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Memoir / Autobiography

  • Plot/Idea: Asare overcomes a life of poverty, hunger, and illiteracy while growing up in Ghana where education was not important. Determined to learn to read, he eventually applies to a private school that his family cannot afford. His determination to succeed prevails, and he eventually earns a degree in engineering. The lessons that Asare learns will inspire readers to do more even when the odds are against them.

    Prose: Finely written, Asare relays a tough situation to the reader yet never falters by feeling sorry for himself. Instead he focuses on what he can control, notably the pursuit of education. His down to earth approach will compel the reader to understand his plight and cheer for his success.

    Originality: From a childhood of scarcity in Ghana to studying electrical engineering in the former Soviet Union, Asare's narrative is a fascinating and one.

    Character/Execution: Despite the dire circumstances of Asare's upbringing, he brings mature perspective to his past struggles. In addition to detailing the events of his life, Asare offers profound and hard-earned wisdom.


    by Pertef Bylykbashi

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea:  Bylykbashi's striking memoir is an account of his family's painful ordeals following communist takeover of Albania and the subsequent impacts on Bylykbashi as he comes of age and relocates to the U.S., ever-determined to reunite with family members. Readers unfamiliar with the historical events will find the first-hand perspective to be hard-hitting and eye-opening. 

    Prose: Bylykbashi's prose is polished, expressive, and vivid. The work nicely blends evocative and visceral detail relating to the author's direct experiences, with broader historical insights anchoring the text.

    Originality: BESA offers a moving chronicle of generational trauma and the resilience of family bonds in the face of profound adversity. 

    Character/Execution: Bylykbashi's narrative is unflinching, profound, and impactful. His reflections on family, the human capacity for unconscionable cruelty, and the liberation that can come through education, will leave an imprint on readers.

  • Plot/Idea: The author presents a soul-searching exploration into her relationship with her much-older brother whom she lost in a tragic accident. Although the work is a memoir of sorts, it's also a quest meant to truthfully answer the complicated titular question, "were you close?" 

    Prose: The author is a skilled writer, able to share her mission with the reader as she sorts through memories to find the answers she seeks. Her approach is absorbing, tinged with longing and regret, but also with love and appreciation. 

    Originality: This is a touching and original work that is at once highly personal and deeply relatable to readers.

    Character/Execution: Pinkerton vividly and lovingly describes her brother David and the vacancy he leaves in her life after his accident. Readers will readily grasp the complexity and nuances of their relationship as Pinkerton also explores the broader question of whether any individual is truly knowable. 

  • Finding Resilience: A Teen's Journey Through Lyme Disease

    by Rachel Leland and Dorothy Kupcha Leland

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: Finding Resilience chronicles the author's painful and horrifying experience with Lyme disease, exploring not only its debilitating impact on her physically, emotionally, and socially, but also sharing asides from her mother, in an effort to sketch the effect on her entire family. The content can be shocking as readers join Rachel and her family in their journey toward healing, but the end result is a compelling look at a devastating chronic illness. 

    Prose: Rachel and her mother are vibrant storytellers, able to sweep readers into Rachel's experience. The writing is accessible and focused, with readable, precise prose. 

    Originality: This is a deeply personal story that readers will find enlightening and original; Rachel's course is singularly heartrending and inspiring.

    Character/Execution: Finding Resilience highlights Rachel's experience with Lyme disease, alongside her family's quest to nail down her diagnosis and find a cure. The narrative is bursting with information, offering surprising perspectives on the effects of the disease and its potential treatments, as well as advocating for medical advancement at the same time.

  • Plot/Idea: The author has crafted an intimate and impactful chronicle that details her decision to prophylactically have her breasts removed after learning she carries the gene for breast cancer. What follows is a candid look at the rationale behind her decision and her experiences both pre- and post-surgery.

    Prose: The author writes eloquently about being "stalked" by cancer and the painful decision to have a mastectomy as a preventative measure. Her prose style is warm, immediate, and deeply reflective.

    Originality: While memoirs of cancer diagnosis are, sadly, familiar, Costa shares the under-explored experience of taking preemptive action to avoid breast cancer. 

    Character/Execution: Costa provides an insightful look at her health-related challenges, while the work's broader examination of bodies, femininity, and notions of beauty, are especially edifying.


    by Judy S. Hoff

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: This is an entertaining, reverent memoir devoted to all things literature. Hoff recounts her time as a bookstore owner, delving into the mechanics of the field while cementing the crucial role that books play in our collective communities. 

    Prose: Hoff shapes tender reminiscences of her bookstore, in fond—and oftentimes funny—language that will evoke the smell of dusty pages and the texture of a new hardcover for readers.

