My Favorite Memoirs

Many memoirs have inspired me while writing The Dinosaur’s Daughter. Here are five of my favorites about young people finding their way in the world.

India looking out a train window in about 1976. Photo by Nancy Wood.
Me, looking out a train window, about 1976.

Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army, by Georg Rauch (2006). This is a gripping story from the front lines of World War II told from the perspective of a kindhearted and funny young man trying to survive in a brutal world. The book is beautifully designed, with photos and vintage letters interspersed.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (and Other Lessons from the Crematory), by Caitlin Doughty (2014). This coming-of-age story wades through the surprisingly sacred (and wry) work of caring for the dead while taking a critical look at the American funeral industry.

Lost in Place, by Mark Salzman (1995). Salzman is a delightful writer, one of my top five. This book is an hilarious look at growing up in Connecticut while seeking enlightenment as a Kung Fu master.

An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard (1987). This beautifully-written memoir of growing up in Pittsburgh explores Dillard’s interior world, her family, and how they twine through the geography and history of that city.

Little Britches, Man of the Family, Shaking the Nickel Bush, and other books in Ralph Moody’s memoir series published in the 1950s.  Moody is the consummate Western storyteller: funny, wise, and adventurous. He grew up in Colorado about 50 years before I did.