“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Having just written my very own spiritual memoir, I have great appreciation for these 8 rather mesmerizing autobiographies penned by some of the most inspiring spiritual teachers of our time—and some authors who aren’t technically of the “spiritual” genre, but whose works fit into the category of feeding the readers’ souls.
1. Freedom in Exile by the Dalai Lama
His Holiness has actually written two autobiographies. I haven’t yet read the first, My Land and My People. His more recent memoir tells the touching story of his life.
The fact that the Dalai Lama was forced by Chinese communists to flee from his home country, Tibet, and hasn’t been able to return since 1959 makes his kind, compassionate presence on the world’s stage all the more amazing and inspiring.
2. Night by Elie Wiesel
A common title from high school required reading lists, this uncommonly thin memoir is absolutely gut wrenching–and absolutely required reading for everyone.
The story of Wiesel’s time trapped in Auschwitz during The Holocaust is a heartbreaking and horrific. He offers us a look at humanity’s ugliest and most resplendent sides. It took me weeks to get through the short book, because it’s so intense that I could only read a brief passage at a time.
3. Cave in the Snow: A Western Woman’s Quest for Enlightenment by Vickie Mackenzie
Okay, this isn’t technically a memoir, but it is the incredible true story of Tenzin Palmo, a British woman turned Tibetan Buddhist nun who spent 12 years alone in a cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas.
On her mountain retreat, she faced bitter cold temperatures, wild animals, floods, snow and rockfalls, grew her own food and slept in a traditional wooden meditation box. A remarkable story about a remarkable woman’s spiritual path.
4. Committed: A Love Story by Elizabeth Gilbert
The world-famously divorced author of Eat, Pray, Love wrote this book after her mega-bestseller-turned-movie-starring-Julia-Roberts. (I never could bring myself to watch it.)
In Committed, her musings on compatibility and fidelity chronicles Liz’s journey into her second marriage. I appreciate her frank, conversational tone and her humble attitude about having become a world-famous “chick-lit” author.
5. Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz
Julie Metz’s memoir opens with the sudden death of her husband. Seven months later she discovers that her late husband had hidden another life from her and had cheated on her throughout their 12 years of marriage. Perfection is the story of Julie’s journey as she comes to terms with painful truths in order to transform her life.
6. The Great Failure by Natalie Goldberg
I just can’t get enough of Natalie Goldberg. “Of course, we are drawn to teachers that unconsciously mirror our own psychology,” she writes.
In this, her second memoir, she explores the link between her Zen master, Katagiri Roshi, and her father who sexually violated her. (Also recommended: Long, Quiet Highway, which is Natalie’s first memoir.)
7. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
In this moving memoir, twentysomething Dave loses both of his parents to cancer and suddenly finds himself in charge of raising his eight-year-old brother. Eggers manages to be simultaneously hilarious, inventive and heartfelt in this, his literary debut.
He has gone on to write many high-quality books including my personal favorite, What is the What. I am currently reading his latest novel, The Circle. (Stay tuned for a review coming soon.)
8. The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas Gandhi
Dude, it’s Gandhi. Listen to the Mahatma. We should all follow his example of humility, action and inspiration.
What others should be included on this list?
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Ed: Bryonie Wise