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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.
Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, this is an engaging and absolutely riveting read following the memories of two sisters during the Second World War. Pat and Jean Owtram were still teenagers when the war began and signed up as soon as they were old enough, with Pat intercepting German radio and Jean becoming a Code and Cipher Officer. Each sister tells her own story in sequence, with letters to each other and family members adding a real insight into their lives and the times. Having signed the Official Secrets Act, they were unable to divulge their roles even to each other, but nonetheless the actual letters reveal their courage, resilience, and spirit. It is fascinating to discover that both women owed their wartime duties to their fluency in German, a skill that was honed after their family had taken in two Austrian Jewish refugees. I am intrigued by the world of intelligence, so found this a compelling read. It is the little things, such as Jean nearly not passing on a seemingly irrelevant yet vital piece of information that makes this so fascinating. Their wartime work shaped the women they became and I want to hand on heart, salute them both. Codebreaking Sisters is a worthwhile, truly lovely and enthralling read I can highly recommend.
A thoughtful, sometimes emotionally painful, yet unforgettable medical memoir I feel everyone should read. Our expectations of our medical and emergency teams are high, we trust, we rely, we hope. When a best-selling novelist, with the most beautiful way with words, tells the story of her time as a junior doctor, you just have to sit up and listen. Each chapter begins with thoughts from different people and roles within the medical profession. Joanna Cannon opens her arms wide and lets you in to her story, her way with words ensures you can see a full and vivid picture. Heartbreakingly honest, we see how she is overstretched, twanging like elastic that is on the point of completely fraying. A number of times her words resonated so strongly, they gave me goose-bumps. She not only made me look with different eyes at our medical practitioners, she also made me think about my own thoughts and words. I don’t think I will ever forget her “we each measure words with different scales”. Breaking and Mending is a LoveReading Star Book... I smiled, I cried, afterwards I sat and hugged it!
JOHN BOLTON READS THE EPILOGUE! As President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves. The result is a White House memoir that is the most comprehensive and substantial account of the Trump Administration, and one of the few to date by a top-level official. With almost daily access to the President, John Bolton has produced a precise rendering of his days in and around the Oval Office. What Bolton saw astonished him: a President for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation. “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” he writes. In fact, he argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy—and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them. He shows a President addicted to chaos, who embraced our enemies and spurned our friends, and was deeply suspicious of his own government. In Bolton’s telling, all this helped put Trump on the bizarre road to impeachment. “The differences between this presidency and previous ones I had served were stunning,” writes Bolton, who worked for Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43. He discovered a President who thought foreign policy is like closing a real estate deal—about personal relationships, made-for-TV showmanship, and advancing his own interests. As a result, the US lost an opportunity to confront its deepening threats, and in cases like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea ended up in a more vulnerable place. Bolton’s account starts with his long march to the West Wing as Trump and others woo him for the National Security job. The minute he lands, he has to deal with Syria’s chemical attack on the city of Douma, and the crises after that never stop. As he writes in the opening pages, “If you don’t like turmoil, uncertainty, and risk—all the while being constantly overwhelmed with information, decisions to be made, and sheer amount of work—and enlivened by international and domestic personality and ego conflicts beyond description, try something else.” The turmoil, conflicts, and egos are all there—from the upheaval in Venezuela, to the erratic and manipulative moves of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, to the showdowns at the G7 summits, the calculated warmongering by Iran, the crazy plan to bring the Taliban to Camp David, and the placating of an authoritarian China that ultimately exposed the world to its lethal lies. But this seasoned public servant also has a great eye for the Washington inside game, and his story is full of wit and wry humor about how he saw it played.
