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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.
Virginia Howes was a mother of four doing the ironing when she had a revelation. Still broody, but not really wanting to add to her family, she realised that becoming a midwife was her true vocation. It was a long journey to get the education and qualifications she needed, especially with a young family, but she was determined and never doubted her decision. Following her training, she spent three years working within the NHS, but her naturally independent spirit fought against the constraints of the system and twelve years ago she decided to set up on her own. Virginia works with mothers who want to give birth at home naturally, something which Virginia believes in passionately. 350 births later, Virginia still loves what she does. The Baby's Coming is Virginia's memoir and tells the stories of her training as a midwife as well as some of the most memorable of those 350 births: the most dramatic, the most touching. Virginia particularly remembers the births of her own grandchildren whose arrivals in the world were some of the most special moments for her as both a midwife and grandmother.
Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 19 March 2009. The much-loved actress recalls her life and charitable conservation work. Part of the proceeds from each book sold will go to support Born Free Foundation campaigns.
In Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes, Virginia Nicholson tells the story of women in the 1950s: a time before the Pill, when divorce spelled scandal and two-piece swimsuits caused mass alarm. Turn the page back to the mid-twentieth century, and discover a world peopled by women with radiant smiles, clean pinafores and gleaming coiffures; a promised land of batch-baking, maraschino cherries and brightly hued plastic. A world where the darker side of the decade encompassed rampant prostitution, a notorious murder, and the threat of nuclear disaster. Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes reconstructs the real 1950s, through the eyes of the women who lived it. Step back in time to when our grandmothers scrubbed their doorsteps, cared for their families, lived, laughed, loved and struggled. This is their story.
October 2010 Guest Editor Juliet Gardiner on The Diary of Virginia Woolf... In my view there is no finer diarist of the 20th century than Virginia Woolf, and the two volumes that span the decade from 1931 to her suicide in 1941provide a penetrating and poetic witness to the period from the pen of a writer of cool perception and matchless literary originality.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS 2018 What was I fighting for? Even now I'm not sure. Something so old and so deep, it has no words, no shape, no logic. Every memoir is a battle between reality and invention - but in her follow up to Clothes, Music, Boys, Viv Albertine has reinvented the genre with her unflinching honesty. To Throw Away Unopened is a fearless dissection of one woman's obsession with the truth - the truth about family, power, and her identity as a rebel and outsider. It is a gaping wound of a book, both an exercise in blood-letting and psychological archaeology, excavating what lies beneath: the fear, the loneliness, the anger. It is a brutal expose of human dysfunctionality, the impossibility of true intimacy, and the damage wrought upon us by secrets and revelations, siblings and parents. Yet it is also a testament to how we can rebuild ourselves and come to face the world again. It is a portrait of the love stories that constitute a life, often bringing as much pain as joy. With the inimitable blend of humour, vulnerability, and intelligence that makes Viv Albertine one of our finest authors working today, To Throw Away Unopened smashes through layers of propriety and leads us into a new place of savage self-discovery. LONGLISTED FOR THE GORDON BURN PRIZE
Viv Groskop is fed up, recession-scarred and pushing 40. She always wanted to be a stand-up comedian. But surely that's not advisable if you have three children, a mortgage and a husband who hates stand-up comedy? With no time to waste, she attempts the mother of all comedy marathons - 100 gigs in 100 nights. She laughs. Sometimes at her own jokes. Occasionally the audience laughs too. Often they don't. And she cries. Tears of joy, of misery and of profound self-loathing. This is an alarmingly specific and reckless experiment with a reassuringly universal and inspiring message. You CAN do what you want to do even if it's completely terrifying. You CAN try something new without giving up the day job. And you CAN go after what you really want in life without destroying everything around you. Well, not absolutely everything.
