4 Life-Changing Memoirs to Round Out Your Summer Reading

By Friday, August 03, 2018 ,

Summer is wrapping up and I hope yours has been full of all the vacations you wanted and lots of good books. If you’re looking for a few more to get through your summer goals, I have a few memoirs to share today. A memoir is a typically reflective work in which the author recounts significant personal life events and shares how they’ve grown. In the process of reading these particular memoirs, I’ve benefited and changed too. I hope you’ll let these authors’ life-changing stories change you too! :) 

The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer 
I just finished this one and was astounded. Edith was an Austrian Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust by marrying a respected Nazi. She worked as a slave on a farm and then a factory, but then defied and hid from the Gestapo by assuming a false identity with the help of a brave few. Her husband’s interest and eventual proposal completely surprised her and she resisted at first, but even after she told him of her Jewish heritage, he pressed his suit and swore to keep her secret. Overnight, Edith became part of the most protected group in Europe – German housewives who would carry on the “pure” German race. She lived in a web of constant lies and fear of discovery, and her survival is a true testimony to the resilience of the human spirit and the difference that small moments of risky kindness can make. 

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber 
This was my favorite read of 2016 and remains one of my all-time favorite books. Carolyn Weber was a cynical, hardened agnostic when she went to Oxford to study Romantic Literature. Once there, she encountered friends, professors, mentors, and books that would be used by God to bring her to faith in Him. Carolyn is an English professor, so her love of literature spoke to me on a personal level, and her account of her journey to faith moved me deeply. She paints beautiful word pictures in this book of how she wrestled with the Bible and difficult questions about God’s character. But God was relentless in His pursuit of her, as she makes clear, and I was encouraged and touched to be reminded that He does indeed pursue His children patiently. 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi 
Life, death, purpose, literature, medicine, and family are just a few of the topics that Paul Kalanithi faced in this memoir after he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He was at the starting point of a successful career in neurosurgery when the diagnosis came, and he struggled with suddenly becoming a patient when he had so long been the doctor. In the space of a few days, he was facing his own mortality and this memoir is the result of how he processed it. He recounts his longtime fascination with human purpose, literature, and the brain. This unusual combination of interests merged into undergraduate studies in English, then medical school, and eventual focus on neurosurgery and a deep desire to guide others through trauma to this most vital organ, the brain. Kalanithi looked death in the face with poignant courage and dignity, as did his wife, who stood by him at every stage and finished the book with her own epilogue after his passing. I could not put this book down and had rivulets of tears pouring down my face by the end. 

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield 
A 2017 favorite, this book recounts another faith journey that riveted and humbled me. Rosaria shares that in the 1990s, she had it all according to appearances – a thriving career in academia, a gorgeous house, a loving community, and active philanthropic memberships. In 1999, she lost it all when Jesus Christ called her to Himself. She describes her conversion as a “train wreck” in which she lost “everything but the dog.” But every page shouts that it was worth it. Modern Christian culture often waters down the gravity of the gospel’s call and makes light of its demands. Rosaria dispels that with humble yet firm clarity. For her, following Jesus meant loss of community, respect, career, and much more. But the gains have more than outweighed the losses, as she joyfully declares in this memoir. I appreciated that wake-up call and am grateful for her story.

What memoirs have you read recently that really impacted you? I'd love to hear!

The Nazi Officer's Wife is not pictured as I read it on my Kindle. Have to have those multiple formats!

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