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In their own words or from the pen of a biographer, the lives of others hold a magnetic intrigue. Indulge your curiosity here… Read and find out more about the lives of well-known figures.
A thoughtful, sometimes emotionally painful, yet unforgettable medical memoir I feel everyone should read. Our expectations of our medical and emergency teams are high, we trust, we rely, we hope. When a best-selling novelist, with the most beautiful way with words, tells the story of her time as a junior doctor, you just have to sit up and listen. Each chapter begins with thoughts from different people and roles within the medical profession. Joanna Cannon opens her arms wide and lets you in to her story, her way with words ensures you can see a full and vivid picture. Heartbreakingly honest, we see how she is overstretched, twanging like elastic that is on the point of completely fraying. A number of times her words resonated so strongly, they gave me goose-bumps. She not only made me look with different eyes at our medical practitioners, she also made me think about my own thoughts and words. I don’t think I will ever forget her “we each measure words with different scales”. Breaking and Mending is one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book... I smiled, I cried, afterwards I sat and hugged it!
An eye-opening wander (and sometimes adrenaline ride) down memory lane for a life-long hillwalker and mountaineer. John D. Burns has spent forty years trekking and climbing mountains, he grew up in industrial Merseyside and escaped to the wilds as often as he could. He opens by admitting a mistake that could have cost lives, his raw honesty hits home, this isn’t a playground. In his early years he learns through near catastrophes and calamitous events that he needs proper equipment and to never take the outdoors for granted. He basically learns through his mistakes - TAKE NOTE! As the author grows more experienced he later becomes a part of the rescue team and starts to really become aware of the beauty around him. The majority of this memoir runs in a straight line through time, occasionally though it deviates, and sometimes stories just stop, to carry on at a later point. This memoir is more about the thrills and escapades, than the beauty of where he is and yet that joy is also there. I would recommend reading The Last Hillwalker followed by his fictional Sky Dance, as once you have finished both, you get more of measure of this man. A fascinating read.
A captivating, amusing, yet provocative novel set in the Scottish Highlands. If you have read a book by John D. Burns before, it is likely to have been one or both of his memoirs, The Last Hillwalker and Bothy Tales. The author has spent much of his life walking and climbing in the mountains, here he turns his hand to fiction, and ponders the future of the landscape he so loves. We enter what could be called a battle, between environmental protesters and landowners, with the two main characters seasoned hillwalkers. From winter (much beloved by our author), turning through the seasons back to winter again, we spend time on a fictional island in the Scottish Highlands. Using his knowledge, his passion for our wild places John D. Burns has written an engaging and satisfying read. I actually recommend starting with his memoir The Last Hillwalker, as it really sets the scene, and you can appreciate the experience and love that has gone into Sky Dance.
Uncovering the mystery of her mother's disappearance as a child: Laura Cumming, prize-winning author and art critic, takes a closer look at her family story. In the autumn of 1929, a small child was kidnapped from a Lincolnshire beach. Five agonising days went by before she was found in a nearby village. The child remembered nothing of these events and nobody ever spoke of them at home. It was another 50 years before she even learned of the kidnap. The girl became an artist and had a daughter, art writer Laura Cumming. Cumming grew up enthralled by her mother's strange tales of life in a seaside hamlet of the 1930s, and of the secrets and lies perpetuated by a whole community. So many puzzles remained to be solved. Cumming began with a few criss-crossing lives in this fraction of English coast - the postman, the grocer, the elusive baker - but soon her search spread right out across the globe as she discovered just how many lives were affected by what happened that day on the beach - including her own. On Chapel Sands is a book of mystery and memoir. Two narratives run through it: the mother's childhood tale and Cumming's own pursuit of the truth. Humble objects light up the story: a pie dish, a carved box, an old Vick's jar. Letters, tickets, recipe books, even the particular slant of a copperplate hand give vital clues. And pictures of all kinds, from paintings to photographs, open up like doors to the truth. Above all, Cumming discovers how to look more closely at the family album - with its curious gaps and missing persons - finding crucial answers, captured in plain sight at the click of a shutter.
