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Memoir / Autobiography

  • Finalist

    Plot: From the opening scene, the danger and love in Lau's memoir is engrossing. Readers will want to keep turning the pages!

    Prose: Lau writes with strong clarity and emotion, though the narrative could be much more fluid.

    Originality: This memoir of survival tells a story rarely heard, and it hums with details unique to Lau's family.

    Character Development: The large cast of characters is full of striking, well rendered people involved in complex family relationships, made all the more complicated by great suffering.

  • Semi Finalist

    Plot: The author is indeed a warrior; he also knows how to tell a story. This is a page-turner.

    Prose: Well written and a pleasure to read.

    Originality: There are many recovery books out there. This one just seems to go a little deeper. If readers are initially turned off by the second person, by the end of the book, they will appreciate the author's choice in using it.

    Character Development: Character plus conflict equals change. Through the author's skillful (sometimes painful) descriptions of the conflict, the reader is able to experience change and even a degree of resolution.

    Blurb: Only an author with such an impressive history and talent could create this inspiring story that will act as a guide for others on similar paths.

  • Semi Finalist

    Spear-Carrier in a Backwater War

    by Edward C. Larson

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: The story of Eddie Larson, whose passion for flying brings him to the far corners of the Earth, is an engaging, fascinating, and entertaining read.

    Prose: The prose here is exquisite. If Mr. Larson's passion had been writing instead of flying, he would undoubtedly have had a successful career as an author.

    Originality: The events that shaped the author's life are original and interesting. Part memoir and part history, this book sheds light on the golden age of aviation.

    Character Development: Mr. Larson and his passion for airplanes and flying come alive as readers experience the author's adventures and witness the remarkable historical events that occurred during his lifetime.

    Blurb: A delightful memoir by an author with a love of all things aviation, this beautifully written chronicle will captivate readers.

  • Semi Finalist

    SPINNING: Choreography for Coming Home

    by Janine Kovac

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot: This book is skillfully plotted and well-paced. The story is deeply engaging; one doesn't have to be a parent to find the book suspenseful and rich.

    Prose: The honest, vulnerable, sometimes brutal, and always exceptional prose of this memoir hooks and rewards the reader.

    Originality: There is nothing cliche about this story. It is compelling and unique.

    Character Development: Janine Kovac and her family are well-defined and relatable. Janine is honest and uncompromising about her thoughts and feelings, and her ballet analogies and reminiscences add perspective and even more depth to an already powerful text.

    Blurb: A tremendous book: a thrilling find for any reader and a tour-de-force for the author.

  • Semi Finalist

    Gas Money

    by Troy Lewis

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot: This is a truly engaging, skillfully told story, and it's easy for readers to keep turning pages. The author's perspective is distinct, while the inclusion of musical prompts is brilliant and the brief soundtracks for various sections are superb.

    Prose: The author's voice is fresh, varying between sweet and piquant and sometimes mesmerizing. The prose is a pleasure to read.

    Originality: Stories of growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, and of desegregation, are not uncommon, but this particular story, the writing, and the main character are all delightfully original.

    Character Development: The characterization in this story is brilliant. This uniquely talented writer has meshed all of his traits together to transmit the whole, absolutely real person. Secondary characters are fully flesh and blood individuals as well.

    Blurb: This autobiography has it all—and beware the light tone that often arises; the words themselves have an undertow that you might not feel until you're dangerously deep in the story.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Plot: Well plotted and well paced. That the character arc develops slowly makes the book that much more believable. I wouldn't cut a word.

    Prose: This gifted author's prose is beautiful, carefully wrought, and a pleasure to read. The only issue is the title, which doesn't do justice to a wonderful book.

    Originality: Wholly original. This makes Eat, Pray, Love look like a summer vacation.

    Character Development: The author's spiritual development occurs gradually. It is believable and by degree -- and brilliantly told. The way the author handles the deaths of her parents is both painful and perfect. Dasi walks the line between sentiment and sentimentality and never veers too far toward the latter.

