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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. Want more inspiration? Head to our 'Best Autobiographies Ever' blog post filled with recommendations from our bookish friends.
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.
At the age of seventeen, after a childhood in an fostered family followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was not Norman. It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian. And he learned that his mother had been pleading for his safe return to her since his birth. Here Sissay recounts his life story. It is a story of neglect and determination. Misfortune and hope. Cruelty and triumph. Sissay reflects on a childhood in care, self-expression and Britishness, and in doing so explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home. Written with all the lyricism and power you would expect from one of the nation's best-loved poets, this moving, frank and timely memoir is the result of a life spent asking questions, and a celebration of the redemptive power of creativity.
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.
'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.
Written by Mabel Haynes’s granddaughter following the fortuitous discovery of her grandmother’s connection to Stein, this is an innovative, intimate and complex exploration of an intimate, complex relationship between three women. While this book doesn’t follow a chronological form, its subject could be said to begin with Gertrude Stein’s first novel, Q.E.D., which was never published during her lifetime. Q.E.D. represents Stein’s attempt to deal with her first love affair with May Bookstaver, who was also the friend and lover of Mabel Haynes. All three were students at the same Boston medical school: “they came of age in the gilded age and were of a class that expected them to display themselves with the right cut of their garments, the right sort of bearing to carry it off.” While the impact and influence of these women on Stein’s writing has been examined, this is the first time the lives of the women themselves have been fully explored. Generously peppered with photographs, and drawing on multiple source types (private letters, Stein’s writing), this paints broad cultural brushstrokes alongside the deeply personal portraiture, and is a ground-breaking feat of biographical writing.
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.
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!
Want more inspiration? Head to our 'Best Autobiographies Ever' blog post filled with recommendations from our bookish friends.