Heart-rending, inspirational and all-encompassing, Poems for a Pandemic will undoubtedly become a matchless historic document of how it was to live - and die - during the Covid-19 pandemic. And right now, in June 2020, with most of the world still in the clutches of Covid-19, it’s an invaluably empathic volume that shows we are not alone even when we feel at our loneliest. A book that will move readers to tears, to give thanks for life, and to the NHS. Poems for a Pandemic came about due to the drive of Angela Marston, a retired Palliative Care Nurse who devoted almost forty years of her life to the NHS. While struck with Covid-19 symptoms, Angela was inspired to write her first poem in years. On recovering she was compelled to “do something meaningful”, and so the anthology was born. Angela set about collecting poems by people from all walks of life - nurses, doctors, pharmacists, teachers, food bank volunteers – whose varied, powerful thoughts grace this 100-poem collection, with several professional writers adding their voices to the poignant chorus. Her vision was to raise money for the NHS (all proceeds of this anthology will go to NHS Charities Together), and to “record for all eternity the thoughts and feelings of ordinary people at an extraordinary time”. By Jove, she’s done that and more. The anthology spans raw, elemental subjects - health professionals holding the hands of the dying, acute lockdown loneliness, the fears of the proud relatives of NHS staff - to poems that document shifts in behaviour and collective consciousness – interacting online, staying home to save lives, staying apart on eerie streets, the hailing of new kinds of heroes. Then there’s nine-year-old Harry Husselbee who speaks for all humanity when he writes, “How I wish I could get this virus/And throw it to the moon”. And ten-year-old Cory Yeoman who warns, “Coronavirus you better watch out, because these doctors and nurses don’t want you about. This is our world…Get out! Get out! Get out!” We’re with you, Harry and Cory. In his stirring foreword Darren Smith, author of the powerful anti-racist poem “You Clap for Me Now”, writes “At its heart poetry is about trying to express something too big for words. Fear. Loneliness. Love. Community. Death.” With that definition in mind, Poems for a Pandemic is the very epitome of what poetry is about. Download your copy on Amazon here or from any other ebook retailer now
I know Jesus Christ is Real, as you can tell by the title places a lot of emphasis on the author’s religious beliefs. A personal memoir covering a difficult childhood in Jamaica and an adult life spent in America, it is clear that the author’s faith has provided support and strength throughout her life and the challenges she has faced. It was interesting to me to step into the shoes of a deeply spiritual person and see their perception of the world. I read this book as a learning experience, the author’s views didn’t and still don’t match my own, but I admire the strength of her conviction. I was interested in the author’s story, growing up in Jamaica, in extreme poverty and alone at times and this book offers insight into life and education in Jamaica, it is a country I haven’t visited and know very little about. It made me happy that she managed to build a life of happiness with her family in America, especially one that is in such direct contrast to her upbringing. I would recommend this book to readers who want to learn about other people. I think that this is a good book to find out more about spirituality from a personal perspective, and ultimately I think that viewpoints aside, this is a book about hope and faith.
Wow, what a story! Roses down the Barrel of a Gun is an incredible memoir of one British woman’s experience working and living in a tumultuous Georgia. I have learned so much about this country, its culture and its history by reading this wonderful book and the author’s love of Georgia really shined through as I read. This book manages to convey the warmth and welcoming nature of the people Jo met as well as more difficult living and working conditions as Jo arrived at the British Council in Tbilisi. As well as giving insight into life before, during and after the Rose Revolution in 2003, which I found incredibly interesting in itself, the author manages to include a more personal narrative filled with the difficulties of transferring to an overseas role, the culture and warmth of the new country and the development of new friendships and relationships. I like the descriptions of the meals, and the toasting and felt as though I had a seat at the table as I read. In addition to not knowing much about Georgia, I’m also unfamiliar with the work carried out by foreign embassies and initiatives like the British Council. I enjoyed finding out about the exhibitions and performances and I think that this book highlights the vital importance of the arts to society. Roses Down the Barrel of a Gun is a fascinating insight into a country that I knew little about and I highly recommend this book.
Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race” (Rolling Stone) NAMED ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS OF THE DECADE BY CNN • NAMED ONE OF PASTE’S BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • O: The Oprah Magazine • The Washington Post • People • Entertainment Weekly • Vogue • Los Angeles Times • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • New York • Newsday • Library Journal • Publishers Weekly In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
February 2011 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. Ten centuries' worth of French historical 'facts' bite the dust as Stephen Clarke looks at what has really been going on since 1066... It's a light-hearted but impeccably researched account of all our great fallings-out. With Clarke's trademark humour and lightness of touch that will be remembered with fondness from A Year in the Merde and Talk to the Snail, among others this is a brilliant take on the history of our near neighbour.
