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Biographies and Autobiographies

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. 

And Some Fell on Stony Ground A Day in the Life of an an RAF Bomber Pilot

And Some Fell on Stony Ground A Day in the Life of an an RAF Bomber Pilot

Author: Leslie Mann, Richard Overy Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/09/2014

In June 1941, Flight Sergeant Leslie Mann, a tail gunner in a British bomber, was shot down over Germany and taken into captivity. After the war, wanting to record the experiences of the RAF's 'Bomber Boys', he wrote down his inner thoughts and feelings as a fictional narrative, recently brought to the attention of Imperial War Museums. Visceral, shocking and unglamorous, it transmits as rarely before the horrors of aerial warfare, the corrosive effects of fear, and the psychological torment of the young men involved. Although presented as fiction, the book's solid basis in lived experience makes it ring true - the sights, sounds, smells, and above all the emotional strain are intensely evoked with a novelist's skill. Providing a unique glimpse into a deadly profession and a traumatic time, And Some Fell on Stony Ground is a fascinating historical artefact in its own right. This compelling story is introduced and placed in context by historian Richard Overy, author of the acclaimed book, The Bombing War (Allen Lane, 2013).

One Direction: the Official Annual

One Direction: the Official Annual

Author: One Direction Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/08/2014

The world's biggest band, One Direction, are back to share their backstage secrets and stories from the past year with their fans in the latest instalment of their must have annual. Packed full of exclusive interviews and never-before-seen photos, , discover everything you've ever wanted to know about Harry, Niall, Louis, Liam and Zayn, from their passions to influences and all the backstage gossip. Packed full of juicy info, this is the ultimate stocking staple for any One direction fan.

No Such Thing as Failure The Extraordinary Life of a Great British Adventurer

No Such Thing as Failure The Extraordinary Life of a Great British Adventurer

Author: David Hempleman-Adams Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/08/2014

If there's an adventure to be had, it's likely that David Hempleman-Adams has been there first. Ranking alongside Ranulph Fiennes and Chris Bonnington in the pantheon of British explorers, he is the first person in history to achieve what is termed the Adventurers' Grand Slam, by reaching the Geographic and Magnetic North and South Poles as well as climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents. The question Hempleman-Adams is most often asked is, simply: what drives him on? Why risk frostbite pulling a sledge to the North Pole? Why experience the Death Zone on Everest? Why fly in the tiny basket of a precarious balloon across the Atlantic? Is it simply the case that he likes to push himself to the limits, or is there something more to it? No Such Thing as Failure answers these questions and more, uncovering what drives arguably the world's greatest adventurer.

The Biscuit Girls

The Biscuit Girls

Author: Hunter Davies Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/08/2014

Ivy, Dulcie, Barbara, Ann, Dorothy and Jean all had different reasons for applying to work at Carr's biscuits, but once they had put on their overalls and walked through the factory gates they discovered a community full of life, laughter and friendship. To those who didn't know, the biscuit factory that towered over Carlisle might look like just another slice of the industrial North, a noisy and chaotic place with workers trooping in and out at all hours. For the biscuit girls it was a place where they worked hard, but also where they gossiped, got into scrapes and made lifelong friends. Outside the factory walls there might be difficult husbands or demanding kids, and sometimes even heartbreak and tragedy, but they knew there would always be an escape from their troubles at Carr's. Some, like Barbara, only applied because she needed the extra cash, until things got a bit easier at home. Her supervisor cross examined her about who would be looking after the kids while she was at work, but let her have the job. Like many of the women who joined up 'temporary' Barbara went on to stay at Carrs for 32 years. Beginning in the 1940s, these heartwarming and vividly-remembered stories have all been told by the women themselves to Hunter Davies.

The Undertaker's Daughter

The Undertaker's Daughter

Author: Kate Mayfield Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/08/2014

'On the last day of 1959 my father, the Beau Brummel of morticians, piled us into his green and white Desoto in which we looked like a moving pack of Salem cigarettes. He drove away from Lanesboro, the city in which we all were born, and into a small town on the Kentucky and Tennessee border. It was only a ninety-minute drive, but it might as well have been to Alaska. When our big boat of a car glided into Jubilee we circled the town square and headed towards the residential section of Main Street. My father pulled the car over and our five dark heads turned to face a huge, slightly run down house. My parents were total strangers to this tiny enclave, but it didn't matter because my father had finally realised his dream in this old house, which was to own his own funeral home.'