Vivienne Westwood is one of the icons of our age; fashion designer, activist, co-creator of punk, global brand and grandmother; a true living legend. Both her name and brand are recognised the world over, whilst at home in the UK she has attained National Treasure status as the nation's favourite fearless female icon. This is her story. Told for the first time in all its glamour and glory and with her unique voice, unexpected perspective and passionate honesty: 'The living deserve respect. The dead deserve the truth; Ian and I are working together on this and I am excited that this will be my story, the story nobody ever did before.' For the first and only time, she is both writing and collaborating on a unique personal memoir and authorised biography: partly her own voice, partly through contributions from her vast network of friends, family and associates. Ian Kelly (award-winning biographer of, amongst others, fashion maverick Beau Brummell and the original self-publicist, Giacomo Casanova) brings the insights of a historian and friend of Vivienne to the life and works of one of the major influences of our age in this wonderful, insightful collaboration.
Selected as a Book of the Year by the New York Times, Times Literary Supplement and The Times Despite his status as the most despised political figure in history, there have only been four serious biographies of Hitler since the 1930s. Even more surprisingly, his biographers have been more interested in his rise to power and his methods of leadership than in Hitler the person: some have even declared that the Fuhrer had no private life. Yet to render Hitler as a political animal with no personality to speak of, as a man of limited intelligence and poor social skills, fails to explain the spell that he cast not only on those close to him but on the German people as a whole. In the first volume of this monumental biography, Volker Ullrich sets out to correct our perception of the Fuhrer. While charting in detail Hitler's life from his childhood to the eve of the Second World War against the politics of the times, Ullrich unveils the man behind the public persona: his charming and repulsive traits, his talents and weaknesses, his deep-seated insecurities and murderous passions.
Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 17 May 2012. This is my story, the story of an Arab woman. It is the story of a lost world. It begins in 1917, in Lebanon, when I was seven years old. So opens this haunting memoir by Wadad Makdisi Cortas, who eloquently describes her personal experience of the events that have fractured the Middle East over the past century. Through Cortas eyes we experience life in Lebanon under the oppressive French mandate, and her desire to forge an Arab identity based on religious tolerance. We learn of her dedication to the education of women, and the difficulties that she overcomes to become the principal of a school in Lebanon. And in final, heartbreaking detail, we watch as her world becomes rent by the Palestine question, Western interference, and civil war. The World I Loved is both an elegy on Lebanon and her people, and the unforgettable story of one womans journey from hope to sorrow as she bears painful witness to the undoing of her beloved country by sectarian and religious division.
Steve Jobs redefined the computing industry and then redefined the phone. To understand what drove him Isaacson interviewed him many times to create this book. At times searingly honest, this is a comprehensive profile of a man who became a tech idol. Paul Cheney, from our Best Autobiographies Ever Blog.
Swansong 1945 brings together hundreds of letters, diary extracts and autobiographical accounts to chronicle four days in 1945: 20th April, Hitler's last birthday, 25th April, when American and Soviet troops first met at the Elbe, 30th April, the day Hitler committed suicide, and 8th May, the day of the German surrender. Side by side in these pages, we encounter civilians fleeing on foot to the west, British and American POWs dreaming of home, concentration camp survivors, loyal soldiers from both sides of the conflict as well as national leaders including Churchill. These first-hand accounts, which Walter Kempowski painstakingly collected, organised and shaped for publication over twenty years, provide the raw material of history unmediated by a historian's narrative. The voices of individuals speak for themselves, and through their many experiences, perspectives and situations, the condition of Europe during the zero hour of war is viscerally recreated. A modern classic, this vital work brings to life a time whose repercussions are still felt today.
Churchill’s gift for words as a speaker and a writer – “we will fight them on the beaches”...”we will not give in”...and most tellingly “history will be kind to me for I intend to write it” has given us a somewhat one sided view of his part as the war leader of the nation. Here Walter Reid shows just how much Churchill was hampered and hemmed in on all sides, as Reid says, if it wasn’t his own Generals or Parliament, it was the Free French and the most daunting of all, the Americans who had to be either confronted or wooed. And its these confrontations and battles that Reid concentrates on in this most revealing history. Like for Like ReadingThe Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940-1945, Max HastingsThe Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, Andrew Roberts
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.