    Blurb: As multi-faceted and luminous as the photos it contains, this book is an important historical and spiritual journey told seamlessly.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Plot: Ramsey captivates with this sensitive, soul-searching account of his life's journey. The memoir's thoughtful structure is marred only by some repeated stories that work to take readers out of the narrative.

    Prose: In language that shifts from reflective to meditative to achingly tender, Ramsey aptly conveys a profound gratitude for life even in the midst of depression or emotional suffering. He has a particular talent for connecting the natural world with his inner life, offering descriptive prose that holds both dreamlike wonder and a dread of mortality.

    Originality: Ramsey's highly original approach to memoir, and his willingness to take narrative risks and discard a linear approach to time, draws in readers and leaves a haunting impression.

    Character Development: Ramsey lays bare his vulnerabilities and chronicles his compelling quest for wisdom and meaning. Deftly shifting from his childhood to adult years and back again, and interspersing the narrative with art and poetry, Ramsey creates a delicate and beautiful web of emotion connections.

    Blurb: Meditative and haunting, Ramsey's memoir navigates hard emotional terrain with wonder and hard-won wisdom.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Plot: This memoir is structured as a series of vignettes that serve to illustrate how individuals learn feelings of inadequacy, beginning very early in childhood. The narrative frequently shifts into a tone that is reminiscent of self-help guides, with Johnson's memories coming across as more generic than distinctive.

    Prose: Johnson writes with a straightforward, conversational, and confessional voice. Her core message is uncomplicated, clear, and relatable. 

    Originality: The messaging behind this memoir is rather unsubtle and Johnson's insights aren't particularly insightful. However, readers who struggle to find their own self-worth may find hope and solace in Johnson's sensitivity and optimism.

    Character Development: Johnson's growth and eventual realization in her own worth shines brightly through the chapters; individuals she encounters on the way to her revelations, are similarly crisply rendered. 

    Blurb: A wonderful memoir. A delight to read.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Side-Yard Superhero: Life Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher

    by Rick D. Niece, Ph.D.

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot: Niece covers a lot of ground here, but all of it vital to his story. Meticulously plotted, the memoir will have readers turning pages to find out more about Bernie Jones and the small town of DeGraff.

    Prose: Told in the first person, Niece excels at dialogue and gives each character a unique voice. Many characters troop through the pages—and many of them appear only once or twice—but Niece infuses each of them with personality and a distinct voice.

    Originality: There are many memoirs centered around individuals who are sick or have a physical disability, but what sets Niece’s work apart is the way he focuses on Bernie as a person, not as a person with cerebral palsy.

    Character Development: Niece adeptly describes his hometown and all its residents with heart and sensitivity, and his characterization of Bernie is exceptionally well done.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Plot: That a well educated man must take any type of work to pay the bills is tragic, but Driver does an impressive job of presenting his story as a dramedy. Readers can gain thought provoking insights from the author's back-story and his decision to haul barns (among other jobs taken in desperation) for a living.

    Prose: This is a strong memoir and the author's voice is compelling Lovely surprises of wit arise, and transitions through life stages are well done.

    Originality: Memoirs are simultaneously commonplace and inherently unique. The number of overeducated barn-haulers in America is anybody's guess, but only Driver could tell this particular story.

    Character Development: The openness of the narrative helps readers to feel they know Driver as well as any close friend. Qualities and flaws are revealed with equal measures of pride, modesty, and guilt, highlighting the realness of the character. Additional characters are described with strong distinctive traits.

    Blurb: A strong indication of an emerging talent is the ability to make work like barn-hauling interesting. Driver's wit and grit are evident in this memoir, and it will be a pleasure to see what he'll produce next.

  • Whispers of the Himalaya

    by Ajayan Borys

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: The story here is well structured, moves along at a good pace, and is full of suspense.

