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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.
Sunday Times No.1 bestseller. They were branded as cowards and accused of being the British Special Forces Squadron that ran away from the Iraqis. But nothing could be further from the truth. Ten years on, the story of these sixty men can finally be told. In March 2003 M Squadron - an SBS unit with SAS embeds - was sent 1,000 kilometres behind enemy lines on a true mission impossible, to take the surrender of the 100,000-strong Iraqi Army 5th Corps. From the very start their tasking earned the nickname 'Operation No Return'. Caught in a ferocious ambush by thousands of die-hard fanatics from Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen, plus the awesome firepower of the 5th Corps' heavy armour, and with eight of their vehicles bogged in Iraqi swamps, M Squadron launched a desperate bid to escape, inflicting massive damage on their enemies. Running low on fuel and ammunition, outnumbered, outmanoeuvred and outgunned, the elite operators destroyed sensitive kit and prepared for death or capture as the Iraqis closed their deadly trap. Zero Six Bravo recounts in vivid and compelling detail the most desperate battle fought by British and allied Special Forces trapped behind enemy lines since World War Two. It is a classic account of elite soldiering that ranks with Bravo Two Zero and the very greatest Special Forces missions of our time.
Oflag VI-B, Warburg, Germany: On the night of 30 August 1942 - 'Zero Night' - 40 officers from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa staged the most audacious mass escape of the Second World War. It was the first 'Great Escape' - but instead of tunnelling, the escapers boldly went over the huge perimeter fences using wooden scaling contraptions. This was the notorious 'Warburg Wire Job', described by fellow prisoner and fighter ace Douglas Bader as 'the most brilliant escape conception of this war'. Months of meticulous planning and secret training hung in the balance during three minutes of mayhem as prisoners charged the camp's double perimeter fences. Telling this remarkable story in full for the first time, historian Mark Felton brilliantly evokes the suspense of the escape itself and the adventures of those who eluded the Germans, as well as the courage of the civilians who risked their lives to help them in enemy territory. Fantastically intimate and told with a novelist's eye for drama and detail, this is a rip-roaring adventure story, all the more thrilling for being true.
11pm, Tuesday 4 August 1914: with the declaration of war London becomes one of the greatest killing machines in human history. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers pass through the capital on their way to the front; wounded men are brought back to be treated in London's hospitals; and millions of shells are produced in its factories. The war changes London life for ever. Women escape the drudgery of domestic service to work as munitionettes. Full employment puts money into the pockets of the London poor for the first time. Self-appointed moral guardians seize the chance to clamp down on drink, frivolous entertainment and licentious behaviour. As the war drags on, gloom often descends on the capital. And at night London is plunged into darkness for fear of German bombers and Zeppelins that continue to raid the city. Yet despite daily casualty lists, food shortages and enemy bombing, Londoners are determined to get on with their lives and flock to cinemas and theatres, dance halls and shebeens, firmly resolved not to let Germans or puritans spoil their enjoyment. Peopled with patriots and pacifists, clergymen and thieves, bluestockings and prostitutes, Jerry White's magnificent panorama reveals a struggling yet flourishing city.
'If ever a couple ...became an era, it was F Scott Fitzgerald and his glamorous flapper wife, Zelda. They were the Jazz Age.' - The Independent 'I wish I could tell everyone who thinks we're ruined...Look closer, and you'll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true. We have never been what we seemed.' When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen and he is a young army lieutenant. Before long, Zelda has fallen for him, even though Scott isn't wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. When he sells his first novel, she optimistically boards a train to New York, to marry him and take the rest as it comes. What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French riviera - where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein. Everything seems new and possible, but not even Jay Gatsby's parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous - sometimes infamous - husband? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda's irresistible story as she herself might have told it.
Ray Winstone's amazing talent for bringing out the humanity buried inside his often brutal screen characters - violent offender in Scum, wife-beater in Nil by Mouth, retired blagger in Sexy Beast - has made him one of the most charismatic actors of his generation. But how do these uncompromising and often haunting performances square with his off-duty reputation as the ultimate salt-of-the-earth diamond geezer? The answer lies in the East End of his youth. Revisiting the bomb-sites and boozers of his childhood and adolescence, Ray Winstone takes the reader on an unforgettable tour of a cockney heartland which is at once irresistibly mythic and undeniably real. Told with its author's trademark blend of brutal directness and roguish wit, Young Winstone offers a fascinating social history of East London, as well as a school of hard knocks coming-of-age story with a powerful emotional punch.
Ray Winstone's amazing talent for bringing out the humanity buried inside his often brutal screen characters - violent offender in Scum, wife-beater in Nil by Mouth, retired blagger in Sexy Beast - has made him one of the most charismatic actors of his generation. But how do these uncompromising and often haunting performances square with his off-duty reputation as the ultimate salt-of-the-earth diamond geezer? The answer lies in the East End of his youth. Revisiting the bomb-sites and boozers of his childhood and adolescence, Ray Winstone takes the reader on an unforgettable tour of a cockney heartland which is at once irresistibly mythic and undeniably real. Told with its author's trademark blend of brutal directness and roguish wit, Young Winstone offers a fascinating insight into the social history of East London, as well as a school of hard knocks coming-of-age story with a powerful emotional punch.
