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.
Dive in and discover 19 winning short stories by some of the greats in the crime writing world. You can sink in and totally immerse yourself in the writing, or pick and choose at your leisure. The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) was founded in 1953, and they have run their annual awards, The Daggers, since 1956. Take a look at the shortlists of each Dagger and you are set up with a beautifully meaty reading list, the Short Story Dagger is no exception. Maxim Jakubowski, the current chair, has assembled this collection and as he declares in his introduction: “Every story a winner!”. The first, Swiftwing 98 by Peter O’Donnell in 1985 was from a time when the Short Story Dagger had to submitted and include certain ingredients. He had to work in a bottle of champagne, a cryptic message on a micro computer screen, a beautiful blonde Hungarian pianist and Victoria Station, and it is fascinating to see how these feature in the story. Maxim explains that not long after, the rules changed, and the award was given to what was judged to be just the best crime short story of that year. Particular stand outs for me were the amusing intrigue of Herbert in Motion by Ian Rankin, the slicing horror of the Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing by Danuta Reah, and the heartbreak of Martha Grace by Stella Duffy. Chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the Month, Daggers Drawn is a perfect gift for any crime fiction lovers and short story aficionados out there.
Suzanne suffered five heart attacks and made it through open heart surgery. But even that pales in comparison to the horrors she faced as a young girl. Her childhood became the 'stuff of nightmares' after her father passed away and her mother, unable to get a job in Ireland, had to seek work in London. So 'Mammy' was forced into the heartbreaking decision to put Suzanne and her five siblings into church-run orphanages in Dublin while she worked away. It was just meant to be temporary. Her life soon became a daily struggle to avoid beatings with canes and rosary beads. Suzanne and the other children worked from dawn until midnight, living on disgusting scraps of food, while the nuns dined on fresh fruit, meat and cakes that the 'orphans' had cooked for them. Suzanne tried her best to shield her younger sisters from the terror of these hateful 'women of God'. But it was only the beginning of their troubles... Eventually, their mother returned from London, after four years, with enough money to take her children out and the family was reunited. However, too scared to speak out, the children vowed to take the horrors they had experienced at the orphanages to their graves. What really happened behind those church doors? This is Suzanne's heartbreaking and touching story.
This is an incredibly inspiring exploration of the sea's role in the wellness of people and the planet, beautifully written by Easkey Britton - surfer, scientist and social activist. She offers a powerful female perspective on the sea and surfing, explaining what it's like to be a woman in a man's world and how she promoted the sport to women in Iran, surfing while wearing a hijab. She speaks of the undiscussed taboo around entering the water while menstruating - and of how she has come to celebrate her own bodily cycles. She has developed her own approach to surfing, which instead of seeking to dominate the waves, works in tune with the natural cycles of her body, the moon and the seasons. In a society that rewards busyness, she believes that understanding the influence of cycles becomes even more important - and we all have them, men and women. For Easkey, the sea is a source of mental and physical wellbeing. She explores the mental toughness needed in big-wave surfing, and presents surfing as an embodied mindfulness practice in which we can find flow and connect with the movement of the waves. She stresses the need to recognize the ocean as our most powerful ally when addressing our greatest global challenge: the climate crisis. Above all, Easkey's relationship to the sea has taught her about the need to meet life and evolve with it, rather than seeking to control it. By such wisdom our planet might just survive and thrive.
Personal memoirs are complex to write and often hard to read. Some fall at the first hurdle by coming across as self obsessed, the author expecting readers to buy into a sort of self-therapy in print. Others can be too revelatory, when the author has failed to exercise any sense of self-editing and allows the urge to confess all, or explain minutiae, to get in the way of the wider story. They can, at worst, be self-indulgent tracts, of interest only to the writer. Robert James’ O’Brien’s wonderful Just One More Drive is none of those. It is a searingly honest, wonderfully written story of O’Brien’s metamorphosis from stuttering adolescent and confused pubescent in Ireland to becoming the man he hoped he could and always wanted to be. What makes this a really special account of one man’s discovery of his true self, is O’Brien’s ability to tell his story with admirable sensitivity to the people he lives with, works with and knows, but also to himself. He depicts his strong early sense of himself and his potential, and describes the frustration and self awareness of not being that person with such clarity that, from the very first chapter, you will be willing him to succeed, urging him to leap the hurdles that life has put in his path. And then there are the cars. From the Mini he owned on passing his driving test to the growling BMW beast he tames as he takes control of himself and his life, they appear throughout as avatars of his self-perceived status and mark the yardsticks of success on his path to self-discovery and self-assuredness. At its core this is a touching testimony of one man’s triumphs in his struggles, both of himself and for himself. It is, to use that much over used term, a “journey” on many levels and as you get to know him and how he thinks it will have you cheering him on, with every heart-warming page.
Pip Stewart’s Life Lessons from the Amazon is two books in one. Firstly, it’s a graphic account of an expedition down Guyana’s perilous Essequibo River - a source to sea adventure brimming with danger and beauty in equal measure. Secondly it’s a thoughtful reflection on that journey that provides insights and learnings which might be usefully applied to 'normal life'. As the team makes its way down the river each chapter highlights a different emotion, behaviour or human attribute which is then given the jungle treatment as Pip recounts an occasion from her Amazonian experience where it surfaced. Appreciation, Growth, Conflict, Connection.. and many more such themes enjoy an adventurer's analysis leading to the very last chapter, ambitiously titled Death and Life … in which a flesh-eating parasite nibbles its way into the story. For Pip Stewart, this extraordinary adventure was life-changing and some of the hard-earned wisdom she shares within Life Lessons from the Amazon might just change the lives of others.
