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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

My Favourite Reads: Mo Gannon

Here are five profound real-life revelations that prove truth is often better than fiction

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Courtesy Simon & Schuster
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Courtesy Simon & Schuster

This week’s UAE release of a movie based on one of my favourite books, The Glass Castle, had me musing about memoirs, and just how many are among my cherished reads.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2005)

An American journalist looks back on her impoverished childhood, being raised by eccentric and addicted parents who moved her and her siblings from state to state. Her unjaundiced account shows how, in dysfunctional families, love and adventure can sweeten the sadness of abuse and neglect by guardians who still have good intentions.

Life by Keith Richards (2010)

Of all the things The Rolling Stones’ guitarist could be known for, and there are many, it should be this. Written with the help of journalist James Fox, the voice is undeniably that rambling roll of ‘Keef’, who tells story after story like a grizzled veteran at last call, only with surprising wisdom and clarity. An exemplary memoir, rock ’n’ roll or otherwise.

Pour Me, A Life by A A Gill (2015)

Written just a few years before he died of cancer, this memoir finds British journalist A A Gill as poetic, entertaining and curmudgeonly reflective about his own life as he was writing about everything else. Calling it an “emotional archaeology”, in writing about his alcoholism, he offers this solution: “Stop drinking. Stop crying. Go to the dentist. Say sorry. Get a job. Be nice.”

Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul by Tony Hendra (2004)

The British satirist and This Is Spinal Tap actor writes about how, whenever he lost his way, he was aided by the gentle wisdom and unconditional love of a Catholic priest who acts as his Obi-Wan Kenobi. A spiritually philosophical memoir of a man and his mentor, the “rock of his soul”, spanning Tony Hendra’s youth in post-war England to his “unholy spirit” showbiz days in America.

Blonde: A Novel by Joyce Carol Oates (1999)

Technically not a memoir, this imagined autobiography of Norma Jeane Baker, who became Marilyn Monroe, re-creates the inner life of a woman who, abused in foster homes and then exploited by Hollywood’s studio system, never lost her feelings of unworthiness. An entrancing and substantive book by one of America’s great writers.

Mo Gannon is an Assistant Editor in Chief for The National

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