Soon after Mary Karr recently blew me away with The Liars' Club, I realized I've finished enough good memoirs over the past twenty-five years to erect a Mt. Rushmore from that genre. Mind you, it would be easier for me to construct a negative Mt. Rushmore of badly executed memoirs because - in my experience - the majority of books from this over-gorged niche can't compete with The Liars' Club or any of my other four choices below.
No matter. Which memoirs would you enshrine on your Mt. Rushmore? Mine are listed alphabetically by author. I also aimed for four that approached the form from different angles. Use any order or criteria you want with your monument.
1.) Hitch-22: Christopher Hitchens - It would be hard to over-state how energized I was trying to keep up with the challenges Hitchens offhandedly dishes out page after page in this book, a memoir in name only. I'd call it a feast for the intellect.
2.) The Color of Water: James McBride - Soon after its release, I recall finishing McBride's tribute to his white mother and immediately turning back to the first page to start over. This was the only one of my four final choices that appeared on all six lists I made while constructing this iteration of Mt. Rushmore.
3.) Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: Nina Sankovitch - A memoir that rescued me during one of the most difficult months of my life. Figures the subject would be the author's love affair with books and the Herculean feat she undertook to celebrate her sister's passing: She read a book every day for a full year.
4.) The Glass Castle: Jeanette Walls - Like The Liars' Club, Walls manages a super-human feat. With zero sentimentality, she recalls her harrowing childhood and adolescence, leaving readers grateful for their mildly flawed parents and a little envious of the author's adventures. How do writers do this?