I love the unlimited possibilities of fiction; anything can happen in a fiction world, but I also love the realness of non-fiction books and memoirs. I love the raw feelings, the honest thoughts, and having the chance to live a whole other life through the eyes of someone else.
I have never read a non-fiction book that hasn't changed me, and I'm going to talk about a few of my favourites today - both well-known, and not-so-well-known. I thought it was the perfect time since We Love Memoirs Day is coming up on the 31st! I know a few of these aren't considered memoirs (in fact one is a biography), but we're just going to roll with it.
1. The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank.
Starting with a classic. There's no way I couldn't include this book in this list. Like most books I read, I read this because I felt like I had to; because the millions of people across the world who praised this book had to have gotten something right, and in this case they did.
I was honestly so surprised at how well written this book was. Anne was such an intelligent girl with an amazing way with words, and a truly caring heart. Even though I knew how it ended - with her entries just suddenly stopping - it was still like having my heart ripped out. It's definitely worth the pain, though.
2. Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs.
My God, has Augusten been through hell and back! At 12 years old, his parents divorced and he was adopted by his mother's psychiatrist, which was a strange enough thing to go through at such a crucial. This was only made worse by the fact that the family he was sent to live with were... just, ineffable. I don't even know how to describe them.
The house is dirty and the children can do whatever they want (smoke, do drugs, have sex, etc) from 13 years and up. Not to mention Burroughs biological mother is wildly unstable and seems to be going through some kind of breakdown throughout the book.
Honestly, I could write a whole post on the mind-blowing things that happened to Augusten, but you're better off just reading the book. With every word I read, my mind kept thinking about how this just cannot be true, but after the family he lived with tried to sue him for defamation and he won, I guess it really is true. It's no wonder at all that his second memoir - Dry - is about his inevitable struggles with alcoholism.
3. Julie & Julia, by Julie Powell.
Admittedly, I only heard about this book once the movie came out, but I knew instantly that I wanted to read it. It's always been one of my life goals to cook every single recipe from a cookbook before, so when I found out this book was about someone who gave themselves the task of doing it in one year, I knew this book was right up my alley.
Many things happened in this book that truly surprised me. This project greatly impacted Julie's mental health and marriage, and there were many instances where I was sure her entire life was going to fall apart. It honestly stressed me out a lot reading it, but I loved the cooking side to it so much that it's still one of my favourites.
4. Confessions of a GP, by Benjamin Daniels.
As I said in my top ten post, I will buy any non-fiction book that begins with "Confessions of a...". I have read three, and there are all on this list. Any book that has the word "Confessions" in the title is sure to be a brutally honest, shocking book that will not fail to make you cringe - and that's exactly what this book does.
It's filled with the most strangest and bizarre medical stories that will blow your mind. I know that sounds like an odd topic to be interested in, but there's a reason shows like Embarrassing Bodies are so popular; we are curious creatures, and we are drawn to anything different from ourselves. It's good that books like this exist for those like me who can't handle watching medical TV shows because we're too squeamish.
5. The Real Mrs. Brown by Brian Beacom.
I have said multiple times that I really enjoy comedy writers, especially stand-up comedians. When I was younger and got bullied at school and then came home to anger and fighting, I would always turn to a DVD like Carl Barron to cheer me up - and it always did. When Mrs. Brown's Boys came out, I instantly fell in love with it. It made me laugh until I cried; it's such a great feeling to be that carefree.
After watching some of the special features, I discovered that many of the cast were related by blood or marriage which intrigued me, so when I saw this book at a thrift store, I knew I had to pick it up. This book is about Brendan O'Carroll - the man who plays Mrs. Brown - and, even though it wasn't written by him, I think it did a great job of capturing who he is and telling the most important parts of his backstory. He has such a genuine love for what he does, and he kept at it for over 20 years before he got his "big break", and I honestly can't think of anyone who deserves it more. I really enjoyed this book.
I went through a stage where I was obsessed with art, and Van Gogh in particular. It was around the time when Tumblr was filled with Kanken bags and the colour yellow - as that was Van Gogh's favourite - and I very happily joined in on this trend. My Instagram was filled with yellow photos, I visited every single art gallery nearby, and I read any book about Van Gogh that I found - and that last decision made me realise something: Van Gogh was not the best person.
Much like Confessions of a GP, this booked is aimed at nosy people who want to know the ins and outs of other people's lives - and it does its job well. Unlike the patients of a GP, most of Cap's patients are there willingly because they would like to change something about themselves, and there are some very interesting cases in this book.
I am really drawn to biographies and memoirs of those who have had a rough life. I actually read the abridged version of this book first, which is called Chinese Cinderella. I could tell by the title that it was about a child that was treated horribly - just like Cinderella - and I was correct. I both fell in love with the book, and fell apart after reading it, but nonetheless I searched for the full version and soon read that as well.
Adeline's childhood is a truly sad story. She is outcasted from her entire family and has a step mother that cannot be described as anything other than pure evil. She has two people in her life who truly care for her, but they are unable to stop the abuse and trauma that she goes through - eventually, one of those people passes away, and she isn't allowed to see the other one anyway. This is a great book, there's not a dull moment in it, but be prepared for it to make you both very angry, and sad.
10. Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant, by Owen Beddall.As you can probably tell by now, I just love getting a glimpse into other people's lives. I knew nothing about flight attendants and am always looking to learn something new, which is why I bought this book with no prior knowledge to its content. I read it a few years ago so I can't remember too much about it, but judging from all the reviews on Goodreads, there seems to be a lot of stories about drinking, drugs, and affairs within the workplace.
I understand if those topics aren't your cup of tea - because they certainly aren't mine - but I am still always intrigued by people who live completely different lives from me. If you're a flight attendant and you're looking for a relatable read, this is not the book for you. Many flight attendants didn't like this book because it was so unlike their experience, but if you're just a curious person like me who likes to read about the lives of complete strangers because they are so different from yours, then I think you'll like this book.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction books? If you like non-fiction books, what are some of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,