Winner of the Costa Biography Award 2007.Costa Book Awards 2007 Judges' comment: "Incredible scholarship, lightly worn. This biography opens up the previously hidden secrets of Stalin's youth. An amazing story, exceptionally well told." The background to what made the man a monster. Born in poverty, a poet, trainee priest, and fanatical revolutionary, thrilling stuff.
Winner of the Costa Biography Award 2007.Costa Book Awards 2007 Judges' comment: "Incredible scholarship, lightly worn. This biography opens up the previously hidden secrets of Stalin's youth. An amazing story, exceptionally well told."
Northern Soul isn't just a music genre, it's a way of life and one that intensely encompasses and overpowers those that fall for it's high energy 'stomping' - dancing. Young Soul Rebels is part personal autobiography of the acclaimed music journalist and presenter Stuart Cosgrove, part biography of the music, fans, DJs, venues and musicians, and part social history. Every song, person, place and event is richly and significantly described. It's passionately and emotionally written with a depth of information that is expertly woven into the story, which informs but never gets in the way of the drive of it's narrative. You can't but help to want to play Northern Soul music whilst reading Stuart's excellent book. The true test for any great book on music.The book journeys through the defining years of Northern Soul - the 1960s through to the 1980s (and it's later rebirth) and it's backdrop is the decline and decay of the industrial north of England. But against this is the driving power of Northern Soul music.It kept the disposed alive, awake and stomping.At the heart of Northern Soul is the the hunt for that mega rare seven inch single, with an addictive beat and heartfelt lyric and then the pilgrimage to the 'all nighters' in jam-packed, drug-fuelled, sweaty clubs. To say that you had to be obsessive to be a true Northern Soul fan is an understatement and it's a music genre that those that love it want kept secret and underground, even to this day. The beauty is, for a lot of people, this book really shines a light on a time, people and music that most people know little of.It's time to go searching for the young soul rebels.' ~ Anthony Keates A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... ‘One of the most exciting books I've worked on in years. Okay, the most exciting book. Stuart was a joy to work with. He buzzes with ideas and infectious energy, and this jumps off the page. Memoir, true crime, music biog, social history, political history: you've got the lot. This will become the bible for northern soul fans.’ Alison Rae, Managing Editor, Polygon
Northern Soul isn't just a music genre, it's a way of life and one that intensely encompasses and overpowers those that fall for it's high energy 'stomping' - dancing. Young Soul Rebels is part personal autobiography of the acclaimed music journalist and presenter Stuart Cosgrove, part biography of the music, fans, DJs, venues and musicians, and part social history. Every song, person, place and event is richly and significantly described. It's passionately and emotionally written with a depth of information that is expertly woven into the story, which informs but never gets in the way of the drive of it's narrative. You can't but help to want to play Northern Soul music whilst reading Stuart's excellent book. The true test for any great book on music.The book journeys through the defining years of Northern Soul - the 1960s through to the 1980s (and it's later rebirth) and it's backdrop is the decline and decay of the industrial north of England. But against this is the driving power of Northern Soul music.It kept the disposed alive, awake and stomping.At the heart of Northern Soul is the the hunt for that mega rare seven inch single, with an addictive beat and heartfelt lyric and then the pilgrimage to the 'all nighters' in jam-packed, drug-fuelled, sweaty clubs. To say that you had to be obsessive to be a true Northern Soul fan is an understatement and it's a music genre that those that love it want kept secret and underground, even to this day. The beauty is, for a lot of people, this book really shines a light on a time, people and music that most people know little of.It's time to go searching for the young soul rebels.' ~ Anthony Keates June 2016 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... ‘One of the most exciting books I've worked on in years. Okay, the most exciting book. Stuart was a joy to work with. He buzzes with ideas and infectious energy, and this jumps off the page. Memoir, true crime, music biog, social history, political history: you've got the lot. This will become the bible for northern soul fans.’ Alison Rae, Managing Editor, Polygon
Ruthless revolutionary; passionate womaniser; activist; hothead – would you use such words to describe the revered elder statesman Nelson Mandela? In this fascinating biography David James Smith wades into areas viewed as out of bounds to add new information and insight into the making of the Man and the Myth that is Nelson Mandela. Sanctified, lionised, it turns out that Mandela is a human being after all, only too aware of his flaws and shortcomings. With unique access to people and papers, culminating in a meeting with Mandela himself, Smith has written the single most important contribution to our knowledge of this global icon.
T. E. Lawrence was one of the most charismatic characters of the First World War; a young archaeologist who fought with the Arabs and wrote an epic and very personal account of their revolt against the Turks in Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Yet this was not the first book to carry that iconic title. In 1914 the man who would become Lawrence of Arabia burnt the first Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a manuscript in which he described his adventures in the Middle East during the five years before the war. Anthony Sattin uncovers the story Lawrence wanted to conceal: the truth of his birth, his tortuous relationship with a dominant mother, his deep affection for an Arab boy, the intimate details of the extraordinary journeys he took through the region with which his name is forever connected and the personal reasons that drove him from being a student to becoming an archaeologist and a spy. Young Lawrence is the first book to focus on the story of T. E. Lawrence in his twenties, before the war, during the period he looked back on as his golden years. Using first-hand sources, museum records and Foreign Office documents, Sattin sets these adventures against the background of corrosive conflicts in Libya and the Balkans. He shows the simmering defiance of Arabs, Armenians and Kurds under Turkish domination, while uncovering the story of an exceptional young man searching for happiness, love and his place in the world until war changed his life forever.
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.