My top 7 favourite memoirs

As, this month,

I’ve hit my 70th year, I’ve decided I’m going to write my blogs about things in groups of 7. This week, it’s my top 7 Memoirs that I’ve read so far.

As a writing mentor, many of the people I’m working with are writing memoirs.  It is fascinating, hearing about people’s lives and listening to their stories. Most people think they’re not interesting, but it’s not true.  I find people fascinating, and, we are all truly unique. Not everyone has exciting lives in the sense of travelling around the world, or meeting famous people, or even doing something heroic. However, many people do have events in their lives that would surprise, or shock others. Or, they may have had something happen during their lifetime that completely change the direction of their life, or they may just, not have followed the conventional expectation of their families. The reasons for writing a memoir are unlimited.

Two of my mentees who have already published their memoirs are, Beverley Douglas, ‘Cutie’ and Jo Austin, ‘Tug of Love’. Both available on Amazon and brilliant reads.

My top 7 in no particular order:

‘This Much is True’ – Miriam Margolyes

I love Miriam Margolyes for who she is – upfront, out there and completely herself with no apology. Her book is a fascinating view into the world in which she grew up, in a Jewish family, educated at private school and then Cambridge, before going into acting. It is incredibly honest, and that’s what I love about her – warts and all!

‘The Storyteller’ – Dave Grohl 5

I’ve seen Dave Grohl on several talk shows recently, and had had me falling about every time!  Therefore, when I saw the book in a railway station, and about to set off on a journey, I bought it. From that moment, I didn’t want to put it down. It is such a fun, enjoyable book. I loved the stories of his early years, his growing passion for music; the amazing serendipitous nature of how he ended up in the different bands during his career; and I loved reading about him as a dad.

His book is so much more than just a Rock musician’s life.

I particularly loved the last paragraph of his chapter, DNA Doesn’t Lie, which ends with ‘We are all indebted to the women who have given us life. For without them, there would be no music.’ As a woman and musician, I loved this!

This is one of the few memoirs/autobiographies I want to read and re-read, many times. I have never laughed out loud so many times whilst reading.

‘Songs from a window – End of life stories from the music therapy room’ – Bob Heath

This book is about music, poetry, and palliative care.

Bob Heath is a music therapist, and friend of mine, with an amazing talent for helping people to tell their stories, using words and music as they come to terms with their end of life.

There are ten emotional stories, that even though, incredibly moving, are also powerfully life affirming in terms of human spirit hope and love.

A box of tissues is a must to accompany a read of this book, but despite it being about death, it is one of the most beautiful and uplifting books I’ve read for ages.  Bob’s style of writing shows the empathy and kindness that he has to work with people in their darkest hours, and help them to leave legacies for their loved ones.

‘Between the stops’ – Sandi Toksvig

This is the most fascinating memoir I think I’ve ever read, because of the way it is written.  She is funny, shares interesting facts about ‘stuff’, and keeps you engaged all the way through. She drops little bits about her life as she goes along.

The premise is that Sandi travel’s everywhere in London by bus, and she tells her story alongside giving us information about things that pop into her head during the journey. It is brilliant. Not only is this a memoir, but it also made me want to visit some of the places she talks about in her book.

I’m a huge fan of Sandi Toksvig anyway, and at the moment I’m enjoying watching her on TV – Extraordinary Escapes – it’s brilliant!

‘Who am I again?’   Lenny Henry

I loved this book!  I couldn’t put it down, and got through it very quickly. Because Lenny is so well known by us all, when you read, you can hear his voice, with his accent; particularly when he is quoting his mum!

It is fascinating reading about his life as a young lad, going through puberty, on the road as a stand-up comic, away from home, and in a completely ‘white’ environment.  Separated from his own community at a time when he needed support and guidance, you can understand why his book asks the question ‘who am I, again?’

The last part of the book offers tips for young comics going into the business.

There is much in the book that resonated with me, having spent all these years with Conrad; I can see his family in the book too, there are many similarities, due to their shared West Indian background.

This is a funny, thoughtful, and questioning book of how we see ourselves, and others. I can’t wait to read the next chapter of his life.

‘Windswept and Interesting’ – Billy Connolly

From the first page, this book had me laughing. Reading this book is a fascinating insight into Billy Connolly’s mind and life.

He is larger than life, he is definitely windswept and interesting – what a great title – and I couldn’t put the book down. I laughed out loud on many occasions.

Billy is one of the UK’s great comedians, and great treasures, and it is wonderful to read about how he grew up, and how he came to be the person he is.

If you are a fan of Billy’s stand-up, then you can’t afford to NOT read this book!

 ‘Manifesto on Never giving up’ – Bernardine Evaristo

This is Bernardine’s manifesto of how she fought for her dream.

She certainly is a woman of passion who has never given up. I admire her fight and continual conviction in wanting to write, at times despite all odds. Her life is fascinating and I loved reading her stories of how she has always been on the move; her exploration of sexuality; having to fight against racism; her determination to become the writer she is today, and latterly, how she has supported other young writers too.

She has a very honest style, making me smile, and completely engage in her journey in life.