Chosen by Erin Lee Carr
Erin Lee Carr’s new HBO documentary, I Love You, Now Die, revisits a prominent suicide texting case. Her recent memoir, All That You Leave Behind, grapples with the loss of her father and guiding light, former New York Times journalist David Carr.
Lit by Mary Karr (2009). I remember reading this profound memoir of alcoholism while I was struggling with substance abuse myself. Because I identified with a lot of Karr’s behaviors and thoughts, Lit gave me insight into what was going on inside my brain and body. I loved and hated and appreciated reading it.
The Night of the Gun by David Carr (2008). I know I’m biased, but I really believe that The Night of the Gun is a masterpiece of reporting, writing, and portraiture. It’s not just an alcoholism and drug memoir; it’s also about parenting and a young man becoming an adult and how difficult and painful it is, and what to do when the chips are down. I love how many twists and turns it takes. I don’t think anybody knew how to write like my dad.
Columbine by Dave Cullen (2009). Cullen’s book about the 1999 mass shooting at Colorado’s Columbine High School is one of the most page-turning reads about mental health you could imagine. The magazine journalist delves into the tragedy and the motivations of the two young men who carried out the deadly assault in their school. I had never read anything like it, and it made me feel differently about how to report and how to be a true-crime storyteller.
One of Us by Åsne Seierstad (2013). This is a voluminous but incredible book about the massacre of 77 people in Norway in the summer of 2011. It spends equal time on the victims and the perpetrator, Anders Breivik. Seierstad is so cerebral and yet so empathetic in her rendering of the people who lost their lives. They become individuals, not just victims.
Native Son by Richard Wright (1940). I remember zipping through Native Son in college and really being completely undone by all the injustices suffered by the protagonist, a young black man in 1930s Chicago.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847). Brontë’s classic novel is a bit of a cliché choice, but Jane Eyre is special to me. And while it’s very old-fashioned that marriage is what helps Jane overcome her abusive childhood, the story is really about her coming into herself despite those abuses. You can have complicated feelings about her, but she is a survivor. ■