So I keep seeing posts around the blog-world where people reference 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, including this one from Brixey Banter. I read these lists, mentally check off what I’ve read – which is appallingly little – and move on. 1001 books is just too many for me.

Instead, I’m taking my list from Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away, which I’m still piecing myself through. In the section I read last night, she says to list the ten memoirs you’d most like to read (the book is about writing a memoir after all). To be honest, despite my passion, not to mention MFA in Creative Nonfiction, it took me a bit to come up with ten memoirs, but here’s what I ended up with:
1. Lucky by Alice Sebold. I read The Lovely Bones, and while I was most fascinated with the point of view, I did find the story horrifically captivating. So I’m hoping this true life story gives me a different perspective.
2. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee. I know this isn’t strictly a memoir, but I think it fits since it tells intimate stories.
3. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. It’s the only one of her nonfiction books I haven’t read yet.
4. The Crosswicks Journals (Vol 2, 3, & 4) by Madeline L’Engle. Beautiful almost diary-like pieces.
5. The Diaries of Virginia Woolf. If I could be a writer anywhere in history, it would be Woolf, except for that whole suicidal depression thing.
6. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. She’s Didion – what do you say?
7. Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornich. I loved The Situation and the Story, and I keep hearing the controversy about her collapsing of events and characters – so I thought I should see it for myself.
8. Desert Notes by Barry Lopez. I hear I’m supposed to read him, so . . .
9. Night by Elie Weisel. I do think his writing is nice, but this one is more of a “should” read.
10. Heaven’s Coast by Mark Doty. I loved his book Still Life with Oysters and Lemon so much, that I imagine his memoir has to be good, too. I might also read Dog Years, since it’s new.

So my goal – and the challenge I’m giving you (if you choose to participate) – is to read 10 memoirs by Labor Day of this year. They can be any ten memoirs, with that term defined as loosely as you’d like. Just pick them, list them in a comment here (I’ll try to get a page up soon, but to be honest, my brother runs my site – I’m technologically inept even though I love WordPress very much.) and we’ll go from there. As we continue, you can review the books on your pages or put short reviews in comments here. . . then we’ll swap notes. I’ll try to do a Memoir Challenge related post every week until I get a page set-up so that people can respond. What do you think? Are you in? Let me know.

Those people who “sign-up” by midnight on Wednesday of this week – that’s the 23rd – will be entered into a drawing to read a very literary memoir – At Home in the World by Joyce Maynard, a woman who had a teenage love affair with J.D. Salinger.
Cover of Maynard's At Home in the World

So sign up.

P.S. Meanwhile, I do need to say “thanks a lot” (can you hear the sarcasm in that?) to my friend Karen who introduced me to Book Mooch last night, where I spent inordinate amounts of time and from which I now have eight books to send out today alone. I am also getting two – woo hoo! I love books!!