By Niamh Feeney
For all the bibliophiles and book lovers out there, here are the top three moving memoirs you need to read this lockdown. If you’ve an unhealthy relationship with Goodreads, then you may have already come across these books. They’re perfect if you’re looking for an authentic glimpse of the world through someone else’s eyes, and if you’re looking to keep book club spicy.
Nonfiction narrative allows you to explore the author’s personal knowledge and authentic experience. We empathise, and connect with their emotions of love, hate, pain, and learn life lessons all through a collection of their memories.
Beautiful Boy A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff
This heart – rending book was published in 2008, and from the beginning Sheff had me captivated and feeling like a fly on the wall. This roller – coaster journey features a collection of Sheff’s memories of his son’s (Nic Sheff) youth and his addiction to methamphetamines. He struggles to come to terms with granting Nic his independence, while also wanting to keep him safe and sheltered.
Sheff tells a distressing story of Nic’s mental illness, his struggles with substance abuse, his recoveries followed by relapses, and Nic’s desire for help, all through the eyes of a helpless father. “We deny the severity of our loved one’s problem not because we are naive, but because we can’t know.”
Sheff reveals the complexities of parenthood which he finds “both sublime and terrifying” and discloses what he learned about drug addiction, allowing the reader to comprehend the nature of addiction, and altering their outlook on addiction through a physiological perspective. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about addiction, and what it means to be human.
There is a movie adaptation based on this book and Nic Sheff’s own memoir, Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines available to watch on Amazon Prime – have the tissues at the ready.
Educated by Tara Westover
This episodic memoir tells the story of Tara Westover’s upbringing in an extreme fundamentalist Mormon environment, up in the cold mountains of Idaho. Forbidden to go to school or the use of any governmental systems, Westover was alienated and hidden from other members of society. This gripping book unravels Westover’s personal journey to educate herself, leaving all she has ever known and loved behind. She prepared on the daily for the apocalypse, alongside receiving the manipulation, physical and emotional abuse from her father, the prophet, and brother Shawn in an extreme patriarchal culture.
Through Westover’s meditative narration style, she vividly illustrates the bizarre moments in her life, like when her brother caught on fire working in the hazardous junkyard, receiving third – degree burns that required weeks of care in a hospital. Through her inspiring escape from home, we watch as Westover proves that anything is possible if you have enough faith and determination.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a captivating read. It’s uplifting to watch Tara’s determination to self – educate and find her own voice in a world full of unknowns. “My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”
The Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Full of love, loss, and grief, The Men We Reaped vividly depicts the reality of discrimination and systemic racism in the US. Ward narrates a raw personal account of her childhood and family history while unfolding her experience through all the dying. She discloses the death of her younger brother and the four other black men she knew over the span of four – years, all taken by violence, drugs, accidents, and suicide. Ward said that “certain disadvantages breed a certain kind of bad luck,” conveying that unjust treatments and death follows people in poverty and marginalised groups. Her story tells us that these deaths are not random, they are a result of the systematic racism and economic struggles faced by these men because of their race.
Ward cuts back and forth in time giving voice to these men who died too young, with an introspective narrative including descriptors so visceral it will have you present at every moment and connect deeply with the emotions of Ward. A poignant read exploring the realities of racism.
Some other honourable nonfiction mentions include Becoming by Michelle Obama, Night by Elie Wiesel, and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.