Do you read other memoirs?

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sonyablue

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Something that came up in my SYW thread got me to thinking about this topic. Do you read other memoirs, especially ones in your genre? I read a couple of other books in the same vein as mine, and I'm torn about whether it was a good idea. On one hand, I'm afraid I've fallen in some ways into the highly unproductive comparison trap ("They really published this? I can do better than that!" and "Oh no, I'll never write as well as this, why am I even bothering!"). I also don't want the other authors' voices seeping into my own. On the other hand, I think it might be a good idea to see what works and what doesn't in other books.

What do you think? Have you read other books in your specific topic/genre? Or have you stayed away from them?

As an add-on to this, what are your favorite memoirs?
 

Aureluis

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I think you should write what you feel like writing, who gives a damn about critics!
 

PinkAmy

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Since you're working on your first draft, just write. I read somewhere that for the most creative, best first draft, write without editing. Don't go back and fix problems or try to get the first chapter perfect, just get the story out. The rest can be handled in rewrites.
I think you're misusing the word genre. Our genre is: memoir, isn't not so specific as memoir by cops or memoir by teachers.
I've read a few books in my subtype, but my crux of my memoir is unique to me and maybe 10 other people in the country.
First I wrote, then I read.
Before I wrote my memoir, I knew how I wanted to shape it. Other memoirs didn't play into how I wrote mine in terms of content. I got some ideas of what I liked and didn't like about using a linear time line and how to address flashback scenes. I worried that the resolution was too long and the climax was too short, so I checked the way others handled it. I never did exactly as another book, I was merely looking for different ideas. I also looked at novels that I enjoyed reading and how the intro, conflict, climax and resolution.
Then I edited/rewrote. Beta readers helped me with the pacing.
 

Ruth2

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:) I enjoy reading memoirs. If I really like one (Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There comes to mind) its voice will seep into a paragraph or so but my own voice reasserts itself in a page. That said, I haven't found a memoir quite like mine, which is okay.

Favorites? This week it's Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There, Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty.
 

jerrywaxler

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Read lots of memoirs

I look at reading memoirs as one of the basic building blocks of writing my own. I have read more than 100, so there's no danger of any one voice seeping in to my style. :) I want to understand the structure of what I enjoy about memoirs, and what makes me close the book wanting to recommend it to a friend.

I have lots of different favorites, depending on subgenre - for example Kate Braestrup's "Here if you need me" is a fantastic one for "finding meaning after loss." I don't know. Sometimes I think they are all my favorites. I love to read the product of someone who has spent thousands of hours trying to turn their lives into literature.

Jerry
 

FocusOnEnergy

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Although I'm interested in reading the memoir that OP is working on, I don't read them in general because I find them boring. There has to be something about that person's experiences that make the story extraordinary. Most people's life stories are interesting only to them.

OP's book appeals to me, because I have a lot of friends who are in law enforcement and I have close ties to the local PD.

Focus
 

benbradley

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I've read memoirs "in my field" for over 20 years. I still want to write mine largely because none of them say what I want to say.
 

jerrywaxler

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Subtleties about genre by reading memoirs

I recently finished reading "Devotion" by Dani Shapiro. It is about her adult journey to find meaning in her life, through a sort of spiritual search. There are a couple of intriguing lessons embedded in it. For one thing, it's an unusual style, sort of broken out into mini-essays. I suspect it's influenced by Anne Lamott's style, that she made famous in books like "Traveling Mercies." Does this peculiar style make it something different from a memoir? Depends who you ask. Apparently her publisher thought it was a memoir because the subtitle is "A memoir." :)

The other interesting thing is that it is a sequel, but not a typical sequel. In the first memoir, Slow Motion, we watch her young life fall apart, kind of like a train wreck in slow motion. By the end of Slow Motion, she is ready to return to ordinary life. The second memoir, Devotion, flashes forward almost two decades. Now that she is living an ordinary life, how will she find meaning in it?

I liked both of these books and think the set of two is worth even more than either one alone.

Jerry
 

Lavinia

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Great question. I do read other memoirs. The funny thing is that I feel like of all the genres, I am least likely to write like someone else when I write memoir. If I read a whole bunch of memoirs by the same person, it might affect my writing. But I don't. And I feel like my own voice is pretty solid. As I'm working on my second memoir, I see that my voice has changed a little. The reason is that a lighthearted, joking voice would not work with the serious subject matter of my first memoir. But with the new one, it does. I'm reading, Crashing Through, right now. Really good book.
 

Bushrat

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My favourite memoirs are the James Herriot books. I read oodles of memoirs, mostly travel and bush life, which is also what I write about. I find it so much more interesting what people actually do in their lives as opposed to what fictional ideas an author can dream up.
 

ncochrane3

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Yes, I do. The thing about memoirs though is that you will rarely find someone sharing the same story you want to share. I read them for my own interest though, and find them good reads.
 

lastdefense

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I have read memoirs on the same type of thing I'm writing about - probably for that reason. It interests me and appeals to me because it's part of my life too. I'm not entirely sure that what I write will ever go to print, but if it does I would hope it would help people in the way I've been helped by others.
 

REMLIG

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Yes

The last one I read was "Innocent Spouse" by Carol Ross Joynt.

It was recommended by a editor. She also wrote a memoir and suggested I read it, and I did.
 

Ruth2

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I read memoirs all the time, mostly for encouragement. If they can do it, I can do it.
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away