The other day I posted a link on FB about a dancer who lost part of her leg in the Boston Marathon attack. She was able to get a prosthetic and recently danced again for the first time since the bombing. I mean, if that’s not finding the perseverance to move forward, I don’t know what is. When I hear people complain about the smallest things in life, I think to myself if the fact that you didn’t get cheese on your cheeseburger is the worst thing that happens to you today, you’re doing just fine.
I am constantly fascinated at the extraordinary lives people lead, the struggles they have endured and survived and where people draw their strength from to keep moving on. Maybe it’s because I have random thoughts like how I would react if I found myself in the middle of something like a holdup or a home invasion? but being offered a chance to step inside the mind of someone who has gone through a harrowing experience and hear their story firsthand puts me in check. These and many other stories solidify the reality that you may never know what the person next to you has faced, or is facing, in their life.
Here are some memoirs that have stood out to me and caused me to realize any frustrations I may have are belittled by what these courageous individuals have gone through and battle each day.
I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin. Yeah, I’ve read memoirs from some actresses, but this one is the real deal. She has been deaf since she was 18 months old, and was still able to land an Academy Award. Scrap the reality tv star memoirs and spend your time on this quality read.
A House In The Sky by Amanda Lindhout. You won’t catch me trying to cross borders into dangerous countries, but what’s to stop me from reading about someone who has? This woman traveled the world and to put it lightly, put her life on the line, was captured and held hostage for over a year. I was fascinated to learn about her early days, why she had the desire to travel to countries many would never consider, how she saved her money and planned her trips. When she detailed her days in captivity, I was just in awe. Amanda lived to tell it all, and it is miraculous. You can also tell a book is solid when you find yourself constantly Googling things and places they mention.
Fish by T.J. Parsell. I first came across this book when I was looking into what Orange Is The New Black was all about. The show had been creating quite the buzz, and while I watched a few episodes, I never got totally into it. I was still curious as to the backstory of OITNB since I heard it was based on a true story, and I saw there was a memoir on it. But, after reading the not-so-great reader reviews, I never downloaded or read it. What I did see HIGHLY recommended was Fish. Wow. Just wow. This memoir was powerful. He writes so well. Not going to lie-it gets tough and brutal at times. If you can handle intense content, then this is a book for you.
Out of Captivity. This was one of the first memoirs I read that really stood out to me. These men were US contractors flying over Columbia in search of drug activity. Their helicopter crashed and they were held captive for over five years (FIVE YEARS!!!) by the FARC, an extremely dangerous militant group. Their stories of survival and strength, both physical and mental, are empowering. Also learning about groups like the FARC and how young their soldiers are is just insane and unbelievable.
Redemption by Stacey Lannert. I learned of Stacey Lannert when the Casey Anthony trial was all over the news. HLN and CNN were always casting different people for interviews and viewpoints, and Stacey was one of them. She was explaining what life is like in prison, and her memoir details the time she spent in jail for killing her father when she was just trying to protect her sister from his abuse.
Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. There’s a reason this book is a national bestseller and was made into a movie. This account was fantastic. While the energy definitely intensifies when he and his team went overseas, what I was enthralled with was SEAL training. What dedication and strength. I cannot even describe the respect I have for how sharp these guys are, what they go through to become certified and what they encounter on the front lines. I don’t plan on watching the movie-this book was more than satisfying to me.
A Captain’s Duty by Richard Phillips. I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of this story by now since it was made into a movie starring Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips. I did end up watching the movie, and even though I knew the outcome, it still stressed me out the whole time! This memoir is fantastic, however, to hear from the Captain his backstory, the immense job of managing the ship and his thought process for navigating through the distressing situation of being hijacked by Somali pirates. Miraculous that he and his entire crew made it out alive, basically in part to his calm demeanor and strategic moves.
What memoirs do you recommend?