A spiritual memoir ‘Return to the light within’ by Dmitria Burby tells readers of the author's journey from corporate executive to rediscovering herself. Written to share her story of self-enlightenment in the hopes it will resonate and help others on their own journey. This book is succinct and well constructed, broken down into easy to digest chapters and sections that works through the author’s initial questioning of ‘who am I?’ to reconnection with her spirit and finding her purpose as a spiritual guide and healer. I liked the conversational and open tone used to write this book, it felt as though I was listening to someone’s journey without feeling directly instructed. I think that this would be an interesting book for someone looking for their own spiritual advancement, or perhaps those caught at a crossroads and looking for a more spiritual alternative to a more traditional self-help book. Regardless of personal beliefs there are plenty of lessons that can be taken away from ‘Return To The Light Within’. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Meticulously and compellingly curated by his daughter, Amber Marks, Becoming Mr Nice presents a personal, kaleidoscopic visual compendium of Howard Marks’ life, from the Welsh Valleys, to the spires of Oxford, to life on the run, to court transcripts of his Old Bailey trial, and beyond. Through the likes of gig tickets, Oxford University paraphernalia, family photos, official documents, private letters, handwritten notes and Marks’ previously unpublished account of his fugitive years, this offers fresh, fascinating insights into the life of a truly fascinating - and funny - character. For example, Howard’s description of applying for the newly created position of UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office (Drugs Czar, in his words) is characteristically comic: "Realising that by legalising all drugs, I could fulfil the brief easily and quickly, I wrote to the Cabinet Office". Though his application (and qualifications for the post) were mightily impressive, he wasn’t shortlisted for interview, but the whole exchange is hilarious, and superbly presented. Related, Amber Marks’ background as a researcher and barrister is very much in evidence throughout - the book has been put together perfectly, and she and her father worked on preserving many of the artefacts featured in the book together during the final years of his life.
Faïza Guène’s Men Don’t Cry is an absolute triumph - wise, funny, enthralling, thought-provoking. At its heart, the novel explores the age-old (and sharply pertinent) pull between one’s land of heritage and one’s land of birth, in this case generational and family conflict between Algeria and France. It’s an incredibly powerful commentary on a very real conflict in contemporary France, perfectly summarised when the novel’s protagonist comments that “to be fully French you have to deny part of your heritage, part of your identity, part of your history, part of your beliefs, and yet when you succeed in achieving all that, you’re still reminded of your origins…So what’s the point?” Men Don’t Cry is also a superb coming-of-age story that sees an awkward young man, Mourad, find his feet, and his voice. He was born in Nice to Algerian parents, the youngest of three children. His eldest sister Dounia, a devoted feminist, leaves home without looking back, while his middle sister marries, has kids, and is happy. Mourad is between the two - neither desperate to leave home, nor especially looking to settle down. He’s insular, doesn’t have many friends, so he’s there when his dad has a hugely debilitating stroke. He’s there when his hypochondriac mum needs to vent (which she does a lot, about anything and everything, to comic and poignant effect). But then the time comes for Mourad to leave home too - he has a teaching job in Paris. A few weeks into his new post, he reconnects with Dounia, now a public figure feminist activist who’s stepped onto the political ladder. Her interviews in high profile publications and the book she writes about her upbringing and experiences rile Mourad. For example, she describes their dad as “authoritarian, change-averse, illiterate.” But, nevertheless, it’s Mourad who bridges the chasm between Dounia and the rest of the family, not least at the unexpected, heartrending end of this remarkable novel. Mourad’s voice is engrossing, and feels unfailingly authentic. On that note, deep appreciation must go to the novel’s award-winning translator, Sarah Ardizzone - rendering Mourad’s voice so dazzingly into English, is a tremendous achievement. The result is a novel that reads like a dream - vibrant, nuanced, thought-provoking, funny, and shot-through with Mourad’s wit.
Instagram phenomenon @1bike1world Dean Nicholson reveals the full story of his life-changing friendship with rescue cat Nala and their inspiring adventures together on a bike journey around the world. When 30-year-old Dean Nicholson set off from Scotland to cycle around the world, his aim was to learn as much as he could about our troubled planet. But he hadn't bargained on the lessons he'd learn from his unlikely companion. Three months after leaving home, on a remote road in the mountains between Montenegro and Bosnia, he came across an abandoned kitten. Something about the piercing eyes and plaintive meowing of the bedraggled little cat proved irresistible. He couldn't leave her to her fate, so he put her on his bike and then, with the help of local vets, nursed her back to health. Soon on his travels with the cat he named Nala, they forged an unbreakable bond - both curious, independent, resilient and adventurous. The video of how they met has had 20 million views and their Instagram has grown to almost 750k followers - and still counting! Experiencing the kindness of strangers, visiting refugee camps, rescuing animals through Europe and Asia, Dean and Nala have already learned that the unexpected can be pretty amazing. Together with Garry Jenkins, writer with James Bowen of the bestselling A Street Cat Named Bob, Dean shares the extraordinary tale of his and Nala's inspiring and heart-warming adventure together.
