Since I learned how to read yesterday, I spent the whole afternoon with these book things. They’re really good! Especially these autobiographies I grabbed.
You may have heard that “everyone has a story worth hearing.” Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t. Either way, I have read some terrible autobiographies. For every wonderful book like The Burn Journals , there’s a terrible book like…
Well, I won’t do that. The good news is, we wouldn’t know what the great books were without the terrible ones. And with that, here are three amazing autobiographies about people you will want to know better…or not.
Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
Essentially, a young boy’s highly unstable mother leaves him with her therapist, who sort of adopts him. The therapist and his family are much crazier than the mother ever was. The story that follows is disturbing, hilarious, sad, and occasionally horrifying. I don’t want to give more away than that.
One criticism I’ve heard of Burroughs is that he’s more interested in fireworks than feelings. His stories are so good that I honestly don’t care what his motivations are for writing and structuring his memoirs.
Running With Scissors is so off the wall that I can totally believe it’s true.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
At the height of civil unrest in Sierra Leone, Ishmael Beah loses his entire way of life when it is destroyed by violence and madness. He is eventually grabbed by a militia and indoctrinated. Soon he is a young, young soldier fighting in a war.
The most unnerving thing about this book is watching Beah’s feelings about violence change from revulsion to reluctance to acceptance to finally craving it. After being “rescued” by UNICEF he writes a section about “needing” the violence that absolutely rattled my teeth.
When this child begins to regret the atrocities he has committed, it made me cry through the last twenty pages. Beah is now an admirable man coming to terms with a situation that seems incomprehensible to most of the world. A Long Way Gone is beautiful, awful, and unforgettable.
If you read this and like it, check out my review of What Is The What? for another book with similar themes and stories.
Ex Libris: Confessions Of A Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
I love books about books. Ex Libris is a wonderful little (literally, this book is tiny in height and width) book about books, literature and words. It’s a love letter to writing and authors and anyone who loves this stuff.
Fadiman is charming and funny and sweet and she makes me want to pick her up and put her in my pocket. That’s about all I need to say about this book. It’s not quite an autobiography, but it’s close enough for me. You can learn a lot about someone from the the books they read and the way they talk about their reading habits.
And now I can’t resist one more. The absolute best book about books of all time, now and forever, is A Gentle Madness by Nicolas Basbanes. Accept it! I don’t want to hear any sass about this. Sheer perfection and some of the craziest stories about book people you’ve ever heard.
We are the gently mad, my friends. Life is good in the asylum.
PS: I’m going to sneak Leo Tolstoy’s A Confession into this post. It’s a great autobiography about his struggle after losing his faith.
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