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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.
Kiss Me Goodbye, Ferdinand Mount’s personal memoir of his mysterious millionaire Aunt Munca, dances with evocative detail - of people, place and period - and is an affectionate, fascinating delight. Elegantly appointed mansions. Upper echelon entertaining. Exuberant outings in a Rolls-Royce - these are among the author’s early memories (from 1945) of his enigmatic, affectionate Aunt Betty, who asks to be called Munca after a Beatrix Potter mouse. But through time, and little by little, big questions begin to gnaw - where did Aunt Munca’s adopted daughter go, and why? Why did she force her daughter to break-off her engagement to David Dimbleby? Why did Munca never mention her first marriage? Having seen “just enough through the half-open door into the next room”, the author cannot resist entering the next room: “I had tugged the thread and I could not resist following it to the end.” And so an exhilarating quest to untangle Munca’s truths begins. It’s a thrilling edge-of-your-seat journey as Mount uncovers documents, photos and articles that reveal the many fabrications of his mysterious Aunt Munca, and other family members. The tangled threads take tenacious Mount from mid-century high society to the back streets of industrial Sheffield, and wind-up with an unexpectedly joyous find.
A truly fascinating investigative piece focusing on journalist and ghost hunter Nandor Fodor who researched Alma Fielding in 1938 after a poltergeist attack. Described as historical narrative non fiction, Kate Summerscale opens a door into the world of spiritualism just as the Second World War was starting. Her prologue explains that she visited the Society for Psychical Research to look up Nandor Fodor and found his original papers including the dossier on Alma. It contained transcripts of her seances, interviews, lab reports, x-rays copies of her contracts, notes, sketches and photographs. The author sets out to explore the link between suffering and the supernatural. This is as much about Fodor as it is Fielding, their link at times almost disturbing. The story is laid out before you, Kate Summerscale thoughtfully relays the information without prejudice, and doesn’t judge, allowing the reader to form their own thoughts. The Haunting of Alma Fielding is a riveting read encouraging thorough yet reflective reasoning that is likely to continue long after the tale is told.
This memoir from a forensic scientist and cold case reviewer makes for absolutely fascinating, and rather chilling reading. Jim Fraser has had a 40 year career which has included the cases of Rachel Nickell and Damilola Taylor. Here he looks at the murder investigations which have been difficult to solve, and cases that remain controversial or unsolved. Bringing his knowledge and personal experience into play helps build a framework of awareness of the challenges faced by investigators. I could tell in the author’s note before I started reading that it is really important to the author that this memoir is not seen as gratuitous (though it is graphic). He is clear that the book “melds recollection with reflection… supplemented with research”. As someone who worked as a member of police staff for twenty years, I found parts made for uncomfortable reading. Jim Fraser is at times damning, highlighting the downfalls of the system. It is quite obvious that with financial restraints, different systems, and human foibles, mistakes will be made, and when a life is at stake it is hard to swallow. Murder Under the Microscope offers a compelling window into a world that most know little about.
Moving, honest and inspiring – this is a nurse’s story of life in a busy A&E department during the Covid-19 crisis. Working in A&E is a challenging job but nurse Louise Curtis loves it. She was newly qualified as an advanced clinical practitioner, responsible for life or death decisions about the patients she saw, when the unthinkable happened and the country was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The stress on the NHS was huge and for the first time in her life, the job was going to take a toll on Louise herself. In A Nurse’s Story she describes what happened next, as the trickle of Covid patients became a flood. And just as tragically, staff in A&E were faced with the effects of lockdown on society. They worried about their regulars, now missing, and saw an increase in domestic abuse victims and suicide attempts as loneliness hit people hard. By turns heartbreaking and heartwarming, this book shines a light on the compassion and dedication of hospital staff during such dark times.
