2019 Reading Challenge: Read a Memoir or Biography

In 2019, OPL invites patrons to take part in the reading challenge! Each month, OPL will highlight a theme and offer suggestions for titles to read or listen to. As you’re working through the challenge, feel free to tag @omahalibrary on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to let us know which read you picked up this month!

The benefits of reading a memoir, autobiography or biography are endless. Here is my personal list of the top five reasons you should read one!

Experience the life of someone else

With a biography or memoir you can journey right along with a person as they make history, discover themselves or learn the hardest lessons.

If you are intrigued by the history of espionage as well as women's and military history, I recommend these two well-researched novels that will give you a captivating look at the unsung heroes of World War II.

"D-Day GirlsThe Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II" by Sarah Rose

"A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII” by Sonia Purnell

Laugh along with someone else

For this benefit, I recommend finding any comedian’s memoir. The best humorists can detail their life experiences and laugh at themselves along the way. "The Last Black Unicorn" by Tiffany Haddish will have you laugh out-loud and will shock you that your eyes grow bigger than dinner plates. "My Life as A Goddess" by Guy Branum is an incisive and witty memoir that will keep you laughing and pull at your heart.

Learn from the life of someone else

Written between the pages of a biography is everything about a person’s highs and lows, successes and failures, and what they learned from it all. You could use it as a map for your own life or take what you need from their similar experiences and apply it to your own. Learning about historical figures through a biography offers a more effective lens to making key events become real moments.

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War” by Steve Sheinkin. Sheinkin is one of the best narrative nonfiction writers I have ever read. In this book he pulls you into the life of Daniel Ellsberg and his decision to steal and publish secret documents about America's involvement in the Vietnam War.

Be inspired by someone else

A factual tale of a courageous person overcoming challenges may inspire you to face your own obstacles with hope and determination. It could even spark a desire to make the world a better place. More than anything, biographies prove that one person can make a difference, and that small steps can lead to big things — great life lessons for little ones.

"Maid" by Stephanie Land. Library Journal notes that this is an “illuminating read that should inspire outrage, hope, and change.”

Understand the life of someone else

Life is complicated and hard to sort out on our own. Reading a biography or memoir gives us a glimpse into someone else’s experiences and how they endured and survived them, which in turn helps us understand their life and the choices they made.

"When Life Gives You Pears: The Healing Power of Family, Faith, and Funny People" by Jeannine Gaffigan. Life-threatening illnesses are sometimes impossible to understand. In this funny and heartfelt memoir from writer, director, wife, and mother, Jeannie Gaffigan reflects on the life-changing impact of battling a pear-sized brain tumor.

"Know My Name" by Chanel Miller. In this powerfully written memoir, Miller deftly illustrates the torturous and grinding legal treatment of sexual assault survivors. I also highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of any memoir or autobiography read by the author. The authenticity they bring to their story has the ability to resonate deeper.

Start your search with a person you know nothing about, admire or find intriguing. Your local library staff will be happy to assist you on your search or you can submit an online custom reading form for more reading suggestions tailored to your interests.

Find all the titles mentioned in this post and more here, opens a new window

Once you complete the 2019 Reading Challenge, remember to enter your reading log online or submit your completed tracking sheet at your nearest OPL branch. All completed submissions will be entered into a drawing for some fun literary-themed merchandise! All completed tracking sheets or online challenge form entries must be received by December 31, 2019, to be entered into the prize drawing.