Ed Balls was just three weeks old when he tried his first meal: pureed roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. While perhaps ill-advised by modern weaning standards, it worked for him in 1967, and from that moment on he was hooked on food. Appetite is a memoir with a twist: part autobiography, part cookbook, each chapter is a recipe that tells a story. Ed was taught to cook by his mother, and now he’s passing these recipes on to his own children as they start to fly the nest. Sitting round the table year after year, the world around us may change, but great recipes last a lifetime. Appetite is a celebration of love, family, and really good food.
AMERICA IS SUFFERING FROM PTSD. THE RECKONING DIAGNOSES ITS CORE CAUSES AND HELPS BEGIN THE HEALING PROCESS. For four years, Donald J Trump inflicted an onslaught of overlapping and interconnected traumas upon the American people, targeting anyone he perceived as being an 'other' or an enemy. Women were discounted and derided, the sick were dismissed as weak and unworthy of help, immigrants and minorities were demonised and discriminated against and money was elevated above all else. In short, he transformed America into a macro version of his malignantly dysfunctional family. How can Americans make sense of the degree to which their institutions and leaders have let them down? How can they negotiate a world in which all sense of safety and justice seems to have been destroyed? How can they - as individuals and as a nation - confront, process and overcome this loss of trust and the ways they have been forever altered by chaos, division and cruelty? And when the dust finally settles, how can they begin to heal, in the midst of ongoing health and economic crises and the greatest political divide since the Civil War? Mary L Trump is uniquely positioned to answer these difficult questions. She holds a PhD in clinical psychology specialising in trauma, has herself been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and happens to be Donald J Trump's only niece. In The Reckoning, she applies her unique expertise to the task of helping Americans confront an all-encompassing trauma, one that has taken an immense toll on their nation's health and well-being. A new leader alone cannot fix the situation. Donald J Trump is only the latest symptom of a disease that has existed within the body politic since America's inception - from the original sin of slavery through its population's unceasing, organised commitment to inequality. An enormous amount of healing must be done to rebuild the lives of Americans, their faith in leadership and their hope for their nation. It starts with The Reckoning.
Starting off by recounting his incredible journey to the North Pole, ‘Live a Life to Die For’ by Roger Davies is a really interesting autobiography. Roger’s life story and what a varied life he has led. Some of the achievements included in this book, as well as coming 5th in a race to the North Pole include: being a part of the highest rugby game, played on Everest, climbing Kilimanjaro, rowing the North Atlantic and being a charity worker in Africa. These adventures, challenges and life experiences would be sufficient to fill an autobiography in themselves. However, intertwined within these epic tales is the more human story of a life turned around, addictions and adversities overcome. Through this combination, and the order in which each part of the author’s story is revealed to the reader, you learn where the author developed the true grit, strength of character and determination to achieve what he has in later life. Because of this unique structure and the honest and open writing style you’re able to enjoy these highs of the adventures even more. An inspirational and entertaining autobiography. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Officers from the RSPCA investigate reports of animal cruelty and neglect on a farm, only to discover a 5-year-old boy curled up asleep in a dog bed, amidst filth and squalor. He has severe physical and cognitive impairments, and no one outside the family seems to know of the existence of little Jacob. When he arrives in the Allen household, a terrified Louise wonders how on earth she will cope looking after a child with his level of physical and emotional damage. With the support of veteran social worker, Mary, the fight begins to get Jacob the support he needs - as medical investigations begin to reveal more shocking details about Jacob's story.
The inspirational memoir from rugby league legend Rob Burrow on his extraordinary career and his battle with motor neurone disease. ‘I’m not giving in until my last breath’ – Rob Burrow Rob Burrow is one of the greatest rugby league players of all time. And the most inspirational. As a boy, Rob was told he was too small to play the sport. Even when he made his debut for Leeds Rhinos, people wrote him off as a novelty. But Rob never stopped proving people wrong. During his time at Leeds, for whom he played almost 500 games, he won eight Super League Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups and three World Club Challenges. He also played for his country in two World Cups. In December 2019, Rob was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, a rare degenerative condition, and given a couple of years to live. He was only 37, not long retired and had three young children. When he went public with the devastating news, the outpouring of affection and support was extraordinary. When it became clear that Rob was going to fight it all the way, sympathy turned to awe. This is the story of a tiny kid who adored rugby league but never should have made it – and ended up in the Leeds hall of fame. It's the story of a man who resolved to turn a terrible predicament into something positive – when he could have thrown the towel in. It's about the power of love, between Rob and his childhood sweetheart Lindsey; and of friendship, between Rob and his faithful team mates. Far more than a sports memoir, Too Many Reasons to Live is a story of boundless courage and infinite kindness.