    Originality: Readers will appreciate Hoff’s candid memories and her celebration of a bookseller’s life, from the growing pains of her business to the thrill of helping customers discover new reading material to the eventual closing of her store. 

    Character/Execution: Hoff’s love for literature seeps through the pages of her memoir, as she details the history of her bookstore ownership, the eccentricities of the business and her customers, and her affectionate recollections of book-related events throughout the years.

  • The Real Gatsby: George Gordon Moore

    by Mickey Rathbun

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Determined to find out more about her mysterious and illustrious grandfather,  Rathbun goes on a quest to discover the secrets behind a fascinating family figure. The book not only offers an intriguing premise and a fitting tribute to her grandfather, but an exploration of one of literature's most celebrated characters.

    Prose: Rathbun's text is focused and accessible, full of historical verisimilitude and a fascinating family history. 

    Originality: Rathbun's evocative descriptions really bring the characters and history to life, the text beating a steady rhythm that is endearing and captivating. For those interested in early 20th century aristocracy and the literary works of the time, it's a compelling read, beautifully enhanced by impressive historical newspaper clippings and photographs.

    Character/Execution: The author's grandfather George Gordon Moore is the key character in Rathbun's text, who was arguably the inspiration for one of the most revered literary characters of all time, the great Gatsby. The idiosyncrasies of the main players are effectively rendered, largely focusing on the tantalizing enigmas of both Gatsby and Moore.

    Blurb: A fascinating and encapsulating insight into an intriguing figure.

  • Face Value

    by Christine Macdonald

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: This striking memoir is raw, honest, and candid, delving into the gritty backstreets of adult entertainment through the eyes of a young woman searching for empowerment and self-acceptance.

    Prose: Macdonald possesses sharp storytelling skills, though at times the writing feels overdone. Her strengths shine in the sections that recount life events, often painful to hear, in unreserved sentiment.

    Originality: Macdonald's dedication to opening the past and sifting through its contents is admirable; she allows herself significant vulnerability, sharing even the most tender moments with readers.

    Character/Execution: Macdonald 's innermost thoughts and feelings are on display throughout, gifting readers an intimate window into her life and a clear understanding of her perspective during pivotal moments.

  • By Accident: A Memoir of Letting Go

    by Joanne Greene

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Greene navigates a horrific accident, a cancer diagnosis, and other notable events—including a hurricane while on vacation. She proves to be a testimony to resilience, and the changes sparked by her life's tragedies will comfort readers and give them hope.

    Prose: Greene’s straightforward approach is honest and relatable. She draws readers into her world from the first page, keeping them invested in her story until the very end. The narrative tone matches her personal growth, shifting from panic and frustration to an inner calm and understanding as she relays a clear, heartfelt message to readers.

    Originality: The overarching theme in Greene's memoir—that adversity can ignite positive change—is uplifting and noteworthy, told in a clear, distinctive voice.

    Character/Execution: Greene enlightens and inspires readers by sharing her experiences—candidly detailing her painful moments alongside the more heart-warming events in her life. The end result feels like a therapeutic journal as Greene shares her healing process.

  • Plot/Idea: Jennifer Gasner's memoir details how her life changed when she developed a rare neuromuscular disease, ultimately leaving her wheelchair-bound. This is a powerful account of her journey living with an unexpected and life-altering diagnosis.

    Prose: Gasner's writing is honest and raw; she candidly details both the physical challenges associated with her diagnosis (her description of her first spinal tap is enough to give the reader chills), and the emotional and psychological impacts. The integration of music throughout the book provides a highly personal and engaging touch. 

    Originality: Memoirs that recount experiences of devastating health diagnoses are familiar. Here, Gasner offers a fresh and painfully honest perspective on a rare disease, while offering unique insights on finding supportive communities and learning a new way of viewing the world and one's place in it. 

    Character/Execution: From a scared teenager dealing with the frustrating side effects of an aggressive illness to an adult proactively educating and helping others, there is a lot of growth in this book. The reader can't help but emphasize and root for Jennifer.  

  • The Wrong Calamity

    by Marsha Jacobson

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: This fast-paced, insightful survey of a young woman's trials and successes is, at its heart, a stunning story of resilience that will resonate with readers. Jacobson's personal history is riveting, from her troubled childhood to a controlling marriage to a sudden, debilitating health issue. Readers will be infused with empathy and admiration as Jacobson rises from the ashes each time.

    Prose: Jacobson is a talented writer and particularly strong storyteller. Her tone is relaxed and informal, but it's her narrative approach that draws readers in, offering up a perfect amount of detail paired with expressive wording.