Some people are born to be a certain thing. And I was a born fighter. At the age of eight, Michael Bisping began his training in martial arts. By the time he was 15, he was fighting in his first no holds barred competition. When he turned professional and joined the UFC he was sure about one thing: only a world championship title would do. A British underdog in the greatest fighting championship on earth, he spent the next decade winning some of the championship's most sensational contests to achieve his dream, becoming the first-ever British UFC world champion in 2016. From his boyhood years learning to fight in the gyms of Lancashire to his most shocking clashes in the cage, in Quitters Never Win Bisping tells the raw and unfiltered story behind his legendary career for the first time, including his greatest wins, his fiercest rivals and the harrowing injury that forced him into retirement. As audacious, entertaining and as candid as the man himself, it's a backstage pass to one of the world's most extreme sports and an unbridled account of what it really takes to become a champion, from sleeping in his own car to reaching the summit of the world's fastest-growing sport.
For more than 25 years, David Nott has taken unpaid leave from his job as a general and vascular surgeon with the NHS to volunteer in some of the world's most dangerous war zones. From Sarajevo under siege in 1993 to clandestine hospitals in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, he has carried out lifesaving operations and field surgery in the most challenging conditions, and with none of the resources of a major London teaching hospital. The conflicts he has worked in form a chronology of 21st-century combat: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur, Congo, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Gaza and Syria. But he has also volunteered in areas blighted by natural disasters, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal. Driven both by compassion and passion, the desire to help others and the thrill of extreme personal danger, he is now widely acknowledged to be the most experienced trauma surgeon in the world. But as time went on, David Nott began to realise that flying into a catastrophe - whether war or natural disaster - was not enough. Doctors on the ground needed to learn how to treat the appalling injuries that war inflicts upon its victims. Since 2015, the foundation he set up with his wife, Elly, has disseminated the knowledge he has gained, training other doctors in the art of saving lives threatened by bombs and bullets. War Doctor is his extraordinary story.
The brilliant, inspirational next book by the author of the incredible No. 1 bestseller FIRST MAN IN. Without fear, there's no challenge. Without challenge, there's no growth. Without growth, there's no life. Ant Middleton is no stranger to fear: as a point man in the Special Forces, he confronted fear on a daily basis, never knowing what lay behind the next corner, or the next closed door. In prison, he was thrust into the unknown, cut off from friends and family, isolated with thoughts of failure and dread for his future. And at the top of Everest, in desperate, life-threatening conditions, he was forced to face up to his greatest fear, of leaving his wife and children without a husband and father. But fear is not his enemy. It is the energy that propels him. Thanks to the revolutionary concept of the Fear Bubble, Ant has learned to harness the power of fear and understands the positive force that it can become. Fear gives Ant his edge, allowing him to seek out life's challenges, whether that is at home, pushing himself every day to be the best father he can be, or stuck in the death zone on top of the world in a 90mph blizzard. In his groundbreaking new book, Ant Middleton thrillingly retells the story of his death-defying climb of Everest and reveals the concept of the Fear Bubble, showing how it can be used in our lives to help us break through our limits. Powerful, unflinching and an inspirational call to action, The Fear Bubble is essential reading for anyone who wants to push themselves further, harness their fears and conquer their own personal Everests.
Successful jump jockeys come from a variety of backgrounds. Their childhoods and upbringings show vast differences. Some originate from families already connected to horses and racing - they were always going to be riders. Yet others have parents who have no equine connections whatsoever, which presents the question: why did these kids become jockeys and how? In her latest book on racing, best-selling author Henrietta Knight - the three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer of the legendary Best Mate charts the lives of more than 80 jump jockeys in the hope of finding out what inspired them in childhood to take up one of the most dangerous jobs in sport. Among the great and good to be profiled are household names such as Richard Dunwoody, John Francome, Sir Anthony McCoy and Ruby Walsh, and throughout Starting From Scratch we discover how many of racing's most celebrated individuals opted to take the path they did.
