A Spiritual Memoir Every Month to Expand Your Inner World

“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
– Native American proverb

As the two other women sit around a table with me on a cool fall afternoon, the stories come easily. One by one, we share a little more of ourselves. About people from our past. About amusing adventures we’ve had. About current struggles we’re working through.

Through stories, we get to know each other deeper. We get to know ourselves better, too.

Lory encouraged us on her blog last January to “expand our inner world by reading about the spiritual journeys of others.” She suggested twelve prompts and recommended we each pull from a diversity of spiritual traditions and paths.

I accepted her Spiritual Memoir Challenge to read more stories.

I’m glad I did. It fit perfectly with my One Word Human.

Here are the 12 memoirs (some fascinating, some not so good) that I read month by month, plus 10 extras I read throughout the year. This is the most memoirs I’ve ever read in one year and it was fascinating.

1. JANUARY (Hinduism)

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda

Autobiography of a Yogi

This was the hardest book for me and the one I’m least likely to recommend just because it was difficult to understand. However, I knew nothing about this genre of eastern spirituality before I started reading, so I did learn a few things and the stories were entertaining. And this is apparently a worldwide classic on spirituality, so there’s that. (But I won’t reread it like Steve Jobs apparently did again and again.)

2. FEBRUARY (Buddhism)

In Search of Buddha’s Daughters: A Modern Journey Down Ancient Roads by Christine Toomey

This one was more interesting. It chronicles stories of women from vastly differently backgrounds around the world who have chosen to take the monastic vows to become Buddhist nuns. One thing that stood out to me was that sexism exists inside many religions, including Buddhism.

3. MARCH (Christianity)

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter

I finally felt at home again reading this memoir since I know Christianity from the inside. Sue Monk Kidd shares an intimate look at how her Christianity has shifted through the years as she gathers life experiences. Very easy to read as well as emotionally engaging.

4. APRIL (Judaism)

My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew by Abigail Pogrebin

My Jewish Year

I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about Jewish traditions. When Abigail Pogrebin realized she had only minimal background knowledge about her Jewish heritage (both the traditions she did practice and those she didn’t), she set out on a year’s adventure to explore 18 Jewish holidays. This book is her findings.

5. MAY (Leaving one tradition for another or none)

Uncultured: A Memoir by Daniella Mestyanek Young


This was one of the most disturbing memoirs I read. Daniella Young grew up as a member of the religious cult “The Children of God.” Her stories of childhood are harrowing, as was her process of leaving the cult and entering the mainstream world. Highly recommend.

6. JUNE (Muslim)

The Wrong End of the Table: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Woman Just Trying to Fit In by Ayser Salman

The Wrong End of the Table

Part humorous and part serious, this book showed me how this Muslim woman had to navigate the average American culture in ways I had never considered. This book was fine, but it’s likely there are other books more informative on this subject.

7. JULY (Spirituality through illness)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Memoir of Life in Death by Jean-Dominique Bauby

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This was the most uncomfortable of the memoirs I read. After a devastating stroke, Bauby—the editor-in-chief of a major magazine at the time—became paralyzed except for his left eyelid through “locked-in-syndrome.” Every word of this book was dictated one letter at a time by the author batting his eyelid to someone as they wrote it all down. I felt I needed to appreciate every single word due to the great effort it took to get his message into the world.

8. AUGUST (Atheism)

Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists by Dan Barker


Dan Barker was a leader in the Evangelical church for over 20 years. This story is his deconversion away from Christianity into a free thinking worldview. He writes respectfully and authentically. Very interesting.

9. SEPTEMBER (Spirituality through bodies)

Nobody Needs to Know: A Memoir by Pidgeon Pagonis

Nobody Needs to Know

When Pidgeon was born, their genitalia was neither clearly all-male nor all-female. So the doctors chose female as the assigned gender. But over time, Pidgeon learned the truth of being born intersex. Pidgeon opened my eyes to a world I knew very little about. My book review is here.

10. OCTOBER (Spirituality thru illness)

My Body Is Not a Prayer Request: Disability Justice in the Church by Amy Kenny

My Body Is Not a Prayer Request

I highly recommend this one for anyone unfamiliar with disability justice (that included me). Hearing the common struggles that those with disabilities endure showed me how many accommodations I take for granted with my abled body. This book is not just about disability in the church, but about in the world.

11. NOVEMBER (Spirituality in politics)

Romney: A Reckoning by McKay Coppins

Romney: A Reckoning

Once I read the sample for this book, I had to track down a full copy. I’m glad I did. Written from multitudes of Mitt Romney’s journals, emails, and conversations, this book shares the joys and hardships that Senator Romney has experienced during his years in the business world and in politics. Very enjoyable even if you’re not into politics.

