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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.
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!
'[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?
SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER. As you'll discover in his incomparable memoir, inventor, mechanic, TV presenter and walking tall as the definition of the British eccentric, Edd China sees things differently. An unstoppable enthusiast from an early age, Edd had 35 ongoing car projects while he was at university, not counting the double-decker bus he was living in. Now he's a man with not only a runaround sofa, but also a road-legal office, shed, bed and bathroom. His first car was a more conventional 1303 Texas yellow Beetle, the start of an ongoing love affair with VW, even though it got him arrested for attempted armed robbery. A human volcano of ideas and the ingenuity to make them happen, Edd is exhilarating company. Join him on his wild, wheeled adventures; see inside his engineering heroics; go behind the scenes on Wheeler Dealers. Climb aboard his giant motorised shopping trolley, and let him take you into his parallel universe of possibility.
Ex-Special Forces' soldier and host of SAS: Who Dares Wins, Ollie Ollerton narrates his incredible story for the first time. Where is your break point? Is it here? Facing the gruelling SAS selection process on one leg, with a busted ankle and the finish line nowhere in sight? Or here? Under heavy fire from armed kidnappers while protecting journalists en route to Baghdad. Or, is it here? At the bottom of a bottle, with a family in pieces, unable to adapt to a civilian lifestyle, yearning for a warzone. We all have break points to face - at the gym, in the office, in our personal lives - those moments of self-doubt where we have to dig deep, and find something within to grab hold of and push us through. Ex-Special Forces soldier Ollie Ollerton has faced his own break points and now he tells us the lessons he has learnt along the way. From survivor of a freak childhood attack to elite fighter, Ollie's incredible story features, high-speed shoot-outs, counter-terrorism and humanitarian heroics. Special Forces soldiers are not supermen. Bullets don't bounce off them. They don't hit the target with every shot. They have the same vulnerabilities and doubts as the rest of us. But ordinary people can achieve the extraordinary, under the greatest pressure, in the most challenging situations. Ollie's life has taught him that everyone has the capacity for incredible achievement, because it's only when it's crunch time, when you're down to your last bullet - when you're at break point - that you find out who you really are. Ollie Ollerton co-hosts SAS: Who Dares Wins alongside Ant Middleton, Jason Fox and Mark Billingham.
In the face of urgency and uncertainty, would you respond analytically or trust your instincts? How would you decide who lives and who dies? Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton has been a firefighter for eighteen years. She decides which of her colleagues rush into a burning building and how they confront the blaze. She makes the call to evacuate if she believes the options have been exhausted or that the situation has escalated beyond hope. This is her astonishing account of a profession defined by the most difficult decisions imaginable. Taking us to the very heart of firefighting, Sabrina uses her award-winning research to reveal the skills that are essential to surviving – and even thriving – in such a fast-paced and emotionally-charged environment. And she immerses us in this extraordinary world; from scenes of devastation and crisis, through triumphs of bravery, to the quieter moments when she questions herself and the decisions made in the most unforgiving circumstances. Here is the truth about how we respond in our most extreme moments.
Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley started at a sprint and continued at an unrelenting pace until the final pages. If this memoir didn't start with an introduction and disclaimer from the author I'm not sure I would have believed it was non-fiction. I even did a brief internet search of the author to make sure. The stages of Carol’s life covered in this book were certainly event-filled, not always in a good way. Here’s a brief summary of the events and topics candidly addressed by Carol in Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley: The death of her father; her childhood; conflict with her mother and family as a whole; sexual abuse from various parties from a young age; her early working life; getting in to Scientology; drug addiction; her art and poetry development; marriages and relationships; friendships; her band; getting out of Scientology; the death of her mother and opening an art studio after a successful application for the Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant. There was a lot to fit into 300 pages, with artwork and photographs as well, and it meant that the book jumps quickly between some tender subjects from the start. After further reading, I think this pace gave you more understanding about the writer. I enjoyed the insight into Scientology the most. I'd heard about the Church but didn't know anything in-depth about it. I thought Carol came across as naïve throughout the book. This is understandable considering how old she was during early traumatic events featured in the book. The honest and endearing writing dragged me into Carol’s story as a bystander, which then made it frustrating to witness her fall in love very quickly, only to end up hurt again. This speed could also be attributed to the overall length of the book and the amount of information that was shared. It was great to see Carol eventually make peace with her mother and herself and experience success. Overall this was an interesting, fast-paced and challenging insight into an artist, writer, musician and ex-Scientologist. If you are familiar with Carol’s work or want to know more about someone's experiences as a part of the Church of Scientology while also covering several difficult subjects then this is the book for you. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
“The concept of bella figura is about making every aspect of life as beautiful as it can be...It is a notion at once romantic and practical”, as Kamin, the author of this charming book, reveals through sharing her experience of replacing her dark days of redundancy and heartbreak with a fresh life in Florence when she moves to a friend’s apartment. There, sage bartender Luigo introduces Kamin to the concept of bella figura, framing it as a form of self-care. The author embraces the notion, and it’s not long before she “bloomed in the warmth of Dino’s affection,” and then luxuriates in Bernardo’s picture-perfect country house. As passion blossoms, so too does Kamin’s physical wellbeing. She loses weight and radiates health simply through walking and enjoying food that tastes like an explosion of sunshine (the narrative is peppered with some of her favourite recipes). While such a move might be unfeasible for most people, the epilogue shares attainable tips for those inspired by the effects of the author’s bella figura ethos - walk with style and good posture. Seek out nature. Find exercise you love. Drink alcohol in moderation. Eat quality fresh foods. Love yourself. Be happy. Part inspirational memoir, part practical self-help manual, part poetic celebration of Tuscan beauty, this feel-good feast will be devoured by fans of Eat, Pray Love.
