Misery Lit: Background information when reading The Sound of Gravel

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The Sound of Gravel

A Memoir

by Ruth Wariner

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner X
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2017, 352 pages

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Misery Lit

This article relates to The Sound of Gravel

Print Review

The Sound of Gravel, a personal account of the author's traumatic childhood, is part of a surprisingly popular genre commonly called, somewhat derisively we might add, the misery memoir.

In a 2006 Guardian article, a publishing industry official pointed out that "readers of these books would previously have looked to fiction for their emotional engagement but now they respond to the extra 'integrity' of fact." Since then, publishers have struggled with nonfiction accounts that are not entirely so (James Frey's A Million Little Pieces comes readily to mind). Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone ran into similar troubles as well, with reporters faulting the accuracy of some of the claims made.

Over the last few years, the genre has seen saturation, especially with some readers looking for escapist fiction to move away from their problems. Nevertheless it's clear that many like to read about the struggles of their fellow humans and more important, about how these challenges are overcome.

Here are five popular examples of such memoirs:

Angela's Ashes Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

Paperback May 1999. 255 pages. Published by Simon & Schuster.

Imbued on every page with Frank McCourt's astounding humor and compassion. This is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.
More details and reviews about this book


A Child Called It
A Child Called It: One Child's Courage to Survive by Dave Pelzer

Hardcover Oct 1999. 184 pages. Published by HCI.

The unforgettable story of Dave Pelzer, who was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous, unpredictable games - that left him nearly dead.
More details and reviews about this book


Finding Fish
Finding Fish by Antwone Quenton Fisher

Paperback Dec 2001. 352 pages. Published by HarperPaperbacks.

The memoir of Antwone Fisher's miraculous journey from abandonment and abuse to liberation, manhood, and extraordinary success. "A striking and original story of the journey from troubled childhood to self-aware adult."
More details and reviews about this book


The Glass Castle
The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

Paperback Jan 2006. 304 pages. Published by Scribner.

A tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that, despite its profound flaws, gave the author the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
More details and reviews about this book


Take This Man
Take This Man: A Memoir by Brando Skyhorse

Paperback Jun 2015. 272 pages. Published by Simon & Schuster.

From PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse comes this stunning, heartfelt memoir in the vein of The Glass Castle or The Tender Bar, the true story of a boy's turbulent childhood growing up with five stepfathers and the mother who was determined to give her son everything but the truth.
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This "beyond the book article" relates to The Sound of Gravel. It originally ran in January 2016 and has been updated for the April 2017 paperback edition.

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