31 Days of Reading Well: Day 11

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I finally read The Help in August; most of it, I devoured on my mom’s Nook while letting her drive the entire distance from Chattanooga to my grandparents’ house in Ohio. (I did offer to help drive. I swear!) If you don’t know the story or haven’t deciphered it from the numerous ads for the movie, it’s about a white woman who writes a book with stories from the black maids of her hometown. She conducts undercover interviews, sneaking around town, lying to her mother, simply to do justice to these women.

The Help is fiction, but the genre it describes seems to be exploding in popular literature. Since Julie and Julia erupted into the mainstream, the shelves are full of “what I did in one year” memoirs; but lately, it seems to me there are more and more books containing biographies of little-known people who just happened to have fascinating stories.

Lost in Shagri-La is one of Amazon’s best books of the year so far. It tells the story of three survivors of a military plane crash during World War II. Unbroken tells the story of … a man who survived a plane crash.


It only makes sense, I suppose, in a time where we can hear someone’s story and have the resources to research that story fully, that unknown heroes are coming to life.

I’m currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which is one such tale. Henrietta Lacks was a black woman with a fierce case of cervical cancer, whose cell tissue was taken without permission and has since been used in research labs all over the world. While there have been reports and books and articles about her cells, Rebecca Skloot wanted to find the whole story of her life – Henrietta’s past and what happened to her family.

It’s an absolutely fascinating read, although at some points a little heavy on the scientific part of the story for my brain. It’s a history of human cell research and the public’s reaction to it along with the history of Henrietta’s family and where they are today.

And, in some way, I’m right there, rooting for the Lackses in a way I would never be cheering while reading a biography about JFK or Oprah or someone who has been accoladed to the nth degree.

I’m not even finished with the lengthy book; it’s a dense read, and as we all know, I have two kids and a freelance career! But I’m looking forward to sitting down and finding out the rest of the spun tale, as much as I would a novel.

Do you read biographies and memoirs? Do you think I’m crazy, or has this genre really taken people by storm?

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4 thoughts on “31 Days of Reading Well: Day 11

  1. I love biographies/memoirs and I agree with you that they have become very popular lately. One of my favorites is "The Glass Castle" by Jeanette Walls. I recently finished "Unbroken" and it was very good. Someone mentioned the Lacks book to me the other day and said it was required reading for all freshmen at UTK. I've added it to my "to read" list for sure.

  2. I love a good memoir. My absolute favorite genre is travel memoir. I call it my reading crack. You know, Peter Mayle, Frances Mayes, that type. Move to a lovely country and write about it, and I'll read it.
    But I do enjoy most other memoirs. I've had my eye on the Lacks book for a while now.

  3. I love memoirs and biographies. I do tend to love the travel variety but any good one will do. I want to read the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

  4. Biographies and memoirs are my fave. And historical fiction. I like stories based in reality. The Help was interesting, but so disturbing.

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