A stunning collection of essays and memoir from twice Booker Prize winner and international bestseller Hilary Mantel, author of The Mirror and the Light In 1987, when Hilary Mantel was first published in the London Review of Books, she wrote to the editor, Karl Miller, ‘I have no critical training whatsoever, so I am forced to be more brisk and breezy than scholarly.’ This collection of twenty reviews, essays and pieces of memoir from the next three decades, tells the story of what happened next. Her subjects range far and wide: Robespierre and Danton, the Hite report, Saudi Arabia where she lived for four years in the 1980s, the Bulger case, John Osborne, the Virgin Mary as well as the pop icon Madonna, a brilliant examination of Helen Duncan, Britain’s last witch. There are essays about Jane Boleyn, Charles Brandon, Christopher Marlowe and Margaret Pole, which display the astonishing insight into the Tudor mind we are familiar with from the bestselling Wolf Hall Trilogy. Her famous lecture, ‘Royal Bodies’, which caused a media frenzy, explores the place of royal women in society and our imagination. Here too are some of her LRB diaries, including her first meeting with her stepfather and a confrontation with a circus strongman. Constantly illuminating, always penetrating and often very funny, interleaved with letters and other ephemera gathered from the archive, Mantel Pieces is an irresistible selection from one of our greatest living writers
In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado's engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing experience with a charismatic but volatile woman, this is a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Each chapter views the relationship through a different lens, as Machado holds events up to the light and examines them from distinct angles. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction, infusing all with her characteristic wit, playfulness and openness to enquiry. The result is a powerful book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.
If you need a slice of pick-me-up then stop right here. Dean Nicholson is famous on social media as 1bike1world. His original aim to cycle solo around the world changed when he rescued abandoned kitten Nala and she joined him on his travels. The book charts his and Nala’s story and contains some squeezably lovely photos too. It seems as though Dean is still in shock at how quickly people took to his story (their instagram page at the time of writing sits at 810k followers). Dean comes across as completely down to earth and appreciative of the small things in life, the things that actually matter and mean the world. He has seen the very best of people, while also bearing witness to the sorrowful treatment of animals by some. Dean has raised a huge amount for charity since Nala came into his life. She is one photogenic cat, and her utter trust and love for Dean shines through. A hugely glorious bundle of feel-good, Nala’s World comes with beaming smiles of recommendation from me. Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, this would make a perfect gift for a loved one (don’t forget to buy a copy for yourself too!). Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
A well-written book offering readers a fascinating glimpse into the little-known world of the modern Navy and its submarine service. Littered with amusing stories and anecdotes, Thompson’s writing entertains as well as informs. I was a little surprised some of the content isn’t covered by the Official Secrets Act but we must be grateful that its time constraints allow us to now read what was actually going on beneath the waves and how these dedicated people helped prevent the Cold War becoming more.
For ages 9 to 90 ‘Every story is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive’, says Khosrou – or Daniel as he’s known to his new classmates in Oklahoma - the narrator of the many wonderful stories that make up this book. Central of course is his own story, how with his mother and sister he had to flee his home in Iran, leaving his father behind, but there are also the stories of his grandparents and great-grandparents, plus the myths that he’s grown up with. Horribly picked on at school and tormented at home by his new step-father, he shares his stories Scheherazade-like with his class and with us, the lucky readers, and because of that we know that one day he will be whole again. Poignant, touching, funny and heart-breaking, this is a book in a million, a story that will connect with every person who reads it and become part of their own.
In this frank and friendly memoir of alcoholism, Karolina Robinson is nothing but honest in relating her experiences. The down-to-earth style makes Let There Be Time highly readable. There’s no distance between writer and reader here - Karolina’s voice and conversational exclamations ring loud and clear throughout. “Alcohol was always a massive part of my life,” Karolina reveals at the start of her story. As a child, she associated her parents’ excessive drinking with freedom and fun: “I used to get excited when I saw my parents drinking! They were less strict, more relaxed and would give me cash for candy!” She also recalls that bringing her mum a mug of wine every night gave her a sense that she was doing something good - she was taking care of mum. From here, Karolina’s childhood descended into a much darker place, the details of which are recounted in her first book, Let There Be Light. In Let There Be Time she shares blunt details of her personal path to alcohol dependence, from getting drunk as a fourteen-year-old, to using alcohol to make friends and be liked by colleagues in the hospitality industry, running to the Netherlands, London and Malta in search of happiness. It was in Malta, after a painful break-up precipitated by an alcohol-fuelled argument, that Karolina “stopped drinking. I became the person I was always meant to be.”