Chasing Lost Time The Life of C.K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy and Translator

Chasing Lost Time The Life of C.K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy and Translator

Author: Jean Findlay Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/08/2014

C. K. Scott Moncrieff's celebrated translation of Proust's A La Recherche du Temps Perdu was first published in 1922 and was a work which would exhaust and consume the translator, leading to his early death at the age of just forty. Joseph Conrad told him, 'I was more interested and fascinated by your rendering than by Proust's creation': some literary figures even felt it was an improvement on the original. From the outside an enigma, Scott Moncrieff left a trail of writings that describe a man expert at living a paradoxical life: fervent Catholic convert and homosexual, gregarious party-goer and deeply lonely, interwar spy in Mussolini's Italy and public man of letters - a man for whom honour was the most abiding principle. He was a decorated war hero, and his letters home are an unusually light take on day-to-day life on the front. Described as 'offensively brave', he was severely injured in 1917 and, convalescing in London, became a lynchpin of literary society - friends with Robert Graves and Noel Coward, enemies with Siegfried Sassoon and in love with Wilfred Owen. Written by Scott Moncrieff's great-great-niece, Jean Findlay, with exclusive access to the family archive, Chasing Lost Time is portrait of a man hurled into war, through an era when the world was changing fast and forever, who brought us the greatest epic of time and memory that has ever been written.

Sister Mother Husband Dog (Etc)

Sister Mother Husband Dog (Etc)

Author: Delia Ephron Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/08/2014

Delia Ephron brings her trademark wit and effervescent prose to a series of unforgettable, moving and provocative essays. The emotional lynchpin is the author's stirring, eloquent response to the death of Nora Ephron, her older sister and frequent writing companion. In 'Sister', she deftly captures the love, rivalry, respect and intimacy that made up her relationship with her sister in a way that is at once deeply personal and comfortingly universal. Other essays in the collection run the gamut from a hysterical piece about love and the movies - how romantic comedies completely destroyed her twenties - to the joy of girlfriends and best friendship, the magical madness and miracle of dogs, keen-eyed observations about urban survival, and a serious and affecting memoir of life with her mother - growing up the child of alcoholics. Ephron's sparkling wit and humanity is present on every emotionally resonant page.

The Eighties One Day, One Decade

The Eighties One Day, One Decade

Author: Dylan Jones Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/08/2014

One Day: Saturday 13 July 1985, nearly two billion people woke up with one purpose. Nearly a third of humanity knew where they were going to be that day. Watching, listening to, attending: Live Aid. One Decade: Britain in the Eighties was different. The culture was different, the politics were different, and our engagement with the world was different. And it was just one day in 1985 that showed how different it was. In One Day, One Decade Dylan Jones tells the story of the Eighties through that day at Wembley, sweeping backwards to the end of the Seventies, and forward to the start of the Nineties. It draws on his personal reminiscences and perspective of music, media, fashion, politics and all forms of pop culture to frame the decade. This is a big book but not a exhaustive and dry social history. Live Aid was the decade's pinch point, when a nation's attitudes and expectations were somehow captured and changed forever. The author suggests that before Live Aid, Britain was one place, and after Live Aid it was another. Britain in the Eighties was a juxtaposition of militancy and profligacy, a country where industry was being broken down, societies were being demolished, and unemployment became an inevitable lifestyle choice: yet the Eighties was also the apotheosis of pop culture, a decade where entertainment, opinion and subjectivity were more important than ever before. Dylan Jones was at the heart of the 1980s editing the seminal magazines i-D and The Face. He was one of the Blitz Kids and was both a commentator and one of the style-makers of the time. This is a controversial book, a story told from the inside by one who was at the centre of events.

Philip Larkin Life, Art and Love

Philip Larkin Life, Art and Love

Author: James Booth Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/08/2014

Philip Larkin was that rare thing among poets: a household name in his own lifetime. Lines such as 'Never such innocence again' and 'Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three' made him one of the most popular poets of the last century. Larkin's reputation as a man, however, has been more controversial. A solitary librarian known for his dour pessimism, he disliked exposure and had no patience with the trappings of the literary circus. And when, in 1992, the publication of his Selected Letters laid bare his compartmentalised personal life, accusations of duplicity, faithlessness, racism and misogyny were levelled against him. There is, of course, no requirement that poets should be likeable or virtuous. But James Booth asks whether art and life were really so deeply at odds with each other. Can the poet who composed the moving 'Love Songs in Age' have been such a cold-hearted man? Can he who uttered the playful, self-deprecating words 'Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth' really have been so vile? The negative public image is rejected by those who shared the poet's life: the women with whom he was romantically involved, his friends and his university colleagues. It is with their personal testimony, including access to previously unseen letters, that Booth reinstates a man misunderstood: not a gaunt, emotional failure, but a witty, provocative and entertaining presence, delightful company; an attentive son and a man devoted to the women he loved.

From the Horse’s Mouth
… or the Groom’s

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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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