I've always preferred poetry to novels. I read novels, but not nearly as many as a doctoral candidate in English ought to. I've read even fewer memoirs than I have novels, and the memoir is really the form I am working in. I know a lot about writing poetry and about writing expository prose, but I know almost nothing about how to write narrative prose. I know how to read it critically and analytically, but that's not the same as a practitioner's understanding of technique. A lot of the time in these narrative sketches I've started writing, I'm just guessing where I should shift from the present to past, whether I should be sticking to simple tenses or allowing the play of perfect tenses, when I should show emotional engagement with my material and when I should step back and be more disinterested. Of course no one can really tell me how and when to do these and other things as I write this stuff—I'll learn a lot by doing—but I need to see how other writers manage these things.
Anybody have a good memoir to recommend? I can't promise to read every suggestion I get (I'm really slow and I'm taking care of my 13 month old all day), but I'd like to get a list memoirs going. I'm especially interested in memoirs that might have some resonance with what I'm doing here, either in subject or in some other way. If you can tell me a little about the book, that would be great, too. Click on "comments" and tell me what to read.