8 Memoirs to Read if You Loved The Glass Castle
The publication of Educated by Tara Westover has brought about a new interest in gritty family memoirs.
The Glass Castle is the first book I recommend to readers who loved Educated and are looking for similar memoirs. (Personally I think TGC is much better!)
If you’re looking for more dramatic real life stories of families, I’ve got you covered with this list. I haven’t read them all, so instead of writing my own blurb for each, I used ones from Goodreads. I hope you find a new favorite here!
8 Memoirs to Read if You Loved The Glass Castle
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
From Goodreads: Ruth Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turned a blind eye to the practices of her community, Ruth lives in a ramshackle house without indoor plumbing or electricity. At church, preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world and that women can only ascend to Heaven by entering into polygamous marriages and giving birth to as many children as possible. After Ruth’s father—the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony—is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant.
Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable true story of a girl fighting for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience.
The Boys of my Youth by Jo Ann Beard
From Google Books: Cousins, mothers, sisters, dolls, dogs, best friends: these are the fixed points in Jo Ann Beard’s universe, the constants that remain when the boys of her youth — and then men who replace them — are gone. This widely praised collection of autobiographical essays summons back, with astonishing grace and power, moments of childhood epiphany as well as the cataclysms of adult life: betrayal, divorce, death.
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
From Goodreads: This is not your mother’s memoir. In The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch expertly moves the reader through issues of gender, sexuality, violence, and the family from the point of view of a lifelong swimmer turned artist. In writing that explores the nature of memoir itself, her story traces the effect of extreme grief on a young woman’s developing sexuality that some define as untraditional because of her attraction to both men and women. Her emergence as a writer evolves at the same time and takes the narrator on a journey of addiction, self-destruction, and ultimately survival that finally comes in the shape of love and motherhood.
My Life in Orange by Tim Guest
From Goodreads: At the age of six, Tim Guest was taken by his mother to a commune modeled on the teachings of the notorious Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The Bhagwan preached an eclectic doctrine of Eastern mysticism, chaotic therapy, and sexual freedom, and enjoyed inhaling laughing gas, preaching from a dentist’s chair, and collecting Rolls Royces.
Tim and his mother were given Sanskrit names, dressed entirely in orange, and encouraged to surrender themselves into their new family. In 1985 the movement collapsed amid allegations of mass poisonings, attempted murder, and tax evasion, and Yogesh was once again Tim. In this extraordinary memoir, Tim Guest chronicles the heartbreaking experience of being left alone on earth while his mother hunted heaven.
Cherry by Mary Karr
From Goodreads: This memoir of adolescence follows the earlier volume by Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club. In Cherry, we find Karr once again trying to run from the thrills and terrors of her psychological and physical awakening by violently crashing up against authority in all its forms, shuttling between the principal’s office and the jail cell. Yearning, like a typical teenager, for the ideal love or heart’s companion who will make her feel whole again, she throws in her lot with a varied and outrageous band: surfers, yogis and bona fide geniuses.
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
From Goodreads: In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history—the life she had lived—crumbled beneath her.
This is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in—a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.
The Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs
From Goodreads: When Augusten Burroughs was small, his father was a shadowy presence in his life: a form on the stairs, a cough from the basement, a silent figure smoking a cigarette in the dark. As Augusten grew older, something sinister within his father began to unfurl. Something dark and secretive that could not be named. Betrayal after shocking betrayal ensued, and Augusten’s childhood was over. The kind of father he wanted didn’t exist for him. This father was distant, aloof, uninterested…
Burroughs makes a quantum leap into untapped emotional terrain: the radical pendulum swing between love and hate, the unspeakably terrifying relationship between father and son. Told with scorching honesty and penetrating insight, it is a story for anyone who has ever longed for unconditional love from a parent. It’s a memoir of stunning psychological cruelty and the redemptive power of hope.
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
From Goodreads: When the expense of a medical procedure forces the 30-year-old Patricia to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, she must learn to live again with her family’s simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of a childhood spent in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Told with the comic sensibility of a brasher, bluer Waugh or Wodehouse, this is at the same time a lyrical and affecting story of how, having ventured into the underworld, we can emerge with our levity and our sense of justice intact.
TinaFebruary 15, 2021 at 9:19 pm
Thank you for the list. I love historical fiction but after The glass castle, I wanted to read more memoirs.
Ramona MeadFebruary 17, 2021 at 8:16 am
Great! I hope you find this list helpful. I love memoir, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like more recommendations beyond this list!