No catches, no fine print just unadulterated book loving, with your favourite books saved to your own digital bookshelf.
New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop Plus lots lots more…Find out more
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.
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.