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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 name Kamal Ahmed wasn’t familiar to me when I was first introduced to this book. It should have been. In my defence, I would argue that, as I watch little television, I may be forgiven. The case against me, however, would certainly point out that since one of my favourite programmes is BBC News – where Kamal has, since 2016, regularly appeared in his role as Economics Editor – I really ought to have recognised him. Hopefully, I will be forgiven. Kamal Ahmed is a first generation descendent of a Sudanese immigrant father. I am third generation, through my grandmother’s family who come from South Africa – they were Xhosa and, I learned many years ago, from the same tribe as Nelson Mandela. And so, it was with an ever-increasing sense of déjà vu that I became absorbed by this book. Through a series of personal anecdotes, political comment and astute observations, The Life and Times of a Very British Man makes a compelling case for a new debate about what is it to be British, what makes us who we are and how we view those we consider to be ‘others’. I don’t use the word ‘absorbed’ lightly. Kamal is a talented writer, something apparent from the very first pages. He uses language skilfully, not so much to impress, but to present his arguments logically and passionately. He is perceptive, reasoning and persuasive. And he is absolutely right as he asks the reader to consider what it is that makes us British? Kamal Ahmed. Not a terribly British name is it? That antithesis is, perhaps, something that makes the title of this work so germane. What is it to be British? To quote the author, he likes National Trust Houses, the Specials, Victoria sponge cake and double-cooked chips. What is it that makes us feel British? At times disturbing, at times amusing, The Life and Times of a Very British Man asks searching questions about us, our country and our attitude to change. One day I hope to meet Kamal Ahmed and explain to him how, as I reached the end of this book, I realised a complete stranger had become a friend. I hope it does the same for you. I recommend it.
A powerful, heart-warming and inspiring memoir from the UK's most famous and beloved vet, Professor Noel Fitzpatrick - star of the Channel 4 series The Supervet.Growing up on the family farm in Ballyfin, Ireland, Noel's childhood was spent tending to the cattle and sheep, the hay and silage, the tractors and land, his beloved sheepdog Pirate providing solace from the bullies that plagued him at school. It was this bond with Pirate, and a fateful night spent desperately trying to save a newborn lamb, that inspired Noel to enter the world of veterinary science - and set him on the path to becoming The Supervet. Now, in this long-awaited memoir, Noel recounts this often-surprising journey that sees him leaving behind a farm animal practice in rural Ireland to set up Fitzpatrick Referrals in Surrey, one of the most advanced small animal specialist centres in the world. We meet the animals that paved the way, from calving cows and corralling bullocks to talkative parrots and bionic cats and dogs. Noel has listened to the many lessons that the animals in his care have taught him, and especially the times he has shared with his beloved Keira, the scruffy Border Terrier who has been by Noel's side as he's dealt with the unbelievable highs and crushing lows of his extraordinary career. As heart-warming and life-affirming as the TV show with which he made his name, Listening to the Animals is a story of love, hope and compassion, and about rejoicing in the bond between humans and animals that makes us the very best we can be.
In the early twentieth century, a teenage Greek girl in Constantinople loses both her parents and, together with her younger sister, gets thrown into a massive population exchange between Greece and Turkey. She ends up in a refugee camp in northern Greece. With determination she creates a life in her new country, becoming a teacher in a small mountain town near Greeces northwestern borders with Albania and Yugoslavia. She meets and marries a young lawyer from a historic and tragic Macedonian family. Her story extends through a century of war and peace and is peppered with likable characters, horrific events, and a love story. Among the protagonists are two strong women, a charming and indomitable man, and a smart but sickly kid. Now and again her drive, perseverance, and common sense will save the day and reward her with happiness, which nevertheless will come and go like interludes of sunshine in otherwise endlessly stormy weather. The reader will also get candid and authentic glimpses on poorly known historical conflicts such as the Balkan Wars, the worlds greatest ethnic cleansing, the occupation loan that the Nazis exacted from Greece, the Greek Civil War, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and the dispute over the use of the name Macedonia.
