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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.
Suffused in warmth, wit and much love, Marlene Hobsbawm’s memoir is an un-put-down-able account of an inimitably fascinating life, “a record of family, friendship, travel, and an unwavering love between two unlikely individuals” who spent fifty years together. Born into a middle class Jewish family in pre-war Vienna, Marlene was five when her father had the foresight to relocate her family to the UK in 1937 to escape the rise of Nazism, first living in London, then Manchester, before evacuation to Staffordshire. Though initially self-conscious of her spoken English to the extent that she became “a self-imposed mute”, Marlene was a skilled linguist and secured a job with the UN in post-war Italy, later moving to work in The Congo. It was on her return to the UK from the latter that she met Eric, “a groovy single man about town, much in demand socially”. Like her life as a young working woman, Marlene and Eric’s married life was thrillingly unconventional, not surprising considering that Eric was the world’s most famous historian and witness to many pivotal global events, among them the Cuban revolution where he interpreted for Che Guevara. Indeed, much of Marlene and Eric’s time together was spent under the watch of MI5. It’s against such extraordinary backdrops that Marlene recalls her and Eric’s Christmases in Hampstead entertaining their social circle of left-wing intellectuals and artists; Boxing Days with Eric’s communist comrades; a visit from Chomsky; immersive visits to South America with their young family. Throughout, the author’s recounting of remarkable undertakings is full of grace and wit, and made all the more compelling by her matter-of-fact delivery and humour: “Surely everyone is glad to be home, wherever you’ve been, after a long absence. Home is knowing where the teabags are”. Moving, intimate and utterly engrossing, I adored every second spent in Marlene’s company through this charming memoir.
What do you get if you take a best-selling author and renowned trainer, and combine it with 14 months of research into a wide cross-section of jump jockeys? You get a compelling and informative book, that’s what! Whether you are a racing fan, a sports lover, looking for the ideal present, or just interested in seeing what makes the people who compete in one of the most dangerous sports, tick, then this could well be the book for you. With a foreword from Sir Anthony McCoy OBE, and appreciation by Yogi Breisner MBE you can tell that what is to come is going to be captivating. Author Henrietta Knight was the trainer of three time Cheltenham Cup winner Best Mate, she is a former teacher, eventer and Olympic selector, and still works with horses on a daily basis. In her introduction she explains that she has heard some fascinating stories in her research: “I’ve appreciated the frankness and trust that have been afforded to me… This book demonstrates my love for jump racing and my fascination for examining its grass roots”. She is basically looking at what it takes to be a jump jockey, what inspired each of her chosen, and gives her opinion on their skills and abilities. Some wonderful photos compliment the writing. In essence Starting From Scratch goes behind the scenes to explore the motivation and chart the success stories of some of our top jump jockeys.
A surgical-stocking-filler from the author of record-breaking million copy bestseller This Is Going To Hurt Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat . . . but 1.4 million NHS staff are heading off to work. In this perfect present for anyone who has ever set foot in a hospital, Adam Kay delves back into his diaries for a hilarious, horrifying and sometimes heartbreaking peek behind the blue curtain at Christmastime. Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas is a love letter to all those who spend their festive season on the front line, removing babies and baubles from the various places they get stuck, at the most wonderful time of the year.
In his first and only official autobiography, music icon Elton John reveals the truth about his extraordinary life, which is also the subject of the smash-hit film Rocketman. The result is Me - the joyously funny, honest and moving story of the most enduringly successful singer/songwriter of all time. Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three, he was performing his first gig in America, facing an astonished audience in his bright yellow dungarees, a star-spangled T-shirt and boots with wings. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again. His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with the Queen; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation. All the while, Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade. In Me Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you, by a living legend.
Amusing, inspirational and underpinned by a radiant reverence for its subjects, this collection shares the indomitable acts of fifteen fascist-fighting “loose canons”, toppling the perception that Christians of the cloth are meek and mild. The acts of opposition are framed within the context of Christianity’s ideological history: ”Since the days of St Paul, Christianity has had a lack of internal ethnic distinction as a key tenet of its teaching (if not, regrettably, always of its practice). Paul wrote that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female; all are one in Christ.” Within these dynamic accounts we meet a bedazzling band of brave clerics from across the continent. Take Abbé Pierre, the “miraculous mountaineering monk”, for example. He started out as “an awkward and gangly young would-be monk” and“ended his career the most respected and popular man in France” on account of his pivotal role in the Resistance against the Nazis and Italian Fascists. Enduring the massacre of comrades and incarceration, and having engaged in numerous audacious acts of Resistance, plucky Pierre’s spirit and ethos (“to serve the most needy first”) lives on today in his charity that spans thirty-seven countries. The author duly acknowledges that, “for every tale of bravery related above, there were tales of cowardice and collaboration”. He also points out that many of the men and women of the Resistance exhibited “the frailty of humanity” and goes on to posit the view that “true strength is achieved in embracing our weakness”. Sage words to conclude a book that’s suffused in the vitality of its subjects’ inspirational acts and the author’s affable wit.
