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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.
Tani Adewumi’s life-affirming memoir is a “dare to dream” story with the power to make souls sing. As he and his parents relate their extraordinary experiences from living under Boko Haram in Nigeria to forging a new life in America, eight-year-old Tani’s voice is unfailingly endearing, with his parents’ narratives providing enlightening context, underpinned by their Christian faith. The tone is set in the introduction, in which Tani tells us that while he’s not sure what he’ll do when he grows up (maybe become a chess grandmaster, maybe a pilot, or maybe both), “I do know this much. I believe in miracles.” The story begins when Tani’s printer father is visited by Boko Haram and he evades their order to print posters that declare “No to Western Education” and “Kill all Christians”. When this makes the family a target, they flee to another area of Nigeria, then to Dallas after it becomes clear they’re not safe in their homeland. But their first experiences in America are from the life they’d hoped for. They stay with Tani’s great uncle, whose American wife becomes hostile, which compels them to move again. Thanks to the kindness of an old Nigerian friend, they’re able to move to New York where a pastor finds them a place in a shelter. Here Tani is given the opportunity to join a chess club, where meeting Coach Shawn proves to be life-changing. Tani’s natural talent for chess coupled with hard work, family support, and the kindness of coaches who give him a scholarship, sees him make fast progress. Within months he’s crowned State Chess Champion. But it doesn’t end there – when Coach Shawn suggests the family tell the national press their story to help them secure a place to live, the coverage leads to even bigger things. Alongside the overarching story, Tani’s mother shares fascinating detail about her Yoruba heritage, and this memoir is also poignant in showing the hard realities of migrant life. This comes recommended for readers who love discovering human stories that don’t shirk from the truth, but still radiate a feel-good message of hope. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Author Nathan Pettijohn has just broken up with his girlfriend. He rents an RV and takes to the road with his dog, Hafa, to explore the Pacific Northwest for the month of October. He describes the people he meets and the places he stays beautifully. He also shares his views on many aspects of life in America, up to and including their reaction to the current pandemic and the tragic murder of George Floyd. As a fellow motorhomer (as we call RVs in the UK) I read this book with great interest. It is wonderfully written and evokes the excitement and anticipation of going to a different place every day and staying in a different campsite every night. I’ve always found that a very addictive thing to do and clearly, so does the author. I feel that I now want to go to the US and explore the same area that he did, especially as, due to the pandemic, I haven’t had any trips in my motorhome this year and I’m getting very itchy feet. Like the author, I wouldn’t dream of going on a road trip without at least one dog. He brilliantly evokes the camaraderie that occurs when dog people meet and talk dog talk. His descriptions of the places he visits are excellent and I could empathise with some of the issues he faced in getting used to his RV. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, very well written and extremely readable. Highly recommended. Susan Wallace, A LoveReading Ambassador
Who is Captain Sir Tom Moore? You've seen him on the television walking the length of his garden. A frail elderly man, doing his bit at a time of crisis. But he wasn't always like this. Where did he come from? Where was he made? From a childhood in the foothills of the Yorkshire Dales, Tom Moore grew up in a loving family, which wasn't without its share of tragedy. It was a time of plenty and of want. When the storm clouds of the Second World War threatened, he raised his hand and, like many of his generation, joined up to fight. His war would take him from a country he had never left to a place which would steal his heart, India, and the Far East, to which he would return many years later to view the sight he had missed first time around: the distant peak of Everest. Captain Tom's story is our story. It is the story of our past hundred years here in Britain. It's a time which has seen so much change, yet when so much has stayed the same: the national spirit, the can-do attitude, the belief in doing your best for others. In this rich, happy life packed with incident you will encounter time and again the curiosity, courage and generosity that saw Captain Tom look around him during our current crisis and decide that something had to be done . . .
