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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.
A gentle, thoughtful and wonderfully positive book by Reverend Ruth Scott who died in February 2019. The author became ill during the Christmas of 2016, she was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare cancer for which she was treated for the next two years with an aim to cure. Much of ‘Between Living and Dying’ was written while she was a patient receiving care, and the editing was completed just before Christmas 2018. The book contains poetry that held meaning, and her thoughts as she was treated. She says the valley of death is a thought provoking and reflective place, her illness meant she was fully in the present and this book is a peaceful meditation on life. Between Living and Dying is an emotional, honest, wonderfully inspiring read, and it is also incredibly beautiful too. Ruth Scott worked with Chris Evans for ten years on the ‘Pause for Thought’ section of his breakfast show. With just a few weeks left to live, while at Southampton General Hospital, Ruth spoke to Chris. Ruth wanted accept the fact she was dying and to die as naturally as possible, surrounded by her family. You can hear this meaningful and heartfelt podcast here https://www.lovereading.co.uk/podcast
Marianne Power was stuck in a rut. Then one day she wondered: could self-help books help her find the elusive perfect life? She decided to test one book a month for a year, following their advice to the letter. What would happen if she followed the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Really felt The Power of Now? Could she unearth The Secret to making her dreams come true? What begins as a clever experiment becomes an achingly poignant story. Because self-help can change your life - but not necessarily for the better . . . Help Me! is an irresistibly funny and incredibly moving book about a wild and ultimately redemptive journey that will resonate with anyone who's ever dreamed of finding happiness.
A gob-smacking, truly challenging yet inspirational read awaits. I saw the synopsis for this autobiography and just knew I had to read it. Dr Amanda Brown tells of her experience after leaving a quiet GP’s practice to become a prison doctor. She has worked in a young offenders institution, notorious male prison Wormwood Scrubs, and Europe’s largest woman prison Bronzefield. Dr Amanda Brown is still working at 65, to her this job matters, it really, really matters. The author doesn’t judge, in fact she says of her job that she isn’t there to judge but to care. Having said that, she still has a job to do, rules to be kept, for both safety and security. I read this in one sitting, once I started, I couldn’t stop, and my admiration for this woman is sky high. I feel we as a society should read this book, should try to understand, should allow compassion and empathy entry to our thoughts. Fascinating and heartbreaking in equal measures, for me The Prison Doctor is a must-read and I’ve chosen it as one of my picks of the month.
When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is. The positive change in Joe's wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. Three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street. In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves.
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!
“I was born black, working class and northern in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain”, so begins the author’s personal prologue to a book that provides a vital, alternate lens through which to view Europe. Growing up as such, Pitts felt “I was being forced to react against one culture or overidentify with the other”. A visit to the Calais Jungle in 2016 resulted in him being stopped, searched and ID’d before being allowed in, albeit still under suspicion. A bleak reminder that when non-whites have the right documents, “I wasn’t all the way in”. What follows is a document of Pitts’s encounters and meetings with dozens of Afropeans; black citizens of Europe juggling identities and loyalties – a self-described ‘black French militant’ on the outskirts of Paris; a Belgian-Congolese artist in Brussels; a Sudanese-German chef in Berlin; a fascinating interview with Caryl Philipps, the acclaimed Kittian-British writer. A remarkable feat of research and understanding, this seminal book is reportage at its finest, enhanced by the author’s striking photography.
'[Prior-Palmer's] gorgeous, sensual depiction of this race is a literary marvel; it feels like you are riding alongside her across the desolate steppes; her verbal acuity makes vivid the most elusive of landscapes; her triumph becomes ours' NYLON The Mongol Derby is the world's toughest horse race. A feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the people of Genghis Khan, competitors ride 25 horses across a distance of 1000km. Many riders don't make it to the finish line. In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer - nineteen, underprepared but seeking the great unknown - decided to enter the race. Driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses, she raced for seven days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she found she had nothing to lose, and tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. In one of the Derby's most unexpected results, she became the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win the race. A tale of adventure, fortitude and poetry, Rough Magic is the extraordinary story of one young woman's encounter with oblivion, and herself.
You become a footballer because you love football. And then you are a footballer, and you're suddenly in the strangest, most baffling world of all. A world where one team-mate comes to training in a bright red suit with matching top-hat, cane and glasses, without any actual glass in them, and another has so many sports cars they forget they have left a Porsche at the train station. Even when their surname is incorporated in the registration plate. So walk with me into the dressing-room, to find out which players refuse to touch a football before a game, to discover why a load of millionaires never have any shower-gel, and to hear what Cristiano Ronaldo says when he looks at himself in the mirror. We will go into post-match interviews, make fools of ourselves on social media and try to ensure that we never again pay GBP250 for a haircut that should have cost a tenner. We'll be coached and cajoled by Harry Redknapp, upset Rafa Benitez and be soothed by the sound of an accordion played by Sven-Goran Eriksson's assistant Tord Grip. There will be some very bad music and some very bad decisions. I am Peter Crouch. This is How To Be A Footballer. Shall we?