Offering a deep and abiding connection with nature and our landscape around us, this winter journal really is the most poignant yet uplifting, and emotionally observant read. Horatio Clare explains in his prologue that he is embracing winter, in order to raise a torch against depression. Declaring that “I will not lose touch with nature”, he says he wants to stop turning inwards, and start looking outwards. What follows is a journal that starts on the 16 October and travels through winter into early Spring. With a gift for seeing what others may have missed, for expressing and painting with words, Horatio Clare is able to take the reader by the hand and share the memory with us too. As he battles the darkness to be found in winter, he sends out a blazing light. I adored the snippets of new-found (for me) information, including that in Welsh lore dragons thrive as green woodpeckers. I have since seen a green woodpecker in their low, darting, rolling flight with completely new eyes! The Light in the Dark is so eloquently descriptive and beautiful, emotional goosebumps kept me company as I read, and oh, that ending! Highly recommended, this just had to feature as one of our Star Books.
'Everyone thinks, tomorrow it will be my turn. Daily, hourly, death is before our eyes . . .' Gustav and Fritz Kleinmann are father and son in an ordinary Austrian Jewish family when the Nazis come for them. Sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939 they survive three years of murderous brutality. Then Gustav is ordered to Auschwitz. Fritz, desperate not to lose his beloved father, insists he must go too. And though he is told it means certain death, he won't back down. So it is that father and son together board a train bound for the most hellish place on Earth . . . This is the astonishing true story of horror, love and impossible survival.
A gentle, thoughtful and wonderfully positive book by Reverend Ruth Scott who died in February 2019. The author became ill during the Christmas of 2016, she was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare cancer for which she was treated for the next two years with an aim to cure. Much of ‘Between Living and Dying’ was written while she was a patient receiving care, and the editing was completed just before Christmas 2018. The book contains poetry that held meaning, and her thoughts as she was treated. She says the valley of death is a thought provoking and reflective place, her illness meant she was fully in the present and this book is a peaceful meditation on life. Between Living and Dying is an emotional, honest, wonderfully inspiring read, and it is also incredibly beautiful too. Ruth Scott worked with Chris Evans for ten years on the ‘Pause for Thought’ section of his breakfast show. With just a few weeks left to live, while at Southampton General Hospital, Ruth spoke to Chris. Ruth wanted accept the fact she was dying and to die as naturally as possible, surrounded by her family. You can hear this meaningful and heartfelt podcast here https://www.lovereading.co.uk/podcast
Battle Scars tells the story of Jason Fox's career as an elite operator, from the gunfights, hostage rescues, daring escapes and heroic endeavours that defined his service, to a very different kind of battle that awaited him at home. After more than two decades of active duty, Foxy was diagnosed with complex PTSD, forcing him to leave the military brotherhood and confront the hard reality of what follows. What happens when you become your own enemy? How do you keep on fighting when life itself no longer feels worth fighting for? Unflinchingly honest, Battle Scars is a breathtaking account of Special Forces soldiering: a chronicle of operational bravery, and of superhuman courage on and off the battlefield.
Marianne Power was stuck in a rut. Then one day she wondered: could self-help books help her find the elusive perfect life? She decided to test one book a month for a year, following their advice to the letter. What would happen if she followed the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Really felt The Power of Now? Could she unearth The Secret to making her dreams come true? What begins as a clever experiment becomes an achingly poignant story. Because self-help can change your life - but not necessarily for the better . . . Help Me! is an irresistibly funny and incredibly moving book about a wild and ultimately redemptive journey that will resonate with anyone who's ever dreamed of finding happiness.
A gob-smacking, truly challenging yet inspirational read awaits. I saw the synopsis for this autobiography and just knew I had to read it. Dr Amanda Brown tells of her experience after leaving a quiet GP’s practice to become a prison doctor. She has worked in a young offenders institution, notorious male prison Wormwood Scrubs, and Europe’s largest woman prison Bronzefield. Dr Amanda Brown is still working at 65, to her this job matters, it really, really matters. The author doesn’t judge, in fact she says of her job that she isn’t there to judge but to care. Having said that, she still has a job to do, rules to be kept, for both safety and security. I read this in one sitting, once I started, I couldn’t stop, and my admiration for this woman is sky high. I feel we as a society should read this book, should try to understand, should allow compassion and empathy entry to our thoughts. Fascinating and heartbreaking in equal measures, for me The Prison Doctor is a must-read and I’ve chosen it as one of my picks of the month.
