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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.
Eye-opening, amusing, and heart-warming, this is the personal as well as professional memoir of a health visitor. Rachael Hearson joined the National Health Service as a student nurse in 1979 and has spent time as a nurse, midwife, health visitor, and community practice teacher. As a health visitor she says she has a: “privileged and unique access to all families with children under five; our office is your living room.” Boy, does the introduction really spell it out, from the strange and dangerous through to the wonderful, she’s truly seen it all. I felt as though I was sat listening to a friend, she has a lovely light, bright, chatty style which helps provide a vivid and vibrant picture of her experiences. She clearly has huge empathy and adores her job (yes there are downsides too). The epilogue at the end titled ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ is a fascinating insight into the thoughts of an NHS worker as we all learn to live with Covid. She makes some striking points about the importance of the NHS, stating: “We must continue to bang the drum for the NHS.” In other words, now is the time to make the right changes to ensure our NHS continues. Handle With Care is a wonderful insight into a world that the majority of us are thankful for, and it has been chosen as one of our LoveReading Books of the Month.
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.
Open your hearts and minds to the world of seabirds and the wild landscape of the British Isles in this thoughtful and eloquently written book. Stephen Rutt travels the British Isles and tells of his love for birds that spend much of their life out at sea. Even if not previously entranced by seabirds or nature, Stephen Rutt’s words cast a spell to draw you in. If like me, nature is part and parcel of your inner soul, then this is simply magical, but also holds a warning for our future. One huge reminder from The Seafarers is that it proves just how important nature is for our mental health and wellbeing. The introduction really spoke to me, we learn a little about Stephen before he moves on to ten chapters focusing on different seabirds. From the thrill of meeting a Lech’s storm petrel, to the declining population of the skua, he travels from Lundy to Shetland and we learn as much about the islands as we do seabirds. His thoughts on: “the Anthropocene - defined as the era in which the majority of things on earth have been altered by the actions of humans” and that: “We are losing our seabirds. I fear that what we are seeing with plastics is perhaps the beginning of another death spiral” really hit home. Winner of the Saltire First Book of the Year 2019, The Seafarers is not only a beautiful book to read, it acts as a reminder of the importance of our natural world.
Bestselling author and award-winning adventurer Ross Edgley has been studying the art of resilience for years, applying all he has learned to become the first person in history to swim around Great Britain, breaking multiple world records. Now Ross focuses on mental strength, stoicism and the training needed to create an unbreakable body. Ross Edgley famously ran a marathon pulling a 1.4-tonne car and climbed a rope the height of Everest (8,848m), after living with Yamabushi warrior monks in Japan and partaking in Shamanic pain rituals with fire ants in the Amazon jungle. On his epic 1,780-mile journey around Great Britain, which lasted 157 days, Ross swam through giant jellyfish, arctic storms, 'haunted' whirlpools and polluted shipping lanes, going so hard, and so fast, his tongue fell apart. Ross's previous book, The World's Fittest Book, was a Sunday Times No.1 bestseller and explored the science of physical fitness. Now, in The Art of Resilience, Ross uses his swim experience and other amazing endurance feats, where he managed to overcome seemingly insurmountable pain, hardship and adversity, to study the performance of extreme athletes, military and fitness specialists and psychologists to uncover the secrets of mental fitness and explore the concept of resilience, persistence, valour and a disciplined mindset in overcoming adversity. This ground-breaking book represents a paradigm shift in what we thought the human body and mind were capable of and will give you a blueprint to become a tougher, more resilient and ultimately better human - whatever the challenge you face.
A rather lovely, incredibly thoughtful and moving memoir that drifts into an observation of memory, love and bereavement. Nicholas Royle writes about the feelings surrounding his mum, a nurse, nature lover and voracious reader who died in 2003. He says “it seems less a record of events than a grappling with what escapes words. Not just love and loss but fire and air and water and earth. Smell and music. Voice and touch”. I felt an affinity with those words, and entered the book with my heart and mind open. This feels like a wander down memory lane, stopping for a letter here, a song there, allowing thoughts to have their say before moving on. Nicholas Royle ponders the use of photos in a memoir, I’m so glad that he included them as I feel it brings an even greater connection. There’s no set menu on offer, “I’m losing my marbles” appears and reappears, those words so knowing, so full of knowledge and awareness, yet also full of loss. Mother: A Memoir takes an intimate and meaningful look at one woman, yet throws open thoughts to so, so much more.
An incredibly thoughtful, eloquent, and revealing book about policing by John Sutherland. Not only is it absolutely fascinating, there are also a whole heap of lessons that can and should be learned within its pages. John spent 25 years with the Metropolitan Police, during that time working his way to Borough Commander, leading teams as they dealt with some of the most sad and incredibly damaging aspects facing our society. Now retired on medical grounds, John is a sought-after public speaker and commentator, he regularly speaks on TV and radio, and writes for major newspapers. I can highly recommend his first book, Blue: A Memoir, this new book goes a step further. John issues an invitation to walk with him and witness the scenes behind the blue and white cordon tape. He talks about ten issues we face in the modern world, from domestic violence through to terrorism. He still cares about and loves policing, he also has huge compassion, this, linked with his ability to see the reality of policing, means he can open our eyes. Accessible, considered, meaningful, shocking, inspiring… Crossing the Line has been chosen as LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. It really is the most crucially important piece of writing for the whole of our society to absorb, all I can say is, read it! Read our Q&A with John Sutherland.