    Originality: The Wrong Calamity is a survivor's story filled with distinctive challenges and a determined, unique protagonist.

    Character/Execution: This is Jacobson's personal story, and as such, her character shines through, but she fully conveys qualities about others in her life that immediately transport readers into the center of her experiences. 

  • I Can't Believe I'm Not Dead

    by Kendra Petty

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: In I Can't Believe I'm Not Dead, Petty revisits her immensely difficult childhood, one marked by physical and psychological abuse, tragedy, and entrapment in her parents' religious cult. In a clear-eyed manner, she reflects on how these early experiences shape her later life, marked by toxic and dangerous romantic and professional relationships.

    Prose: Petty's prose is measured, frank, and descriptive, with a light gallows humor providing levity, but in no way lessening the impact of her abuse and subsequent trauma.

    Originality: The author's tumultuous lived experiences will fascinate and disturb readers. Petty openly addresses her victimization at the hands of her parents and others, while also accepting accountability for her own choices and actions. 

    Character/Execution: Ultimately, Petty provides an impactful message about resilience, the value of self-forgiveness, and a reminder to readers to value how far they have come rather than becoming moored in the past. 

  • ALIGNMENT An Unlikely Road to Bethlehem

    by Brad Baldwin

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Alignment is a powerful and affecting story, framed by a messy and abusive relationship that leaves Baldwin bedraggled and deceived. The story is a sharp, bitter and poignant tale of soul searching and personal growth.

    Prose: The text is insightful, effectively capturing the essence, atmosphere, and historical context of the global scenarios he finds himself in. The sentences often have a poetic rhythm that is stark and powerful, although the switch from third to first person narrative in the latter stages of the book is a little jarring.

    Originality: Baldwin primarily presents his story in the third person, lending the narrative a tense and often electrifying energy that reads more like fiction than memoir. The episodic nature of the text serves the book well, as the storyline evolves over several countries and environments such as Israel, India, and the U.S. with each location offering fresh landscapes and dramatic possibilities.

    Character/Execution: Baldwin's text is wide-ranging yet tightly executed. His tortuous and passionless relationship with Shilpa dominates large sections of the text, leaving Baldwin empty, traumatized, and trapped in a seemingly insurmountable web of deceit.

    Blurb: A creative and touching story of self-discovery.


  • Paris for Life

    by Barry Frangipane

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: This is a delightful work that will entrance readers and allow them to view Paris through the author's eyes and memories. The result is a fully enamoring portrait of the City of Love. 

    Prose: Frangipane is an fine storyteller, crafting descriptions that will capture and hold readers' interest even when describing the most mundane situations—such as trying to get change for a bus or tasting local cuisine. Frangipane's excitement and affection for Paris is palpable through his vibrant experiences painted across the pages.

    Originality: Though travel memoirs and loving homages to the world's great cities are familiar, the author's portrayal of 1970's Paris is memorable. 

    Character/Execution: Frangipane himself takes a backseat to the book's main star: Paris in all of its glory. His writing brings the city to life for readers, with sparkling descriptions and stirring imagery.  

  • Field Horse

    by Paige Lammers

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: In this stirring memoir, Lammers takes the reader through her struggles with her mental health and her battle to save her beloved horse, Tiny, while simultaneously dealing with severe external and internal stress.

    Prose: Lammers's prose is generally excellent, especially her visceral descriptions. Dialogue is weakened by occasional repetition. 

    Originality: Lammers uniquely blends a story about mental health struggles with a tale of loving and caring for horses, to striking effect.

    Character/Execution: The author is candid, reflective, and unsparing in her writing, as she addresses the darkness of depression and suicidal ideation. Her devotion to horses shines through on every page.

  • Plot/Idea: Retired DEA agent Pevarnik shares his experiences tackling the 1990s drug problem in Worcester, Massachusetts. This wild ride takes readers from Northeast America to Panama, Puerto Rico, and more, creating a gripping narrative of what goes into bringing down major players in the world of drug trafficking.  

    Prose: Pevarnik notes the importance of the language ringing true throughout the text; as such, he is careful to avoid excessively cleaning up the dialogue. The descriptions are far gentler than may be anticipated, given the tendency for drugs and violence to co-exist, but the prose is concise, clear, and to-the-point. 

    Originality: A Peek Under the Hood affords readers inside access to the ups and downs of hunting the most notorious drug traffickers, making this a riveting book.

    Character/Execution: Pevarnik emphasizes plot over characterization, and there are some key players whose outcomes lack closure, but ultimately this proves to be a compulsive read.