As well as perfecting your stiff upper lip, the thoroughly English person might also want to get a bit out of their comfort zone in achieving their 102 English Things to Do. How about (after having a nice tea) a spot of rioting or, braving the weather, (cue the Shipping Forecast) try bottle-kicking or cheese-rolling. There are, I hasten to add, some far gentler things to try, apologising and saying please and thankyou a lot doesn’t take much effort and we can all fail to learn another language and eat fish and chips very easily. However, punting or climbing Scafell Pike are, at my age, a bit unlikely so I shall content myself with savouring an English apple but I absolutely refusing to do the very last challenge, boiling vegetables for as long as it takes to lose flavour, texture and colour – I mean to say - that’s just going too far. Like for Like Reading Watching the English: The Hidden Roles of English Behaviour, Kate Fox How to be an Alien: A Handbook for Beginners and Advanced Pupils, George Mikes
This work presents an intimate history of Shakespeare, following him through a single year that changed not only his fortunes, but the course of literature. How did Shakespeare go from being a talented poet and playwright to become one of the greatest writers who ever lived? In this one exhilarating year, we follow what he reads and writes, what he saw, and who he worked with as he invests in the new Globe theatre and creates four of his most famous plays - Henry V , Julius Caesar , As You Like It , and, most remarkably, Hamlet.
In 1966 England won the World Cup at Wembley. Sir Bobby Charlton, England's greatest ever player, was there on the pitch. Now, fifty years on, Sir Bobby looks back on the most glorious moment of his life and England's greatest sporting achievement. In 1966 he takes us through the build-up to the tournament and to the final itself, describing what he saw, what he heard, and what he felt. He explains what it was like to be part of Sir Alf Ramsey's team, gives us his personal memories of his teammates, the matches, the atmosphere; the emotion of being carried on the wave of a nation's euphoria and how it felt to go toe-to-toe with some of the foremost footballers to ever play the game.
The heartfelt and uplifting story of how a project to scatter 60 Postcards in memory of her mother helped a young girl come to terms with her loss. On 11 February 2012 Rachael Chadwick lost her Mother to cancer, just sixteen days after first being diagnosed, and her world shattered right in front of her. Utterly fed up of the milestones and reminders, in December of that year she decided she would do something different and created a project based around her Mum's approaching 60th Birthday. Desperate to spread the word about the wonderful person she had lost, Rachael had the brainwave of leaving notes around a city in her memory. Deciding she would take it a step further she wondered what would happen if she could ask people to respond to her? Full of hope and energy she hand-wrote sixty postcards, each with her email address at the bottom asking the finder to get in touch. But one question remained, where should she go? Knowing how much she longed to visit Paris, the last gift that Rachael's mum had given her was Eurostar vouchers, and so it seemed fitting that this would be her chosen city. So off she went with a group of friends to celebrate, discover, and to scatter her memories. Filling their time in Paris with sight-seeing, food and drink, laughter, and of course postcards. When Rachael returned to her London home, she desperately tried to switch off, switch off from the wondering (and hoping) whether she might actually hear from a postcard finder. And then, they started flowing in…
The heartfelt and uplifting story of how a project to scatter 60 Postcards in memory of her mother helped a young girl come to terms with her loss. On 11 February 2012 Rachael Chadwick lost her Mother to cancer, just sixteen days after first being diagnosed, and her world shattered right in front of her. Utterly fed up of the milestones and reminders, in December of that year she decided she would do something different and created a project based around her Mum's approaching 60th Birthday. Desperate to spread the word about the wonderful person she had lost, Rachael had the brainwave of leaving notes around a city in her memory. Deciding she would take it a step further she wondered what would happen if she could ask people to respond to her? Full of hope and energy she hand-wrote sixty postcards, each with her email address at the bottom asking the finder to get in touch. But one question remained, where should she go? Knowing how much she longed to visit Paris, the last gift that Rachael's mum had given her was Eurostar vouchers, and so it seemed fitting that this would be her chosen city. So off she went with a group of friends to celebrate, discover, and to scatter her memories. Filling their time in Paris with sight-seeing, food and drink, laughter, and of course postcards.
Hardly a week goes by without Dickie Bird visiting a county or Test match arena where he can keep up to date with all that is happening in the cricket world, while at the same time taking the opportunity to reflect, in the company of old friends and acquaintances, on his own colorful contribution to the sport that lasted for over half a century. Dickie remains the most famous umpire of them all and is still highly respected throughout the world. A lovable eccentric with a joyful sense of fun, he has decided, as he approaches his eightieth birthday, to recall the highlights of his life in cricket, while also providing an illuminating insight into what he has been up to since his retirement.