As Tough Women’s subtitle declares, these are “stories of grit, courage and determination”. True tales from twenty-two tough women from around the globe who undertake awe-inspiring adventures across the globe, from canoeing the Canadian wilderness, to hiking Pakistan, to cycling South America. Its editor is the intrepid Jenny Tough, a Canadian mountaineering expert who notes in her introduction that “the outdoor industry is actually fully of women, but when it comes to the highest level of media…the demographic dwindles to one”. Fortunately, this sexist state of affairs could be on the verge of changing - through giving voice to the “badass outdoorswomen” who here tell their extraordinary stories, this book might just change that narrow narrative and inspire new generations of female adventuresses. Each account enthrals like the best kind of travel writing. There are dazzling evocations of, for example, rugged Himalayan mountain-scapes, lush South American jungles, and howling Norwegian glacial valleys. Many of the women’s stories reveal monumental physical and emotional challenges - challenges tackled and overcome with super-human strength and resilience - and all of them underpinned by a joyously life-affirming spirit of curiosity.
Paul Armstrong’s Why Are We Always Indoors? is a slam-dunk account of the COVID-19 pandemic from mid-March 2020 to 21st June that Boris Johnson devotees might want to avoid, but should definitely read. On the other hand, readers enraged by the likes of PPE shortages, Dominic Cummings’s Barnard Castle road-trip eye test, and track and trace bungles will find a kindred spirit in Armstrong. It certainly packs potent personal and political punch. This London lockdown diary began life “as a way of recording daily reflections on the most bizarre football close-season ever known, and to fill the long hours of lockdown” but, “as events beyond our four walls grew darker, so the focus drifted from whimsical musings on football, TV and music to a growing unease with how a dreadful pandemic was being handled.” As so much has shifted, flipped and flopped since the author began keeping this journal, reading his account of the experience some seven months later is a vital reminder of what we’ve been through collectively. Alongside prescient reactions to governmental decisions, the author recounts experiences many of us will relate to - being horrified by reports from Italy. Taking daily walks that felt “like the pre-titles sequence in a zombie apocalypse movie”. Clapping for carers. The existential strangeness of having to psyche ourselves up to go to the shop. Fans of the author’s memoir Why Are We Always on Last? will also love the football and music musings and anecdotes. While right now (October 2020), no one knows how or when the pandemic will end, Why Are We Always Indoors? ends on a fittingly bittersweet note, pointing out that while we don’t know “whether we’ll taste the true freedom we once knew ever again”, we can “take comfort where we can and hope for happier times. We know there’s trouble ahead but, as Irving Berlin said, ‘While there’s music and moonlight and love and romance. Let’s face the music and dance.’ And, for now at least, there’s football, too.”
'The Winding Road to Portugal' is Louise Ross's companion and comparison study to 'Women Who Walk: How 20 Women from 16 Countries Came to Live in Portugal'. This time 20 men from 11 countries share their stories of when, how and, above all, why they too came to up sticks and relocate to Portugal in particular. This is a fascinating and illuminating work, consisting of the words of the newcomers themselves, with analysis by the psychology trained author, the journalist and author Richard Zimler, who has also taken the winding road and Dr. Nigel Hall, a distinguished psychiatrist. If this all sounds a bit heavy, I assure you it's not. The whole book will stir such a gamut of emotions, that the reader cannot help but be curious about the causes of such upheaval. Though far from being simply down to one reason, for some, language must have been an important factor. Those from Angola or Brazil were already fluent, whilst those from UK, Ireland, Poland, Netherlands, Denmark or Germany may have been beguiled by the promise of the Mediterranean climate. Escaping political, economic or social hardship was also cited, as was being an 'accompanying spouse', supporting their partners in their new location. At the end of the day, we work abroad because we can. The free movement of labour in the EU and the rise of the digital workplace, means that, if we have the inclination and the incentive, we can work anywhere. However, the year 2020 brought a whole different scenario. The author decided to recontact her interviewees to see how the pandemic was affecting them and included an add-on to each section with their thoughts. Those working in tourism, such as taxi drivers and owners of hotels or guest houses, were not faring as well as, say, those working for international companies but most were optimistic that the future would be better. We all certainly hope that it won't be worse. The winding road by definition is not straight forward and not everyone interviewed saw Portugal as their final resting place. This study will surely make it's readers think carefully about their own life's journey, which can only be a therapeutic exercise. A very instructive and thought-provoking social observation. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
How Lucky Can You Get takes us on a walk with the author down memory lane. Taking us through their experiences of the 1930s to 1990s and beyond, this book covers the pre and post war years while focusing on Ray’s early years, family, and varied working life. I think that this memoir is nostalgic, and is a good reflective piece for readers interested in personal accounts of history. This is a very direct account and I would have personally liked more descriptive language or imagery to really engage with the story. However, as an autobiographical account I think it flows and reads well as it is. The author states “This true story of triumph over adversity can give hope and inspiration to many people, young and old, who are facing anxiety and hardship in these difficult times.” and I think How Lucky Can You Get is a good reminder of the different challenges faced and overcome in the past, which can be a source of encouragement to persevere. There were also a few moments throughout the book where the events of the past are compared to society now, which offers a space for reflection. I think that How Lucky Can You Get is an interesting and detailed memoir and I think it would be enjoyed by history and non-fiction fans.
