Nail-Biting Fiction and Memoir

After hearing several cultural references to Stephen King, one by a speaker, one at a gathering, and one in a web article, I figured I should perhaps read Stephen King, to be more culturally aware.  The speaker, for instance, said that life with kids is “part Norman Rockwell, part Stephen King.”  So, I picked up The Shining at my library.

The Shining made me more aware, alright.  While I read, it made me completely aware of every creaking, suspicious noise and mysterious shadow falling in my house.  It definitely heightened my sense of awareness … just not how I planned.

Kevin was out of reading material, so he read it too.  Now we just have to work up our nerve to watch the movie.  We will definitely have all the lights turned on when we do watch it.

After reading King, I can understand why his novels are so popular.  It was all wonderful word pictures, scenarios that had their desired affect, characters that were easily relatable, and suspense at every turn.

Novels are fun and I know that a good novel can highlight truths in ways that non-fiction simply cannot.  But if I had to pick a favorite genre, the one I enjoy reading more than any other is memoir.  Maybe it’s because I’m such a People Person.  And, when a story is really good, knowing that it actually happened makes it even more powerful.

Here are the last three memoirs I have read, all fantastic, but especially the first two:

1) Unbrokaa-unbrokenen: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Hillenbrand)—The hero of this story is Louis Zamperini who was set to break speed records in track and competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  If that wasn’t interesting enough material for a memoir, in and of itself, Louis soon sets out to fight the Japanese on the Pacific Front during World War II.  I listened to the audio version of this book.  As soon as Louis’ plane went down in the Pacific and he was afloat on a raft for weeks, the book went from interesting to riveting.  In fact, we were expecting dinner guests any second as I listened to the book, but I simply could not turn it off.  (Those are the best kinds of books, aren’t they?)  The book details Louis’ survival in a prison camp and his post-war struggles to forgive his tormentors, ending with the best kind of victory.

2) Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (Carson)—Raised in poverty by a single Afriaa-gifted handscan-American mother with only a third-grade education, who taught her two sons about personal responsibility, telling them “you are the captain of your own ship,” Carson overcame the odds and became one of the premier neurosurgeons in the world.  He was the doctor who successfully separated twins conjoined at the head, when no other doctor would touch it.  He was the doctor who successfully revived a controversial technique called hemispherectomy, where half the brain is literally removed, as a last-ditch effort to save a patient.  This book was inspiring and thought-provoking, whether you are reading about Carson, the boy on the streets of Detroit, or Carson, the life-saving doctor in the O.R.  I cannot say enough about this book and highly recommend it.

3) I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Yousafzai)—I had heard that this brave young woman recently won the Nobel Peace Prize and wanted to learn more about her story.  This book illuminated the plight of so many children, especially girls, who are denied basic rights to education.  After talking about this book at dinner one night, Kevin and I had a really good discussion with the kids about how they shouldn’t take their education for granted.  I really liked this memoir and found it very interesting, but I think that my favorite memoir of the Middle Eastern/Human Rights genre is probably still InfidelRegardless, Malala’s story is compelling and gave me much to think about.


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