This fascinating follow-up to the author’s bestselling A History of Britain in 21 Women immediately invites a big question: how to select only 21 women from around the globe, through all time? The source material is huge (if underrepresented), and the author sets out her criteria thusly: “What unites my chosen twenty-one is that each has faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve her ambition regardless of her colour or class.” Murray also notes her decision to “include as wide a range of clever, talented and determined woman as possible’” from all walks of life (“politicians, writers, artists, musicians, scientists and athletes”) and ethnic backgrounds. Many of the women are high profile figures - among them, Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Madonna - and Murray adds fresh personal perspective to her coverage of these. For example, in the account of her interviewing Atwood for the first time in 1988 she describes being “overwhelmingly impressed by her vast knowledge of history, culture and the human condition.” Other featured women are lesser-known trailblazers, such as the ingeniously inventivePharaoh Hatshepsut (c. 1500 BCE - c. 1458 BCE). This remarkable woman cleverly crafted her own creation myth (that she was born of the god Amon) to secure and validate her appointment as Pharaoh, a role in which she “was very successful artistically and politically.” As Murray writes in her introduction, these women “should be known, remembered, cheered and emulated by we who follow them.” This edifying anthology will certainly imbibe its readers with a sense of celebratory awe.
If you were to write a letter to your 16-year-old self, what would it say? In Dear Me, some of the world's most famous and best loved celebrities, from actors to chefs, directors to musicians, have written just such a letter. The letters range from the compassionate to the shocking via hilarity and heartbreak, but they all have one thing in common: they offer a unique insight into the teenager who would grow up to be... J.K. Rowling, Hugh Jackman, Kathleen Turner, Stan Lee, James Belushi, Moon Zappa, Seth Green, Piers Morgan, Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, Phil Ramone, Michael Winner, Alan Cumming, Jerry Springer, Armistead Maupin, E from The Eels, Ferran Adrià , Rose McGowan, James Woods or Gillian Anderson.
What words of wisdom would you write to your sixteen year old self now, in your older wiser years? Here is a collection of letters from an array of personalities giving their younger selves advice and guidance for what lies ahead. From Stephen Fry to Jackie Collins to Yoko Ono this is wonderful hilarious, moving collection with proceeds going to the Elton John Aids Foundation.
This companion to the work of one of Britain's best-loved novelists celebrates the centenary of her birth.
Politicians and sex scandals have been the subject of many a fiction (and fact but, I still canâ€™t picture Edwina and John having sex). However, this book is (we are lead to believe) a true account (names withheld) and it makes for pretty lurid reading (you have been warned!). We follow our anonymous politician through increasingly exotic encounters involving a fair number of other politicians. Unsurprisingly the identity of the author is much sought after as it would make pages of tabloid coverage. However, you have to ask, why write the book if you want to stay anonymous? And if you do know who the author is just drop us a quick email!
The story of 60 paintings is told, unlocking hidden meanings and symbols and over 700 photographs bring the pictures to life helping you understand the key features, composition and techniques that have made these paintings stand out. Plus, biographies of the artists provide the background to each art work helping you paint your own picture of the historical and social context behind each masterpiece. Great Paintings is a beautiful guide to the paintings that have changed the world, both familiar and new. It really is like having a gallery of all the great paintings at your fingertips.
Bad Education, written by and starring Jack Whitehall, follows Alfie Wickers the worst teacher to ever (dis)grace the British Education System, and a bigger kid than the pupils he teaches. Abbey Grove school is populated by some of the weirdest teachers you could ever meet: Fraser the hair-brained Headmaster who longs to be down with the kids, Miss Gulliver the biology teacher with a heart of gold but perhaps a dash too much openness and honesty, Miss Mollinson the happily swinging Head of Maths who won't let her hip replacement get in the way and Deputy Headmistress Miss Pickwell who displays all the charm and sensitivity of a Third Reich Dominatrix. Alfie's class is Form K, a bunch of misfits that have been written off by the rest of the school, but Alfie can't help but see a bit of himself in them. This is about a class of kids and their teacher's quest to get through life and get the best results with the minimum amount of effort possible. Sadly it's not an equation that always adds up. From a disastrous parents' evening to cringe-worthy sex-education lessons to life threatening self-defence classes to school elections full of dirty tricks and a school trip to see a rhino pig; Bad Education is school life as you've never seen it before. Bad Education: The Teachers' Handbook is filled with hilarious content from both the first and upcoming second series from pupils' report cards and the graffiti found in the staff toilets, to Alfie's teaching methods and the best ways to scam a free laptop from the government.
