Written by Lauryn Smith
Memoirs are not usually my thing—especially celebrity memoirs. The story always seems the same. Modest beginnings, anything-but-modest endings and a mix of hard work, faith and luck in between. Cliché.
Naturally I was skeptical about singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles’s “Sounds Like Me,” a book I only learned about when Reviewer Beth Winters had me tag along to a lecture/book signing that was part of Bareilles’s book tour. During the lecture, I learned that Bareilles is delightfully down-to-earth, spunky and relatable. While reading her book, I learned that her writing demonstrates these same traits.
It is worth saying that I did not know much about Bareilles or her music prior to reading “Sounds Like Me,” but I think that was good for me. I had no preconceived notions about Bareilles or her story, and by the end of the book, I possessed a degree of familiarity, which prompted voluntary exploration into her music and ideals, exploration catalyzed solely by pure interest.
I went in with no expectations, and I came out searching for her albums on Spotify.
In “Sounds Like Me,” the Grammy Award-nominated musician tells her story through the lens of music, with which she is admittedly most comfortable. Instead of writing chronologically, Bareilles uses some of her most notable songs to frame and elucidate aspects of her life in essay form.
Not only is her segmental approach unique, it is also pretty smart. Being the deeply feeling person that she is, I am sure Bareilles wrote "Sounds Like Me" with the hope that her stories would act as lessons, or, at the very least, tales of encouragement, confidence and truth. The book’s piecemeal format facilitates the realization of this goal. What's more, the text radiates truthfulness. Bareilles shares candid aspects of herself, aspects that nearly all people can relate to. But she does more than tell relatable stories—she reflects.
Some of my favorite Bareilles quips concern truths that seem so simple until someone puts them on paper, at which point they seem profound. For instance, as she discusses her formative years and how kids would blatantly comment that she was “fat,” she says, “In my mind, there hadn’t really been anything wrong with me, until they told me that there was.” Moments in which a child's carefree nature diminishes are heart wrenching and all too relatable.
Bareilles primarily discusses the struggle of maintaining of a positive self-image in a world of superficial mores, and she admits that upholding such an outlook is a constant effort for her. Yet throughout the book, we learn that she is “bored with the value system” celebrated around her. She claims that the most important things are to not lose yourself and to delight in your unique characteristics. Preach.
Though she puts a light-hearted spin on things, Bareilles does not shy away from seriousness. While not literary, Bareilles writes it like it is, refreshingly and meaningfully. "Sounds Like Me" is candid and raw just like a diary, but a diary that has been fine tuned so as to be universally readable. Bareilles prompts readers to consider the powerful consequences of losing oneself. There is nothing surface-level about the content of the book. It is real and 100 percent relevant.
Looking at the book from an editorial point of view, it can be argued that it could have used one more run-through to catch things such as poor sentence structure and grammar. The prose, though, is on point. Bareilles's style has been deemed confessional, and that is exactly what it is, both in her book, and, I now know, in her songs.
Using my experience as a metric, I can confidently say that you do not need to be a No. 1 Bareilles fan to enjoy her book, nor do you need to be a musicophile. There is plenty of good stuff in there. You will walk away with a renewed sense of humor and realism toward life. Plus, Bareilles’s stories are simply amusing as they stem from universal truths.
I am interested to see if Bareilles will continue along the book writing path. She recently wrote a musical, so why not? While “Sounds Like Me” is great in its own right, it can definitely be continued. Bareilles is still in the midst of her career! I am sure there will be enough content for a sequel. No rush, though. I want the next one to be just as rich. What do you think, Sara?
Title: Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song
Author: Sara Bareilles
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: October 6, 2015
Page count: 208
List price: $28
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