Five For Friday – Favourite Memoirs

This weeks Five for Friday is all about memoirs and true accounts from people who are truly inspirational one way or another. I started getting into Memoirs and non-fiction last year, I think that’s mainly because I have always adored listening to other people’s stories and tales in life, especially when I go travelling and you get to hear from other people’s cultures, especially tales of overcoming challenges or difficult times and how they stayed strong and coped. It’s great to be able to understand the ways of the world and experience something from someone else’s eyes right from your very bedroom. You can read a fantastic fictional story about a man climbing a mountain but it’s not as good as reading a true life account of somebody actually climbing a mountain, reading their experiences and challenges as if you were there yourself.

Anyway here are my top five memoirs in no particular order…

1. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

I love the way Jon Krakauer writes, there’s something really magical and special about the way he writes his own adventures. His is probably most famous for writing Into the Wild mainly about Chris McCandles and why he decided to leave his life to live in Alaska. I preferred Into Thin Air as this was about his own challenge and adventure in the wild not someone else’s. This memoir is about himself and a team of people trying to summit Mt Everest, one of the largest mountains in the world where many people attempt but fail or even die trying to climb it. This is a harrowing tale of an expedition that sadly went wrong, because of a terrible storm where 8 people ended up dying, even though this book is sad and shocking in places Krakauer writes with such majestic beauty especially when it comes to describing his surroundings and the landscape, whilst reading this I truly felt like I was on the mountain as part of the team. Krakauer’s account of this expedition shows how strong the human body can be under such harsh circumstances, it is a tale of tragedy, friendship, challenges mentally/physically and morally.

2. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi is only 36, he has a beautiful family, a loving wife and is on the verge of completing his training to become a fully qualified neuro-surgeon. However on one horrifying day he as a doctor becomes the patient as he is diagnosed with incurable lung cancer. He has never smoked in his life, has always been healthy, this was the last thing he thought would happen. He has to give up becoming a Doctor and realise his life is coming to an end much quicker than himself or his family would of ever expected. This is a sad yet enlightening tale of Paul Kalanthi’s downward spiral to coping with cancer, living with cancer, how do you tell your family and friends? how do you give up your dreams, your career everything you ever dreamed of, how do you try to live your life the best you can before your time is up? This memoir is beautiful yet sad to read and made me want to really cherish every single day that I am healthy and alive as you never know what it around the corner tomorrow.

3. In Order To Live by Yeonmi Park

This memoir has probably been one of the biggest eye openers for me. Yeonmi and her family live in North Korea under the communist regime of Kim Jong-un. I didn’t really understand or realise the way people actually live over there, in total poverty, starved, brainwashed, tormented, beaten and living in fear. At just 13 years old Yeonmi and her mother escape over the border into China to find her sister and to live a better life, however their escape was only the beginning of years of being human trafficked, separated, prostituted and beaten. This extraordinary tale of courage, freedom, and family is heartbreaking and harrowing story of one woman and her family’s battle for freedom.

4. The Wild Truth by Carine Mc Candles

Like I said above, I have always been really interested in the disappearance and death of Chris Mc Candles. However this memoir by his sister Carine McCandles gives a better perspective than The Wild Truth and the film Into The Wild about why Chris really packed up and left to live in the wild, alone. Carine’s memoir makes you understand their harsh upbringing, behind closed doors they were beaten, threatened there were arguments and lots of anger, a very unhappy place for them to grow up. It goes into detail about how Carine left the family home and made her own life, how she coped with her brothers disappearance and also his death. It follows her failed relationships due to partners beating her, lying to her and having substance abuse issues. This memoir is not a happy one, Carine seems like such a wonderful, loving and caring woman and so many bad things happen throughout her life again and again, but she continues to pick up the pieces and move on and that’s what I loved about this memoir, how strong Carine is and how these bad things made her an even stronger person. I think thats pretty inspirational.

5. A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

I remember I wanted to read this in school at quite a young age really, the librarian warned me that this book was a true story and there were some really uncomfortable and upsetting things to read in it. I said okay and took the book home. I think out of any memoir I have ever read this has to be the most shocking and horrific true account, I could not imagine how any mother in the world could do the things she did to Dave and the awful things she did do have stayed vividly in my mind even though I read this book well over 12 years ago. No child should be made to starve, be savagely beaten, ignored, be isolated and unloved or live in constant fear and self doubt. I commend Dave for telling the world his story, I never read the rest of his memoirs as this one shocked me so much, but I hope the rest of his life was a lot better than what I read in this novel. It’s not for the faint hearted, this novel really struck a nerve with me. I am glad I read it and I think it taught me as a child to be very very grateful that I have grown up in such a loving wonderful family and there are a lot of children out there that don’t have this and aren’t so lucky. A harrowing tale of a child’s will to survive.

I think all of these memoirs show that these 5x people are strong, courageous and inspirational. Everyone of them had to deal with something awful and upsetting but all of them came through the other side and thus wrote amazing novels of their accounts. I will always enjoy reading memoirs even if they can at times be upsetting. What are your favourite memoirs and why? I would love to know. Thanks for reading. Katie x

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