Most writing books are like diet books, they make miracle promises and as you read, you believe that your success is going to be so easy. Then you put the book down and the next day realise it has given you zero practical guidance.
Tristine Rainer's book is geared, as the title says, to those who wish to write autobiography. However, this book would be equally invaluable to anyone who wants to write fiction inspired from life. She tackles a lot of thorny issues that I have rarely seen covered at all by the other writing books I own - and believe me I have quite a collection! Some of these issues include how best to handle the passage of time - THE single most difficult thing I've been grappling with in my own writing - as well as knowing what to leave out of your story, the ethical dilemmas of writing about family and friends, the pain of telling the truth on the page and last but not least, story structure.
Now story structure has been flogged to death by every writing manual, most notably Robert McKee and all those other Joseph Campbell story-as-myth screenwriting formula bores. Rainer takes this one giant leap further by providing a nine-step questionnaire about your story themes and your own life story, its pivotal moments, that magically turns into a story outline. I'm not kidding, this one ingredient of the book makes it worth the money in itself.
Finally, the author has a funny, engaging writing style, peppered with brave anecdotes about her own life misadventures and an extremely useful range of examples from autobiographers throghout history including Hemingway, Anais Nin and Simone de Beauvoir plus a whole raft of others that I had never come across but will now be reading.
Trust me, you need this book!