Photo: Blippy

Yesterday, I read an article in the New York Times by Brad Stone called “For Web’s New Wave, Sharing Details Is the Point.”

The article talks about the recent rise in Web sites that allow people to share every aspect of their lives, including every purchase they make on their credit card, where exactly they are at all times and how long they spend doing different exercises at the gym.

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Photo: Marion Ettlinger

In the past few weeks, I have interviewed authors of memoirs (both self-published and Pulitzer-nominated), a college professor who teaches memoir writing classes, a student at a memoir writing class, a creator of a memoir blog and numerous people who enjoy reading memoir.

I posed similar questions to each of them, but their responses only seemed to match up on one:

“What is your favorite memoir?”

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Photo: Kevin Scanlon for The New York Times

Although memoir is the genre I read most often, I hardly ever read memoirs by celebrities. Since I’m home for the holiday weekend, I’ve been searching my room for all the memoirs I’ve read, but not a single one was a celebrity memoir.

So I was surprised when I read Dave Itzkoff’s article, “A Touch for Funny Bones and Earlobes,” from Wednesday’s New York Times from beginning to end. Itzkoff interviewed legendary television actress, Carol Burnett, about her second memoir, “This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection,” which goes on sale this Tuesday.

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Memoirs are not new, but they’ve recently become quite popular.

In Ben Yagoda‘s “Memoir: A History,” Yagoda writes:

“According to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of U.S. book sales, total sales in the categories of Personal Memoirs, Childhood Memoirs, and Parental Memoirs increased more than 400 percent between 2004 and 2008.”

In an April 15, 2008 article, “Everybody has a story — but is it worth telling?” for CNN, Todd Leopold wrote:

Photo: Wikipedia

Memoirs rose in popularity during the ’90s on the backs of such books as Frank McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes.” Now they’re in such demand that, in 2007, more memoirs were accepted by publishers than debut novels, according to Michael Cader’s Publishers Lunch newsletter, reported USA Today.

Current memoirs in the top 10 of The New York Times’ hardcover list include Julie Andrews’ “Home,” David Sheff’s “Beautiful Boy,” Jose Canseco’s “Vindicated,” Tori Spelling’s “Stori Telling” and Valerie Bertinelli’s “Losing It.” The top two books on the Times’ paperback nonfiction list are also memoirs — Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin’s “Three Cups of Tea” and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” Both have been on the Times list for more than a year.”

Since Leopold wrote that article, not much has changed. Almost two years later, “Eat, Pray, Love” is sitting at number 4 on the Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller list. The movie adaptation of the book, starring Julia Roberts and James Franco, is set to be released this summer.

So why now, more than ever, are memoirs so popular?

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