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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.
Kiss Me Goodbye, Ferdinand Mount’s personal memoir of his mysterious millionaire Aunt Munca, dances with evocative detail - of people, place and period - and is an affectionate, fascinating delight. Elegantly appointed mansions. Upper echelon entertaining. Exuberant outings in a Rolls-Royce - these are among the author’s early memories (from 1945) of his enigmatic, affectionate Aunt Betty, who asks to be called Munca after a Beatrix Potter mouse. But through time, and little by little, big questions begin to gnaw - where did Aunt Munca’s adopted daughter go, and why? Why did she force her daughter to break-off her engagement to David Dimbleby? Why did Munca never mention her first marriage? Having seen “just enough through the half-open door into the next room”, the author cannot resist entering the next room: “I had tugged the thread and I could not resist following it to the end.” And so an exhilarating quest to untangle Munca’s truths begins. It’s a thrilling edge-of-your-seat journey as Mount uncovers documents, photos and articles that reveal the many fabrications of his mysterious Aunt Munca, and other family members. The tangled threads take tenacious Mount from mid-century high society to the back streets of industrial Sheffield, and wind-up with an unexpectedly joyous find.
''So lithe,' they say. 'So spry and sparkling. So uncannily youthful. How on earth do you do it?' Well, what can I tell you? An hour of tai chi first thing in the morning, an HIIT work-out with my personal trainer, a bowl of steamed kale and a handful of almonds for lunch, and then two hours of yoga in the afternoon followed by an ice bath - this is a routine which I'm sure would work miracles for anyone of any age, although I can't be entirely sure because I haven't myself adopted any aspect of it at any point. Fortunately, during my life and career I have been given all sorts of advice and learned huge amounts from some great and enormously talented people. I've been blessed to play characters such as Derek Trotter, Granville, Pop Larkin and Frost, who have changed my life in all sorts of ways, and taught me lessons that go far beyond the television set. And I've worked a few things out for myself as well, about friendship, ambition, rejection, success, failure, adversity and fortune. With any luck, some of these thoughts and observations will chime with episodes and challenges you have faced, or are facing, in your own life. And if they don't... well, hopefully, at the very least you'll get to have a good old laugh at my expense. So lean back, pour yourself a glass, and try not to fall through the bar flap . . .
Detailed, interesting, and offering a personal insight into The Five Eyes intelligence community from the only man to have worked for both US and UK intelligence organisations while a citizen of each country. The Five Eyes alliance, comprising of the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, formed after the Second World War. Anthony R Wells believes that the intelligence institutions covered in this book have saved the free world. He says: “This book does not profess at all to be all-seeing and all-knowing”, he hopes that readers can: “make their own observations, draw their own conclusions, and come away with informed, educated, and non-biased and most certainly non-politicised views on intelligence in the modern era”. We read about the author’s experiences in chronological order over 50 years, covering a variety of threats, new opportunities, and technological advancements. It is quite clear that there is still much that we, the public, don’t know and shouldn’t know. Having said that, Between Five Eyes is an absolutely fascinating read for anyone interested in the intelligence community and wider world.
Dedicated to “readers and writers everywhere” this is a stunning gift of a book for every devoted bibliophile. Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread is a beautiful, beautiful reminder of the power and the joy of books. Libris is used as an inscription on a bookplate to show the name of the book's owner. I’ve never had one, I’ve always wanted one. Life goals right there. Michiko Kakutani is perfectly placed to write this “magical brick-sized object”, as she wonderfully speaks of books. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic and the former chief book critic of The New York Times. And this really is a beautifully packaged, beautifully illustrated magical gift of a book. From her fascinating introduction talking of her love of books burgeoning from a young age, she comments on how books “give us the stories of men and women we will never meet in person, illuminate the discoveries made by great minds, and allow us access to the wisdom of earlier generations.” Don’t they just, and this book is a perfect celebration of that. I too am an avid reader. I always have been. I also was the one in my house who wanted to read all the books and who wore out her library card. As a lover of books, you can’t help but engage, dive in, eat her words up hungrily and pore over the accompanying illustrations of alternative book plates by the talented Dana Tanamachi. This book is an absolute gem. Michiko takes you on a literary journey via these “tiny time machines”. Oh how I adore her expressive way of talking about books. She lists more than 100 books across the decades and from a variety of genres – books that have shaped her life, complemented by illuminating essays about them. The themes include books about work and vocation, democracy and tyranny, the war on terror and housekeeping. Her selections range from Shakespeare to Toni Morrison to Abraham Lincoln and Dr Seuss right through to Educated by Tara Westover and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (all of whom I heartily agree with!) The introduction includes the words of Virginia Woolf who famously said: “the pleasure of reading is so great that the world would be a far different and far inferior place without it”. And boy, are we reminded of this. As Michiko comments, the list is “subjective and decidedly arbitrary” but it doesn’t feel that way. I wholeheartedly bought into her excitement, and her passion for reading. Whatever books mean to you, they connect us all and this is a timely reminder of that; a stunning anthology of over 100 gems we all should read and re-read. And next on my list is...best get back to that bookshop!
