Growing up unconventionally myself, there is nothing that connects with me deeper than a great memoir. I truly believe sharing a life lived, the stories, the laughs the tears, the experience has such an unshakable beauty!
I am excited to share a dozen of my favorites with YOU!
The raw idea of our human condition comes alive in the pages and for a few moments we are all connected in this journey. Even in their darkest times, I feel so connected to the characters that just by reading the author’s story I am there with them. I am not alone reading a book and they are not alone in their terror or joy. Somehow as cathartic as it must have been to put ink to page sharing their story, the effect seems to have seeped from the pages into my own life.
If you find yourself saying “Yeah, Yeah!” or “Me too!” you get me. You get why I wanted to share these courageous messages of strength and adversity with YOU!
I do not pick my books lightly. I feel like I have limited leisure time as I am sure you feel too! My books have to MOVE me. Move me to action, move me to change, move me to SHARE! I hope the books below and my insights help steer you to the one that will take you toward the powerful message you yourself is meant to share!
*Heads up, the order of this list is not at all rankings. It would be like numbering your favorite children, that is how important these books have been to me! I have also included affiliate links. This means if you purchase anything through these links a small percent of the sale will come back to keeping Grounded Pada's message going- I sincerely thank you for your support!
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly By Jean-Dominique Bauby
This book was assigned in one of my collegiate creative writing classes. Its small, only 131 pages; that said it is a quick read that will change your life! This book was written word by word with the author blinking one eye in Morse code. Can you imagine? Every word was thought out; every sentence is charged with meaning.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Anytime I need an inspirational quote, Thoreau comes up. I found my copy of Walden at a garage sale as a kid and have kept it by my bedside since. As a transcendentalist, Thoreau believed in the ability of nature to swaddle, care for and inspire us. His story of minimalism during his time at Walden is a call back to our roots and away from the complexity of life we have created. This book is literally a breath of fresh air!
Educated by Tara Westover
I just completed this book onAudible a few months ago, and was spellbound! Tara Westover’s memoir of her life being brought up Mormon in the west could not be farther from my own upbringing. That said her stories weave occurrences I could relate to. A holier than holy Father, a passive meek mother and stories of injuries, growing pains as well as finding your voice when one has already been assigned. You will cheer for Tara and cry with her in this beautiful novel asking the question if education builds bridges or severs ties.
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
I put The Glass Castle near Educated. If one of these Authors spoke to you I promise you will appreciate the other's journey as well. Walls does a beautiful job telling stories (all her books are amazing). Though there is pain, and poverty she finds hope sprinkled throughout her world and with it beauty. If you have not seen the movie they created on this book yet, I highly recommend reading the book first. This gritty tale should first be heard in Jeanette’s words, and then seen on screen.
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
I read this book when I had first moved to Florida and was living on my own. This book not only broadened my horizons to knowing others may have tales of their unconventional upbringings too, but also awoke me to understanding lifestyles different than my own. As a gay author, I fell in love with Augusten’s honesty, his storytelling and his conviction of who he was and how he sees the world. Because of his books (yes, they are all amazing) I truly feel I was more open to learning from others whose choices were different than my own. This book was also made into a movie that hardly does it justice. Read the book!
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
Part self-help, part memoir, Brene’s words ring out in this short, quick read. That said, you may want a highlighter, I found myself going back to underscore life lesson after life lesson. In braving the wilderness she compares it to life and her own tales along the way to being brave. This book is a lesson on perseverance, self-realization and being genuine with yourself and your world. It’s the pep talk you have been looking for!
Moon Walking with Einstein By Joshua Foer
Ever question the capabilities of your body? Oh, “I could never run a marathon”. Or maybe, “I could never complete a PhD.” That’s what Josh thought when he covered the World Memorization Championships as a reporter. “How can these guys do this? My mind could never work this way”. The book takes you through his journey from Average Joe to being groomed and trained on his way to Worlds. There are fun activities he does that may help you improve your own memory (memorizing credit card numbers has served helpful), but the biggest triumph is he convinces you we are all capable of greatness! This inspirational coaching reminds you our bodies are limitless as along as we put in the time, effort and believe.
Let your Mind Run By: Deena Kastor
Attention runners, you must read this book! Deena has been at the top of her American marathoning game since I was a kid drooling in front of my TV watching her take bronze at the Athens Olympics. Because I bought this book on Audible, Deena kept me company on a month's worth of runs! Of course, I was running far shy of her 4:45 mile repeat pace. This book takes you through her running resume event by event but also through the mental shifts she has needed to set her apart. This book gives you a crash course on changing your thoughts, deciding to be happy and ultimately building the mind of a champion.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
First off if you have not seen the movie or read this book, do it NOW! While I do love the book, I really love Julie Roberts who stars in the movie so it’s a toss-up on which you should do first. If you took a strong female tale, a juicy romance novel and a philosophical Sanskrit text and threw them all into a blender this would be the outcome. Gilbert’s traveling world of colors, places, and relationships as she navigates her life post-divorce is riveting! Maybe it’s time to read it again? Already read the book? Try any of Gilbert's other books which are equally as entertaining!
Night by Elie Wisel
While a few of the other books on this list are dramatic in nature, nothing compares to Night. Elie Wisel earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and has since passed away after years of framing young minds as a professor. His work recounts his time in the Auschwitz concentration camp during WW2. While this is a deeply painful recount of Wisel’s life, the message he relays is the fight for life and good’s victory over evil. It is my unwavering belief we all must hear his words. In brushing this painful past aside we only open doors for it to happen again. This human experience cannot be lost to future generations. As The New York Times reviewed, “A slim volume of terrifying power”.
The Last Lecture By Randy Pausch
I will never forget this book. This book was written off the last lecture given by the author Randy shortly before he lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer. When diagnosed and given months to live, Randy had a wonderful life including a career he loved, supported by the love of his life and their young sons. His journey to prepare all of them for his passing and his preparation and delivery of his last lecture on following your childhood dreams changed my life. You will laugh, and cry but mostly leave inspired to create a life you couldn’t imagine leaving.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I grew up in the woods. However, as “adulting” has taken me deeper and deeper into urban life I find I still crave them. This book gave me a lifeline back to my boots and my roots. You could see it as just a girl outrunning her uncontrollable relationships. Making sometimes questionable safety choices in an effort to gain control again. OR you could dig into the trail with Cheryl, hear her mind move a million miles per minute at the beginning and feel it settle as nature starts to drown her worries making them more like pebbles than boulders. This is another great movie as well with Reese Witherspoon, I still say read the book first.
Connecting on a human level with these authors I hope you find the pages that speak to you. I measure my love for a book not in how fast I read it but by how many highlighter marks, how many friends I borrow the book to, and how many years later I may still be thinking about the author’s words. Our human condition can be so much easier if we open our minds to the lessons of those before us. My hope is that one of these books holds your hand and helps you into your future.