More Dashing is the follow-up to Dashing for the Post: Selected Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor published by Bloomsbury in 2016. With The Spectator portraying the first book (in what many hoped would be a series) as a veritable treasure trove, and Countrylife describing it as a distilled treat drawn from so much rich material, it should please Fermor fans no end to discover that Adam Sisman has again taken the time to patiently select, edit, analyse and – where necessary – explain more from the vast array on entertaining and fascinating letters penned by Fermor to such a wide range of recipients. Author and former soldier, Patrick ‘Paddy’ Fermor was regarded during his lifetime as, arguably, Britain’s greatest travel writer. Writer Adam Sisman – rather a hero of mine having penned John le Carré’s autobiography – is an award winning author himself and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Fermor’s letters are full of wit and sparkle. They vary in length and content a great deal but, without exception, they offer an insight into a society and a way of life not many of us will be familiar with. Fermor exchanges include with such varied figures as Sir Anthony Eden, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Oswald Mosley and Peter Mandelson. We also learn a little more about his wartime exploits – heroic yet understated – as a member of the Special Operations Executive working in Crete against the occupying German forces. A treat for Fermor’s fans – they won’t be disappointed.
Gary Barlow is one of the most successful British musicians and songwriters of all time, but fifteen years ago, as he himself admits, he hit rock bottom - he was out of shape, out of work and depressed. Faced with an underperforming solo career, tireless media taunts and the other cruel twists of fate, Gary turned to food. For nine years, he struggled with his weight and went on every diet imaginable before eventually asking a doctor what the 'cure' for obesity was. That was when he realised that he would have to change his life dramatically. So how did he go from an obese, out-of-work pop star to becoming a hugely successful superstar of music and TV, as well an accomplished musical songwriter and producer who is full of vitality, fitter, happier and more successful than ever before? In this extraordinarily honest memoir, Gary tells of his journey back to professional success, as well as mental and physical health. A Better Me is a remarkably frank account of Gary's life as he battled with his demons, endured personal tragedy, and staged one of the most thrilling professional comebacks in decades. In his warm, witty and authentic voice, Gary recounts his story with compelling insight, captivating sincerity and a human side that people rarely see. From returning with a critically and commercially successful Take That and reigniting his own legendary songwriting career, going beyond recorded music to forge success on TV with The X Factor and Let It Shine, to overcoming his weight problems and crippling obsession with food, this is the story of how Gary found balance in both his personal and professional life. Here is one of the UK's most beloved pop stars, more open, honest and raw than ever before.
Gary Barlow is one of the most successful British musicians and songwriters of all time, but 15 years ago, as he himself admits, he hit rock bottom - he was out of shape, out of work, depressed. Food for him had become an addiction, a means not only of comfort but almost of self-medication as he grappled with the cruel twists of fate of musical stardom. In 2003, as he struggled with the disappointment of an underperforming solo career alongside the tireless media taunts, Gary turned to food. Relentlessly. In the space of nine years he had been on 20 diets in the hopes of a resolution to all his woes. After asking the doctor what the 'cure' for obesity was, it sunk in that he was the only one who could take control of his health. Gary describes this realisation and the task that lay ahead - 'it was like being at the foot of a massive mountain'. So how did he go from an obese, out-of-work and depressed pop icon to a superstar of music and TV and an accomplished musical songwriter and producer who is full of vitality, fitter, happier and more successful than ever before? What happened? In his extraordinarily honest memoir, A Better Me, Gary tells of his journey back to professional success and mental and physical health. From reforming Take That to critical and commercial acclaim and reigniting his own legendary songwriting career; to overcoming his weight problems and crippling obsession with food; to TV judging panel stardom on The X Factor and Let It Shine and at last finding balance in both his personal and professional lives. A Better Me is a remarkably frank memoir of Gary's life as he battled with weight, stress, fitness and depression and staged one of the most thrilling professional comebacks in years. In his warm, witty and authentic voice, he recounts his story with compelling insight, captivating honesty and a human side that people rarely see. Here is one of the UK's most beloved pop stars, open, honest and raw and as we've never seen him before.
