Memoir Madness: Top Five Memoirs of 2019
It’s fair to say that a significant sub-genre of non-fiction is memoirs. They’re an integral pillar of personal story telling, and helping others to view the world through your eyes. Following the almost mass-hysteria* around Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt, it is no surprise that memoirs featured significantly in my reading throughout 2019. My favourites are below …
1. How to Be Autistic by Charlotte Amelia Poe
Publishing House: Myriad Editions
The perfect commuting book, How to Be Autistic is brilliantly human, often funny, but also harrowing. Poe details their life – school, teenage-years, young-adulthood, and all the trials and tribulations that come alongside that.
I particularly enjoyed Poe’s poetry dotted throughout the book. I’ve previously mentioned how I missed creative writing in non-fiction, however, Poe’s memoir is a perfect example of how it is possible to be incredibly creative in this genre.
Another book that made me cry. How to Be Autistic is wonderful, artistic, beautiful. A MUST read.
Publishing House: John Murray
Born a Crime had a lot to live up too before I even opened the front page, and honestly, I was not disappointed. It’s a pointed, human, raw, honest, and personable first-hand account of what growing up in apartheid South-Africa was really like.
Trevor Noah’s personality shines through every page. Discussing racism, crime, poverty, and violence without becoming overly depressing or sombre. It is a true testament to his ability to inspire with words and captivate an audience.
A book that is at once both deeply personal and deeply political is always going to be a winner for me.
3. War Doctor by David Nott
Publishing House: Picador
War Doctor: Surgery on the Frontline is not your typical medical memoir. Instead, Nott takes an academic approach to his writing, and does not spare any of the gory details. His narrative effortlessly transports the reader; it feels as though you are standing right next to him throughout the story. It’s scary, emotional, and hard-hitting.
I was in complete awe at what Nott does for a profession, and couldn’t help but feel inspired by his desire to help those in need.
This was the perfect pool-side read – long enough to last more than a couple of hours, but a clear enough narrative to follow over multiple reading sessions. If you’re looking for a more serious medical memoir then this is definitely the book for you.
Publishing House: Penguin Random House, Black Swan
No list of memoirs is going to be complete without a legal professional. Stating my flaws up-front, I am 100% biased towards books like this. I studied law for my undergraduate degree and therefore have a huge soft spot for all things legal-nerdy. Nevertheless, Langford’s In Your Defence delivers an impactful overview of the criminal law system in the UK.
Providing a human touch to what can otherwise be an often inaccessible world, Langford effortlessly guides her reader through the words and world of the UK legal system. In Your Defence nicely compliments the more academic The Secret Barrister; a truly personable, relatable narrative.
Publishing House: Picador
Adam Kay’s second memoir Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas was a brilliant follow up to This is Going To Hurt. A short, sharper, stocking-filler – perfect for a quick evening read.
Continuing in his outrageously humorous style, Kay managed to combine wit and poignancy to really drive home the importance of supporting our NHS – especially during the festive season. At once praising the NHS staff and offering a window into their experience.
A couple of honorary mentions …
Naturally both Know my Name by Chanel Miller, and Mindf*ck by Christopher Wylie should be featuring on this list. However, they featured in my ‘Feminist Five’ and ‘Election Fever’ round-ups respectively, so in the spirit of avoiding too much overlap, they honorary mentions.
Know My Name is heart-wrenching and I challenge anyone to read it and not cry. Mindf*ck is a literal mindf*ck and a deep dive into big-data and how it is changing politics for better or for worse.
*Okay maybe mass-hysteria is an over exaggeration – there was a heck of a lot of hype!