Edited by trailblazing broadcaster, editor and critic Margaret Busby OBE - Britain’s first black woman publisher when she co-founded Allison and Busby in the 1960s - New Daughters of Africa is an extraordinary feat of publishing, presenting as it does the diverse work of 200+ women of African heritage across more than 900 pages. In 1992, Busby published Daughters of Africa, and this epically-proportioned - and realised - re-visitation duplicates none of the writers featured in the first incarnation. Busby hopes in her introduction, “may all who find their way to this anthology, regardless of gender, class or race, feast well on its banquet of words.” And I defy any reader not to do just that. This rich feast presents all kinds of writers – academics and activists; critics and curators; fiction writers and filmmakers; poets and politicians, to name but a few - from all parts of the world. There are wise words to chew on from familiar figures, among them Diane Abbott, Angela Levy, Bernardine Evaristo, Malorie Blackman, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Afua Hirsch. And there are individuals and pieces I was grateful to discover for the first time, such as Bermudian Angela Barry’s Without Prejudice story, and Yvette Edwards, a London writer of Montserratian origin. The collection’s historical entries are engrossing too, among them Sarah Parker Remond’s (1815-1894) “Why Slavery is Still Rampant” piece, and Meta Davis Cumberbatch’s (1900-1978) powerfully rousing poem, “A Child of Nature (Negro of the Caribbean)”. This is an exceptional anthology to savour - a uniquely nourishing banquet for mind and heart. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
At times uncomfortable and chilling (as it should be) this is nonetheless absolutely fascinating, and a must read for anyone interested in law enforcement and the way minds work. Dr Kris Mohandie is a clinical police and forensic psychologist, in other words, a “detective of the brain”. He has worked on high profile cases and encountered some of the most dangerous people in the USA. Here he provides “an informed peek behind the curtain of criminality in a world that’s getting darker and more dangerous by the day” “providing insight into why these people do what they do and lessons we can learn as a society to help stop or at least reduce the bloodshed”. He highlights a number of cases he has worked on, from serial killers, to hostage takers, right through to mass casualty shooters. He looks at cases that are known throughout the world, such as Columbine, O.J Simpson, and Oklahoma City. Starting his career with LAPD, Dr Kris Mohandie was a consultant, working with units including SWAT. This is a man who has had to make incredibly difficult decisions, in horrendously difficult circumstances. He is honest, at times blunt, and says it as he sees it. He discusses the death penalty, the nature of evil, and mental illness. If you take a look at the press reviews on our LoveReading book page, you can see reports from people who have worked with him. Words such as “outstanding”, a “true subject matter expert”, “one of the best in the business” ring out. Born Killers? is a truly gripping read that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Beginning with the author’s great, great grandmother Tory, who lived in Somerset “over 100 years before Edna brought me into the world,” Hold On Edna! recounts the remarkable story of Aneira “Nye” Thomas, the first baby to be delivered by the NHS. From learning that the “birth of the NHS received scant coverage” and was initially distrusted, to the author’s rousing reading of Michael Rosen’s “These are the Hands” poem at the NHS 70th anniversary event, this moving memoir is an absorbing mix of punch-packing family drama, and a powerful personal testament to Britain’s crowning achievement. Throughout, the author casts an edifying light on working class social history through her family story. For Tory and thousands like her, death was very much part of daily life. If you’re in a workhouse, struggling to feed your children, paying a “quack” to heal you in sickness was out of the question. It was Tory’s death that brought her widow and six children to South Wales to seek work in the pits. While further hardship followed, it was fortuitous that the author’s mother, Edna, left Wales to find work at the same time as her future father. Employed at the same London hospital, they fell in love but money troubles, mouths to feed and the outbreak of WWII brought them back to Wales. Through these same hard years, the couple’s compatriot Aneurin “Nye” Bevan had been devising a transformative plan for public health, leading to a Parliament bill “that would offer a state-wide health service" that was “to be free at the point of need; available to everyone, regardless of wealth or social standing.” And since “the man responsible for all this grew up not too far away,” Edna’s seventh child was movingly chosen to be the first child delivered by the NHS. Ready to give birth before the allotted time, Edna “held on… and then she pushed. I came barrelling into the world at a minute past midnight, the first baby to be born on the NHS”. A triumphant moment for a family who knew the toughest of times, and a triumph of transformative socialist policy.
SH**GED Saturday nights out on the tiles, undying crushes, dating like it's a competitive sport, awkward tales of dating woes, one-night stands, the walk of shame, ghosting, tears and break-ups. MARRIED Finding 'the one', meeting their parents, first holidays and romantic weekends away, engagement rings, big moment proposals, wedding bells, the hen do, the stag, the much anticipated - and feared - best man speech, the honeymoon of a lifetime. ANNOYED Who stacks a dishwasher like this? Empty milk cartons placed back into the fridge, pregnancy, sleepless nights, toilet seats up, toothpaste everywhere, less and less frequent date nights, DIY weekends, divorce. Whether you're sh**ged, married, annoyed, or, all of the above, Chris and Rosie Ramsey, hosts of the number one podcast, write hilariously and with honesty about the ups and downs and ins and outs of love, sex and relationships.
Ant and Dec hold a special place in the hearts of TV viewers everywhere. This is their epic story, with never-before-seen photography and the very best tales from their 30 years in TV. Ant: As the old Chinese proverb says, 'Good things come in pairs'. Dec: And as another Chinese proverb says, 'If you've been in a double act with your best mate for thirty years, why not write a book about all your most memorable moments in three decades of showbusiness?' Ant: Less catchy that one, isn't it? Dec: But no less true. And after three decades together, we're writing that book. Covering everything from a pirate radio storyline in Byker Grove through to the biggest shows on telly, this is our story. Ant: Thirty years, eh? Amazing. Dec: Absolutely. Especially when you consider we are both still 27 years old. From their modest beginnings in Byker Grove through to their unique time as pop stars and an award-laden TV career, the last three decades have flown by in the blink of an eye. They've also featured an incredible cast of supporting characters, including their first scriptwriter (an unknown comedian called David Walliams), Saturday night fun and games with countless Hollywood A-listers, and celebrities they torture - sorry, work with - every year in the jungle. Told through the lens of every TV show they've made, as well as everything they've learnt along the way, this is the riotously funny journey of two ordinary lads from Newcastle who went on to achieve extraordinary things.