Best known for his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith’s writing is nothing if not warm-hearted, charming and filled with the joys of friendship - themes and characteristics that are at the heart of this delightful poetry anthology. Being a book to treasure and return to through the year (and across years), this will make a wonderful gift for fans of his fiction - even those who don’t usually read poetry. With sections covering the likes of journeys, Scotland through the seasons, animals, love and longing, books and reading, and places - with contextualisation coming courtesy of the author’s personal anecdotes - many of the poems invite readers to slow down, to look, to see, to remember. To take-in “the simple facts of being”. Others take readers on evocative journeys - we stand beside the author as he observes Mumbai from his hotel room, and as he and a friend save an oak tree in Scotland. We sit beside him as his train pulls into Kings Cross, as he drives through Los Angeles, as he explores Kerala, South India, and rural Australia. And all of them inspire reflection, and an empathetic urge to take-in the world through the eyes of others.
Be the first discover the funny, uplifting, occasionally heartbreaking and always honest life story of Phillip Schofield. For forty years we've watched Phillip on our tellies, from children's TV to This Morning and Dancing on Ice, but what is it like on set and who is he when the camera's off? In Life's What You Make It Philip for the first time takes us behind the scenes of his remarkable career. From his idyllic childhood in Cornwall, where for years he pestered the BBC for a job, eventually landing a prize position in the Broom Cupboard with mischievous sidekick Gordon the Gopher, through hosting Going Live!, starring in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and finally finding his on-screen home and presenting-partner Holly Willoughby on This Morning, Phillip takes us on the highs and lows of his extraordinary life. 'For a long time, I felt that I couldn't write this book. At first, I didn't think I'd lived enough, then life got busy and filled with distractions. In more recent years, there was always a very painful consideration - I knew where it would eventually have to go. 'I have recently decided that the truth is the only thing that can set me free. The truth has taken a long time to make itself clear to me, but now is the right time to share it, all of it. 'Television and broadcasting has been a part of my DNA for as long as I can remember. As a young boy I would make model TV sets out of cardboard boxes, while spending long summers at home, barefoot on Cornwall's golden beaches. Landing a job at the ice-cream kiosk, I would enviously look on as my presenting heroes took to the stage of Radio 1's Roadshow, an unforgettable event when it came to town. 'In Life's What You Make It I look back with nostalgic delight on my life, from being a young boy endlessly writing letters to the BBC in pursuit of a job in broadcasting, to making it on to the Broom Cupboard, with my infamous sidekick Gordon the Gopher, to being on Going Live and starring as the lead in Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. It has taken four decades to get here but I feel lucky to have called the sets of Talking Telephone Numbers, The Cube, Dancing on Ice and of course, This Morning, home. 'I'm going to take you behind the scenes of my television home at ITV, into my career and my dangerously funny relationship with Holly Willoughby. I'm going to introduce you to my loving and remarkable family, and I hope most of all to tell you that life, it seems, is what you make it. Take it from someone who has sat on the very edge and looked over, it's all about the people that love you, and after that anything is possible. So, finally, here we go, this is the real me.'
'What surprised me was how entirely serene I felt. I was weightless, no forces exerting themselves on my body. To my left was the Space Station. Below me, gradually going into shadow, was the Earth. And over my right shoulder was the universe.' In fascinating and personal detail, and drawing on exclusive diaries and audio recordings from his mission, astronaut Tim Peake takes readers closer than ever before to experience what life in space is really like: the sights, the smells, the fear, the sacrifice, the exhilaration and the deep and abiding wonder of the view. Warm, inspiring and often funny, Tim also charts his surprising road to becoming an astronaut, from a shy and unassuming boy from Chichester who had a passion for flight, to a young British Army officer, Apache helicopter pilot, flight instructor and test pilot who served around the world. Tim's extensive eighteen-year career in the Army included the command of a platoon of soldiers in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, deployment in Bosnia, and operations in Afghanistan. Full of life lessons for readers of all ages, Limitless is the story of how ordinary can become extraordinary.