A heart-warming and hilarious look at life in the classroom from the teachers who host the most popular UK education podcast, Two Mr Ps in a Pod(Cast). Have you ever wondered what really happens during the day when your precious little angels are at school? In this book, The Two Mr Ps will take you on a side-splittingly funny journey through the weird and wonderful world of primary schools. It will also explore the pressures of modern-day teaching, revealing exactly what it takes to wrangle a chaotic classroom (or seven) on a weekly basis. From the absolute characters found in the staffroom to school-trip mishaps and everything else inbetween, Put A Wet Paper Towel on It is a must-read for teachers and parents alike. So sit up straight, four legs on your chair, fingers on lips and get ready to take a trip down memory lane. And remember - when in doubt, just put a wet paper towel on it.
Told in engaging, personable style by mother and daughter, Jeanette and Lauren Manning’s Walking Away from Hate is a powerful, un-put-down-able account of a teenager being drawn into criminality, violence and extreme white supremacy through an online recruiter. In Jeanette’s words, “this is the story of Lauren’s journey from ordinary kid into the world of hate and white supremacist ideology, but it’s also the story of a newly-widowed single parent who had to learn the most difficult lesson of all - how to keep the door open”. Indeed, one of this memoir’s defining, pervasive powers is the dual mother-daughter narrative that relates how Lauren was drawn into this appalling ideology and situation, how her family struggled with it, and how - ultimately - she came back from the brink. It’s a brave book, suffused in unwavering honesty.
In Running America, Jamie McDonald tells the story of his 5,500 mile fundraising dash through no less than 22 US states in an attempt to smash one of the world’s toughest records. Running solo, unsupported, and at times barefoot, Jamie also happens to be dressed as a superhero and pushing a trolley called Caesar. Oh, and then there’s the blistering 50 degree deserts, mountain lions and snakes.. It all sounds a bit much for someone whose mother was once told her son could end up in a wheelchair, because aged seven Jamie was diagnosed with a rare spinal condition called syringomyelia. He also suffered epilepsy and weak immune deficiency. It’s difficult to envision that poorly little boy growing into ‘Adventureman’ and powering his way across America, but there is something both innocent and brave about Jamie’s storytelling that lets you know the kid is still in there and he will never give up. Running America is an incredible journey that will melt hearts.
From the indie rockstar Japanese Breakfast, an unflinching, powerful, deeply moving memoir about growing up mixed-race, Korean food, losing her Korean mother, and forging her own identity. In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humour and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian-American kid at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the east coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, performing gigs with her fledgling band - and meeting the man who would become her husband - her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her. Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Michelle Zauner's voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
If you don’t read the Daily Mirror, or have much interest in football, you may not know of columnist and commentator Brian Reade. In which case you have a real treat in store and should pick up a copy of this book and immerse yourself in it immediately. No really, stop reading this review and do it now. From its title, drawn from a kerbside conversation in Garston before a mural of Spanish Civil War veteran and trade union leader, Jack Jones, and its subtly adapted John Lennon lyric subtitle, Reade launches into a powerful and principled analysis of why, as a nation, we have been duped into the reverence and recognition of the supposedly great and the good, when all too often it is those of more humble backgrounds who are the true heroes. To crassly paraphrase Mr Reade, have you ever thought for a moment why the NHS staff who risked their lives and worked obscene hours in the toughest of conditions got a national clap and yet still fight for a modest pay rise, while many of those who sold dodgy PPE goods ended up with millions in the bank and big slaps on the back from our political classes? In drawing on his deep knowledge, superb research and award winning articles, and ranging across illustrative chapters on Dennis Skinner, Barbara Castle, Doreen Lawrence, the Hillsborough Mothers, Muhammed Ali and many more, Reade paints a picture of the corrupt, unspoken and all too often hidden systems that suppress real social mobility, hinder justice and prevent true heroes from receiving the credit they so richly deserve. As Ali put it to Reade in a 2001 interview at his Berrien Springs, Michigan home, “Service for others is the rent we pay on earth.” Reade has done us all a great service with this heart-wrenching, anger-inducing, truth-telling book that will make you weep with frustration while making you profoundly aware of the true nature of heroism and those who really deserve the statues, medals and infinite praise of grateful nations. It is the most affecting and truest hymn to stalwart, silent - and too often silenced - heroism that you will read this year, and for many years to come.
The hole in Royd Tolkien’s bucket is his beloved brother Mike who should have been with him to complete their adventure bucket list together. When Motor Neurone Disease hits it does so cruelly and without mercy. After a long battle Royd was alone, but Mike had bequeathed him an unusual gift which would push his risk-averse nature to the limits. There’s a Hole in My Bucket is Royd’s hilarious inheritance journey to complete 50 new and unexpected tasks that Mike has left him. The brief is comprehensive and mischievous, sending him all over the world and including everything from getting a tattoo to taking a terrifying bungee jump. It’s a truly Tolkienesque quest but instead of power, Royd’s reward is that Mike is with him every step of the way, cheering him on and helping him navigate his own grieving process with thrills and laughter. Mike has left Royd the greatest gift of all. Life.
‘This book is here to take you inside the daily realities of Westminster. I don’t mean that it’s going to bore you to death with a blow by blow account of what it’s like to sit on the Statutory Instrument Debate on Naval regulations 1968-2020 – but to demystify the places and practice of politics.’ From agonising decisions on foreign air strikes to making headlines about orgasms, from sitting in on history-making moments at the UN to eating McCain potato smiles at a black-tie banquet in China, the life of a politician is never dull. And it’s also never been more important. But politics is far bigger than Westminster, and in this book Jess Phillips makes the compelling case for why now, more than ever, we all need to be a part of it. With trademark humour and honesty, Jess Phillips lifts the lid on what a career in politics is really like and why it matters – to all of us. This is the inside story of what’s really going on.