    Prose: The writing is very clear: scholarly, yet not pompously so. The author provides vivid descriptions of the physical challenges he faced on his quest.

    Originality: While the market for memoir is a crowded one—particularly the market for spiritual memoir—it's hard to imaging this book not standing out. There aren't many books out there like this one.

    Character Development: The author is hard on himself, but manages to derive worthwhile insights from the challenges he tries to overcome. Readers will also appreciate the lively portraits of the author's fellow seekers.

  • And Nothing But The Tooth

    by Dr. Carroll James

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: James's episodic collection of adventures is wonderfully entertaining and offers delightful insight into one dentist's irreverent mind. The author's profession is only one of many sources of the comedy and drama in this rollicking journey through a life that embraces the unexpected.

    Prose: A wordsmith's agility with language and a comedian's easygoing wit combine to create an engaging, upbeat collection of laugh-out-loud tales.

    Originality: Memoirs of dentistry may not be a popular subgenre, but James's offering challenges that. Each story is genuinely original, unexpected, and often absurd without becoming preposterous.

    Character Development: James is an endearing subject of his memoir, gamely greeting adventures large and small and enhancing each with his wickedly funny inner voice. He is generous and gentle in his depictions of family, friends, and fellow travelers, making the tales of his life a most enjoyable and satisfying journey.

    Blurb:  James's delightful storytelling and irreverent wit come together to create an engaging, upbeat collection of laugh-out-loud tales.

  • Plot: The author injects the narrative with a good balance of personal, political, and historical information, helping readers understand the family's experiences during times of upheaval. The story has a clear beginning, middle, and end that will engage readers.

    Prose: The narrative voice of this memoir is full of kindness and compassion. The clear, precise prose is reminiscent of an elder passing down wisdom to future generations.

    Originality: This book covers a time period in Egypt—the 1930s to the 1950s—that isn't widely written about. Many readers will learn a lot from this book that helps fill a gap in the collective consciousness.

    Character Development: The narrator is by far the most fully developed character. He learns the most and experiences the most change. And, he proves to be a character in whom readers will become invested.

  • True North, Hunting Fossils Under the Midnight Sun

    by Lou Marincovich

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: This captivating, skillfully constructed memoir is a real page-turner.

    Prose: There's an earthy reality to the author's voice; it's like spending a weekend with a case of wine and a favorite relative who's telling of his incredible adventures. Word choices and phrasing are often wonderful.

    Originality: While the subject matter here is not new, the author's story feels utterly unique.

    Character Development: While many of the secondary characters blur together, the main character is exceptionally well developed.

    Blurb: Caution: While reading this book, please remain in your seats and with your seat belt fastened. It's a wild ride. But  considering the experience of natural wonders, breathtaking excitement, moments of laugh-out-loud humor, and the honest voice in your ear, it's worth the trip.

  • Plot: Myers deftly constructed memoir captures readers' attention with the traumatic experiences of her childhood, which lead to troubled relationships in her adult life.

    Prose: The memoir is well-written, diving deep into motherhood and giving the reader a thorough understanding of how mothers often shape their children's lives through example.

    Originality: While living on the plains and having a dysfunctional family is nothing new, Myers successfully draws out the particular history of her maternal lineage to bring substance to the memoir.

    Character Development: Myers offers an insightful view into the women in her life and how they've shaped her as a woman both positively and negatively.

  • Grace Period: My Ordination to the Ordinary

    by Melinda Worth Popham

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: The memoir is honest, sometimes funny, painfully honest, and engaging. The author's story is well told and well paced.

    Prose: The author's prose is eloquent and a pleasure to read. Despite her hardships, Popham is never self-pitying.

    Originality: While memoirs about spiritual journeys are nothing new, this one is compelling and fresh. The author is often self-effacing and refrains from proselytizing.

    Character Development: Both the author and her daughter are brought to life in this memorable memoir. Readers get a good sense of the characters' lives and struggles.