By Mary McCarthy
264 pages; Mariner
The story: The nonfictional account of Mary McCarthy's idyllic childhood, cut short by the death of her parents.
Why it inspires: "McCarthy was orphaned by the influenza epidemic that followed WWI; both of her parents died in a flash. She was then raised by her grandparents in Seattle. The wonderful thing she does in the book is to tell what happened, and then to write about what might have happened. It takes 'memoir' to a whole other level. It gives you a shot of adrenaline; it makes you ask yourself, What was the transformational moment in my life when my story really begins?"