Diary of a Young Naturalist recounts a year in the life of an autistic and highly gifted 15 year old, struggling with school, bullies, moving house and fearing the decline of the natural world whilst rejoicing in it. Dara McAnulty is clearly an extraordinary person and a beautiful and mature writer. His descriptions of his adventures in nature are inspiring for children, but also sure to brighten the souls of many an adult too. The intensity with which nature presents itself to the author is overwhelming, and his ability to share this with the reader is enthralling. It’s a rollercoaster ride being in the head of this young man, but the book has the magic to open our eyes and ears to what beauty is around us each and every day - if only we looked! McAnulty's knowledge of wildlife and nature is simply extraordinary. His autism is a burden but also a super-power, providing him with piercing insight to a world that simply cannot be ignored with all its truth, tragedy and hope pouring out of every hedgerow, pond and dry stone wall. This is a diary which highlights our essential connection with the natural world, the landscape and our history embedded within it - but more importantly, it is also about our futures. Dara McAnulty is on a mission, and if the quality of this book is anything to go by, he will have a huge impact. For many children, this book will be the beginning of a wondrous journey. ~ Greg Hackett Greg Hackett is the Founder & Director of the London Mountain Film Festival
Be the first discover the funny, uplifting, occasionally heartbreaking and always honest life story of Phillip Schofield. For forty years we've watched Phillip on our tellies, from children's TV to This Morning and Dancing on Ice, but what is it like on set and who is he when the camera's off? In Life's What You Make It Philip for the first time takes us behind the scenes of his remarkable career. From his idyllic childhood in Cornwall, where for years he pestered the BBC for a job, eventually landing a prize position in the Broom Cupboard with mischievous sidekick Gordon the Gopher, through hosting Going Live!, starring in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and finally finding his on-screen home and presenting-partner Holly Willoughby on This Morning, Phillip takes us on the highs and lows of his extraordinary life. 'For a long time, I felt that I couldn't write this book. At first, I didn't think I'd lived enough, then life got busy and filled with distractions. In more recent years, there was always a very painful consideration - I knew where it would eventually have to go. 'I have recently decided that the truth is the only thing that can set me free. The truth has taken a long time to make itself clear to me, but now is the right time to share it, all of it. 'Television and broadcasting has been a part of my DNA for as long as I can remember. As a young boy I would make model TV sets out of cardboard boxes, while spending long summers at home, barefoot on Cornwall's golden beaches. Landing a job at the ice-cream kiosk, I would enviously look on as my presenting heroes took to the stage of Radio 1's Roadshow, an unforgettable event when it came to town. 'In Life's What You Make It I look back with nostalgic delight on my life, from being a young boy endlessly writing letters to the BBC in pursuit of a job in broadcasting, to making it on to the Broom Cupboard, with my infamous sidekick Gordon the Gopher, to being on Going Live and starring as the lead in Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. It has taken four decades to get here but I feel lucky to have called the sets of Talking Telephone Numbers, The Cube, Dancing on Ice and of course, This Morning, home. 'I'm going to take you behind the scenes of my television home at ITV, into my career and my dangerously funny relationship with Holly Willoughby. I'm going to introduce you to my loving and remarkable family, and I hope most of all to tell you that life, it seems, is what you make it. Take it from someone who has sat on the very edge and looked over, it's all about the people that love you, and after that anything is possible. So, finally, here we go, this is the real me.'
