This year has been a learning experience for all of us. During this season of thanking and giving and taking time to reflect on the wild ride of 2020, I bring you four of my favorite non-fiction books.

All are memoirs revolving around some degree of hardship. Each book gives us a glimpse into how different folks handle issues the universe bestows on them. Some are controversial, all are thought provoking. Wrap one up for a friend – or yourself!

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott

If we do things the right way, live life according to a set of achievable steps, then we will be happy. Right? In this national bestselling memoir, Mary Laura Philpott comes across as your little sister or best friend. 

Covering topics in her own life like reinvention, perfectionism and forgiveness, Mary Laura convinced me I was normal when I questioned if I was.

With her clever, witty approach, the essays’ emotional truths – which add up to one big story – resonate with female readers of all ages. She gets us. A great gift for your aunt or mom, sister or daughter-in-law. Or slip it under the tree for yourself. 

Hillbilly Ellegy by J.D. Vance

As a child, the author and his extended family moved from the poverty-stricken hills of eastern Kentucky to Middletown, Ohio. But abuse, divorce, addiction, and job insecurities followed them to the steel town.

In his 2016 memoir, J.D. Vance writes, “I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children.”

The colorful characters and eye-opening anecdotes – which are Vance’s relatives and life experiences – provide ample material for discussion on our country and its economic divide. Vance did, eventually, escape the cycle his family was trapped in. He served in the military and graduated from law school. 

“You will not read a more important book about America this year,” says The Economist

Educated by Tara Westover

“Dad said public school was a ploy by the government to lead children away from God,” Tara Westover writes in this best-selling 2018 memoir. 

Her survivalist parents didn’t believe in hospitals or doctors either. Raised in the Idaho mountains, Tara spent her days working in the family’s junkyard and assisting her herbalist and midwife mom. 

How does one emerge from this sheltered childhood and thrive? The author, the youngest of seven children, managed to take the ACT and get into Brigham Young University. Once there, she learned what textbooks, exams, and the Holocaust were. 

Educated has piled up loads of literary awards, including rave reviews from President Barack Obama and tech giant Bill Gates. Male and female readers will appreciate this inspiring story. 

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Is it possible to forgive those who raised you? 

This 2005 memoir, unlike many books I can’t remember two weeks after I finish them, stuck with me. Years ago, when I heard Jeannette Walls speak at a Houston fundraiser, her appearance and attitude surprised me.

After her neglectful upbringing, without access to dentists, doctors, and nutrition, Jeannette had pretty teeth, healthy skin and hair, and a thankful disposition. 

In a West Virginia coal mining town, Jeanette’s dysfunctional parents – an alcoholic father and a mother who didn’t want to be a mother – presented life as an adventure to Jeannette and her siblings.

Digging through dumpsters for food, shooing away the rats, no heat or plumbing…. Jeannette “didn’t know life any other way.”

An amazing story of a family’s non-traditional love. 

How often do you receive books as gifts? Do you have a special book you like to share with others? Do you have a favorite memoir? If so, how did it resonate with you? Please share with our sisters!

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