Memoirs: the perfect holiday read

Already got your fill of fluffy beach novels this summer? If you’re ready for some different but equally engaging seaside reading, why not take a look into memoirs?

Woman reading memoirs

The ones listed below are some of my favourite holiday reads; I return to them again and again. They come in various forms—from riveting to soothing. Some of them are in short bursts and blurbs, making them perfect for picking up and putting down when you want to take another dip in the ocean.

These memoirs are all written by women in midlife or later. I seem to be attracted to books that offer an intimate glimpse, or even a fuller view into another woman’s life, her memories and musings, struggles, and victories. If you like spending time with such women, I can’t recommend any better books to take along with you on vacation than those that follow.

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

The shocking opening of this memoir introduces the reader to Thomas’s husband’s tragic accident, which caused him to suffer severe brain damage. Thomas takes us back to their meeting and their lives before the accident. Then we accompany her as she adjusts to its aftermath—her husband in an institution, disoriented and without memory—and rebuilds her life. She realizes that friends, family, and her dogs are her most reliable and cherished supports.

What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas

This beautifully written book for those of us of riper years is told in bits and pieces—vignettes. It concerns Thomas’s family and her longstanding close friendship with a man named Chuck. The friendship and her relationship with the youngest of her four daughters are threatened by a startling revelation. Thomas also takes us into the complex territory of growing older. Upon publication of the book in 2015, author Ann Patchett wrote: “If you only read one book this year, make it this one.” I highly recommend it.

Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro

This book is a quietly courageous examination of the author’s married life. It covers other remembrances as well. Places she has gone, parents who have died, her struggles as a (very highly regarded) writer. Though the thread of the book is not at all difficult to follow, Hourglass mimics the way information and memories hop about in our heads, and all the things we forget, or mix up: When did this happen? What city were we in? Who else was there? The kinds of missing details, many of them inconsequential (but determined to conceal themselves from our memories) that ramble around in the minds of those of us over 50.

So if you’re looking for something a little different this summer, I really can’t recommend these wonderful books enough.

Lynette Benton

About Lynette Benton

I'm a published writer and writing instructor. I guide others in writing about their lives or families. My work has appeared in numerous online and paper publications. My essay, “No More Secrets and Silence,” about how I wrote my memoir, My Mother’s Money, won first prize in the contest sponsored by National Association of Memoir Writers and She Writes Press. It was also anthologized in the collection, The Magic of Memoir: Inspiration for the Writing Journey. An excerpt from my memoir was a finalist in a 2014 memoir writing contest. See more tips and resources for writing about your life or your family at my site Tools and Tactics for Writers or connect with me on Twitter