Happiness is a good book

It’s no secret that most introverts love to read.  Curled up with a good book, we can let our mind do the walking, as we rest and recharge. And unlike movies and T.V. shows, books are teaming with introverted characters that we can relate to.  This is not surprising considering that most writers are quiet, introspective types.

This month I have been gorging myself on one of my new favorite genres – memoirs.  I was so swept away by the moving, hilarious, outrageous and incredibly personal tales I read that I wanted to share a few of them with you.

Running With Scissors by Augesten Burroughs

Running with Scissors tells the story of Burrough’s bizarre upbringing after his mentally ill mother sends him to live with her psychiatrist. The chaos that ensues is at times hilarious and at other times sickening.  You’ll be shocked, amused and completely enchanted by the author’s humorous rehashing of his disturbing youth. I have to warn you that there are a few graphic and sexually explicit scenes in the book that some people may find offensive.

Quotes from Running With Scissors

“We were young. We were bored. And the old electroshock therapy machine was just under the stairs in a box next to the Hoover.”

“The problem with not having anybody to tell you what to do, I understood, is that there was nobody to tell you what not to do.”

“It was not uncommon to walk in the door of their home and find my mother sitting on the sofa reading over a manuscript with shampoo horns sculpted into her hair. Anne Sexton’s voice would be blasting from the speakers. A woman who writes feels too much…

When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago

This memoir gives us a glimpse into Santiago’s formative years as a “jíbara” growing up in rural San Juan, Puerto Rico. In When I Was Puerto Rican we see Santiago evolve into a “senorita” while also transitioning from the green, uninhibited landscapes of rural San Juan, to the concrete jungles of Brooklyn.

Santiago artfully weaves her story into an inspiring portrait of young womanhood.  Her words are rich with luscious descriptions and vivid imagery.  We feel the hot, languid air of San Juan just as intensely as the dark, menacing energy of Brooklyn.

Quotes from When I Was Puerto Rican


“’It won’t flower when you want it to,’ Mami said. ‘Keep taking care of it and you’ll see. One day it will surprise you.’”

“When Mami was laid off, we had to go on welfare. She took me with her because she needed someone to translate. Six months after we landed in Brooklyn, I spoke enough English to explain our situation. ‘My mother she no spik inglish. My mother she look for work evree day, and nothin. My mother she say she don’t want her children suffer. My mother she say she want work bot she lay off. My mother she only need help a leetle while.’”

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two years old, Cheryl Strayed lost her mother to cancer.  For the next four years, her life took a downward spiral as her marriage crumbled and her sense of self dwindled.  On the heels of finalizing her divorce, she made an impulsive decision to hike more than one thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State.  Alone. Wild gives us a glimpse into the challenges and discoveries she uncovered on her journey.

I absolutely loved the warm and authentic voice with which Strayed told her story.  She shows readers, in a very honest way, that they can triumph over their demons.  She also powerfully illustrates the healing power of solitude, and how empowering it can be to walk alone.

Quotes from Wild


‘”I never got to be in the driver’s seat of my own life,’ she’d wept to me once in the days after she learned she was going to die. ‘I always did what someone else wanted me to do. I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife.  I’ve never just been me.’”

“That my complicated life could be made so simple was astounding.”

“The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse to ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.”

 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

If you currently do any kind of writing or aspire to one day be a writer, Bird by Bird is a must read.  Told in Lamott’s humorously self-depricating and honest voice, this book will make you laugh, learn and maybe even cry.  Though not technically a memoir, I included it in my roundup because of the wealth of personal stories included within its chapters.  The entire introduction describes Lamott’s childhood and her relationship with her father, who was also a writer.  Bird by Bird lives up to its title; it is absolutely brimming with nuggets of wisdom on how to live and write beautifully.

Quotes from Bird by Bird


“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.

“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander.

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.