Books: First Person Accounts

I realise that most memoirs have been doctored to facilitate smoother reading, so I read these much in the spirit as I do fiction, though I take delight in knowing that (almost) all of it actually happened.

My family and other animals. My Family and Other AnimalsGerald Durrell; Hart-Davis 1956WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderamazon
Whimsical and hilarious, an account of how a family escapes the bad weather of England. The part about the sister and the toilet paper had me weeping with laughter for years.

This is the story of a five-year sojourn that I and my family made on the Greek island of Corfu.


Naked NakedDavid Sedaris; Back Bay Books 1998WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderamazon

Sedaris is possibly my favourite writer and certainly my favourite essayist. There’s a growing series, but this, along with Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, are gems. I love his acerbic wit and pithy take on his life and family. Sedaris gives thoughtful interviews too, which you can find by searching iTunes podcasts. 


Me talk pretty one day

I’m not otherwise a huge fan of audio books but I love his audio book versions as well. A frequent contributor to the New Yorker, Sedaris has also written my favourite essay on relationships, Old Faithful.



Me talk pretty one dayDavid Sedaris; G.K. Hall 2000WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderamazon 


Eat, Pray, Love Eat, Pray, LoveElizabeth Gilbert; Penguin (Non-Classics) 2007WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderamazon

I read this when I was going through my divorce and it resonated deeply, even if I didn’t take myself off to Italy, India and Indonesia for a year to regroup. The Italy part is my favourite section.

When you’re travelling in India—especially through holy sites and Ashrams—you see a lot of people wearing beads around their necks.


Come, Tell Me How You Live Come, Tell Me How You LiveAgatha Christie; HarperCollins Publishers Ltd 1999WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderamazon

I am oddly fascinated by all things Agatha and have read all her books, including her doorstopper of an autobiography. This short book is a charming memoir of her travels from the 1930s to the Middle East, with her young archaeologist husband, Max Mallowan.

In a few weeks’ time we are starting for Syria!


84, Charing Cross Road 84, Charing Cross RoadHelene Hanff; Penguin Books 1990WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderamazon

This shares the wonderful 20-year correspondence between the American author Hanff and Frank Doel who was working at an English antiquarian booksellers. What wit, what charm! A total delight.

 Gentlemen: Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. 


A Moveable Feast A Moveable FeastErnest Hemingway; Vintage 2000WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderamazon

A short collection of essays of Hemingway’s time in Paris in the 1920s and his illuminating exchanges with Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and – my favourite section in the book – F Scott Fitzgerald.

Then there was the bad weather.



I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections I Remember Nothing and Other ReflectionsNora Ephron; Knopf 2010WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderamazon

There are several published collections of Ephron’s essays, all of which display her sparkling wit and astute insights. This one is a personal favourite.

I have been forgetting things for years—at least since I was in my thirties.


My Life in France My Life in FranceJulia Child; Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2006WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderamazon

Child’s joie de vivre and her commitment to all she loved come across in every line. It’s wonderfully heartfelt.

This is a book about some of the things I have loved most in life: my husband, Paul Child; la belle France; and the many pleasures of cooking and eating.


  • How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (no book cover could be added, sadly, but this belongs with the rest of the list above). A powerhouse read by an excellent writer who gives brilliant insight into what feminism has come to be these days, and what to do about it. Not to be missed.
  • I rarely read ‘celebrity memoirs’, but with my favourite comedians, how could I not? Bossypants by Tina Fey did not disappoint. Neither did Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

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