In Coasting, Elise Downing sets out to run the entire coastline of Britain - a 5000 mile / 300 day journey of pain, gratitude and discovery. Endearingly honest and unassuming, Elise describes herself as someone completely unsuited to the task - and yet she did it. She judges herself as an adventure imposter - and yet she isn’t. One wonders how on earth she manages to keep going - and yet she does. There must be thousands of women in their early twenties just like Elise - fresh out of a boozy university experience, career-disillusioned and in a toxic relationship - but the last time I looked they weren’t all queuing up in their trainers to set off round the country from Greenwich. There is certainly something extraordinary about Elise Downing, but of course she doesn’t think there is, and that absence of self-belief is what makes the book so engaging and relatable. With lots of support and encouragement from her adventure community, parents who should probably get an award of some kind and the inexhaustible kindness of strangers, she covers much of the distance with friendly co-runners and free access to warm spare rooms. The trip, however, is not without its traumas and tears - lots of tears - so many in fact one worries she might contribute to a rise in sea levels. Coasting is a classic adventure story wherein an individual has erased the challenges of their life through a bigger, all-consuming challenge and by putting themselves somewhere they perhaps shouldn’t be, has discovered much more of who they really are. *** Don't miss Elise Downing share the story of her run around the UK coast at A Day at the Riverside, 18th September.
In his quest to define ‘sporting greatness’, double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee has spent nearly 4 years interviewing and training with some of the greatest minds in sport to discover what it takes to become – and remain – a champion. Featuring: Ian Botham • Mark Cavendish • Alastair Cook • Alex Danson • Richard Dunwoody • Donna Fraser • Chris Froome • Anna Hemmings • Denis Irwin • Michael Johnson • Kílian Jornet • Stuart Lancaster • AP McCoy • Ronnie O’Sullivan • Michael Owen • Adam Peaty • Ian Poulter • Paula Radcliffe • Ian Thorpe • Mark Webber • Shane Williams From an early age Alistair Brownlee has been obsessed with being the very best, and not just improving his sporting performance across his three specialist triathlon disciplines of swimming, cycling and running, but also understanding how a winner becomes a dominant champion. Winning gold in consecutive Olympic Games has only strengthened this need and desire. Over the last 4 years Alistair has been on a journey to learn from the best, talking to elite figures across multiple sports as well as leading thinkers and scientists, to understand what enabled these remarkable individuals to rise to the very top, and to push the limits of human capability in their relentless pursuit of perfection. Alistair uses these fascinating interviews, along with extensive research, to explore a range of sports and environments – athletics, cycling, football, rugby, horseracing, hockey, cricket, golf, motor racing, snooker, swimming and ultra-running – to reveal how talent alone is never enough and how hard work, pain, pressure, stress, risk, focus, sacrifice, innovation, reinvention, passion, ruthlessness, luck, failure and even a lockdown can all play a crucial part in honing a winning mentality and achieving sustained success.
The Comfort Book is just that. A beautifully packaged, beautifully comforting hug in a book. Haig’s lists, aphorisms, quotes, case studies and recipes are an antidote to today’s busy lifestyles, medicine for our crazy lives. It is suggested that you should read it how you want; “it’s as messy as life”. And there is something incredibly liberating about being told there are no rules on opening a book. So then I flicked. Because I could. Because I was given permission to. I came to a chapter: Short. Life is short. Be kind. And it make me stop and think about when I last displayed kindness. Am I too busy in my life juggling. existing. coping. to show kindness as much as I should. We need to give ourselves space. To breathe. And I spent 15 minutes on that page. Six words. Another page with 10 words I laughed out loud at. Pasta, is all I have to say. This book really made me stop. And think. And breathe. The pace of my life stopped each time I picked it up. And that space was so needed. The book is filled with Haig’s reflections on hope, survival and the messy miracle of being alive. He shares his collection of consolations learned in hard times and suggestions for making the bad day’s better. For now, I’m still enjoying it but know I’ll keep it by my bed or maybe next to the toilet for people to share. It’s a book to be savoured. To be enjoyed. To come back to. It’s a marathon. Not a sprint. He includes quotes from Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, Nietzsche, existential philosopher Rollo May, Bruce Lee. Haig’s witty. He’s wise. I love the way he writes, the way he imparts wisdom, shares his nuggets on life and I recognise that I haven’t got a routine baggy enough to live in. Thank you Matt for the comfort. I’m off to make Matt’s hummus. And eat crisps. And get some “baggy” in my life.
