Introducing the Read Like a Writer Memoir Series 5

BACK IN NOVEMBER, I asked if you’d like to see a Reading for Writers series focused on memoir, in which we would analyze one book each quarter together. You responded with a resounding “Yes!” and with many, many excellent title suggestions, ranging from classic to contemporary memoir.

In making the book selections for the year, I decided I wanted to include an equal number of male and female authors. I have a rather selfish reason for this: I tend to be drawn more to memoirs written by women and feel I need to broaden my scope. I also wanted to work with books I have not yet read.

I considered all your suggestions and researched the authors and reviews. It was a tough call. In the end, I made a list of the titles I have not read and then made my selections more by gut feel than anything else. The books I have chosen for this year, in this order are:

  1. West with the Night*, by Beryl Markham (beginning 2/13)
  2. This Boy’s Life*, by Tobias Wolfe (beginning 5/15)
  3. Either The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine*, by Sue Monk Kidd or The Princess Diarist*, by Carrie Fisher (I thought this might be of interest because of her recent passing). I’d like your feedback on which one you’d prefer (scroll down for the poll).
  4. Born to Run*, Bruce Springsteen

For each book, I’ll be posting 3 articles (about 1 a month) in which I’ll discuss first impressions, voice, tone, pace, and structure. Of course, I will also continue to post articles about journaling, book reviews, publishing, and writing craft in general.

Reading for the purpose of analyzing a book’s structure, along with the writer’s style, voice, tone, word choices, and so on is a deliberate and slow task. I find that I need to read a book twice — first for overall impression and the simple enjoyment of reading and then again to dive into the details of what made the writing work (or not). Of course, there is always a certain amount of subjectivity to this sort of analysis, and I always welcome your input and opinions along the way.

My goal for this project is to help us all become better writers by identifying and emulating the best of the best, and identifying and avoiding the kind of writing that doesn’t work for us. And, to help us all think more critically about what we are reading. I hope you will enjoy and find this series helpful to your writing endeavors and, more than that, I hope this becomes the basis for many conversations between us.

So, grab a copy of West with the Night*, and please join me in the discussion starting the week of February 13th.

And please take the poll below to let me know what you want to read for the 3rd book in the series.


Memoir Series Poll

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5 thoughts on “Introducing the Read Like a Writer Memoir Series

  • Nancy Dye Leer

    I’ve suggested Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime, and would suggest replacing Born to Run. It would behoove all of us to read more widely, I believe. Trevor Noah – half-black South African man

    Beryl Markham – white British woman
    Tobias Wolfe – white American man
    Sue Monk Kid – white American woman
    Carrie FIsher – white American woman
    Bruce Springsteen – white American man

    Thank you, Amber, for your consideration. I look forward to the new series.
    Nancy Dye Leer

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Nancy, you make a very good point. I had not considered racial diversity when I was reviewing the different titles (I’m hitting my forehead right now, saying, “duh”). While I am interested in Born a Crime and even have it on my to-read list, I decided against it because that would be two books set in Africa, and I really wanted to go forward with Markham’s book. But I will definitely reconsider the last 2 books. Are there any other books you would recommend that may give us a more rounded curriculum?