There is only one Arsene Wenger - and for the very first time, in his own words, this is his story. In this definitive autobiography, the world-renowned revolutionary football manager discusses his life and career, sharing his leadership principles for success on and off the field and recalling vivid tales of guiding Arsenal to unprecedented success. One of the most influential figures in world football, Wenger won multiple Premier League titles, a record number of FA Cups, and masterminded Arsenal's historic 'Invincibles' season of 2003-2004 and 49-match unbeaten run. He changed the game in England forever, popularising an attacking approach and changing attitudes towards nutrition, fitness and coaching methods - and towards foreign managers. In My Life in Red and White, Wenger charts his extraordinary career, including his rise in France and Japan where he managed Nancy, Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight - clubs that also play in red-and-white - to his twenty-two years in north London at the helm of one of the world's biggest clubs. He reflects on Arsenal's astonishing domestic triumphs and bittersweet European campaigns; signing - and selling - some of the world's most talented players; moving the Gunners to their new home, the Emirates Stadium; and the unrest that led to his departure in 2018 and subsequent role as Chief of Global Football Development for FIFA. This book is a must-read for not only Arsenal supporters but football fans everywhere, as well as business leaders and anyone seeking the tools for success in work and life. It will illuminate the mystique surrounding one of the most revered and respected managers, revealing the wisdom and vision that made him an icon in the world's most popular sport.
Well guys, here we are! What an absolute whirlwind of a journey this has been so far. So much has happened in the last couple of life-changing years and I'm so excited to share it with you all: my Hinchers. You have been right by my side for every step of the way and I honestly couldn't have done it without the amazing love and support from this incredible family we've built together. It's often felt like a fairy tale but it hasn't always been easy, and I'm going to let you in on the highs and the lows as well as my biggest fears and my darkest challenges. Because this book right here, is me. This is me: Soph - the wife, the mother and the person behind Mrs Hinch. So let's do this! Put your Hinch Lists to one side, get comfy and join me on the sofa with a cuppa. Welcome to my world. This is my story.
'Read this book to learn, but also to honour the man. We shall never see his like again.' - Sunday Times See the world. Then make it better. 'I am 94. I've had an extraordinary life. It's only now that I appreciate how extraordinary. As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world - but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day - the loss of our planet's wild places, its biodiversity. I have been witness to this decline. A Life on Our Planet is my witness statement, and my vision for the future. It is the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake - and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right. We have one final chance to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited. All we need is the will to do so.
Xenia Tchoumi is passionate about self-empowerment and independent thinking. A fashion influencer, motivational speaker and self-made digital entrepreneur, she wrote this book to share the techniques and tools that have made her so successful, and to encourage her readers to resist media manipulation, stand up for who they really are, and live their best, most powerful lives. Xenia takes readers on a practical, no-nonsense journey to self-empowerment, covering topics such as taking responsibility, using your pain and your failures to push yourself further, and learning digital dominance instead of letting yourself be digitally dependent. She offers a wealth of tips for creating productive habits, setting goals, protecting your mental health and resisting society's pressures to confirm. She shares her stories of struggling against prejudice as the child of recent immigrants, battling the restrictive structures of the fashion industry, making her mark in the digital space and ultimately making herself into an ultra successful brand. Questioning exactly what empowerment looks like today, she also offers the inspiring stories of empowered people she has met all over the world and shows that, while empowerment can seem very different in different cultures, there are certain key traits that empowered people share - habits that anyone can learn and use to become a success in life.