I was really interested to read this book, as I enjoy running myself. However, the thought of even one marathon is alarming let alone 35 in 35 days! However, that is what Alan Corcoran did in the summer of 2012. Following his father’s sudden stroke, Alan decided he needed to do something to channel his energy and raise money for the charities that helped his father. He thought up this idea of running around Ireland, which broke down to a total of 35 marathons. This book details his journey from thinking up the challenge, to setting it in motion, to each marathon at a time. He encountered huge challenges along the way even before he started, especially with the sheer amount of logistics involved from accommodation, to food, to a support team. He details each of the marathons that he completes and the highs and lows. I really felt for him along his journey and was willing him on as he encountered injury, after injury. The amount of determination this man has is incredible and I whole heartedly admire him for what he did – a fantastic read. Nicola Coen, A LoveReading Ambassador
For centuries much has been written about a mother’s love for her son, fewer words have been dedicated to the reverse. When his controlling elderly father becomes a danger to his aged mother, Shaun Deeney takes the decision to place his mother in a charming care home. Later, following his father’s sudden death, he takes the unusual decision to remove her from the care home and to provide for her himself, in the family home, with the assistance of paid-for carers. So unheard of is this, the care home themselves have never heard of anyone doing it before and no-one even knows what forms are required. The softly spoken truth is that residents rarely leave such places until their final journey. What follows is an endearingly candid account of Denney facing down his doubts, and those of others, to provide the very best care for his Mother. In so doing he rediscovers the Mother he loves but hardly knows and forgoes his ‘new-found freedom’ as a divorcee to embrace his role as a dutiful caring son. With diversions into his daughter-assisted forays into internet dating, and his quest for love and a relationship, Deeney writes with engaging honesty and humour on the mistakes and triumphs of his decisions and explores the power of forgiveness, tolerance and understanding in this affecting account of what it means to be a son, a father and a man who faces up to the responsibilities of all three. His generosity of spirit in sharing the truth of his experience makes this a highly readable tale of redemption and a celebration of love’s many hues. The LoveReading LitFest invited Shaun Deeney to the festival to talk about Love & Care. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Shaun in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why everyone should read this book. Check out a preview of the event here.
PICKED AS A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020 BY THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, THE GUARDIAN, THE DAILY MAIL AND THE DAILY EXPRESS. The sinking of the White Ship in 1120 is one of the greatest disasters England has ever suffered. In one catastrophic night, the king’s heir and the flower of Anglo-Norman society were drowned and the future of the crown was thrown violently off course. In a riveting narrative, Charles Spencer follows the story from the Norman Conquest through to the decades that would become known as the Anarchy: a civil war of untold violence that saw families turn in on each other with English and Norman barons, rebellious Welsh princes and the Scottish king all playing a part in a desperate game of thrones. All because of the loss of one vessel – the White Ship – the medieval Titanic.
An office worker who has no one to eat lunch with enrolls in a course that builds confidence about eating alone. A man with a pathological fear of bedbugs offers up his body to save his building from infestation. A time capsule in Seoul is dug up hundreds of years before it was intended to be unearthed. A vending machine repairman finds himself trapped in a shrinking motel during a never-ending snowstorm. In these and other indelible short stories, contemporary South Korean author Yun Ko-eun conjures up slightly off-kilter worlds tucked away in the corners of everyday life. Her fiction is bursting with images that toe the line between realism and the fantastic. Throughout Table for One, comedy and an element of the surreal are interwoven with the hopelessness and loneliness that pervades the protagonists' decidedly mundane lives. Yun's stories focus on solitary city dwellers, and her eccentric, often dreamlike humor highlights their sense of isolation. Mixing quirky and melancholy commentary on densely packed urban life, she calls attention to the toll of rapid industrialization and the displacement of traditional culture. Acquainting the English-speaking audience with one of South Korea's breakout young writers, Table for One presents a parade of misfortunes that speak to all readers in their unconventional universality.
Thoughtfully, in fact beautifully handled, this is an absolutely fascinating look at the early life of Audrey Hepburn as she lived through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Ask me to name my favourite Movie Stars and Audrey Hepburn would appear. I have watched her films and read biographies detailing her life, she made a difference both with her art and her humanitarian work. This book takes you to the time before she became a movie star, a time that has previously been invented and misinterpreted in accounts. In Dutch Girl, the detailed historical explanation of the Second World War flows over and around Audrey, allowing you to see just why and how she became the woman so much admired around the world. The foreword by Audrey’s son Luca Dotti actually tells you everything you need to know about this biography, he thanks author Robert Matzen, calling the book a true gift. The preface tells you a little about the meticulous research carried out for Dutch Girl, Robert Matzen says that his investigation took many twists and turns and also provided surprising answers. He has located quotes from Audrey about the Second World War, has included new interviews, and used archives to form a detailed, compelling account. The photos are fascinating and act as a visual support to what is already a vivid biography. Entering this book enables you to touch history, to feel the effects of the war as it would have affected Audrey. If you’re just looking for glitz and glamour you most certainly won’t find it here. Dutch Girl is the most compassionate and wise book, it takes you beyond and behind the image of the Hollywood star, to what lay beneath.
The Asylum by Carol Minto is shocking, heartbreaking and tragic. A story of abuse and neglect, of a child abandoned not just by her own family, but by social services too - the very people who should have been protecting her from the dangers in society. Carol was abused by her brother when she was just 11 years old. Eventually sent away from home for being a 'problem child', she survived Aston Hall psychiatric hospital and the doctor in charge, who drugged, raped and sexually assaulted the children and teenagers there while other staff members stood by. I had to remind myself at times that The Asylum was a true story, showing the darkest side of human nature and one woman's reslience, rather than a crime-horror novel filled with astonishing twists and turns. This isn't an easy read, and it touched my heart, following Carol's story as she rebuilt her life and eventually found the courage to speak out against her abusers. A book that stays with you long after you turn the final page.