12. DECEMBER (Anything)

When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough: A Shooting Survivor’s Journey into the Realities of Gun Violence by Taylor S. Schumann

When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough

Taylor Schumann was shot when a gunman entered the college office where she was working. She survived, but she will live with disabilities the rest of her life. The first part of the book was a little disappointing to me, but the second half more than made up for it.


Here are ten more memoirs I read throughout the year that I also recommend.

  • All My Knotted-Up Life: A Memoir by Beth Moore
  • The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama
  • Spare by Prince Harry
  • The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey
  • Barkley: A Biography by Timothy Bella
  • A Hole in the World: Finding Hope in Rituals of Grief and Healing by Amanda Held Opelt
  • Standing Our Ground: The Triumph of Faith Over Gun Violence: A Mother’s Story by Lucia Kay McBath
  • Find the Helpers: What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope by Fred Guttenberg
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • The Deeper the Roots: A Memoir of Hope and Home by Michael Tubbs

Did you read any good memoirs this year? Share in the comments.

Read more on Human

One Word 2023 Human

11 thoughts on “A Spiritual Memoir Every Month to Expand Your Inner World

  1. Lynn D. Morrissey

    I loved Rommey’s biography. Well-written. Honest. AND he gave the author complete permission to wrote whatever he wanted and to have full access to Romney, w/o the Senator altering any of it! Plus, he is still in office. Just amazing. I was so inspired by his admission of failures (so transparent and forthright), but also and mostly his willingness to stand up to power and speak truth at great personal and political risk, that I am writing him an “alpha” poem, where this acrostic will form the spine of the poem, vertically, in caps: MITT ROMNEY, UNITED STATES SENATOR. I’ll flesh out the rest of the poem w/ each line staring w/ one of those letters. I wanted to frame it and send it to him, w/ a letter of deep appreciation. People seem to love receiving these, which is humbling, frankly. That said, I have thought better of it. If I frame and package this, officials may think I’m sending something nepharious and it will be trashed. Now I need to figure out a way for him to rceive the letter and poem, just on a sheet of paper. I hope “they” will give it to him. thx for recommending his book. Just finished Enough by Cassidy Hutchison. Gripping. Have Kinzinger’s and hope to read Raskin’s memoirs. Also and foremost, Cheney’s! I normally would never read political memoirs, but I want to know firsthand accounts of what happened.

  2. Lynn Severance

    “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is an excellent film, as well. They captured his world as seen and experienced by him. Quite a filming feat.

    I’ve not written a memoir – but “Sole Sisters” is going through a pilot study with a small group meeting in my home each week. And it works for couples responding to the questions reviewing their lives together. Four couples are going through the manuscript to review it before self publication. The book’s ‘life roles’ questions, when responded to, become the individuals memoirs!

  3. Jean Wise

    What I neat summary of your readings. I saw this question this morning what is the best book you read this year? I have kept track this year on Goodreads of every or at least most of the book I read in 2023. Now I am curious how to answer that question. One of my end of the year rituals to do next week – sort of like the one you share here. Merry Christmas, Lisa

  4. Lory @ Entering the Enchanted Castle

    Thank you so much for joining in — you have a fascinating list here. The only two we shared were Autobiography of a Yogi — which has left me scratching my head at its popularity — and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly — which I agree was a hard read, but an astounding example of what the human spirit is capable of. The others you read sound very intriguing and I’m glad you got so much out of the project.

    Other memoirs I read this year and recommend include The Salt Path, Run Towards the Danger, Nervous, Drinking: A Love Story, Welcome to My Country, and Poet Warrior.

    I have started to see every memoir as a spiritual memoir to some extent … and never get tired of these extraordinary stories.

  5. Danita Sullivan

    Currently reading , ” The Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramhansa Yogananda– On chapter 7… I think I will be one that does not get it ….and I am a Yoga Teacher…apparently not a very “Spiritual” one. Thanks for all of your book recommendations – we have similar reading tastes!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m right there with you, Danita! The Autobiography of a Yogi wasn’t a clear book for me either. I think his experiences were just so widely different than my own that I couldn’t relate. I’m not a yoga teacher, but I do participate in the 30 Day challenge each year from Yoga with Adrienne. 🙂 This has been my favorite year so far because I’ve given myself permission to really modify the moves to fit my body; I should have been doing that all along. lol.

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