2. The Year of Magical Thinking
In 2003, Joan Didion’s daughter Quintana was hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia that turned into septic shock. Days later, while Quintana was comatose in the hospital, her husband of nearly 40 years died suddenly of a heart attack while at the dinner table. This stunning memoir, which won the 2005 National Book Award for Nonfiction, recounts Didion’s attempts to reconcile her grief in the year following her husband’s death, while caring for her seriously ill daughter at the same time.
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3. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Considered by some as one of the best autobiographies ever published, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin details the Founding Father’s early life and unique adulthood. One of the autobiography’s most notable sections details Franklin’s attempts to achieve “moral perfection” through the achievement of 13 virtues, including temperance, silence, and order. Although it was written more than 200 years ago, Franklin’s suggestions for bettering one’s life remain as current—and as essential to humankind as ever.
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4. Out of Africa
This 1937 memoir, which became an award-winning film, presents a captivating account of the 17 years Danish author Karen Blixen lived on a 4,000-acre coffee plantation in Kenya, which was then called British East Africa. She had moved to the plantation from Denmark with her husband, whom she divorced after he proved unfaithful. After the divorce, Blixen decided to stay in Kenya and manage the farm by herself. To her disappointment, she failed and returned to Denmark—but not without a collection of stories about her adventure that inspired this breathtaking tale.
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