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10 of the Best Literary Memoirs of All Time

This week saw the release of Paul Auster’s second memoir, Winter Journal, wherein he turns his eye from the portrait of fatherhood he explored in The Invention of Solitude to his mother’s life, and her death, and the ever encroaching inevitability of his own death. Inspired by this new and deeply affecting work by one of our greatest contemporary authors, we started thinking about our favorite literary memoirs, from the contemporary to the classic, those that suck us in and leave us gasping for breath as well or better than any novel. Click through to see the books we chose, and if we’ve missed your own favorite, make a case for it in the comments — we can always use another book to read!

Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov’s memoir is an account of his childhood and the years before his emigration to the United States in 1940 — but that’s not quite right. More importantly, the book is an account of Nabokov’s art as much as it is an example of it, a study of the themes and symbols that make up his mind as they make up the book. As ever, Nabokov’s prose is unimpeachable, brilliant, devastating, and his almost petulant, playful manner makes even lists of relatives seem fascinating.

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