A sharply amusing and captivating memoir based on the attempt of the author to make a new life in France. Tommy Barnes and his girlfriend escape the 9-5 of the UK after being made redundant. Surrounded by animals, friendly locals, and stunning countryside, Tommy struggles to start a micro-brewery in the heart of the Loire Valley. The author is more than happy to poke fun at himself, he is also incredibly honest. His writing ensured I didn’t feel too badly as I chortled, smirked and raised my eyebrows as he somewhat stumbles through life. Rather stealing the show is Burt the dog, described by Tommy as squat, surly and defiant, Burt makes it his life mission to cause chaos wherever he is. I also just have to mention the gorgeous cover, which most definitely called out to me. ‘A Beer in the Loire’ is an engaging, ever so entertaining read, oh, and there are several recipes for beer too, how fabulous!
Frustrated by a dead end job, fed up with renting in London and the loathsome daily commute and, to cap it all, failing to make it as a stand-up comedian, Tommy Barnes was at breaking point. But he didn’t break - instead he made himself redundant and took off to France with girlfriend Rose to pursue his dream of brewing beer.
Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 22 October 2009. Shappi Khorsandi gives a warm, humorous and slightly scary view of her childhood growing up in England as exiles from Iran in the 1970’s and 80’s. Well written and highly enjoyable this is an entertaining read.
Gary Barlow is one of the most successful British musicians and songwriters of all time, but 15 years ago, as he himself admits, he hit rock bottom - he was out of shape, out of work, depressed. Food for him had become an addiction, a means not only of comfort but almost of self-medication as he grappled with the cruel twists of fate of musical stardom. In 2003, as he struggled with the disappointment of an underperforming solo career alongside the tireless media taunts, Gary turned to food. Relentlessly. In the space of nine years he had been on 20 diets in the hopes of a resolution to all his woes. After asking the doctor what the 'cure' for obesity was, it sunk in that he was the only one who could take control of his health. Gary describes this realisation and the task that lay ahead - 'it was like being at the foot of a massive mountain'. So how did he go from an obese, out-of-work and depressed pop icon to a superstar of music and TV and an accomplished musical songwriter and producer who is full of vitality, fitter, happier and more successful than ever before? What happened? In his extraordinarily honest memoir, A Better Me, Gary tells of his journey back to professional success and mental and physical health. From reforming Take That to critical and commercial acclaim and reigniting his own legendary songwriting career; to overcoming his weight problems and crippling obsession with food; to TV judging panel stardom on The X Factor and Let It Shine and at last finding balance in both his personal and professional lives. A Better Me is a remarkably frank memoir of Gary's life as he battled with weight, stress, fitness and depression and staged one of the most thrilling professional comebacks in years. In his warm, witty and authentic voice, he recounts his story with compelling insight, captivating honesty and a human side that people rarely see. Here is one of the UK's most beloved pop stars, open, honest and raw and as we've never seen him before.
Gary Barlow is one of the most successful British musicians and songwriters of all time, but fifteen years ago, as he himself admits, he hit rock bottom - he was out of shape, out of work and depressed. Faced with an underperforming solo career, tireless media taunts and the other cruel twists of fate, Gary turned to food. For nine years, he struggled with his weight and went on every diet imaginable before eventually asking a doctor what the 'cure' for obesity was. That was when he realised that he would have to change his life dramatically. So how did he go from an obese, out-of-work pop star to becoming a hugely successful superstar of music and TV, as well an accomplished musical songwriter and producer who is full of vitality, fitter, happier and more successful than ever before? In this extraordinarily honest memoir, Gary tells of his journey back to professional success, as well as mental and physical health. A Better Me is a remarkably frank account of Gary's life as he battled with his demons, endured personal tragedy, and staged one of the most thrilling professional comebacks in decades. In his warm, witty and authentic voice, Gary recounts his story with compelling insight, captivating sincerity and a human side that people rarely see. From returning with a critically and commercially successful Take That and reigniting his own legendary songwriting career, going beyond recorded music to forge success on TV with The X Factor and Let It Shine, to overcoming his weight problems and crippling obsession with food, this is the story of how Gary found balance in both his personal and professional life. Here is one of the UK's most beloved pop stars, more open, honest and raw than ever before.
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.