I'm a barrister, a job which requires the skills of a social worker, relationship counsellor, arm-twister, hostage negotiator, named driver, bus fare-provider, accountant, suicide watchman, coffee-supplier, surrogate parent and, on one memorable occasion, whatever the official term is for someone tasked with breaking the news to a prisoner that his girlfriend has been diagnosed with gonorrhoea. Welcome to the world of the Secret Barrister. These are the stories of life inside the courtroom. They are sometimes funny, often moving, and ultimately life-changing. How can you defend a child-abuser you suspect to be guilty? What do you say to someone sentenced to 10 years who you believe to be innocent? What is the law and why do we need it? And why do they wear those stupid wigs? From the criminals to the lawyers, the victims, witnesses, and officers of the law, here is the best and worst of humanity, all struggling within a broken system which would never be off the front pages if the public knew what it was really like. Both a searing first-hand account of the human cost of the criminal justice system, and a guide to how we got into this mess, The Secret Barrister wants to show you what it's really like and why it really matters.
An interesting and thought-provoking memoir based on Ruth Hartley’s escape to London, and the ordeal she went through to get here in the early 1960’s while pregnant with her first born. I’m not one to get emotional over books but this is one of those rare occasions where I went through a whole roller-coaster of emotions, ranging from Sadness to happiness to even angry about some of the attitudes that people had in the early 60’s. I know some of these prejudices and stigmas still exist to this day but these day’s people and even communities are learning to accept it a little better. This was a very well written memoir, which I found easy to read. I managed to race through this book quite quickly. In fact I finished it in 2 sittings. This was due to the fact that I just wanted to keep reading to find out what happens next. Overall a very enjoyable read. I haven’t read Ruth’s other books but I will definitely be adding them to my TBR list. I highly recommend this book, especially if enjoy reading memoirs and your looking for a memorable read. Manisha Natha, A LoveReading Ambassador
'Purnell's account of Hall's hectic, amphetamine-fuelled exploits never falters. It recalls Caroline Moorehead's wonderful book, Village of Secrets but has an added touch of Ben Macintyre's brio ... A rousing tale of derring-do' The Times Book of the Week 'Riveting ... one of the most breath-taking stories yet told of female courage behind enemy lines' Sarah Helm, author of A Life in Secrets In 1942, the Gestapo would stop at nothing to track down a mysterious 'limping lady' who was fighting for the freedom of France. The Nazi chiefs issued a simple but urgent command: 'She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.' The Gestapo's target was Virginia Hall, a glamorous American with a wooden leg who broke through the barriers against her gender and disability to be the first woman to infiltrate Vichy France for the SOE. In so doing she helped turn the course of the intelligence war. This is the epic tale of an heiress who determined that a hunting accident would not define her existence; a young woman who gambled her life to fight for the freedoms she believed in; an espionage novice who helped to light the flame of French Resistance. Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall, an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance and personal triumph over shocking adversity. 'A gripping, relevant and timely read about a remarkable woman from a talented writer' Deborah Frances-White, author of The Guilty Feminist 'A fitting and moving tribute to an amazing woman' The Economist
Has appeal as a rags to riches story but also will act as an inspiration for anyone dreaming of starting their own business. Showing that you don't need qualifications and good school results to get ahead Jo Malone has a passion for business and for encouraging others to reach their potential. Her own poignant story frames her business life - facing cancer and the loss of her business she came through and is now back with her new fragrance house Jo Loves– you can smell one of her first successes, Pomelo, due to the perfumed page tipped in at the front of the book. ~ Sue Baker
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.