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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.
* One of Shakespeare's relatives was executed for plotting against Elizabeth I. * There are more than 80 records of Shakespeare's name. Not one of them says 'William Shakespeare'. * Shakespeare once played the ghost in Hamlet. * Shakespeare wore a gold earring in his left ear.
The violent racism of the American South drove Wayne Flynt away from his home state of Alabama, but the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's classic novel about courage, community and equality, inspired him to return in the early 1960s and craft a career documenting and teaching Alabama history. His writing resonated with many Alabamians, in particular three sisters: Louise, Alice, and Nelle Harper Lee. Beginning with their first meeting in 1983, a mutual respect and affection for the state's history and literature matured into a deep friendship between two families who can trace their roots there back more than five generations. Flynt and Nelle Harper Lee began writing to one other while she was living in New York - heartfelt, insightful and humorous letters in which they swapped stories, information and opinions on topics both personal and professional: their families, books, Alabama history and social values, health concerns, and even their fears and accomplishments. Though their earliest missives began formally - Dear Dr Flynt - as the years passed and their mutual admiration grew, their exchanges became more intimate and emotional, opening with Dear Friend and closing with I love you, Nelle. Through their enduring correspondence, the Lees and the Flynts became completely immersed in each other's lives.
Wendy Cope has long been one of the nation's best-loved poets, with her sharp eye for human foibles and wry sense of humour. For the first time, Life, Love and the Archers brings together the best of her prose - recollections, reviews and essays from the light-hearted to the serious, taken from a lifetime of published and unpublished work, and all with Cope's lightness of touch. Here readers can meet the Enid-Blyton-obsessed schoolgirl, the ambivalent daughter, the amused teacher, the sensitive journalist, the cynical romantic and the sardonic television critic, as well as touching on books and writers who have informed a lifetime of reading and writing. Wendy Cope is a master of the one-liner as well as the couplet, the telling review as well as the sonnet, and Life, Love and the Archers gives us a wonderfully entertaining and unforgettable portrait of one of England's favourite writers.
On a bitterly cold night in January 2012, Haatchi the dog was hit over the head, and abandoned on a railway line to be hit by a train. The driver saw the adorable five-month old Anatolian Shepherd moments too late. Somehow, the terrified puppy survived the blood loss from his partially severed leg and tail and managed to crawl away to safety. Fortunately, Haatchi was rescued, although vets couldn't save his leg and tail. A Facebook appeal brought him to the attention of a couple of kind-hearted dog lovers, Colleen Drummond and Will Howkins, who are also the dad and stepmum of Owen (known to his family as Little B for 'little buddy'). One look at Haatchi's expressive face told them all they needed to know and the lucky dog moved into the Howkins' family home just six weeks after almost being killed. Owen, now aged eight, has a rare genetic disorder which causes his muscles to tense permanently. Largely confined to a wheelchair, he was withdrawn and anxious and found it difficult to make friends. But when Owen awoke the morning after Haatchi arrived he immediately fell in love with the severely disabled rescue animal who would, in turn, rescue him. This book tells their inspiring true story - one astonishing little boy and the very special dog who has changed his life forever.
Featured on The TV Book Club on More4 on 21 March 2010. We have in Andrew Robinson Stoney the deepest dyed of villains, we have a heroine in Mary Eleanor Bowes and we have Georgian society and law showing little mercy for women fighting for release from men such as Stoney. And if this incredible story resembles fiction we discover that Thackeray based his novel, Barry Lyndon on this whole sorry case. Like for Like ReadingLady Worsley’s Whim: An Eighteenth Century Tales of Sex, Scandal and Divorce, Hallie RubenholdThe Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England, A Vickery
The colourful and often gruesome life of the 18th-century pioneering surgeon and anatomist John Hunter generally regarded as the father of modern medicine
From Monet's water lilies to Van Gogh's sunflowers, from Warhol's soup cans to Hirst's pickled shark, hear the stories behind the masterpieces, meet the artists as they really were, and discover the real point of modern art. You will learn: not all conceptual art is bollocks; Picasso is king (but Cezanne is better); Pollock is no drip; Dali painted with his moustache; a urinal changed the course of art, why your 5-year-old really couldn't do it. Refreshing, irreverent and always straightforward, What Are You Looking At? cuts through the pretentious art speak and asks all the basic questions that you were too afraid to ask. Your next gallery trip is going to be a little less intimidating and a lot more interesting. It includes full of beautiful colour and black and white illustrations. It includes a free pull-out map of Modern Art to guide you through the movements. 'Will Gompertz is a natural communicator whose passion for art is expressed with wit and verve' Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate Gallery Will Gompertz is the BBC Arts Editor and probably the world's first art history stand-up comedian. He was a Director at the Tate Gallery for 7 years. He has a particular interest in modern art and has written about the arts for The Times and the Guardian for over 20 years. In 2009, he wrote and performed a sell-out one-man comedy show about modern art at the Edinburgh Festival. He was recently voted one of the world's top 50 creative thinkers by New York's Creativity Magazine .
