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. Want more inspiration? Head to our 'Best Autobiographies Ever' blog post filled with recommendations from our bookish friends.

My Name Is Why: Quick Reads 2022

My Name Is Why: Quick Reads 2022

Author: Lemn Sissay Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/04/2022

SPECIALLY ABRIDGED FOR QUICK READS How does a government steal a child and then imprison him? How does it keep it a secret? This story is how. This story is true. My Name Is Why is a true story about growing up in care and fighting to succeed despite the cruelty and failures of the care system.

The Instant

The Instant

Author: Amy Liptrot Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/03/2022

Wishing to leave behind the quiet isolation of her Orkney island life, Amy Liptrot books a one-way flight to Berlin. Searching for new experiences, inspiration and love, she rents a loftbed in a shared flat and looks for work. She explores the streets, nightclubs and parks and seeks out the city's wildlife - goshawks, raccoons and hooded crows. She looks for love through the screen of her laptop. Over the course of a year Amy makes space hoping for the unexpected. And it comes with an erotic jolt, in the form of a love affair that obsesses her. The Instant is an unapologetic look at the addictive power of love and lust. It is also an exploration of the cycles of the moon, the flight paths of migratory birds, the mesmerising power of Neolithic stonework and the trails followed by a generation who exist online.

Sequins for a Ragged Hem

Sequins for a Ragged Hem

Author: Amryl Johnson Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/02/2022

Sequins for a Ragged Hem narrates Johnson's return tour to Trinidad as a spiritual homecoming made problematic, among other reasons, by the fact that the house where she was born had been demolished. Amryl Johnson came to England from Trinidad when she was eleven. In 1983 she set off for a six month journey in the Caribbean. From the moment she steps off the plane into 'carnival fever', we are caught up in the excitement of her journey: her reunion with her mother, the exhilaration of dancing all night to calypso on the streets of Port-of-Spain . . . But she cannot escape, nor wants to, from the inheritance of colonialism. Her time in the Caribbean is also a journey of the self. The quest for memory is as powerful as the desire to escape. As her trip draws to a close, she describes with courage and eloquence her attempts to reunite the selves that have been separated by different cultures.

Drawn in Colour

Drawn in Colour

Author: Noni Jabavu Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/02/2022

Moving from South Africa to the UK in her youth, Drawn in Colour begins when Noni is summoned back to South Africa as a young woman for the funeral of her brother. After the funeral, she spends time travelling around South Africa and Uganda, reflecting on the complex, layered impacts of colonialism on the communities she meets. This is a thoughtful, insightful memoir from a singular voice - as one of the first African women to pursue a literary career in the UK, Noni Jabavu is a pioneer whose talent shines through in this extraordinary narrative.

Growing Out

Growing Out

Author: Barbara Blake Hannah Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/02/2022

'A gorgeously exuberant account. . . writing that is natural and vivacious . . . a fascinating and hugely enjoyable read.' Bernardine Evaristo, from the Introduction Travelling over from Jamaica as a teenager, Barbara's journey is remarkable. She finds her footing in TV, and blossoms. Covering incredible celebrity stories, travelling around the world and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Germaine Greer and Michael Caine - her life sparkles. But with the responsibility of being the first black woman reporting on TV comes an enormous amount of pressure, and a flood of hateful letters and complaints from viewers that eventually costs her the job. In the aftermath of this fallout, she goes through a period of self-discovery that allows her to carve out a new space for herself first in the UK and then back home in Jamaica - one that allows her to embrace and celebrate her black identity, rather than feeling suffocated in her attempts to emulate whiteness and conform to the culture around her. Growing Out provides a dazzling, revelatory depiction of race and womanhood in the 1960s from an entirely unique perspective. A title in the Black Britain: Writing Back series - selected by Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo, this series rediscovers and celebrates pioneering books depicting black Britain that remap the nation.

