Theo’s Summer Reading Recommendations

Want to learn more about writing memoir this summer?  This class starts June 11th.

Want to learn more about writing memoir this summer? This class starts June 11th.

Interested in learning more about personal narrative and memoir? Here are some books you might want to read:

Barrington, Judith. Writing the Memoir.Eighth Mountain Press, 2002.

Goldberg, Natalie. Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. Free Press, 2007.

Gornick, Vivian. The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.

Hampl, Patricia. I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory. W. W. Norton, 2000.

Lopate, Phillip. To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction. Free Press, 2013.

Lopate, Phillip, ed. The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classic Era to the Present. Anchor, 1997. If nothing else, read Lopate’s introduction, a beautifully written and thorough examination of the essay form.

Norton, Lisa Dale. Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir. St. Martin’s/Griffin, 2008.

Rainer, Tristine. Your Life as Story. Tarcher, 1998.

Shields, David. Reality Hunger: A Manifesto. Vintage, 2011.

Silverman, Sue William. Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir. University of Georgia Press, 2009.

Encouraging Books That Might Help You When You Feel Stuck: 

Cameron, Julia.  How To Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy). Tarcher.

Cameron, Julia. The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. Tarcher.

Dillard, Annie. The Writing Life. HarperPerennial.

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. Shambhala.

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor.

Strayed, Cheryl. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. Vintage.

Beck, Martha. Finding Your Own North Star

Books Theo Recommends (Mostly Memoirs, Some Fiction, Some Graphic Novels, At Least One Book of Poetry–in the order they were found on my bookshelf : ))

 Knapp, Caroline. Drinking: A Love Story.

Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge.

Daum, Meghan.  Life Would Be Perfect, If I Lived in That House.

Lamott, Anne. Traveling Mercies.

Strayed, Cheryl. Wild.

Dederer, Claire. Poser.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I and II.

Hurston, Zora Neale.  Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Lerner, Betsy. The Forest For the Trees (about the publishing industry).

Walsh, Candace (editor). Ask Me about My Divorce.

Walsh, Candace. Licking the Spoon.

Walsh, Candace (editor). Dear John, I Love Jane.

Hanauer, Kathy (editor).  A Bitch in the House.

Woolf, Virginia.  A Room of One’s Own.

Dubus, Andre.  Broken Vessels.

Didion, Joan.  Slouching Toward Bethlehem, The White Album, Book of Common Prayer, Play it As it Lays.

Daum, Meghan. My Misspent Youth.

Beard, Jo Ann. Boys of My Youth.

Rodriguez, Richard. Hunger of Memory.

Shields, David.  Dead Languages.

Lamott, Anne.  Grace, Eventually.

Donofrio, Beverly. Riding In Cars with Boys.

The Best American Essay series

Benson, Amy. The Sparkling Eyed Boy.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. Woman Warrior.

Karr, Mary. Lit.

Gray, Spalding. Impossible Vacation.

Gray, Spalding. Swimming to Cambodia.

Daisey, Mike. 21 Dog Years.

Munro, Alice. The Beggar Maid.

Moore, Lorrie. Birds of America.

Moore, Lorrie. Self Help.

Braverman, Kate. Squandering the Blue.

Steinem, Gloria. Revolution from Within.

Tsing Loh, Sandra. Mother on Fire.

Forney, Ellen. Marbles.

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home.

Fey, Tina. Bossypants

Finnamore, Suzanne. Split.

Barry, Lynda. 100 Hundred Demons.

Barry, Lynda. What It Is.

Morrison, Toni. Sula.

Morrison, Toni. Tar Baby.

Redfield Jamison, Kay. An Unquiet Mind.

Ondaatje, Michael. Coming Through Slaughter.

Howe, Marie. What the Living Do.

Ephron, Nora. Heartburn.

Ephron, Nora. Crazy Salad.

Gaitskill, Mary. Bad Behaviour.

Diaz, Junot. Drown.

Johnson, Denis. Jesus’ Son.

Sedaris, David. Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Fielding, Helen. Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Cunningham, Michael. The Hours.

Eggers, Dave. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son.

Harrison, Kathryn. The Kiss.

Dyer, Geoff. Out of Sheer Rage.

Houston, Pam. Cowboys Are My Weakness.

Wideman, John Edgar.  Brothers and Keepers.

About Theo Pauline Nestor

Author of Writing Is My Drink (Simon & Schuster) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed. Learn more about my courses, editing, and coaching at
This entry was posted in Memoirists, What I'm Reading Now. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Theo’s Summer Reading Recommendations

  1. Wonderful list. Thanks for sharing!

  2. The Right to Write and Writing Down the Bones were my first two writing books. 🙂

  3. Deli says:


  4. Thanks for publishing your list! A little summer reading is in order.

  5. Diana says:

    Thanks! Are your own books on the shelf? Someday I hope someone will recommend my book for Overcoming Extraordinary Writer’s Obstacles! I might be dead by the then but it won’t matter. 🙂

    I didn’t like Year of Magiical Thinking anyway.

  6. erin graves says:

    Love this list, thanks for sharing Theo! My “to read” list just got infinitely longer… 🙂

  7. Susan Bruzas says:

    Thank you for this list of books Theo. it’s been hard for me to find good ones lately.


    Sent from my iPad

  8. Diane Corriette says:

    Great list, thanks.
    I loved “Writing life stories” by Bill Roorbach – a great book with brilliant exercises to get the creative juices flowing

  9. Pingback: Books I Must Read This Year | Jenny Dolan

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