Hilarious, reflective and heartbreaking, The House Is Full Of Yogis is the story of a childhood turned upside down. Once upon a time in the 1980s, the Hodgkinsons were just like any other family. Liz and Neville lived with their sons, Tom and Will, in a semi-detached house in the suburbs of Southwest London. Neville was an award-winning medical correspondent. Liz was a high-earning tabloid journalist. Friends and neighbours turned up to their parties clutching bottles of Mateus Rose. Then, while recovering from a life-threatening bout of food poisoning, Neville had a Damascene revelation. Life was never the same again. Out went drunken dinner parties and Victorian decor schemes. In came hordes of white-clad Yogis meditating in the living room and lectures on the forthcoming apocalypse. Liz took the opportunity to wage all-out war on convention, from denouncing motherhood as a form of slavery to promoting her book Sex Is Not Compulsory on television chat shows, just when Will was discovering girls for the first time. While the laconic Tom took it all in his stride, the arrival of the Brahma Kumaris threw Will into crisis. And as if his Yogi father, feminist mother and the end of the world weren't enough, he was also hopelessly in love with his best friend's sister.
A witty memoir about the trials of adolescence, the tribulations of family life and the embarrassment that ensues from having larger-than-life parents Neville and Liz Hodgkinson bought into the Thatcherite dream of home ownership, aspiration and advancement. The first children of their working class parents to go to university and have professional careers, they lived in a semi-detached house in Richmond, sent their sons Tom and Will to private school, and went on holiday to Greece once a year. Neville was an award-winning science writer and Liz was a high-earning tabloid hack. Then a disastrous boat holiday, followed by a life-threatening bout of food poisoning from a contaminated turkey, led to the search for a new way of life. Nev joined the Brahma Kumaris, who believe evolution is a myth, time is circular, and a forthcoming Armageddon will make way for a new Golden Age. Out went drunken dinner parties and Victorian decor schemes; in came large women in saris meditating in the living room and lurid paintings of smiling deities on the walls. Liz took the arrival of the Brahma Kumaris as a chance to wage all-out war on convention, from announcing her newfound celibacy on prime time television to writing books that questioned the value of getting married and raising children. By an unfortunate coincidence, this dramatic and highly public transformation of the self coincided with the onset of Will's adolescence. This is his story.
Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2009. Costa Book Awards 2009 Judges' comment: "A beautifully-written evocation of place, loss and family." William Fiennes' account of growing up at Broughton Castle is charming and full of detail. It makes all those childhood dreams of growing up in ones own castle come flooding back. Along with this though is the story of Williams's brother Richard who suffered from epilepsy and despite the stresses this caused the family there is an overwhelming feeling of love throughout. A sensitively and honestly told memoir
Surfing only looks like a sport. To devotees, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a mental and physical study, a passionate way of life. William Finnegan first started surfing as a young boy in California and Hawaii. Barbarian Days is his immersive memoir of a life spent travelling the world chasing waves through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa and beyond. Finnegan describes the edgy yet enduring brotherhood forged among the swell of the surf; and recalling his own apprenticeship to the world's most famous and challenging waves, he considers the intense relationship formed between man, board and water. Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, a social history, an extraordinary exploration of one man's gradual mastering of an exacting and little-understood art. It is a memoir of dangerous obsession and enchantment.
Winner of History Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2005 A perfect match of author and subject. I was privileged to be at a dinner where Hague spoke to the book trade, pre-publication. I can’t remember seeing an author so excited about his subject since I listened to Tim Smitt talk about the Eden Project. He was truly inspiring, a man in love with his subject who relates it here with drama, authority and wit.
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.