5 Memoirs About People Facing Extraordinary Challenges

When going through tough times, it's important to know that you're not alone. These authors connect to their readers by sharing personal stories about things they've overcome and things they still struggle with. For wise words from someone who's gone through it, consider one of these moving memoirs. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

5 Memoirs About Struggles And Triumphs

Title Author
The Burn Zone Renee Linnell
Tears of Innocence T.R. Robinson
On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard Jennifer Pastiloff
13,760 Feet: My Personal Hole in the Sky Mark L. Berry
In the Pink: How I Met the Perfect (Younger) Man, Survived Breast Cancer, and Found True Happiness After 40 Susan McBride

Watch the Book Trailer for On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff

The History of Memoirs

Memoirs can be traced back all the way to the days of Ancient Rome. Julius Caesar wrote about his experience in battle in his work Commentarii de Bello Gallico, which translates to Commentaries on the Gallic War. Documenting life is also a longstanding custom in Japan. The Japanese tradition of Nikki bungaku, or poetic diary, dates back to around the year 935. This unique form of journaling is made up of several autobiographical poems, interspersed with sections of prose. In the 18th century, memoirists were generally people who were exceptional in their profession, who wrote in order to provide the public with an official account of their exploits. In the 20th century, many of these books began to focus on war, especially World War II, a subject that has been explored for decades through all sorts of media. Memoirs written by ordinary people began to gain popularity in the early 1990s, as a result of technological advances (such as the Internet) that made it easier for people to share their stories with the world.

How to Write a Memoir

In Depth

Something we all face in life is adversity, whether it's the loss of a loved one or battling an illness. For many, writing about these experiences provides an outlet for healing and hope. Often, these stories can also serve as a vehicle for helping others during tough times. In no particular order, here are memoirs that explore individual tragedies and triumphs.

Starting off the list at #1 is The Burn Zone by Renee Linnell, which details her seven years as a member of a cult and her eventual escape from it. The book explores how a journey that started out as a need to heal from the loss of her parents and to understand the big questions in life left the author fighting for her sanity and sense of self.

Part inspirational story, part cautionary tale, the book is meant for spiritual seekers and those who may feel lost. Among the media that have featured Linnell and The Burn Zone are The Daily Beast, The San Diego Union Tribune, and The New York Post.

Part inspirational story, part cautionary tale, the book is meant for spiritual seekers and those who may feel lost.

At #2 is Tears of Innocence by T. R. Robinson, the first book in a trilogy which details the author's story of being taken from her home at the age of five. She later escapes torture and attempted sexual abuse before she is rescued by a local family who return her to her relatives. Her eventual marriage leads to domestic violence, and the contemplation of murder.

The sequel, Negative Beauty, follows Robinson after the end of her marriage as she takes care of her young son as a single parent. The story explores how she deals with such challenges as violence and homelessness. The final book in the trilogy, Lost Dreams, traces the author's journey back to her homeland.

Coming in at #3 is On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard, written by Jennifer Pastiloff. The story follows her journey from losing her father at the age of eight, her thirteen years as a waitress, being nearly deaf, to eventually becoming a yoga teacher, and hosting her own retreats.

The story follows her journey from losing her father at the age of eight, her thirteen years as a waitress, being nearly deaf, to eventually becoming a yoga teacher, and hosting her own retreats.

Pastiloff travels the world with her seminar, The Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human, which is based on the memoir. The sessions are a hybrid of yoga, writing, and sharing. PEOPLE magazine hails the book as a powerful account of hearing loss and learning to communicate in a new way, while goop calls it heartbreaking and triumphant.

In the #4 spot is 13,760 Feet, My Personal Hole in the Sky, by Mark L Berry. It offers an insider's view of what it takes to make it in the major airlines, as well as his climb back into the cockpit after the loss of his fiancee on Trans World Airlines Flight 800, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 1996, killing everyone aboard.

Told in stories and forty one songs, excerpts from the memoir have appeared in Airways magazine, AOPA Flight Training, and Under the Sun. Bestselling novelist, Thomas Block, calls the book a sensitive, intelligent, and touching rendition, and Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean, praises it as one of the most powerful true stories of love and heartbreak anyone will ever read.

Told in stories and forty one songs, excerpts from the memoir have appeared in Airways magazine, AOPA Flight Training, and Under the Sun.

Wrapping up the list at #5 is In the Pink: How I Met the Perfect Younger Man, Survived Breast Cancer, and Found True Happiness After 40, by Susan McBride. The short memoir tells her tale of becoming an accidental cougar and marrying a younger man, her cancer diagnosis at age forty two, and finding herself pregnant at forty seven.

McBride also writes mysteries and thrillers, including Walk a Crooked Line, Come Helen High Water, and Say Yes to the Death. She was named one of St. Louis's Most Dynamic People of the Year by the Ladue News.