The power of storytelling connects, shares, teaches, and examines the depths of the human condition.
Stories bring us closer together and open our hearts and minds to the experiences of our fellow humans.
We all love a good story.
Stories also remind us we are not alone in our experiences. Sharing similar circumstances helps us feel understood and creates intimacy and trust.
Below are 15 novels, memoirs, and biographies that honor storytelling and show the power of the human spirit. Plus, they’re just really good! May they be of benefit.
1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Set in Afghanistan in 1979, two young boys share a beautiful friendship that is destroyed by a dark secret. This book explores family, tradition, and the refugee experience.
2. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
This one is for all the theatre lovers out there! Vivian Morris is 19 when she comes to stay at her Aunt’s theatre in New York City in the 1940s. This is a funny, poignant, and heartwarming coming-of-age story.
3. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
If you love a good mystery, this one is for you. I honestly wouldn’t read this one at night because you’ll get scared—trust me on this!
4. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Ahhhh, to be young and in full self-exploration mode. Tess lands a job at a fancy restaurant in NYC. There, she learns about love, sex, fine dining, wine, food, pleasure, and the sensual art of cooking.
5. Girl in the Woods: A Memoir by Aspen Matis
After suffering a rape her second night of college, Matis hikes from Mexico to Canada so she can heal, unpack her feelings, and find herself again.
6. She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan
For anyone who knows and loves someone who is transgender, this memoir will warm your heart and show you how brave some people must be to feel at peace in their skin and their bodies.
7. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Probably my favorite memoir of all time. I read this one when I lived in Oregon and I’ve been to many of the places Strayed mentions. After losing her mother to cancer in her early 20s, Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. This is her story of how she found grace, healing, and herself again.
8. The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Ani seemingly has it all, but a horrific secret from her past is about to haunt her again. This book deals with some heavy subjects, but ones that need to be addressed.
9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
I worked at Borders (remember them?) when this book was flying off the shelves. Susie watches from above as her family tries to move on after she is murdered. The bonds of love don’t disappear just because someone is physically gone.
(Also check out Sebold’s memoir, Lucky).
10. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Love him or hate him, your experience of technology wouldn’t be the same without him.
I grew up in Silicon Valley in the 1980s and 1990s at the peak of its creativity and influence. My dad was one of the pioneers of the technology boom and came over from Scotland in the 1970s to work there. He knew both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as well as many other influential people at that time.
This biography is in a word: riveting. I couldn’t put it down.
11. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
I love this novel not only for the storytelling but the way it is laid out and organized. Each section tells the story from a different character’s point of view, eventually weaving it all together. I’m a huge fan of Hosseini, and this book is beautifully crafted.
12. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
The path from teenager to a young woman is rife with uncertainty, curiosity, confusion, and discovery. Follow Dolores as she copes with the ups and downs of growing up, falling in love, weight issues, and challenging relationships.
13. Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff
This one is heart-wrenching. Sheff details the endless love for his child as he helps him find a way through his meth addiction. Have tissues nearby.
14. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
This is the story of a family coping with the aftermath of the Columbine school shooting told from the perspective of one of the survivors. This novel illustrates how traumas of this size penetrate all areas of life.
15. Floor Sample: A Creative Memoir by Julia Cameron
I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!
Happy World Book Day!