NO.1 BESTSELLER ANT MIDDLETON SHARES HIS SECRETS ABOUT HIS POSITIVE MINDSET AND TEACHES YOU TO LIVE A LIFE WITH ZERO NEGATIVITY There are times when life feels like it has you cornered: financial difficulties, relationship issues, work problems, all of the above. Every one of us, at one time or another, will have to face up to the challenges that come our way. And there are two ways of meeting them: negatively, where blame is the answer, where other people are at fault, where you haven't been treated fairly. Or positively, where you own the situation, learn and grow from it, and become a better person at the end of it. Letting you into areas of his life he's never talked about before, in Zero Negativity, Ant will show you how to embrace failure and use it to your advantage, how to see change as the foundation of your future success, how to develop resilience, how to deal with bullies, what it means to be a positive roll model, and how to live a life with no regrets. This book will not tell you who to be, where you should live, or what job you should do. That's up to you. What this book is for, however, is to give you the tools you need to become the best possible version of yourself, to own who and what you are, and to live your life with Zero Negativity.
In The Museum Makers Rachel Morris, director of museum company Metaphor, plots an enthralling personal and professional journey from finding a box of family belongings beneath her bed, to the beating heart of Bloomsbury’s bohemian circles in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This journey is underpinned by the very essence of what museums are and do: “Museum-making is about sorting often quite ordinary objects to make meaningful patterns out of the muddle and confusion of the universe; thoughtful, beautiful patterns that have something to say. Museums are where we go to make sense of the world and the pasts that have gone. And what we do in museums we also do with our own histories.” Which is exactly what Morris does when she digs into the contents of the box and is led to discover secrets about her father, Gran, and great-grandmother Nona, which she curates into her Museum of Me. Illuminated by the power of objects to stir memories, and to make sense of oneself, the journey also delves into women’s involvement with, and relationship to, museums: “Museums have a special appeal for women whether as places to work in or as places to visit.” While men may have curated early museums (as an extension of their curation of the world), women were key collectors, donors and fundraisers from those nascent days. At once an absorbing history of museums, and a profoundly personal memoir of detection and discovery, this has all the delightful universal appeal of a cabinet of curiosity.
August 25, 2010. Mazhar Majeed – an agent representing a number of players in the Pakistan squad due to play a Test Match against England – sends a text to an Indian businessman he knows as Mohsin Khan. Majeed wants to convince Khan to join him in a match-fixing plot he claims will make them both very wealthy. The text confirms their plan is going ahead. What Majeed doesn’t know is that Khan’s real name is Mazher Mahmood and that he is an undercover investigative reporter for the News of the World. Mahmood – famous for his exposes on such personalities as Sarah Ferguson, Jerry Springer and Sven Goran Eriksson – is known to the world as the Fake Sheikh. On the back of Majeed’s greed and lack of caution, he is about to run a story that promises to be the greatest sporting scoop the UK press has ever seen. The beginning of The Thin White Line is so enthralling, so complex and so fast-moving, it read like an extract from Mission Impossible or The Sting. The difference – something that made this read all the more exciting – was this was real. This happened. I was gripped. Mazher Mahmood was responsible for exposing criminal and corrupt activity among a lot of people. His methods were fraught with risk and extremely expensive. He got results, though, and he was lauded by the industry for doing so. His was a style of journalism that, with hindsight, was doomed to fail one day and probably in a big way. It did, and as a result Mahmood found himself in the dock and facing a prison sentence. Nick Greenslade’s research is incredibly thorough and the quoted sources in the book read like a who’s who of well-known sporting personalities. The Thin White Line isn’t just a book for cricket fans, though – although they will relish it, I’m sure. Anyone with even minimal interest in corruption within sport or in the goings-on of the newspaper world of the time will find it a fascinating insight. I loved it. But I’d be prepared to wager you’d already worked that out for yourself.
“Forty-six days, thirteen states, 3000 miles”. Documenting the author’s solo coast-to-coast road-trip across America, David Reynolds’s Slow Road to San Francisco is an absolute joy. An entertaining blend of observation and commentary delivered with a luminous lightness of touch. Buckle up for read that’s radiant with the author’s wit, charm and keen eye for people and place - everything you’d want from an on-the-road companion. Beginning on the Atlantic Coast and winding up on San Francisco’s Pacific Coast - “because Europeans landed on the east coast of the landmass that they named America, and moved slowly west until they reached the other side” - the author’s journey across Route 50 documents edifying encounters that reveal as much about America and the world as they do about the individuals themselves. Though Route 50 is known as the loneliest road in America (and it’s one of the few remaining two-lane highways in the country), Reynolds is never short of people to talk to. Through conversations with bartenders, gas station attendants and motel staff, and the assorted personalities he meets in bars, cafés and museums along the route (among them war veterans, judges and friendly bikers), it truly feels like you’re on the road with him. Peeling back layers of Native American history, slave history and contemporary politics (everyone the author meets has something to say about Trump, and often Brexit too), usually with a glass of IPA to hand, this is life-affirming, enlightening stuff. Perhaps what stands out above all else is a generosity of spirit, both on the part of the people who freely share their time, opinions and tables with Reynolds, and on the part of the author himself. Like all the best road-trips, I didn’t want this ride to end.
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.