Michael Dixon’s Time to Heal: Tales of a Country Doctor is a timely, spirited call-to-action to restore “humanity to medicine”, and comes highly recommended for readers who like autobiographies with bite, and for those interested in discovering what it’s really like to be a present-day GP - warts and all. Moreover, one hopes that it might also serve as a wider wake-up call - “every society should be judged by what it does for its weakest. We are one of the world’s wealthiest nations,” is not a statement to be ignored. The early chapters covering Dixon’s unusual route to becoming a doctor are wistfully witty - he made the move to medicine after reading Philosophy and Psychology at Oxford. On qualifying in 1984, he took up a GP post in Devon and embarked on a life-long learning journey. From these beginnings, and through his career, he sees that serving patients’ needs demands much more than merely prescribing medicine and programmes of treatment. Indeed, Dixon’s view that practicing medicine demands a holistic, human approach is at the core of his book: “above everything, we must value and refine our skills as healers over and above the pills and procedures that we may offer.” The importance of this becomes starkly clear when we consider that despite medical advances “life expectancy is no longer improving”, and Dixon firmly believes that the increasing epidemic of long-term diseases like depression, diabetes, dementia and cancer are “the result of our catastrophic failure to care for the environment, the planet, ourselves and each other.” These failures, he observes, have become even more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed the need for community connections and “the impact of social isolation”. Always honest, thoughtful and wise, I came away moved, enlightened, and hoping desperately that we see the kinds of social, community-focussed changes Dixon suggests, which are, in essence, centred around “rediscovering a common humanity.”
This is a story of mothers. This is a story of daughters. This is a story of the trauma we carry and the trauma we tend to. So begins this multigenerational memoir that explores the author's maternal history of repeated trauma, separation, adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and their impact on mental health. Set against a twenty-year dialogue with her mother Barbara who suffers from long undiagnosed PTSD, author Elizabeth Wilcox opens her maternal history with the birth of her illegitimate grandmother Violet to a German house servant outside London in 1904. With her mother's encouragement, Wilcox goes on to trace the lives of her grandmother Violet and her mother Barbara, both of whom are deeply impacted by maternal separation and the complex trauma they have endured. Violet undergoes multiple separations: from her mother until the age of six, from her German Jewish stepfather during WWI at the age of ten, and from her own three-year-old daughter Barbara when her family escapes without her from Holland during Hitler's invasion. Later put on a train to Wales with her eighteen-month-old brother Neville during Operation Pied Piper, Barbara also tragically endures an itinerant childhood characterized by maternal separation, foster homes, boarding schools, and abuse. Through a dual timeline that is both present day and historic, Wilcox weaves together these documented and imagined voices of the women who precede her, while using her experience as a journalist and writer in the field of early childhood education and mental health to explore the impact of adverse childhood experiences on adult wellbeing and mental health. Through her work and her mother Barbara who has successfully raised seven children despite her difficult past, Wilcox also shows what it means to parent with intention, forgiveness and unconditional love.
'AM-MAZ-ING!' Craig Revel Horwood We all have dreams, from little wishes to life-altering ambitions. But we rarely act on these dreams - we don't know where to start, don't have time, or we feel we're not good enough. Our lives carry on as usual, leaving us wondering what could have been. In Dream, Believe, Succeed, Camilla Sacre-Dallerup shows it doesn't have to be this way. From the age of two Camilla dreamed of being a dancer, and now she is an internationally renowned dancer, life coach and much-admired motivational speaker. Drawing on her own experiences of relentless hard work, heartache and international success, Camilla offers inspiring ways of achieving your ambitions through positivity and action. Transform your mindset with easily applicable tools and exercises. Find inspiration through Camilla's own experiences and case studies. And apply simple, practical techniques to help you live your dreams and find lasting happiness. Dream, Believe, Succeed is the paperback edition of Strictly Inspirational, with a new chapter, 'My Journey Continues', sharing Camilla's growth since 2013, and brand-new tips on gratitude, flow and thriving through change.
''So lithe,' they say. 'So spry and sparkling. So uncannily youthful. How on earth do you do it?' Well, what can I tell you? An hour of tai chi first thing in the morning, an HIIT work-out with my personal trainer, a bowl of steamed kale and a handful of almonds for lunch, and then two hours of yoga in the afternoon followed by an ice bath - this is a routine which I'm sure would work miracles for anyone of any age, although I can't be entirely sure because I haven't myself adopted any aspect of it at any point. Fortunately, during my life and career I have been given all sorts of advice and learned huge amounts from some great and enormously talented people. I've been blessed to play characters such as Derek Trotter, Granville, Pop Larkin and Frost, who have changed my life in all sorts of ways, and taught me lessons that go far beyond the television set. And I've worked a few things out for myself as well, about friendship, ambition, rejection, success, failure, adversity and fortune. With any luck, some of these thoughts and observations will chime with episodes and challenges you have faced, or are facing, in your own life. And if they don't... well, hopefully, at the very least you'll get to have a good old laugh at my expense. So lean back, pour yourself a glass, and try not to fall through the bar flap . . .
