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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.
NUMBER 1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER No one is born a leader. But through sheer determination and by confronting life's challenges, Ant Middleton has come to know the meaning of true leadership. In First Man In, he shares the core lessons he's learned over the course of his fascinating, exhilarating life. Special forces training is no walk in the park. The rules are strict and they make sure you learn the hard way, pushing you beyond the limits of what is physically possible. There is no mercy. Even when you are bleeding and broken, to admit defeat is failure. To survive the gruelling selection process to become a member of the elite you need toughness, aggression, meticulous attention to detail and unrelenting self-discipline, all traits that make for the best leaders. After 13 years service in the military, with 4 years as a Special Boat Service (SBS) sniper, Ant Middleton is the epitome of what it takes to excel. He served in the SBS, the naval wing of the special forces, the Royal Marines and 9 Parachute Squadron Royal, achieving what is known as the `Holy Trinity' of the UK's Elite Forces. As a point man in the SBS, Ant was always the first man through the door, the first man into the dark, and the first man in harm's way. In this fascinating, exhilarating and revealing book, Ant speaks about the highs and gut-wrenching lows of his life - from the thrill of passing Special Forces Selection to dealing with the early death of his father and ending up in prison on leaving the military - and draws valuable lessons that we can all use in our daily lives.
There is no nice way to kill an enemy soldier who is trying to kill you. Soldiers are our guardians, we expect them to go to the places we don’t want to go and do things we are untrained and afraid to do. We expect them to keep the bad guys at bay, away from our safe and peaceful lives. And we expect them to do all this with dignity, restraint and within the constraints of law. In May, 2004, together with a small group of lightly armed fellow soldiers from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, Brian Wood left the comparative safety of a Warrior personnel carrier to engage in a close-quarters fire-fight with enemy soldiers. The bravery he showed in the subsequent engagement resulted in his being awarded the Military Cross. In 2009, enemy combatants who surrendered during the battle attempted – through an established firm of UK lawyers – to sue the British Government by claiming they were innocent farmers going about their normal day when they had been attacked by British soldiers, beaten, tortured, unlawfully imprisoned and then some of their number had been murdered while in detention. Double Crossed tells the story of Brian Wood’s fight to clear his name, of the duplicity and highly questionable motives of certain members of the legal profession, and of the effect of discovering your every move, your every thought and your every decision - made during a tense and life-threatening battle - can be the subject of ill-informed and ill-qualified analysis by others in the safe environment of a court where, should those that have never been there and will never truly understand, decide you have acted outside the law, the price you may pay for surviving is imprisonment. This is an excellent read, and not just for those who empathise with Brian Wood. Frightening at times, infuriating at others, Double Crossed never fails to engage the reader. Anyone who is interested in modern society’s struggle to differentiate between right and wrong, between good and evil, and between justice and injustice should read it.
For more than 25 years, David Nott has taken unpaid leave from his job as a general and vascular surgeon with the NHS to volunteer in some of the world's most dangerous war zones. From Sarajevo under siege in 1993 to clandestine hospitals in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, he has carried out lifesaving operations and field surgery in the most challenging conditions, and with none of the resources of a major London teaching hospital. The conflicts he has worked in form a chronology of 21st-century combat: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur, Congo, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Gaza and Syria. But he has also volunteered in areas blighted by natural disasters, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal. Driven both by compassion and passion, the desire to help others and the thrill of extreme personal danger, he is now widely acknowledged to be the most experienced trauma surgeon in the world. But as time went on, David Nott began to realise that flying into a catastrophe - whether war or natural disaster - was not enough. Doctors on the ground needed to learn how to treat the appalling injuries that war inflicts upon its victims. Since 2015, the foundation he set up with his wife, Elly, has disseminated the knowledge he has gained, training other doctors in the art of saving lives threatened by bombs and bullets. War Doctor is his extraordinary story.
Random House presents the audiobook edition of Educated by Tara Westover, read by Julia Whelan. Tara Westover and her family grew up preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn't exist. She hadn't been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she'd never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn't believe in hospitals. As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she had to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education, and the price she had to pay for it.
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER WITH A NEW CHAPTER ON TURNING THIRTY Winner of Autobiography of the Year at the National Book Awards 2018 Award-winning journalist Dolly Alderton survived her twenties (just about) and in Everything I Know About Love, she gives an unflinching account of the bad dates and squalid flat-shares, the heartaches and humiliations, and most importantly, the unbreakable female friendships that helped her to hold it all together. Glittering with wit, heart and humour, this is a book to press into the hands of every woman who has ever been there or is about to find themselves taking that first step towards the rest of their lives.
