My Favorite Memoirs

Books are my friends, and I spend a great deal of time reading and rereading those books that open my mind and heart to the experiences of others. I embrace the line from the movie Shadowlands: “We read to know that we are not alone.” Such stories can teach me, move me, and have a memorable, life-changing impact on me. So it may come as no surprise that I’ve developed a lifelong habit of reading books, especially well-crafted memoirs.

Here are some of my favorite memoirs that inspired me to find the courage to write my own love story (in alphabetical order by author’s last name because that’s how I was trained to organize books on a shelf when working in a bookstore):

  • Higher Ground: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost by Carolyn S. Briggs, Carolyn Briggswho traces her steps from her early years of struggle to finding meaning and direction as a young woman, wife, and mother fully committed to all things spiritual. She also wrote the screenplay for the movie version starring Vera Farmiga (yes, the same actress who starred as Norma Bates in TV’s Bates Motel). I’m so honored Carolyn Briggs wrote a blurb for my memoir!
  • Telling Secrets: A Memoir by Frederick Buechner, who amazes me with his insights about truthtelling and moving beyond the “don’t tell, don’t trust, don’t  feel” mindset [see my FRED Talk blog posting].
  • Tiger, Tiger: A Memoir by Margaux Fragoso, who writes so beautifully about such disturbing subject matter, namely, on “how completely a pedophile enchants his victim and binds her to him.”
  • Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy, who helps me Lucy Grealy   understand the true meaning of living with a distorted self-image and learning to embrace what others reject.
  • The Kiss: A Memoir by Kathryn Harrison, whose breathtaking honesty about the affair with her father, an ex-theologian, breaks ground as a masterpiece.
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, who gives writing advice and reveals so much about his own life journey. Tip: Listen to the audio version read by Stephen King himself, if you’re lucky enough to find it (try your local library).
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, who helps the reader find passion, meaning, and truth in one’s life and one’s writing.
  • Fat Girl: A True Story by Judith Moore, whose first line in the book is the mostJudith Moore compelling line of dialogue/hook I’ve ever read: “You’re too fat to [f-word].” Ouch! [Note: Unlike my book, this author lets the curse words and profanity flow freely.]
  • Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce by Stacy Morrison, whose tell-it-like-it-is story Stacy Morrisonsets the scene in her first pages: While she’s standing at the sink washing a bunch of arugula, her husband announces, “I’m done….I’m done with all of this.”
  • Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield, whose love story Rob Sheffieldhas a soundtrack and shows the power of music in grieving a devastating loss.
  • Stitches: A Memoir by David Small, whose intense graphic memoir using both words and images captures his descent during adolescence and his recovery. Tip: Read in one sitting at first reading (takes about an hour), then reread and reread and reread to truly appreciate the artwork.
  • The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls, whose powerful story started me on the path to becoming a memoir junkie. Here’s the photo that documents the thrill of meeting Jeannette Walls on a book tour. I told her I use her memoir as a litmus test: If anyone I give her book to as a gift doesn’t “get it,” I don’t bother telling that person about my own story.
Vivi and Jeanette W

Jeannette Walls and Vivian Fransen meet on one of Jeannette’s book tours. What a thrill!

Yes, my story may seem quite tame compared to these memoirs. I invite you to take any of these memoirs for a test drive—if you dare. Some memoirs take as much courage to read as they do to write.


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2 Responses to My Favorite Memoirs

  1. Diana says:

    Vivian, I finished your book last night. Thank you for sharing–not just your words but your self. And thank you for your kindness in reaching out through your words to help others. Your story is inspiring, and you are so incredibly brave to have written it. I know writing is always a laying bare of oneself, but that was an incredibly courageous showing of vulnerability, and such a beautiful example for the rest of us.


  2. madmegsblog says:

    Excellent list! I look forward to reading yours.


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