Autobiographies & Memoirs…

Earlier today I was on the hunt for some black jeans at my local very large supermarket, that will remain unnamed. I have mentioned before that I often find supermarket shopping quite stressful and so I headed off to the book section which always calms me, though it makes my wallet tremble in slight fear. As usual the temptation was too great and I ended up leaving the aisle with none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new memoir Hard Choices. I used the very flimsy excuses of ‘ooh I am going to Washington in a few weeks, it is like research’ and ‘she was brilliant on Woman’s Hour’. I know, I know I am weak – for having to buy a book not for listening to Woman’s Hour it is wonderful listening.

Hilary Clinton

Anyway, I digress. After I had bought it I was explaining to The Beard that I had bought it because it would give me a really unusual, yet direct, insight into the state of the world at the moment and its conflicts, plus American politics and give me some insight into someone who will, hopefully, become the next President of America. He responded with ‘you don’t need to justify buying a famous person’s memoir to me…’

And I think in some way he was right, I was really over justifying it because reading autobiographies and memoirs is one of those things that gets judged really harshly. If I am being 100% honest sometimes with certain autobiographies I have read them and yet not blogged about them or even popped them on my GoodReads book lists for fear of the judgement. I am not talking Jennifer Saunders or Dawn French, I think I have featured both of those. I am talking more along the lines of Stephanie Beacham or Kathleen Turner. No, even I wouldn’t read one of Cheryl Cole (or whatever she is calling herself now) or Jordan’s autobiographies. Ooh, see I did it myself then judging those autobiographies.

Yet some memoirs, like Barack Obama who has sold millions of copies of his, can be really insightful into the world. Then again I read Rupert Everett’s for all the gossip, the second one is written brilliantly though. Oh and I have read all the Spice Girls ones so far, I am still waiting for two of them and because of being part of the Spice generation I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from getting them for the nostalgia and the truth behind fall outs and all the rest of it. I am getting thrills at the thought. I also have Anjelica Huston’s first memoir ready and waiting on the TBR shelves and will now read it and write about it unashamedly, I love Jelly HuHu so.

So why do we judge autobiographies and memoirs so much, especially as we all love authors memoirs don’t we? (Come on we all do, I bet you have looked in horror as someone is reading some memoir supposedly written by the latest favourite pop star, reality TV star, DJ or comedian haven’t you?) Which ones have you read, be it secretly or not? Who do you wish would do a tell all memoir? Name an author and a celebrity or two I dare you!


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

17 responses to “Autobiographies & Memoirs…

  1. Jen

    I love Barry Manilow and tried to read his memoir, but it didn’t seem true. So, I quit mid-way. Currently, I’m reading “Promise Me” by Nancy G. Brinkman. Very well written and interesting. I love memoirs!

  2. Carol S

    I once read, and enjoyed Paula Yates’ memoirs. She was still alive then though.

  3. Kateg

    I can’t get past that you can buy jeans in a supermarket….when I was younger, I read a number of biographies of different members of the Kennedy family. It is not usually my genre, but I read Maya Angelou and Kelly Corrigan this summer. I don’t think I have ever read a celebrity biography, but I have a copy of Tina Fey’s Bossypants in my TBR. Enjoy Hillary!

  4. I’d never judge someone for reading a memoir or autobiography (ok, maybe a few from pop stars who probably didn’t write a word him/herself, haha.) I’d found that I’ve enjoyed many of the memoirs that I’ve read and if someone else enjoys them or at least learns something, why not.

    The first memoir I read was Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. I was in high school and didn’t even know what a memoir was. I think to this day it’s still my favorite. I’ve read a few from musicians, authors (probably a subcategory I love the most), and even people I’ve never heard of. When they’re well written, I can’t seem to get enough of other people’s lives.

    With that said, I think I’ll stay away from this Clinton one, haha. Much too long for me and I get enough American politics from Facebook (sadly). Hope you enjoy it though. I know many people who have.

  5. Ed

    My personal rule for autobiographies and memoirs is that I do not read them if they are about people who are in the news frequently. I admit this is probably not a fair rule, but my attitude is that I already know as much as I want to know about them. However I have broken this rule once for Andre Agassi’s autobiography. I broke the rule because it was even getting good reviews from people who do not follow tennis. I don’t regret it, because I really enjoyed the book (and I follow tennis).

