As a bit of a book nerd, there aren't many genres of writing I don't adore. But memoirs hold a special place in my heart. Memoirs hinge on the idea of memory, both personal and collective. Which is why you should totally pack memoirs for Memorial Day in your getaway luggage this weekend. Download these titles onto your Kindle before you depart and tell your travel buddies that you'll be spending a little "me-time" brushing up on history while lying in the sun, glass of wine in hand.
Or, as I've done on several long weekends, shack up with yourself and use the holiday to nurture your soul by reading. Studies have shown that readers are more empathic, so rather than Netflix-ing the weekend away, pick up a book. These days, it's ridiculously important to remember the stories of those who've come before, with some faint hope that this generation doesn't make the same mistakes. By reading memoirs for Memorial Day, you're reading about the suffering and resilience of others in a noble attempt to make the planet a better place.
OK, I'm off my soapbox now. But seriously, guys, aside from an awesome barbecue, and the official introduction to summer, Memorial Day is one of the most important American holidays. By reading memoirs that tap into what Memorial Day is really about not only will you get smarter, you'll be celebrating the real meaning of the holiday.
1'Memoirs of a Soldier, Nurse, and Spy: A Woman's Adventures in the Union Army' by Sarah Emma Edmonds
Disguised as a man in order to enlist in the Second Michigan Infantry Regiment of the Civil War, Sarah Emma Edmonds is the only known woman to document her experiences in Memoirs of a Soldier, Nurse, and Spy. The diaries of this Union soldier's bravery and heroism was first published in 1865. Her accounts have been validated by several historians.
2'Pride: The Story of the First Openly Gay Navy Seal' by Brett Jones
What was it like to be the first openly gay Navy SEAL? In Pride, Brett Jones opens up about the challenges he faced, not only as part of the elite institution, but as a gay soldier, struggling to come out of the closet. If you're looking for a politically charged, empathic, introspective Memorial Day memoir, this is it.
3'Resurgence Of a Fallen Angel: Real Tried and True Strategies From a Female Combat Veteran Who Overcame Stress and Anxiety to Get Her Life Back' by
A Memorial Day memoir that also offers tips on self-improvement, Shirley Wu's Resurgence of a Fallen Angel offers solutions on how to dig deep into the trenches of everyday life to help you cope with anxiety. A must-read for moms struggling to keep their heads above water.
4'Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles' by Anthony Swofford
The memoir that inspired the Jake Gyllenhaal film, Jarhead tells the story of Anthony Swofford's deployment in Saudi Arabia. With wit, the memoirist takes to task the ideals of masculinity and machismo in the Marines, as well as the power of male friendship.
5'My Sylent Screams: A Female Veteran Shares Her Story' by Loretta Morris White
Written in lyric form as poems, the memoir My Sylent Screams by Loretta Morris-White gives readers a glimpse of what it felt like to be a female solider, serving her country for a decade in the United States Army. She considers her memoir a continuation of community service to which she dedicated her life.
6'When It Was Our War: A Soldier's Wife on the Home Front' by Stella Suberman
Stella Suberman, who published her first memoir at age 76, gives readers a sophomore stunner, with a memoir of what it was like to be a wife on the home front. Going through pregnancy and childbirth, forging relationships with fellow service wives, and dealing with weird military regulations make When It Was Our War a compelling World War II memoir by an accomplished writer.
7'Soldier's Heart: The Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father: A Daughter's Memoir (You'll Never Know)' by Carol Tyler
Soldier's Heart by Carol Tyler is told through images, as readers get the narrative through 364 drawings. Tyler reflects on her own life, as she struggles to understand her father, a veteran of World War II. Tyler's drawings convey the trauma left on World War II veterans, and how it affected their children in this complex multigenerational graphic memoir.
8'Called To Honor: Memoirs Of A Three-War Veteran' by Colonel John Edward Gray
If you're looking for a memoir that reads like an action adventure story, this is your pick. Colonel John Edward Gray gives readers plenty of gripping and suspenseful scenes of wartime action in his memoir, Called To Honor.
9'Passing Time: Memoir of a Vietnam Veteran Against the War' by W. D. Ehrhart
A former Marine and recipient of the President's Medal from Veterans for Peace, as well as an accomplished scholar, W.D. Ehrhart writes about his moral struggles and feelings of alienation as a Vietnam vet returning to American life in his memoir, Passing Time.
10'Soldier of Change: From the Closet to the Forefront of the Gay Rights Movement' by Stephen Snyder-Hill
From Army Captain to LGBTQ champion, Stephen Snyder-Hill penned this memoir about his two decades spent in the closet while serving his country in Soldier of Change. An emotional read, this memoir takes readers through feelings of self-loathing to self-empowerment.
11'A House in the Sky: A Memoir' by Amanda Lindhout
A memoir of world-traveler and journalist's, Amanda Lindhout's 15 months in captivity, A House In the Sky reflects on the power of memory to keep you alive in the most heinous conditions. In 2015, the Somali gang leader who took Lindhout hostage was arrested by Canadian authorities. Widely-praised for its beautiful prose, this memoir is not only a story of heroism, but a meditation on the gift of memory, the idea that underscores the holiday of Memorial Day.