LONGLISTED FOR THE FT MCKINSEY BUSINESS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2021 In this compelling story of greed, chicanery and tarnished idealism, two Wall Street Journal reporters investigate a man who Bill Gates and Western governments entrusted with hundreds of millions of dollars to make profits and end poverty but now stands accused of masterminding one of the biggest, most brazen frauds ever. Arif Naqvi was charismatic, inspiring and self-made. The founder of the Dubai-based private-equity firm Abraaj, he was the Key Man to the global elite searching for impact investments to make money and do good. He persuaded politicians he could help stabilize the Middle East after 9/11 by providing jobs and guided executives to opportunities in cities they struggled to find on the map. Bill Gates helped him start a billion-dollar fund to improve health care in poor countries, and the UN and Interpol appointed him to boards. Naqvi also won the support of President Obama's administration and the chief of a British government fund compared him to Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible. The only problem? In 2019 Arif Naqvi was arrested on charges of fraud and racketeering at Heathrow airport. A British judge has approved his extradition to the US and he faces up to 291 years in jail if found guilty. With a cast featuring famous billionaires and statesmen moving across Asia, Africa, Europe and America, The Key Man is the story of how the global elite was duped by a capitalist fairy tale. Clark and Louch's thrilling investigation exposes one of the world's most audacious scams and shines a light on the hypocrisy, corruption and greed at the heart of the global financial system.
What a voice, what a story, what experiences, and what a vital record of the Windrush Generation experience, as told by a skilled teacher who came to Britain to be confronted with racist colour bars in place of the anticipated welcoming arms of the colonial Motherland. Black Teacher is an important, engaging and eye-opening piece of social history, and its author, Beryl Gilroy, has outstanding literary flair - her dialogue and evocation of character is first-class. Born in British Guyana in 1924, Beryl Gilroy arrived in Britain as an experienced, respected teacher and yet, “Here I was, over twenty years later, feeling and acting like a novice. I was afraid to go to school.” So Beryl said to her husband ahead of beginning her second term as the Headmistress of a North London infants school (in 1969, she was Camden’s first black headteacher). And the reason for her trepidation? The school was “full of tense, fighting people,” its pupils disruptive due to boredom and a lack of purpose, with parents who mutter that there’s “nothing but blacks everywhere.” And all this followed years of battling to secure a teaching position - Beryl moved to Britain in 1958 to study Child Development, but found herself continually overlooked for teaching positions. As a result, she took work as in an office, then as a lady’s maid, while never giving up on her vocation. Throughout the author is an inspiration - a loveable, valiant pioneer whose story, resilience and dedication had me enthralled from start to finish.
Summertime, 1935. On a lake near Berlin, a young man is out sailing when he glimpses a woman reclining in the prow of a passing boat. Their eyes meet - and one of history's greatest conspiracies is born. Harro Schulze-Boysen had already shed blood in the fight against Nazism by the time he and Libertas Haas-Heye began their whirlwind romance. She joined the cause, and soon the two lovers were leading a network of antifascists that stretched across Berlin's bohemian underworld. Harro himself infiltrated German intelligence and began funnelling Nazi battle plans to the Allies, including the details of Hitler's surprise attack on the Soviet Union. But nothing could prepare Harro and Libertas for the betrayals they would suffer in this war of secrets - a struggle in which friend could be indistinguishable from foe. Drawing on unpublished diaries, letters and Gestapo files, Norman Ohler spins an unforgettable tale of love, heroism and sacrifice.
When the opening line of a personal account starts “For those of us who leave our country for a better future, memory stands still.” you know that you are in the hands of a writer who has a hinterland, both geographic and experiential. Hassan Al Kontar is such a writer. Bright, brave and boundless in his desire for escape; from compulsory Syrian military service and an uncivil war, then from entrapment in Kuala Lumpur airport, Al Kontar tells a tale of determination and courage that encompasses so much more. He seasons his story with perceptive and astute observations, from how the Gulf States have fuelled extraordinary growth to how to marshal the global power of social media and the world’s press. He charts his journey from his familial Syrian home with its olive grove, almond trees and grapevines, through Emirati workplaces and police cells, via various flights to the ‘refused entry’ that results in his being visa-less, stateless and unwanted in Malaysia. He also records the useless futility of those we imagine to have the power to offer him salvation. This is not the glossy Tom Hanks “The Terminal” movie version of airport ensnarement. This is the real, “bright young man in an impossible situation” version, complete with hellish "Catch-22 meets Orwellian system" scenes, the complete and shameful "failure of international humanitarian agencies" subtext and with Canadians and Canada as the heroes of the piece. Al-Kontar is a wonderful young man with a wise old soul. He is also a gifted storyteller telling important truths in a hugely readable style.
