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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.
'The rock memoir of the decade' Daily Mail In his first and only official autobiography, music icon Elton John reveals the truth about his extraordinary life, which is also the subject of the smash-hit film Rocketman. The result is Me - the joyously funny, honest and moving story of the most enduringly successful singer/songwriter of all time. Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three, he was performing his first gig in America, facing an astonished audience in his bright yellow dungarees, a star-spangled T-shirt and boots with wings. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again. His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with the Queen; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation. All the while, Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade. In Me Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you, by a living legend.
Amusing, inspirational and underpinned by a radiant reverence for its subjects, this collection shares the indomitable acts of fifteen fascist-fighting “loose canons”, toppling the perception that Christians of the cloth are meek and mild. The acts of opposition are framed within the context of Christianity’s ideological history: ”Since the days of St Paul, Christianity has had a lack of internal ethnic distinction as a key tenet of its teaching (if not, regrettably, always of its practice). Paul wrote that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female; all are one in Christ.” Within these dynamic accounts we meet a bedazzling band of brave clerics from across the continent. Take Abbé Pierre, the “miraculous mountaineering monk”, for example. He started out as “an awkward and gangly young would-be monk” and“ended his career the most respected and popular man in France” on account of his pivotal role in the Resistance against the Nazis and Italian Fascists. Enduring the massacre of comrades and incarceration, and having engaged in numerous audacious acts of Resistance, plucky Pierre’s spirit and ethos (“to serve the most needy first”) lives on today in his charity that spans thirty-seven countries. The author duly acknowledges that, “for every tale of bravery related above, there were tales of cowardice and collaboration”. He also points out that many of the men and women of the Resistance exhibited “the frailty of humanity” and goes on to posit the view that “true strength is achieved in embracing our weakness”. Sage words to conclude a book that’s suffused in the vitality of its subjects’ inspirational acts and the author’s affable wit.
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.
For the first time, Andrew Ridgeley - one half of one of the most famous bands in the world - tells the inside story of Wham! and his life-long friendship with George Michael. It is 1975, Watford, and two teenagers, George and Andrew, meet for the first time. Bonding over their love for singing, song writing and pop music, together they set out to follow an impossible dream. They didn't know it then, but they were taking their first steps towards forming Wham!, a band that was to become one of the biggest in the world. Wham! were the soundtrack of the 80s; whether it was choosing life or Live Aid, the decade of flamboyance and fun was a party that seemed like it would never end. But it had to stop somewhere - and that was in front of tens of thousands of tearful fans at Wembley Stadium in 1986. In Wham! George and Me, Andrew Ridgeley tells the story of Wham! - from the day they met to that iconic final concert. For the first time, he reveals what it was like being at the centre of a pop hurricane and talks of his love for and friendship with George. It's a story only he can tell.
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!
In 1994, fledgling journalist Louis Theroux was given a one-off gig on Michael Moore's TV Nation, presenting a segment on apocalyptic religious sects. Gawky, socially awkward and totally unqualified, his first reaction to this exciting opportunity was panic. But he'd always been drawn to offbeat characters, so maybe his enthusiasm would carry the day. Or, you know, maybe it wouldn't... In his book, Louis takes the listener on a joyous journey through his life and unexpectedly successful career. Nervously accepting the BBC's offer of his own series, he went on to create an award-winning documentary style that has seen him immersed in worlds as diverse as racist US militias and secretive pro wrestlers, the violent gangs of Johannesburg and extreme drinkers in London. Arguably his biggest challenge was corralling celebrities in his When Louis Met series, with Jimmy Savile proving most elusive. Blindsided when the revelations about Savile came to light, Louis was to reflect again on the nature of evil he had spent decades uncovering. Filled with wry observation, larger-than-life characters, and self-deprecating humour, this is Louis at his insightful and honest best.
'Football is a simple game. 22 players chase a ball for 90 minutes, and at the end the Germans always win.' This book is inspired by the stories Danny and I have shared with each other about what life in football is really like: in the dressing room, in the commentary box, on the pitch and - with the appropriate pixellation - in the showers afterwards. What's it really like to play with Messi? I wouldn't know, but I have starred alongside him in an advert for Walkers crisps. And, well, his performance was world-class. And what is a life in football really like? You won't learn much from the dull-as-dishwater post-match interviews - it's a world of secrets, superstitions, laughs and personalities, and let me tell you, half of it you won't believe. I've looked back at my playing days, from England to Leicester, Everton to Barcelona, Tottenham to, er, Nagoya Grampus Eight, and shared the chaotic behind-the-scenes secrets of Match of the Day - and Danny has chipped in with stories from a lifetime following the game as a fan. From Italia '90 to Leicester's Premier League fairytale, from yellow cards to World Cup trophies (I've never been awarded either), you'll find it all here - everything you always wanted to know about football, but didn't realise that you did. Inspired by the No.1 podcast Behind Closed Doors...
The referendum on Britain's membership of the EU is one of the most controversial political events of our times. For the first time, the man who called that vote talks about the decision and its origins, as well as giving a candid account of his time at the top of British politics. David Cameron was Conservative Party leader during the largest financial crash in living memory. The Arab Spring and the Eurozone crisis both started during his first year as prime minister. The backdrop to his time in office included the advent of ISIS, surging migration and a rapidly changing EU. Here he talks about how he confronted those challenges, from modernising a party that had suffered three successive electoral defeats to forming the first coalition government for seventy years. He sets out how he helped turn around Britain's economy, implementing a modern, compassionate agenda that included education and welfare reform, the legalisation of gay marriage, the referendum on Scottish independence and world-leading environmental policies. David Cameron is searingly honest about the key players from his time in politics. And he is frank about himself - the things he got right and the things he got wrong. He opens up about family life too, including the tragic loss of his eldest son. We learn why he kept Britain's promise on overseas aid spending and what it was like to commit British troops to conflicts in Libya, Iraq and Syria. He sets out how he won the first outright Conservative majority in nearly a quarter of a century, and describes the events leading up to the EU referendum, the renegotiation, the campaign - and his thoughts on it all today. It is the most compelling record yet of what it's like to lead in modern times and to live behind the most famous door in the world.
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.
This fascinating follow-up to the author’s bestselling A History of Britain in 21 Women immediately invites a big question: how to select only 21 women from around the globe, through all time? The source material is huge (if underrepresented), and the author sets out her criteria thusly: “What unites my chosen twenty-one is that each has faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve her ambition regardless of her colour or class.” Murray also notes her decision to “include as wide a range of clever, talented and determined woman as possible’” from all walks of life (“politicians, writers, artists, musicians, scientists and athletes”) and ethnic backgrounds. Many of the women are high profile figures - among them, Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Madonna - and Murray adds fresh personal perspective to her coverage of these. For example, in the account of her interviewing Atwood for the first time in 1988 she describes being “overwhelmingly impressed by her vast knowledge of history, culture and the human condition.” Other featured women are lesser-known trailblazers, such as the ingeniously inventivePharaoh Hatshepsut (c. 1500 BCE - c. 1458 BCE). This remarkable woman cleverly crafted her own creation myth (that she was born of the god Amon) to secure and validate her appointment as Pharaoh, a role in which she “was very successful artistically and politically.” As Murray writes in her introduction, these women “should be known, remembered, cheered and emulated by we who follow them.” This edifying anthology will certainly imbibe its readers with a sense of celebratory awe.
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.
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.