When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is. The positive change in Joe's wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. Three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street. In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves.
A sharply amusing and captivating memoir based on the attempt of the author to make a new life in France. Tommy Barnes and his girlfriend escape the 9-5 of the UK after being made redundant. Surrounded by animals, friendly locals, and stunning countryside, Tommy struggles to start a micro-brewery in the heart of the Loire Valley. The author is more than happy to poke fun at himself, he is also incredibly honest. His writing ensured I didn’t feel too badly as I chortled, smirked and raised my eyebrows as he somewhat stumbles through life. Rather stealing the show is Burt the dog, described by Tommy as squat, surly and defiant, Burt makes it his life mission to cause chaos wherever he is. I also just have to mention the gorgeous cover, which most definitely called out to me. ‘A Beer in the Loire’ is an engaging, ever so entertaining read, oh, and there are several recipes for beer too, how fabulous!
“I was born black, working class and northern in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain”, so begins the author’s personal prologue to a book that provides a vital, alternate lens through which to view Europe. Growing up as such, Pitts felt “I was being forced to react against one culture or overidentify with the other”. A visit to the Calais Jungle in 2016 resulted in him being stopped, searched and ID’d before being allowed in, albeit still under suspicion. A bleak reminder that when non-whites have the right documents, “I wasn’t all the way in”. What follows is a document of Pitts’s encounters and meetings with dozens of Afropeans; black citizens of Europe juggling identities and loyalties – a self-described ‘black French militant’ on the outskirts of Paris; a Belgian-Congolese artist in Brussels; a Sudanese-German chef in Berlin; a fascinating interview with Caryl Philipps, the acclaimed Kittian-British writer. A remarkable feat of research and understanding, this seminal book is reportage at its finest, enhanced by the author’s striking photography.
'[Prior-Palmer's] gorgeous, sensual depiction of this race is a literary marvel; it feels like you are riding alongside her across the desolate steppes; her verbal acuity makes vivid the most elusive of landscapes; her triumph becomes ours' NYLON The Mongol Derby is the world's toughest horse race. A feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the people of Genghis Khan, competitors ride 25 horses across a distance of 1000km. Many riders don't make it to the finish line. In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer - nineteen, underprepared but seeking the great unknown - decided to enter the race. Driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses, she raced for seven days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she found she had nothing to lose, and tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. In one of the Derby's most unexpected results, she became the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win the race. A tale of adventure, fortitude and poetry, Rough Magic is the extraordinary story of one young woman's encounter with oblivion, and herself.
You become a footballer because you love football. And then you are a footballer, and you're suddenly in the strangest, most baffling world of all. A world where one team-mate comes to training in a bright red suit with matching top-hat, cane and glasses, without any actual glass in them, and another has so many sports cars they forget they have left a Porsche at the train station. Even when their surname is incorporated in the registration plate. So walk with me into the dressing-room, to find out which players refuse to touch a football before a game, to discover why a load of millionaires never have any shower-gel, and to hear what Cristiano Ronaldo says when he looks at himself in the mirror. We will go into post-match interviews, make fools of ourselves on social media and try to ensure that we never again pay GBP250 for a haircut that should have cost a tenner. We'll be coached and cajoled by Harry Redknapp, upset Rafa Benitez and be soothed by the sound of an accordion played by Sven-Goran Eriksson's assistant Tord Grip. There will be some very bad music and some very bad decisions. I am Peter Crouch. This is How To Be A Footballer. Shall we?
There are people who just read biographies, interested only in the details of the lives of real people. There are others, like us, who enjoy dipping a toe, every now and then, into the deep inviting waters of the biography pool, to see first-hand the experiences of a person, past or present, who captures our imagination or pique’s our interest. From the First Man on the Moon to the latest winner of a jungle-based reality TV programme; sport-star to leading politician; religious leader to Arctic explorer, the choice is vast!