    I am Australian by the way, and one thing I found strange about some British bookshops is the huge number of memoirs of footballers, some of them still in their twenties. I like football, but I am not interested in such books.

  6. Holly

    Russell Brand’s My Booky Wook is surprisingly good. Smart, soulful, and self-aware. Well worth reading.

    As was Keith Richards’ Life. But everybody already knew that, right?

  7. Ed

    I would also add that the only current politician whose biography I would like to to see published is Kim Jong Un. Not because I like or admire him, but because we know so little about him. I would not trust his version of events though. It would have to be written by someone else.

  8. I’m so clueless I didn’t even realize there was any shame in reading memoirs! I would (and think I will) read the pants off Rupert Everett’s autobiography. I have Sting, Jimmy Carter and Bill Bryson’s memoirs on the bookshelf waiting to be cracked open.

  9. Annabel (gaskella)

    I’ve read loads and loads of memoirs over the years. I love film and rock ones in particular. Julie Andrews’ ‘Home’ was brilliant, Bob Dylan’s ‘Chronicles’ was beautifully written. Even the occasional one who had help like Raymond Blanc’s autobiography ‘A Taste of my Life’ is excellent – but you only need to read one page to see whether the voice is authentic.

    A word of caution – our book group chose to read Frankie Boyle’s My S**t Life So Far – coincidentally, the week after we chose it he was very rude and a couple of our group actually went to see him at that gig. The book was utter pants – but with the scandal he provoked it provided us with a great discussion. The moral: Choose them for book groups with great care!

  10. Annabel (gaskella)

    I forgot Morrissey! A true curate’s egg that one. Bits were lovely, a lot was boring, bitter and twisted – but it was interesting. Tracey Thorn’s ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’ is the antidote though – can’t recommend that enough!

  11. I think I a more reticent about mentioning the autobiographies and memoirs I have read for fear of judgement not only on my enjoyment of that person, but what I must (or am assumed to) enjoy from that. The worst one I’ve read is Binky Felstead’s, which was dire, but Made in Chelsea is a guilty pleasure. I don’t think I even put that on GoodReads. Another cheesy read is Clare from Steps, because she was always my favourite and it was reminiscent of my childhood. Then on the other hand Just Kids by Patti Smith blew my mind and I don’t shut up about that. I think I’m (depressingly) all about perceptions.

    There is just something fascinating about being able to share in an experience of someone you love, admire or have loved and admired. I suppose there is always the nosiness factor as well, we’re curious beings us humans.

  12. I read Mary Hemingway’s and still remember it. Fourth wife of Ernest? I won’t read celebrities that are all pop and glitz and no brain. I like writer’s, maybe an old actor, Katherine Hepburn’s was great. Artists, people who have endured amazing journeys. People who have grown up tough and made it big. My friend is reading Hillary’s bio now and loves it. Would like to read it.

  13. Absolutely no judgement! I’ve read my fair share of biographies and autobiographies. Walt Disney, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, even Geri Haliwell (speaking of the Spice Girls…). It’s fun and, at times, surprisingly insightful.

  14. I had no idea that reading memoirs and autobiographies was judged so harshly. Is that just a thing that happens across the pond? I’ve never heard any of my reading pals doing it here. Interesting.

    I read a lot of memoirs and such, and I’ve read some really spectacular ones. I’ve learned a ton about the world from reading them.

  15. q

    i did sort of hide the cover leaving the library w/ the Debbie Reynolds autobio…but damn, she led a life and a half, eccentric yet disciplined…very funny and warm and uplifting…
    of course her daughter’s (Carrie fisher) memoirs ring same bell, ‘how could someone survive this life’, fortunately she has amazing sense of wild humor while watching her life…
    eat a box of chocolates and keep turning the pages kind of reads.

    for your political taste < usa… turner about the 2008 presidential race is awesomely gossipy and eye opening…'Game Change'..difinitely recommend it if u're looking for non fiction, political great read.

    welcome home.

  16. notewellnick

    I read Mary Robinson’s autobiography earlier this year – I’ve got to admit, I’m in awe of her now!

    Can’t really be doing with the more sensationalist type of biography. I haven’t got the energy to care about who slept with who …

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