I don’t know whether I intentionally, always, return to memoir, but I do, and I just busted out two great reads in less than a week: Augusten Burroughs’s recovery memoir Dry and Anne Lamott’s journal of the first year of her son’s life, Operating Instructions.

DryReading both reminded me why I love personal narrative. There are so many ways to tell your story. Burroughs does it with clipped honesty and humor, with edginess, with sarcasm, and throughout, with this amazing and very real sense of self-deprecation, like: “You won’t believe how badly I fucked up, but keep reading and I’ll tell you.” You’ll want to keep reading. His fuck-ups are epic.

Lamott hits the same nerve, but her writing is much more raw, and so intensely personal it’s at times almost cringe-worthy. As a mother who survived the first year of her own son’s life, I was laughing and gasping and remembering the whole way, remembering the wonderful parts and the soul-crushing parts, and at the end I had a big, big old cry. In part this is because in addition to the story of the baby Sam, the book is about addiction and loss and tragedy, and it just filled me with fear. It’s very well done.

They both are. Add them to your list!

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