I love histories and stories and I enjoy learning about the famous. Biographies, autobiographies and memoirs have been long been written by and about the noteworthy. These books make up a large portion of the library’s nonfiction collection, but recently there has been an increase in memoirs of the not so famous, and that growth is mirrored in the library holdings. It’s their stories, stories of the people who we might know in our everyday lives, which have become a part of the literary world.
“When Breath Become Air” by Paul Kalanithi is the story of a brilliant neurosurgeon diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at age 36. Kalanithi’s life was on a trajectory for great success. His cancer caused him, with his wife, to evaluate his life and the path he had chosen and refocus on what they could accomplish with the short time he had left. “When Breath Becomes Air” is a deeply moving work.
Hope Jarin’s memoir “Lab Girl” is the story of a woman scientist and her search to find out what it like to be a plant. “Lab Girl” begins with explorations in her father’s laboratory, delves into her bouts with bipolar disease and the manic highs of the illness that aided her research, and the struggles of a junior scientist in outfitting a lab and funding her research. Jarin’s remarkable relationship with Bill, first her lab partner then her best friend, is a focus of the story. Her writing is lyrical, funny and brilliant.
Chris Offutt, Iowa Writers Workshop graduate and former visiting faculty member, has written his third memoir. “My Father, the Pornographer” begins after Offutt’s father dies. Offutt returns to his childhood home to organize his father’s papers and belongings. His father, an insurance agent turned author, was cold and tyrannical. He was also a pornographer. The elder Offutt published over 400 pornographic novels under multiple pseudonyms. “My Father, the Pornographer” is Offutt’s story of discovery and of forgiveness.
There are many more memoirs at the library and we would love to share them with you. Stop in and we will help you find just the right one for you.