Ex-Special Forces' soldier and host of SAS: Who Dares Wins, Ollie Ollerton narrates his incredible story for the first time. Where is your break point? Is it here? Facing the gruelling SAS selection process on one leg, with a busted ankle and the finish line nowhere in sight? Or here? Under heavy fire from armed kidnappers while protecting journalists en route to Baghdad. Or, is it here? At the bottom of a bottle, with a family in pieces, unable to adapt to a civilian lifestyle, yearning for a warzone. We all have break points to face - at the gym, in the office, in our personal lives - those moments of self-doubt where we have to dig deep, and find something within to grab hold of and push us through. Ex-Special Forces soldier Ollie Ollerton has faced his own break points and now he tells us the lessons he has learnt along the way. From survivor of a freak childhood attack to elite fighter, Ollie's incredible story features, high-speed shoot-outs, counter-terrorism and humanitarian heroics. Special Forces soldiers are not supermen. Bullets don't bounce off them. They don't hit the target with every shot. They have the same vulnerabilities and doubts as the rest of us. But ordinary people can achieve the extraordinary, under the greatest pressure, in the most challenging situations. Ollie's life has taught him that everyone has the capacity for incredible achievement, because it's only when it's crunch time, when you're down to your last bullet - when you're at break point - that you find out who you really are. Ollie Ollerton co-hosts SAS: Who Dares Wins alongside Ant Middleton, Jason Fox and Mark Billingham.
In the face of urgency and uncertainty, would you respond analytically or trust your instincts? How would you decide who lives and who dies? Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton has been a firefighter for eighteen years. She decides which of her colleagues rush into a burning building and how they confront the blaze. She makes the call to evacuate if she believes the options have been exhausted or that the situation has escalated beyond hope. This is her astonishing account of a profession defined by the most difficult decisions imaginable. Taking us to the very heart of firefighting, Sabrina uses her award-winning research to reveal the skills that are essential to surviving – and even thriving – in such a fast-paced and emotionally-charged environment. And she immerses us in this extraordinary world; from scenes of devastation and crisis, through triumphs of bravery, to the quieter moments when she questions herself and the decisions made in the most unforgiving circumstances. Here is the truth about how we respond in our most extreme moments.
“The concept of bella figura is about making every aspect of life as beautiful as it can be...It is a notion at once romantic and practical”, as Kamin, the author of this charming book, reveals through sharing her experience of replacing her dark days of redundancy and heartbreak with a fresh life in Florence when she moves to a friend’s apartment. There, sage bartender Luigo introduces Kamin to the concept of bella figura, framing it as a form of self-care. The author embraces the notion, and it’s not long before she “bloomed in the warmth of Dino’s affection,” and then luxuriates in Bernardo’s picture-perfect country house. As passion blossoms, so too does Kamin’s physical wellbeing. She loses weight and radiates health simply through walking and enjoying food that tastes like an explosion of sunshine (the narrative is peppered with some of her favourite recipes). While such a move might be unfeasible for most people, the epilogue shares attainable tips for those inspired by the effects of the author’s bella figura ethos - walk with style and good posture. Seek out nature. Find exercise you love. Drink alcohol in moderation. Eat quality fresh foods. Love yourself. Be happy. Part inspirational memoir, part practical self-help manual, part poetic celebration of Tuscan beauty, this feel-good feast will be devoured by fans of Eat, Pray Love.
I'm a barrister, a job which requires the skills of a social worker, relationship counsellor, arm-twister, hostage negotiator, named driver, bus fare-provider, accountant, suicide watchman, coffee-supplier, surrogate parent and, on one memorable occasion, whatever the official term is for someone tasked with breaking the news to a prisoner that his girlfriend has been diagnosed with gonorrhoea. Welcome to the world of the Secret Barrister. These are the stories of life inside the courtroom. They are sometimes funny, often moving, and ultimately life-changing. How can you defend a child-abuser you suspect to be guilty? What do you say to someone sentenced to 10 years who you believe to be innocent? What is the law and why do we need it? And why do they wear those stupid wigs? From the criminals to the lawyers, the victims, witnesses, and officers of the law, here is the best and worst of humanity, all struggling within a broken system which would never be off the front pages if the public knew what it was really like. Both a searing first-hand account of the human cost of the criminal justice system, and a guide to how we got into this mess, The Secret Barrister wants to show you what it's really like and why it really matters.
From the Horse’s Mouth
… or the Groom’s
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!
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