My favorite genre is fiction for the classic reasons of journeys to far off lands that I have not visited and to times gone by. But Memoirs and Biographies have taken a close second these past years through the realization that others lives can feel so far from my reality that they bridge to fiction in my eyes.
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Peter Heller's The Dog Stars is a first novel set in Colorado after a superflu has culled most of humanity. A man named Hig lives in a former airport community--McMansions built along the edge of a runway--which he shares with his 1956 Cessna, his dog, and a slightly untrustworthy survivalist. Hig spends his days flying the perimeter, looking out for intruders and thinking about the things he's lost: his deceased wife, the nearly extinct trout he loved to fish. When a distant beacon sparks in him the realization that something better might be out there, it's only a matter of time before he goes searching. Poetic, thoughtful, and transformative, this novel is a rare combination of literary and highly readable. (Chris Schluep)
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
“Much more than a brave and luminous memoir, When Women Were Birds is a set of blueprints for building one of America's most impassioned and audacious writers, as well as a transcript of the moment when she stepped determinedly into the full power of her own voice. In Terry's magical equation, rage + confusion + grief + accountability = love. At some point I realized I was reading every page twice trying to memorize each insight, each bit of hard-won wisdom. Then I realized I could keep it on my bedside table and read it every night.” ―Pam Houston
Educated by Tara Westover
Born to a survivalist family that prepped her for the end of the world instead of the world today, Tara Westover was seventeen when she stepped into a classroom for the very first time. In this memoir, Westover works hard at creating a new life for herself after a brother of hers returns from the "real world" outside the mountains of Idaho and has graduated from college. She self teaches herself mathematics, grammar, and various other subjects. She's admitted to Brigham Young University and soon finds herself at Cambridge and Harvard. This is more than just a coming of age memoir, it's a story of determination, self-invention, and the grief and struggle that come with deciding between being loyal to family and finding your own paths in the world.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Ten years in the making, this Pulitzer prize winning novel is set in Europe during WWII. Doerr carefully intertwines the lives of a young blind French and girl and a young German orphan boy. This novel explores the horrors of WWII, human nature, and the power of technology. Its chapters are elgant and short, a quick and fascinating read that will pull you into a world unlike your own.