and topics.

 

The Situation and The Story: The Art of Personal Narrative — Vivian Gornick

An intellectual exploration that can expand your understanding of the topic.

 

Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds — Deena Metzler

A step-by-step guide into the inner worlds of creativity with exercises that can evoke new ideas for memoir.

 

Your Life As Story: Discovering the “New Autobiography” and Writing Memoir as Literature — Tristine Rainer

An accessible approach to finding the important messages in your life and shaping those stories into dramatic and compelling narratives.

 

The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present — Phillip Lopate

Fifty top writers inspire as they show various styles and forms.

 

Old favorites of mine:

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within and Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Memoir Writing — Natalie Goldberg

Natalie’s specialty is opening the doors to memory through free-style, associative writing practice.

 

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