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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 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.
In 'Single, Again, and Again, and Again...What Do You Do When Life Doesn't Go to Plan' Louisa Pateman eloquently describes her experiences in the dating jungle of the 90s and noughties and goes on, when her 'happy ever after' still doesn't happen, to explain how she eventually resolved her issues and found that the mould, formed for her by her upbringing, was not set in stone and could be broken. The first part of the book resonated a lot with me, as I was also playing the dating game at this time, the only difference being that I had already been married and had a family. I recognised many of the male types that she dated, having had some similar encounters, some funny, some heart-breaking or, on occasion, just plain boring! The second part moves on to the digital age, which I was not familiar with personally, but which didn't prove to be any more successful for the author in finding 'the right one'. Much more importantly though, the end of the noughties heralded a shift in society's view of the status of women and the expectations and acceptance of what constitutes a 'family'. The author could at last abandon her 'life plan' and fulfil her lifelong ambition to be a mother. This is an uplifting book, that debunks the myth of the happy couple ending, perpetuated in literature and the film and TV industry. There's a long way to go yet, as the #MeToo movement shows but, in the author's own words 'Imagine how much happier and freer young women would feel if they had a deeply embedded notion of choice, of carving out their own unique path...that you don't need to wait for your Prince Charming, that you can create an extraordinary life just on your own'. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
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.
Wing Commander Frank Brock OBE was a daredevil adventurer who made a unique contribution to the British war effort during World War I. Gunpowder and Glory tells the story, not just of Frank Brock, but of the family business he was born into. Brock is a name synonymous with fireworks and November 5th. Brock himself was an inventor who is one of very few people to have been commissioned in all three of our armed services. He designed weapons that included the incendiary device that brought an end to Zeppelin domination of British skies. This book has all the ingredients for an explosive and entertaining yarn. It doesn’t disappoint. A fascinating and well-researched read, not just for military enthusiasts but for anybody interested in fireworks, and the workings of a successful family business.
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.
Who were you before the world told you who to be? Part inspiration, part memoir, Untamed explores the joy and peace we discover when we stop striving to meet the expectations of the world, and instead dare to listen to and trust in the voice deep inside us. From the beloved New York Times bestselling author, speaker and activist Glennon Doyle. For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There. She. Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high but soon she realised they had come to her from within. This was the voice she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions and social conditioning. Glennon decided to let go of the world's expectations of her and reclaim her true untamed self. Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanising wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is also the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honour our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts. Untamed shows us how to be brave. And, as Glennon insists, 'The braver we are, the luckier we get.'
In 1957, five members of the Oxford University Mountaineering Club set out to reach the peak of Haramosh, a previously unclimbed mountain in the Karkoram range that extends from Afghanistan to Tajikistan. Karkoram is the second highest mountain range in the world, exceeded only by the nearby Himalaya. It’s highest peak, K2, is well known to mountaineers, perhaps less so to those of us not so well versed in that world. The Last Blue Mountain is the story of this ascent, and of the tragedy that unfolded. It is a tale not of success or failure, but of human spirit and the determination to survive. Originally published in 1959, this re-publication now contains an enlightening foreword by writer Ed Douglas, former editor of the Alpine Journal. Two of the four OUMC climbers died on Haramosh. A third was killed descending the Weisshorn in 1963. Tony Streather, the final member of the team, died in 2018 at the age of ninety-two. The opportunity to speak with these men is gone but, thanks to the excellent writing and research of Ralph Barker, the chance to learn from them and to live their story is not. As I reached the end of The Last Blue Mountain and closed the final page I confess I said a silent thanks. It was not just to the late Ralph Barker for writing this excellent book, but to Tony Streather and his fellow climbers, who are the kind of men who inspire us and whose tales of bravery and resilience will continue to enthral for generations to come.
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.