A Black Boy at Eton

A Black Boy at Eton

Author: Dillibe Onyeama Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/02/2022

'The story [Onyeama] had to tell was so gripping and shocking, it wouldn't let me go . . . A remarkably well-written memoir.' Bernardine Evaristo, from the Introduction Dillibe was the second black boy to study at Eton - joining in 1965 - and the first to complete his education there. Written at just 21, this is a deeply personal, revelatory account of the racism he endured during his time as a student at the prestigious institution. He tells in vivid detail of his own background as the son of a Nigerian judge at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, of his arrival at the school, of the curriculum, of his reception by other boys (and masters), and of his punishments. He tells, too, of the cruel racial prejudice and his reactions to it, and of the alienation and stereotyping he faced at such a young age. A Black Boy at Eton is a searing, ground-breaking book displaying the deep psychological effects of colonialism and racism. A title in the Black Britain: Writing Back series - selected by Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo, this series rediscovers and celebrates pioneering books depicting black Britain that remap the nation.

The 50 Greatest Architects

The 50 Greatest Architects

Author: Ike Ijeh Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/01/2022

Award-winning architecture writer Ike Ijeh introduces 50 of the world's most influential architects and a selection of their most celebrated buildings, showcased with full-color photography. The architects selected here have designed buildings that are as dramatic as their impact on the world of architecture. From familiar modern era names such as Zaha Hadid and Sir Norman Foster to geniuses from history such as Nicholas Hawksmoor and Andrea Palladio, Ike Ijeh reveals his top 50 list of the architects deserving of the description 'greatest'. Each double-page spread focuses on a different architect, outlining their influences, the legacy of their ideas and revealing the glorious designs that have made them famous. Includes: • Full-color photographs and illustrations of famous buildings around the world • Concise professional biographies of the architects listed • Plans from great architecture projects • Entries arranged in chronological order for easy reference With this wonderful hardback reference guide you can discover the true breadth of the creative achievements that lie within the careers of these architectural giants and enjoy their beautiful creations through images and illustrations.

Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding on and Letting GO

Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding on and Letting GO

Author: Linda Lee Blakemore Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/01/2022

‘Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding on and Letting GO’ by Linda Lee Blakemore is a memoir detailing the interesting relationship and life choices taken by one woman through her life. An honest and open memoir that deals with childhood trauma, affairs, multiple separations, divorce and loss. This is a narrative that follows a toxic relationship that breaks down and comes back together numerous times before ending for good. This story may be of interest to those who have been in or a part of a destructive relationship. Although, as someone who hasn’t, I did find myself rolling my eyes each time Jack came back on to the scene. As a “learn from my bad decision/experiences” memoir ‘Entrenched’ does effectively display the futility of constantly returning to a toxic relationship, and serves as a warning for those in the mindset to take it to focus on your own independence, security and wellbeing ahead of a relationship, and while in one. The book is very well-written and put together, and I thought that it dealt with the more sensitive aspects of the narrative well. After such a heavy focus on the bad relationships, I would have liked to have had more of a balance and heard more about the good marriage that followed, but as it is, this book focuses on a trying time in the author’s life and ends with a happy ending and on a hope-filled note.  Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador

The Missing Pieces of Mum

The Missing Pieces of Mum

Author: Sally Herbert Format: Hardback Release Date: 11/11/2021

The Missing Pieces of Mum is a heartbreaking true story of an abandoned baby and a daughter’s search for more information about her mother’s past. I felt as though I was reading the transcript of an episode of Long Lost Family - the television programme helping foundlings track down their personal history and reuniting separated family members. The details of Phyllis and her childhood years in a brutal orphanage, followed by a troubled marriage, left me in tears. Especially when her daughter, Sally, finally managed to find some answers after a decade of searching for the truth, just as it seemed that time was running out.The Missing Pieces of Mum is a fascinating and compelling story that reads like fiction. It's packed with despair, love, suspense, twists and turns, and family secrets. And it's also a story of hope and fighting against the odds, with Phyllis achieving her dream of becoming a nurse. A well-written book that tugs at the heartstrings and refuses to let go - not easily forgotten.