There is only one Arsene Wenger - and for the very first time, in his own words, this is his story. In this definitive autobiography, the world-renowned revolutionary football manager discusses his life and career, sharing his leadership principles for success on and off the field and recalling vivid tales of guiding Arsenal to unprecedented success. One of the most influential figures in world football, Wenger won multiple Premier League titles, a record number of FA Cups, and masterminded Arsenal's historic 'Invincibles' season of 2003-2004 and 49-match unbeaten run. He changed the game in England forever, popularising an attacking approach and changing attitudes towards nutrition, fitness and coaching methods - and towards foreign managers. In My Life in Red and White, Wenger charts his extraordinary career, including his rise in France and Japan where he managed Nancy, Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight - clubs that also play in red-and-white - to his twenty-two years in north London at the helm of one of the world's biggest clubs. He reflects on Arsenal's astonishing domestic triumphs and bittersweet European campaigns; signing - and selling - some of the world's most talented players; moving the Gunners to their new home, the Emirates Stadium; and the unrest that led to his departure in 2018 and subsequent role as Chief of Global Football Development for FIFA. This book is a must-read for not only Arsenal supporters but football fans everywhere, as well as business leaders and anyone seeking the tools for success in work and life. It will illuminate the mystique surrounding one of the most revered and respected managers, revealing the wisdom and vision that made him an icon in the world's most popular sport.
Crossed-Dressed to Kill is an incredibly interesting book filled with instances from the 17th century onwards of women who dressed as men in order to go to war. Some of the names of these women were known to me, Anne Bonny the 18th century Pirate for one, however this book gave me more insight into their history, and there were many other women who I was introduced to for the first time. This is a fascinating side of history with the author’s detailed research shining a spotlight on the women who defied their gender roles in order to participate in military action. The account of each woman is detailed, although brief, this means you could happily flick through the pages, reading about a couple of brave women at a time, or read cover to cover. At the end of each account there is a concluding summary, which not only rounds our each story but highlights some of the patriarchal views of the time. Some of these stories are more sad than others, but all are incredibly interesting with plenty of references included at the end of the book to allow for personal research and further reading. I never enjoyed History at school, but as an adult I love learning about the past and I think that stories like these should be shared in schools, at the very least to demonstrate that the old-fashioned notion of the “traditional” role of women, didn’t work even at the height of it’s popularity.
Secret to Sultan follows on from Gordon Lewis’ first book, the Secret Child. Although I don’t think you necessarily need to have read about the first part of Lewis’ life in order to enjoy this book, it does start without preamble, so I would recommend you do. Born and raised in a hostel for Single mothers in 1950s Dublin, Gordon has ambitions of a much better life for his family and when he moves with his family to London, he works hard to achieve it. From his interest in pop culture to a Beatles concert, Gordon is inspired to pursue a career in show business. This book focuses on Gordon’s career, how he worked hard to develop a very successful Production business before taking on a new challenge of creating a London gay village as a part of the Soho nightclub scene, this lead to his favourite nickname and inspiration for the title “The Sultan of Soho”. This book covers such a wide range of modern history. Through Gordon’s life experience we learn more about growing up in both Dublin and London, including the discrimination the Irish experienced in England. We find out about the development of a video production company as well as getting behind the scenes access to the running of bars and clubs in Soho. Gordon introduces us to interesting people and colourful anecdotes throughout and I think that this is a witty and wonderful book for all non-fiction fans.
A message of resilience and optimism, when we have needed it most. A book about adventure, family, hope and what we can achieve when we work together. If ever there was a keepsake to remind us of the kindness and courage of these unprecedented times, this is it. From his beginnings in Yorkshire in 1920 through to his incredible fund-raising campaign for the NHS (with some wild adventures along the way!), this is the story of Captain Sir Tom's amazing life, beautifully illustrated by Adam Larkum. Published in support of the creation of the Captain Tom Foundation.
This was a wonderful and uplifting story of a traveller who went to climb a mountain but found it changed his life, and the local people he met. Due to the trials and tribulations of mountaineering, which itself makes a fascinating read, Mike and his wife Chantal meet and befriend a Nepalese family. This meeting changes both families lives and the future of a girl called Karma, so aptly named. A very interesting read, with fascinating pictures. Maureen Gourlay, A LoveReading Ambassador
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.