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.
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
This is a must-read!!! I couldn't put it down. I felt like I was sitting in a room talking to Nadean the entire time I read this book. She was born in Canada and had to follow their laws which are very difficult when searching for your natural parents. As I was born in Toronto, I know many of the places she lived or visited in Ontario. I know how strict the laws are, but am hoping that they are less strict now. This is a story about a woman searching for her birth mother as well as dealing with life in general. She gets married and has a son, Andrew. Unfortunately, she struggles through a difficult, controlling marriage and even after the marriage ended and the divorce was finalised, her ex was still trying to control her. She meets her 2nd husband, who is her rock. During this time, she decided to find her birth mother. She needed answers and wanted to find out about her history. This is a woman who was given up for adoption. Her adopted Mom dies when she is very young, she lives with her Grandmother, who raises her, with so much love. She has a strength and courage that many don't have. It makes you laugh and cry and giggle at times, but such a fabulous read. I am so happy that you have been able to find out about your Mom and Dad. You can rest now and your Mom must be over the moon to have finally found her firstborn. Thank you. Diana Mason, 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
Anyone familiar with Mount Everest – the world’s highest peak – will also know the names Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing. In 1953, these two men were the first to stand atop this mountain. The equipment they used to achieve this remarkable feat making it all the more something of legend. Even before I first opened Michael Gill’s book, I sensed I was holding something rather special. It did not disappoint. Michael was Hillary’s friend and expedition companion for 50 years. It shows. The detail in this book is incredible and it never ceases to engage the reader. Interspersed with letters, photographs, anecdotes from contributors and the words of Hillary himself, this is a fascinating insight into the life of one of our world’s true heroes. Hillary was first and foremost a mountaineer. He was also a beekeeper, a diplomat, an author, an explorer and a philanthropist. He suffered tragedy – his wife and 16-year-old child killed on their way to see him – and he overcame depression. Hillary said to others who wrote accounts of his life ‘I write my own books.’ I suspect he may have made an exception in this case. Hillary was a truly remarkable man and Michael Gill has, quite rightly, afforded him the honour of writing his story with respect and with great skill. Superb, just superb.
THE MASSIVE NO.1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER. 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.
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.