A Three Dog Problem

A Three Dog Problem

Author: SJ Bennett Format: Hardback Release Date: 11/11/2021

OK let’s be clear, Her Majesty, the Queen, does not investigate. At least, not as far as we know. Bennett is very clear about this. She explains on her website and elsewhere, that this book, together with The Windsor Knot, the first in what is now a wonderful series, are works of fiction. They are made up for our reading pleasure. But. What if Her Majesty did? As Bennett has written, “If the Queen wanted to, she would make a great detective, with access to any expert she wants and a deep understanding of her world of politics and palaces,” where, of course, all the real crimes take place. The monarch Marple is of course an utterly wonderful idea, and Bennett is such a talented writer and storyteller that the suspension of disbelief is effortless as she draws you into a world that soon moves from seeming all too possible to become delightfully credible.  A Three Dog Problem is centred on the mysterious appearance of a painting of the Royal Yacht Britannia in a Royal Naval exhibition and a body floating in a palace swimming pool, but really it doesn’t matter what the story is about. The true pleasure in this is that Bennett has really thought through how Her Majesty might actually conduct an investigation, then packed it with authentic details and more twists and turns than a palace intrigue, and created the unforgettable character of Rozie, Her Majesty’s trusted and ingenious Private Secretary, the Watson or Mma Makutsi to the Queen’s Holmes or Mma Ramotswe. Not since another authorial Bennett wrote The Uncommon Reader has our reigning monarch been so charmingly and affectionately portrayed in print and S.J. Bennett has surely put herself in the running for an MBE for “services to Royal literary inventiveness.” It is an honest-to-goodness, laugh out loud, wonder of a book filled with regal delight.

Books of the Month
When Harry Met Minnie

When Harry Met Minnie

Author: Martha Teichner Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/11/2021

You will know Martha’s name for her insightful and trustworthy reporting on the run up to the Iraq war, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the life and death of Nelson Mandela and so much more, for CBS News and as a contributor on CBS Sunday Morning, in a journalistic career that has won her 10 Emmys and 5 James Beard Foundation Awards.  What you may not know is that Martha has been a committed, long term owner of Bull Terriers, the egg-headed, pointy-eared dogs that are full of playful, eccentric character and who, when they don’t want to go anywhere, lower their “leg at each corner” centre of gravity, like a Citroën DS, and firmly stay put. In this beautifully written memoir, at times both tear-inducingly heart-wrenching and profoundly heart-warning, Martha introduces us to the dogs that have kept her company and along the way recounts how adopting Harry, whose owner, Martha, had been diagnosed with a life shortening liver cancer, gave rise to extraordinary canine and human friendships. While Minnie and Harry are very much the lead characters, it is Martha herself who steals the show, with beautifully evoked scenes of her Leelanau County, Michigan childhood and her NYC adult home and life, revealing her to be the loyal and committed friend we would all like in our lives. From the endless, and eyewatering, vet bills, to dog au pairs, and from Manhattan farmer’s markets to South Carolina beaches, Martha tale of friendship and of death is actually a profound celebration of  the happy coincidences of fate and of lives lived with love and style, whether you have four legs or two. 

eBooks of the Month
Diddly Squat

Diddly Squat

Author: Jeremy Clarkson Format: Hardback Release Date: 11/11/2021

Pull on your wellies, grab your flat cap and join Jeremy Clarkson in this hilarious and fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the farm we're all obsessed with Welcome to Clarkson's farm. An idyllic spot offering picturesque views across the Cotswolds, bustling hedgerows and natural springs, it's the perfect plot of land for someone to delegate the actual, you know, farming to someone else while he galivants around the world in cars. Until one day, Jeremy decided he would do the farming itself. After all, how hard could it be? . . . Faced with suffocating red tape, biblical weather, local objections, a global pandemic and his own frankly staggering ignorance of how to 'do farming', Jeremy soon realises that turning the farm around is going to take more than splashing out on a massive tractor. Fortunately, there's help at hand from a large and (mostly) willing team, including girlfriend Lisa, Kaleb the Tractor Driver, Cheerful Charlie, Ellen the Shepherd and Gerald, his Head of Security and Dry Stone Waller. Between them, they enthusiastically cultivate crops, rear livestock and hens, keep bees, bottle spring water and open a farm shop. But profits remain elusive. And yet while the farm may be called Diddly Squat for good reason, Jeremy soon begins to understand that it's worth a whole lot more to him than pounds, shillings and pence . . .