As stated on the home page and in the various banners one purpose of this website, though not the only, is ‘To help readers find interesting and enjoyable books’. To this end book reviews are frequently posted. Though these cross a variety of genre the majority fall within memoir, biography or autobiography. Some surveys have indicated, within non-fiction, biography to be one of the most popular genre.
To gain a better understanding on this topic it may help to view it from two aspects: What motivates an author to write a memoir? And What motivates a reader to read a memoir?
What motivates an author to write a memoir?
Some may consider a memoir/autobiography author to be arrogant: Why else would they think anyone would be interested in their story? The truth is most authors, no matter the genre they write in, are shy, introverted people who seek to avoid public exposure. The very thought causes them to cringe. Nevertheless, in the case of memoir, most consider their tale is one that needs to be told. Why? What are the reasons these normally shy and withdrawn people chose to write a memoir?
- They do not want their story to be lost to the sands of time.
- For history (family, national, world): each person’s tale is unique.
- To add to societies knowledge base.
- By way of example.
- To assist those facing similar situations and circumstances.
- For inspiration: If they can achieve what they have, so may others.
- To help them come to terms with their own life: writing can be a cathartic experience.
- Create understanding of how decisions made affect lives. Sometimes, it is only seeing these matters in writing that brings comprehension.
What motivates a reader to read a memoir?
- Natural interest in famous or public figures.
- Enjoy scandal and gossip.
- Learn how high profile people have got where they are.
- Like to ‘peep’ behind the curtain.
- Wish to understand the past. As someone said ‘Our future is based in our past’.
- Inspiration: ‘If they can do it so can I’.
- Find some basis for their own hopes and aspirations.
- Need heroes.
- Just plain inquisitive.
Famous and public figures have been mentioned above and certainly there will always be an interest in their lives. But, what about the ‘ordinary’ ‘Joe public’ person? Why are their memoirs of any interest?
- The reader is more easily able to identify with them rather than a public figure.
- Situations and circumstances are more down to earth.
- Success is usually gained through self-effort without a supportive group.
- To witness the resilience of the human spirit.
- To learn how they may also succeed or escape a given situation.
- Fact is often more dramatic than fiction.
The advent of multiple, easy to use, self-publishing platforms has resulted in a plethora of memoirs. Some are well written, others are not. The latter have discouraged some readers. Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, ‘Biography’ remains a very popular genre.
Everyone has a tale to tell. Some may be ‘ordinary’ but others may be both amazing and dreadful. Whatever the circumstance all have something to impart. Nevertheless, should everyone write and publish a memoir? That has to be down to the individual. Should they choose to do so, they will need to carefully consider their motivation – What is it they wish to impart? Why should their tale be told? They need to appreciate writing a book is not a quick or always easy pastime. In fact, it is not a ‘pastime’. They need to understand the necessity for dedicating considerable time, effort and concentration to the project. Some must be prepared to relive experiences they would prefer to forget or at least consign to the back of their minds. Also, if they intend to self-publish, as most do, they must accept there is a lot more to publishing a book than simply writing it.
For the reader there are a lot of interesting facts, experiences and insights. It is very true that fact can be, and often is, far more dramatic than fiction. Of course, they may also find inspiration, encouragement and help for their own situations. The range of memoirs available is as diverse as the authors themselves. Some will have the reader crying, others laughing, others will astound, others will surprise.
Memoirs, autobiographies and biographies will always exist in one form or another. Society would be the poorer without them. Of course, not everyone is interested in reading these nevertheless, they do provide an invaluable insight into the history and progress of mankind generally as well as into individual cultures. Hopefully, understanding the motivations and attitudes of individuals as well as of public bodies, governments, etc. will lead to increased tolerance and broader acceptance.
4 thoughts on “Why Memoirs?”
i never read any memoirs until I published my own, but I have been knocked sideways at how many ordinary people have lived extra ordinary lives.
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So true. It really is amazing. Just think what we may have missed without the advent of self-publishing.
This is a thoughtful post that covers a range of motivations of both writers and readers. As both, I would say for myself personally its normally a mix of several factors. People are fascinating!
Thanks for putting this together.
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I am glad you found it interesting. I think most of us would agree it is usually a mixture.