Biography: general

Free

Free

Author: Lea Ypi Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/10/2021

'I never asked myself about the meaning of freedom until the day I hugged Stalin. From close up, he was much taller than I expected.' Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated countries on earth, a place where communist ideals had officially replaced religion. Albania, the last Stalinist outpost in Europe, was almost impossible to visit, almost impossible to leave. It was a place of queuing and scarcity, of political executions and secret police. To Lea, it was home. People were equal, neighbours helped each other, and children were expected to build a better world. There was community and hope. Then, in December 1990, a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, everything changed. The statues of Stalin and Hoxha were toppled. Almost overnight, people could vote freely, wear what they liked and worship as they wished. There was no longer anything to fear from prying ears. But factories shut, jobs disappeared and thousands fled to Italy on crowded ships, only to be sent back. Predatory pyramid schemes eventually bankrupted the country, leading to violent conflict. As one generation's aspirations became another's disillusionment, and as her own family's secrets were revealed, Lea found herself questioning what freedom really meant. Free is an engrossing memoir of coming of age amid political upheaval. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled up by the sweep of history.

Resilience

Resilience

Author: Elise Christie Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/09/2021

Resilience is the compellingly honest autobiography of Elise Christie- triple World Champion, ten-time European Champion and former world record holding short track speed skater. In a world where online scrutiny is more intense than ever, Elise's story massively transcends sport. Having been routinely bullied for being unconventional while growing up in Scotland, Christie first felt the full weight of online public opinion following three separate disqualifications at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Death threats followed amid a torrent of online hate whereby she was accused of having caused a rival South Korean medal hopeful to crash. And with that, Christie, aged just 24, retreated into a period of mental health support and medication to assist her through extremely traumatic times on the lead up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, where again her dreams fell apart in barely believable circumstances. In December 2018, after months of experimental self-harm as her mental health spiralled out of control, Christie stood at a figurative cliff-edge with a razor blade held against her left wrist. Years of low esteem issues and PTSD triggered by a variety of events that included a house fire and a deeply personal event that until now she has never discussed, had led her to a place where she felt her life just couldn't continue as it was. And yet, she emerged stronger. Instead of personalizing her issues, Christie went public in April 2019 via Instagram - and in doing so became a vital, young female voice in the battle against mental health stigma as she approaches her final date with destiny at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Told with her trademark blend of unfiltered honesty and dark humour, Resilience is her incredible, inspiring story.

See How They Run

See How They Run

Author: Geoff Hoon Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/09/2021

This is an open and frank account of how someone from a railway family in a small East Midlands town went on to become a Cabinet Minister serving in the Ministry of Defence as Britain conducted difficult and demanding operations in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq. It sets out his political career from his earliest days knocking on doors for the Labour Party through to his becoming a Euro-MP, an MP for eighteen years and a Cabinet Minister for almost ten years. It describes his careers as an academic, lawyer, politician and in international business, as well as his commitment to conservation and protecting the environment.

Vow of Silence

Vow of Silence

Author: Suzanne Walsh Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/09/2021

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.

Becoming Mr Nice

Becoming Mr Nice

Author: Amber Marks Format: Hardback Release Date: 26/08/2021

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. 

Too Many Reasons to Live

Too Many Reasons to Live

Author: Rob Burrow Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2021

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.

Put A Wet Paper Towel on It

Put A Wet Paper Towel on It

Author: Lee Parkinson, Adam Parkinson Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2021

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.

Crying in H Mart

Crying in H Mart

Author: Michelle Zauner Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/08/2021

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.

Black Teacher

Black Teacher

Author: Beryl Gilroy Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/07/2021

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.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever

The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Author: John Donohue Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

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.

eBooks of the Month
Burning Man

Burning Man

Author: Frances Wilson Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/05/2021

D H Lawrence is no longer censored, but he is still on trial - and we are still unsure what the verdict should be, or even how to describe him. History has remembered him, and not always flatteringly, as a nostalgic modernist, a sexually liberator, a misogynist, a critic of genius, and a sceptic who told us not to look in his novels for 'the old stable ego', yet pioneered the genre we now celebrate as auto-fiction. But where is the real Lawrence in all of this, and how - one hundred years after the publication of Women in Love - can we hear his voice above the noise? Delving into the memoirs of those who both loved and hated him most, Burning Man follows Lawrence from the peninsular underworld of Cornwall in 1915 to post-war Italy to the mountains of New Mexico, and traces the author's footsteps through the pages of his lesser known work. Wilson's triptych of biographical tales present a complex, courageous and often comic fugitive, careering around a world in the grip of apocalypse, in search of utopia; and, in bringing the true Lawrence into sharp focus, shows how he speaks to us now more than ever.

In Black and White

In Black and White

Author: Alexandra Wilson Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Inspired to enter the legal profession following the tragic death of a dear friend, Wilson exposes a broken and unfair legal system in this eye-opening, mindset-changing memoir. She shows that it is possible to be a mixed race young woman and succeed in the rarefied world of the legal and judicial system, designed for a different time and maintained by a privileged few, with its arcane and archaic rites and traditions. Not easily, it must be said, but possible. Through her direct and personal account of the bigotry she has witnessed and faced, she also illustrates and confronts the inequality of our legal system, stating clearly that not all black young men who appear in court are gang members and not all young black women who attend court are defendants or relatives of defendants.  It sounds appalling when stated so boldly, but having been mistaken for such when in court herself as counsel – on numerous occasions on the same day - Wilson knows only too well of what she speaks and she does so with such clarity it is hard not to feel utter shame for what is still an all too enduring national stereotype. Equally riveting and inspirational, Wilson’s book clearly outlines the changes that the system needs and shows that she has the intelligence and commitment to make it happen.