For the first time, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson opens up about his amazing comeback—from tragic personal loss to thriving businessman and cable’s highest-paid executive—in this unique self-help guide, his first since his blockbuster New York Times bestseller The 50th Law. In his early twenties Curtis Jackson, known as 50 Cent rose to the heights of fame and power in the cutthroat music business. A decade ago the multi-platinum selling rap artist decided to pivot. His ability to adapt to change was demonstrated when he became the executive producer and star of Power, a high-octane, gripping crime drama centered around a drug kingpin’s family. The series quickly became “appointment” television, leading to Jackson inking a four-year, $150 million contract with the Starz network—the most lucrative deal in premium cable history. Now, in his most personal book, Jackson shakes up the self-help category with his unique, cutting-edge lessons and hard-earned advice on embracing change. Where The 50th Law tells readers “fear nothing and you shall succeed,” Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter builds on this message, combining it with Jackson’s street smarts and hard-learned corporate savvy to help readers successfully achieve their own comeback—and to learn to flow with the changes that disrupt their own lives.
I know Jesus Christ is Real, as you can tell by the title places a lot of emphasis on the author’s religious beliefs. A personal memoir covering a difficult childhood in Jamaica and an adult life spent in America, it is clear that the author’s faith has provided support and strength throughout her life and the challenges she has faced. It was interesting to me to step into the shoes of a deeply spiritual person and see their perception of the world. I read this book as a learning experience, the author’s views didn’t and still don’t match my own, but I admire the strength of her conviction. I was interested in the author’s story, growing up in Jamaica, in extreme poverty and alone at times and this book offers insight into life and education in Jamaica, it is a country I haven’t visited and know very little about. It made me happy that she managed to build a life of happiness with her family in America, especially one that is in such direct contrast to her upbringing. I would recommend this book to readers who want to learn about other people. I think that this is a good book to find out more about spirituality from a personal perspective, and ultimately I think that viewpoints aside, this is a book about hope and faith.
Diving through history and soaring across borders this truly fascinating book about birds was winner of the readers’ vote in Poland’s most prestigious literary prize, the Nike Award. Author Stanislaw Lubienski first began to observe birds as a child, he explores how people and art (stories, paintings, music, and dance) interact with birds. While he has always lived in and around his home town of Szczesliwice, his love for birds has taken him in person and in his thoughts around the world and back in time. I picked up my love for birds through my father, at home as a child we looked after some blind pheasants he had rescued, once he even nursed a particularly ill-tempered seagull back to health. So, I smiled at the story of James Bond, winced in sympathy as I heard how the photo of the eagle owl was taken, and my heart ached at the Last of the Curlews. A little bit different and a lot lovely, The Birds they Sang has crept into my heart to become a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
"What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.” Native is described as ‘a hymn of love to his native land’. It’s an apt description for a wonderful book. Native transports the reader to a place and a way of life where Patrick Laurie, although thoroughly occupied running his farm in Galloway, makes the time, to stand, to stare, and to share with us the sights, sounds, smells and richness of his way of life. From the cry of a lonesome curlew through to the incredible ruggedness of his Galloway cattle, from the warmth of Summer sun to the life-threatening weather of deepest winter, we learn what it is like to live a truly rural life. It’s not easy. The hours are long and the remuneration is minimal, but the rewards – for those who appreciate them – are immense. A poignant and thought-provoking read, I loved it.
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.
Radiant with an infectious enthusiasm for life, Scottish writer Iain Maloney has created a playful, powerful page-turner in The Only Gaijin in the Village, a brilliant blend of memoir and travel writing at its most edifyingly entertaining. Maloney’s post-uni TEFL work led him to fall in love with Japan and his future wife Minori. After moving to Scotland, the couple chose to return to Japan as a result of “racist and elitist” Tory government immigration rules that made it near impossible for them to live together in the UK. “I have embraced exile. I am home,” he says of living in Japan, first in a city, before he and Minori relocate to a rural environment. Fiercely funny, the author’s voice is akin to being regaled by a witty friend’s pub anecdotes, with observations moving between lyrical eulogies to nature’s beauty and outright hilarity, such as when he describes a wild typhoon as a “blowy bastard”. From deciphering the codes of Japanese rural culture, to navigating trials of the natural world (including snakes, centipedes and behemoth bees), Maloney takes everything in his stride with an exhilarating can-do spirit. “Humans can get used to anything”, he blithely - and sagely - remarks. Maloney comically covers cultural culinary differences when he describes encountering whale bacon and flame-grilled snakes, but true to form counterbalancing comes when he mentions haggis in the same context. There are similarly entertaining accounts of his farming endeavors, from uncovering digging myths the hard way (“Where is this ground made of tofu that’s easier to dig than a Miles Davies solo?”), to his superb description of growing peas that possess “a smell and taste so evocative Proust could have bored the arse off half of France for decades”. Honest, amusing, humble and informative, with prescient political underpinnings (“every immigrant story is also an emigrant story. This is what the Right want us to forget. They want us to believe it’s all about them coming here, not about them leaving there...the term ‘expat’ is encoded racsim”), I can’t praise this highly enough.
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.