At once personal, politically-charged, moving and witty, John Chick Donohue’s The Greatest Beer Run Ever is an engaging account of a Vietnam vet’s tracking down of his former comrades-in-arms to bring them a beer from home. Living up to its title, it really does read like the greatest beer run ever, and will have readers interested in the human side of history laughing, crying and thinking in equal measure. Like so many of life’s momentous ideas, a night in a bar prompts ex-Marine and merchant seaman Chick Donohue to hatch his plan to return to Vietnam. But unlike most bar-based ideas, Chick actually goes through with his. Armed with a list of names, a rucksack of beer, and hoping for a sprinkling of Irish luck, he sets off, though he admits that “I still had my doubts that I could pull it off.” This fascinating, enthralling account sees the author having to use his gift of the gab to press on past check-points before tackling multiple dangers and coming face to face with unexpected realities when he reaches Vietnam - realities that bring him to a big realisation: “I began to see that the protesters, however disrespectfully, were at least trying to stop this madness…If there is one thing that I learned as a result of my Vietnam experience it’s that government - all governments for that matter - are not to be trusted. Many politicians lie when it serves their interests.” This is tasty food for thought with universal resonance.
Part memoir, part dismantling of the perceived fixed ideas on identity and sexuality, ‘Bent’ is based on the author's own experiences of sexuality and manhood. I really enjoyed the author’s honest and witty writing style, and found it very easy to become immersed in tales. Using lived experience to explore issues around labels and preconceptions. I think that this book brilliantly gets across the message that the connection to another person is the important part of any relationship. I also loved that he takes the opportunity to discuss consent and how to work through this topic with a teenager. I read this book in one sitting. Vibrant, educational and thought provoking, this is a brilliant book for expanding your horizons and perhaps reframing how you look at the world. I would heartily recommend this book to nonfiction and fiction fans alike, if you are looking for a deeply personal narrative with moments to pause and reflect. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain development and trauma expert, Dr. Bruce Perry, discuss the impact of trauma and adverse experiences and how healing must begin with a shift to asking, “what happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?” Through wide-ranging, and often deeply personal conversation, Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Perry explore how what happens to us in early childhood – both good and bad - influences the people we become. They challenge us to shift from focusing on, “What’s wrong with you?” or “Why are you behaving that way?,” to asking, “What happened to you?” This simple change in perspective can open up a new and hopeful understanding for millions about why we do the things we do, why we are the way we are, providing a road map for repairing relationships, overcoming what seems insurmountable, and ultimately living better and more fulfilling lives. Many of us experience adversity and trauma during childhood that has lasting impact on our physical and emotional health. And as we’re beginning to understand, we are more sensitive to developmental trauma as children than we are as adults. ‘What happened to us’ in childhood is a powerful predictor of our risk for physical and mental health problems down the road, and offers scientific insights in to the patterns of behaviors so many struggle to understand. A survivor of multiple childhood challenges herself, Oprah Winfrey shares portions of her own harrowing experiences because she understands the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma at a young age. Throughout her career, Oprah has teamed up with Dr. Bruce Perry, one of the world’s leading experts on childhood trauma. He has treated thousands of children, youth, and adults and has been called on for decades to support individuals and communities following high-profile traumatic events. Now, Oprah joins forces with Dr. Perry to marry the power of storytelling with the science and clinical experience to better understand and overcome the effects of trauma. In conversation throughout the book, the two focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves in the context of personal experiences. They remove blame and self-shaming, and open up a space for healing and understanding. It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma, and it’s one that allows us to understand our pasts in order to clear a path to our future - opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way. Grounded in the latest brain science and brought to life through compelling narratives, this book shines a light on a much-needed path to recovery – showing us our incredible capacity to transform after adversity.
‘The Road To My Horizon’ by Timothy Parker is a detailed account of one man’s life. An autobiography initially created for his family and friends, anecdotal in nature as opposed to an in depth account of every stage in Tim’s life. The result is a vibrant story of a family and a man with a great deal of life experience and advice to offer based on those experiences. Dating from WWII to present day, this book is also a personal look through modern history and would be great for those with an interest in history. With appendices with additional detail pertaining to the events in the book, I can see this book having a wide appeal. ‘The Road To My Horizon’ is well-written, providing detail and in depth description in a conversational and engaging tone. I read this book with great interest, although not an upbringing I can relate to as such, I found this an entertaining story. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in people’s stories, as well as those wanting to read a personal recollection of modern history. I’m sure the anecdotes in this book will spark memories for many readers about their own childhoods and I think that this is a great way to catalogue your personal history for future generations to treasure. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER! 'If you're after an in-depth medical or psychological insight into the menopause, I'm afraid you've opened the wrong book - I'm not a doctor . . . However, I am a woman and I do know how it feels to be menopausal, so this book is written from experience and the heart and I hope it makes you laugh and feel better.' JE Older and Wider is Jenny Eclair's hilarious, irreverent and refreshingly honest compendium of the menopause. From C for Carb-loading and G for Getting Your Shit Together to I for Invisibility and V for Vaginas, Jenny's whistle-stop tour of the menopause in all its glory will make you realise that it really isn't just you. Jenny will share the surprising lessons she has learnt along the way as well as her hard-won tips on the joy of cardigans, dealing with the empty nest (get a lodger) and keeping the lid on the pressure cooker of your temper (count to twenty, ten is never enough). As Jenny says, 'I can't say that I've emerged like a beautiful butterfly from some hideous old menopausal chrysalis and it would be a lie to say that I've found the 'old me' again. But what I have found is the 'new me' - and you know what? I'm completely cool with that.'
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.