From Frazzles to Foie Gras: a memoir of wanting more. From an early age, Grace Dent was hungry. As a little girl growing up in Currock, Carlisle, she yearned to be something bigger, to go somewhere better. Hungry traces Grace’s story from growing up eating beige food to becoming one of the much-loved voices on the British food scene. It’s also everyone’s story – from treats with your nan, to cheese and pineapple hedgehogs, to the exquisite joy of cheaply-made apple crumble with custard. It’s the high-point of a chip butty covered in vinegar and too much salt in the school canteen, on an otherwise grey day of double-Maths and cross country running. It’s the real story of how we have all lived, laughed, and eaten over the past 40 years. Warm, funny and joyous, Hungry is also about love and loss, the central role that food plays in all our lives, and how a Cadbury’s Fruit ‘n’ Nut in a hospital vending machine can brighten the toughest situation.
Detailed, interesting, and offering a personal insight into The Five Eyes intelligence community from the only man to have worked for both US and UK intelligence organisations while a citizen of each country. The Five Eyes alliance, comprising of the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, formed after the Second World War. Anthony R Wells believes that the intelligence institutions covered in this book have saved the free world. He says: “This book does not profess at all to be all-seeing and all-knowing”, he hopes that readers can: “make their own observations, draw their own conclusions, and come away with informed, educated, and non-biased and most certainly non-politicised views on intelligence in the modern era”. We read about the author’s experiences in chronological order over 50 years, covering a variety of threats, new opportunities, and technological advancements. It is quite clear that there is still much that we, the public, don’t know and shouldn’t know. Having said that, Between Five Eyes is an absolutely fascinating read for anyone interested in the intelligence community and wider world.
Dedicated to “readers and writers everywhere” this is a stunning gift of a book for every devoted bibliophile. Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread is a beautiful, beautiful reminder of the power and the joy of books. Libris is used as an inscription on a bookplate to show the name of the book's owner. I’ve never had one, I’ve always wanted one. Life goals right there. Michiko Kakutani is perfectly placed to write this “magical brick-sized object”, as she wonderfully speaks of books. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic and the former chief book critic of The New York Times. And this really is a beautifully packaged, beautifully illustrated magical gift of a book. From her fascinating introduction talking of her love of books burgeoning from a young age, she comments on how books “give us the stories of men and women we will never meet in person, illuminate the discoveries made by great minds, and allow us access to the wisdom of earlier generations.” Don’t they just, and this book is a perfect celebration of that. I too am an avid reader. I always have been. I also was the one in my house who wanted to read all the books and who wore out her library card. As a lover of books, you can’t help but engage, dive in, eat her words up hungrily and pore over the accompanying illustrations of alternative book plates by the talented Dana Tanamachi. This book is an absolute gem. Michiko takes you on a literary journey via these “tiny time machines”. Oh how I adore her expressive way of talking about books. She lists more than 100 books across the decades and from a variety of genres – books that have shaped her life, complemented by illuminating essays about them. The themes include books about work and vocation, democracy and tyranny, the war on terror and housekeeping. Her selections range from Shakespeare to Toni Morrison to Abraham Lincoln and Dr Seuss right through to Educated by Tara Westover and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (all of whom I heartily agree with!) The introduction includes the words of Virginia Woolf who famously said: “the pleasure of reading is so great that the world would be a far different and far inferior place without it”. And boy, are we reminded of this. As Michiko comments, the list is “subjective and decidedly arbitrary” but it doesn’t feel that way. I wholeheartedly bought into her excitement, and her passion for reading. Whatever books mean to you, they connect us all and this is a timely reminder of that; a stunning anthology of over 100 gems we all should read and re-read. And next on my list is...best get back to that bookshop!