Steve Berry decided to do something a little bit different to raise funds for Alzheimer's Research UK. A life-long DOCTOR WHO fan, he began to interview celebrities, writers, actors and people who had worked on DOCTOR WHO, asking for their earliest memories of the show that sent us cowering behind the sofa. Now he presents the fruits of his four years of labour - a beautiful, touching book containing short articles and touching memories of one of the most successful TV shows ever. 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of DOCTOR WHO - this is the perfect way to enjoy those 50 years! This revised and expanded edition includes over 30 new entries from people such as Sophia Myles, Ben Aaronovitch, John Leeson and many more Contributors include comedians Al Murray, Stephen Merchant, and Bill Oddie; actors Lynda Bellingham, Nicholas Parsons, and Rhys Thomas; writers Neil Gaiman, Jenny Colgan, Jonathan Ross and Charlie Brooker and politicians Louise Mensch and Tom Harris. In addition, there is input from a number of the writers, actors and production staff who were involved in creating DOCTOR WHO stories new and old.
The only 100% fully OFFICIAL Annual - written in collaboration with One Direction. This is THE Annual for all 1D fans! The most successful band in the world - One Direction - are having an amazing year. A sell-out tour, bagging number one in 63 countries and the release of their first movie this summer are just some of their achievements. Find out straight from Harry, Liam, Louis, Niall and Zayn what they think about success, their musical influences, making the movie, their style, their amazing fans and much more! With exclusive interviews, up to the minute news and fantastic never-seen-before photos, this is a must-have for all One Direction fans, and a fantastic Christmas gift!
This is a beautifully packaged and illustrated gift book for girls to give to their best friends, their mums. 'I would rather go an entire week without my mobile phone than go one day without talking to you! Love you, Mum.' 'I promise not to play my music too loudly...If you promise to do the same! Love you, Mum.' Many mothers and daughters now share everything from shoes and make-up to Facebook and Twilight. Packed with gorgeous illustrations, photographs and sayings, Love You, Mum celebrates the growing bond between girls and their mums.
Money, cars, homes, holidays, parties and all the shoes you've ever dreamed of. The life of a footballer's wife or girlfriend must be as glamorous and exciting as her other half, right? But behind the closed doors of the Wag's world, there are all the pressures as well as pleasures of success. So what is it really like? The Secret Wag lays bare the reality of existence under the celebrity spotlight. It is about fashion and fame, sex and scandal, but, like the bestselling Secret Footballer books, is also an honest appraisal of life on and off the field of play which will change your preconceptions about footballers and their partners. It is sassy, outspoken, funny and above all, written from the heart. Meet The Secret Wag.
At the vulnerable age of 13, Lara McDonnell was picked out by a gang of men who befriended her, showered her with attention and gained her trust. Manipulated and groomed, her life quickly spiralled out of control as the men trafficked her around the country, deliberately keeping her compliant with drink and drugs. Deeply disturbed, and frightened about what the gang would do to her if she tried to break free, it would take over 4 years for Lara to find the strength to fight back, flee Oxford and escape her nightmare. This is her heartbreaking story.
Celia Fiennes travelled the length and breadth of England, riding side-saddle, at the dawn of the eighteenth century. o Discover the multiple journeys around the world undertaken in the 1840s by the Austrian Ida Pfeiffer. Dora d'Istria, a mountain-climbing duchess and polymath, travelled widely through Europe but her account of ascending Mont Blanc in 1860 is perhaps the most striking. Read about Isabel Burton's adventures as a government employee's wife stationed all over the world. Explore the writing of Isabella Bird who travelled around the world on doctor's orders - until finally retraining as a doctor and missionary in her sixties for a trip to India and its surrounding countries. Find out what motivated Marie Kingsley to travel solo to the deepest parts of West Africa and how her journeys shaped not only her own way of thinking but that of Europe as whole. Learn how May Kellogg Sullivan undertook her journey to Alaska and the Yukon to seek her fortune in the gold-mining world. Astonish yourself by finding out that, on a trip to Burma, India, Ceylon and Indonesia with her husband, Fanny Bullock Workman cycled 15,000 miles (as a welcome break from glacier-climbing in the Himalayas). Follow investigative journalist Nellie Bly as she takes up Jules Verne's gauntlet to travel around the world in eighty days. Or find out how Ella Sykes once rode on horseback from the Caspian Sea all the way to India.
Elma Napier's Black and White Sands (Papillote Press) is one of my favourite books of all time. It's the enthralling autobiography of a Scottish-born aristocrat who in 1932 abandoned the trappings and vacuity of high society for a dramatically different new life in the wildly majestic Caribbean island of Dominica. Like the island, Elma's spirit is indomitable (indeed, she was the first woman to sit in a West Indian parliament), her voice witty and engaging as she recounts the trials and tribulations, the joys and jubilations she and her husband experienced while building their home and new lives on their beloved adopted island: With Dominica we fell in love at first sight, an infatuation without tangible rhyme or reason, yet no more irrational than any other falling in love. Sublime. From our Best Autobiographies Ever Blog
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.