Simple, stunning, provocative, loved it! Author Raynor Winn has written about her own journey around the South West Coastal Path with her husband Moth. The synopsis sounds heartbreaking, it is heartbreaking, yet this is one of the most positive and hopeful memoirs I have read. After a three year trial Moth and Raynor lose their home and livelihood then within days Moth is informed he is terminally ill. Hiding under the stairs with the bailiffs at the door Raymor and Moth decide to wild walk the coastal path around the south west of England. The Salt Path was shortlisted for the 2018 Costa Biography Award and the hardback was a Times Top 10 bestseller, all deservedly so. The prologue captures a moment on the journey, a moment of wonder, of joy, of realisation and I just knew I was going to fall in love with this tale. Raynor Winn writes her own story with such positivity, she puts everything in, opens the door and lays her life bare. Raynor allowed me to see that this so could so easily be my situation, encouraged me to think, ponder, contemplate, I felt wonder at their determination and almost elated as I came to the end of the book. The Salt Path is an eye-opening, truly inspirational read and I’ve chosen it as one of my picks of the month.
Christie Watson was a nurse for twenty years. Taking us from birth to death and from A&E to the mortuary, The Language of Kindness is an astounding account of a profession defined by acts of care, compassion and kindness. We watch Christie as she nurses a premature baby who has miraculously made it through the night, we stand by her side during her patient's agonising heart-lung transplant, and we hold our breath as she washes the hair of a child fatally injured in a fire, attempting to remove the toxic smell of smoke before the grieving family arrive. In our most extreme moments, when life is lived most intensely, Christie is with us. She is a guide, mentor and friend. And in these dark days of division and isolationism, she encourages us all to stretch out a hand.
While this anthology’s theme may sound niche, its appeal and scope is universal. Indeed, it’s underpinned by fundamental age-old questions: “What does compel someone to leave their country of origin, which is the story before their departure? And then what happens to them on their journey to the new place, which is the story of getting from one place to another? And what causes them to finally land somewhere and decide to stay, if not for the rest of their lives, then for an extended period?” The answers to such questions are voiced here by twenty women whose stories are vary vastly, with contributors hailing from places as diverse as Lebanon, Scotland, France, Germany, the USA, Mozambique, Spain, Brazil and more countries besides. Together their stories constitute a fascinating chorus of experiences borne from the author’s enrollment in an organisation created to help newcomers “feel at home in this beautiful country,” her desire to chronicle female oral history, and a belief in the human need for agency. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
Fresh from finishing the Marathon des Sables, Ranulph Fiennes has become the oldest Briton to complete this ultimate endurance test. The world's greatest living explorer, has travelled to some of the most remote, dangerous parts of the globe. Well-known for his experiences at the poles and climbing Everest, he has also endured some of the hottest conditions on the planet, where temperatures regularly exceed 40 degrees and, without water and shelter, death is inevitable.
As I first approached Nick’s second account of his life as a professional mountain climber, I thought the title a little unusual. I wondered if, perhaps, it is a term peculiar to the world he inhabits. Not so, I discovered as I read. It is far more generic, and a more apt title for his story I could not imagine. Tides describes Nick’s highs and lows, his peaks and troughs, the times when things go well and ambitions are fulfilled, and those occasions when failure, fear, self-doubt or grief are present. I read Tides at a time when reports are coming in of climbers killed in India, of more deaths on Everest and, like many, I wonder what it is that drives people like these to push themselves to the very limits of human physical and mental endurance as they tackle such a perilous pursuit. Tides answers this question. You will read not only about the achievement and the challenges but also the nature that surrounds the climber – something we, from our comfortable armchairs will likely never see. You will be transported to Nick’s world, to experience raw and inhospitable landscapes, to witness bravery and, in doing so, to enjoy it with him. Read it. And thank people like Nick Bullock for bringing this world into ours.
Michael Parkinson and George Best faced one another countless times in interviews. Their conversations were mutually respectful, even intimate, yet always brimming with searching questions and revealing answers. The great Manchester United and Northern Ireland attacker - one of the few sports personalities to merit the term 'iconic' - was almost always candid, lucid and self-effacing. Alcoholism had him in its grip from an early age, affecting the love affairs that fed the tabloid headlines, but there was far more to Best than booze and birds. In George Best: A Memoir, Michael Parkinson draws upon decades of award-winning journalistic experience to re-evaluate a remarkable footballer and a damaged friend. The book weaves together recollections of when the 'the fifth Beatle' ensured it was Manchester, not London or Liverpool, which made the Sixties swing; of Best enjoying a carefree kickabout with the Parkinsons' children in the family garden; and selected transcripts from their endlessly fascinating interviews. 'Where did it all go wrong?' is the punchline to a famous Best story. George Best: A Memoir provides Michael Parkinson's considered response to the question while bringing fresh insight into the footballing genius that made Best one of the immortals and the self-destructive side of his character.
Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Becoming by Michelle Obama. An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America - the first African-American to serve in that role - she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her - from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world's most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it - in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations - and whose story inspires us to do the same.
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.