Love, laughs, sexuality and secrets from LGBT superstar YouTube couple, Rose and Rosie.Rose and Rosie are known for their candid and hilarious YouTube videos... but now they are taking oversharing to a whole new level. Discussing sexuality, revealing secrets and empowering others, OVERSHARE is a book packed with Rose and Rosie's unique take on friendships, fame, mental health and LGBT issues. As visibly out members of the LGBT community, they open up about their own experiences, both together and as individuals, and have written this book in the hope that it gives strength to those who have faced similar difficulties. They are spreading a message of positivity and inclusivity, and want everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin, no matter what their sexuality. Delve deep into the unfiltered highs and lows of Rose and Rosie's life: family relationships, secrets of a happy marriage, struggles with OCD and anxiety, finding love and navigating the world as a gay couple. Get ready to laugh, cry, cringe and OVERSHARE.
'As funny, wicked, naughty, eye-popping and compulsively, joyously brilliant as the genius who wrote it' Stephen Fry We know him best for his unforgettable roles on Monty Python - from the Flying Circus to The Meaning of Life. Now, Eric Idle reflects on the meaning of his own life in this entertaining memoir that takes us on a remarkable journey from his childhood in an austere boarding school through his successful career in comedy, television, theatre and film. Coming of age as a writer and comedian during the Sixties and Seventies, Eric stumbled into the crossroads of the cultural revolution and found himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of George Harrison, David Bowie and Robin Williams, all of whom became lifelong friends. With anecdotes sprinkled throughout involving Mike Nichols, Mick Jagger, Steve Martin, Paul Simon and many more, as well as the Pythons themselves, Eric captures a time of tremendous creative output with equal parts hilarity and heart. In Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, named after the song he wrote for Life of Brian which has since become the number-one song played at funerals in the UK, he shares the highlights of his life and career with the kind of offbeat humour that has delighted his audiences for five decades. This is a memoir chock-full of behind-the-scenes stories from a high-flying life featuring everyone from Princess Leia to Queen Elizabeth.
So, this is me. Lily Allen. I am a woman. I am a mother. I was a wife. I drink. I have taken drugs. I have loved and been let down. I am a success and a failure. I am a songwriter. I am a singer. I am all these things and more. When women share their stories, loudly and clearly and honestly, things begin to change - for the better. This is my story.
Frustrated by a dead end job, fed up with renting in London and the loathsome daily commute and, to cap it all, failing to make it as a stand-up comedian, Tommy Barnes was at breaking point. But he didn’t break - instead he made himself redundant and took off to France with girlfriend Rose to pursue his dream of brewing beer.
With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump's White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence. Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president's first years in office.
Where Has Mummy Gone? is a captivating insight into the life of a foster carer. Eight-year-old Melody is angry and confused when she comes to live with Cathy Glass and her family, claiming that her drug-dependent mother Amanda can’t manage without her. Over time, it transpires that this vulnerable child isn’t the only one who needs help. Cathy works tirelessly to juggle Melody’s needs alongside the bureaucracy of fostering and bringing up her own children. It’s a difficult and demanding role, especially because, in this particular situation, Amanda needs specific care as well. This is my first Cathy Glass book and certainly won’t be my last. It’s written in a clear and easy-to-read style, with vivid descriptions bringing people, places and events to life. At times I forgot that this is a true story, with several revelations that could have come straight out of fiction. Where Has Mummy Gone? is filled with compassion and love, mixed with heartbreak and tragedy – a reminder that foster care can help to make a big difference to people’s lives. Its bittersweet ending brought tears to my eyes, touched me deeply and left me thinking.
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.