Best known for his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith’s writing is nothing if not warm-hearted, charming and filled with the joys of friendship - themes and characteristics that are at the heart of this delightful poetry anthology. Being a book to treasure and return to through the year (and across years), this will make a wonderful gift for fans of his fiction - even those who don’t usually read poetry. With sections covering the likes of journeys, Scotland through the seasons, animals, love and longing, books and reading, and places - with contextualisation coming courtesy of the author’s personal anecdotes - many of the poems invite readers to slow down, to look, to see, to remember. To take-in “the simple facts of being”. Others take readers on evocative journeys - we stand beside the author as he observes Mumbai from his hotel room, and as he and a friend save an oak tree in Scotland. We sit beside him as his train pulls into Kings Cross, as he drives through Los Angeles, as he explores Kerala, South India, and rural Australia. And all of them inspire reflection, and an empathetic urge to take-in the world through the eyes of others.
A clever concept, delectably delivered - featuring a feast of recipes and tales to inspire readers around the table, around the year, Miranda York’s The Food Almanac will make a piquant present for gourmands and bibliophiles. With a bounty of stories, pieces of passion, stylish illustrations and reading lists accompanying the recipes, this is a book to relish over time rather than scoff down in one sitting, though the delicious results might make that quite a feat of restraint. Each chapter covers a month of the year and opens with a handy checklist of seasonal ingredients to look out for, with an in-depth focus on star ingredients - lemons that “bring flashes of brightness to the dull grey days of January”. Gooseberries that “perform their spritely dance” in July puddings. September’s “tiny, tangy, ancient” crab apples. The “smoky sweetness” of December chestnuts. It’s global in outlook too, with poets, novelists and acclaimed food writers and chefs from around the world sharing stories, memories and insights alongside coverage of food-focussed feasts deserving of a fanfare, among them New Orleans Carnival and Anzac Day in Australia. The roll-call of writers provides a rich range of voices and views too, with contributions from chefs Raymond Blanc and José Pizarro, chef, restaurateur and food writer Yotam Assaf Ottolenghi, writer and cook Zoe Adjonyoh, novelists Kit de Waal and Deborah Levy, and many more besides.
'From a very early age I loved the countryside as much as any garden and was fascinated by the life that I saw all around me from trees, wildflowers, birds, insects and mammals. In a sense this book has been over sixty years in gestation. I have kept notebooks and journals ever since I could write and I have drawn upon these as well as the events of the past year.' My Garden World by Monty Don is a celebration of every living creature that we all share. This year has given us the enforced opportunity to learn more about the fascinating natural world around us. Whether you live in the countryside or the town, Monty's observations and insights are relevant to each and every one of us. My Garden World is Monty Don's personal journey through the natural year, month by month, season by season, observed from the immediate world around him. 'Wildlife is not something that we watch happening in remote and exotic parts of the world on our screens, but right here in our own back yards and the more that we encourage it and learn to live with it, the more rewarding it becomes. If, in our own modest back yards, we can help preserve and treasure our natural world then we will make the world a better place -- not just for ourselves but for every living creature.'
From his humble Yorkshire childhood, via the battlefields of Burma and the peaks of the Himalayas, to becoming the NHS and the nation's hero during Lockdown, Captain Tom Moore's story is a journey for all of us - brought to you by Penguin. Who is Captain Sir Tom Moore? You've seen him on the television walking the length of his garden. A frail elderly man, doing his bit at a time of crisis. But he wasn't always like this. Where did he come from? Where was he made? From a childhood in the foothills of the Yorkshire Dales, Tom Moore grew up in a loving family, which wasn't without its share of tragedy. It was a time of plenty and of want. When the storm clouds of the Second World War threatened, he raised his hand and, like many of his generation, joined up to fight. His war would take him from a country he had never left to a place which would steal his heart, India, and the Far East, to which he would return many years later to view the sight he had missed first time around: the distant peak of Everest. Captain Tom's story is our story. It is the story of our past hundred years here in Britain. It's a time which has seen so much change, yet when so much has stayed the same: the national spirit, the can-do attitude, the belief in doing your best for others. In this rich, happy life packed with incident you will encounter time and again the curiosity, courage and generosity that saw Captain Tom look around him during our current crisis and decide that something had to be done
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.