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If fiction isn’t your bag, this collection of biographies and autobiographies could inspire your beach reading.  Explore the lives of the great and the good – from great historical figures to modern cultural icons.

 

My Own Story by Emeline Pankhurst

As the UK celebrates the 100th anniversary of votes for women, it’s a great time to revisit one of the British suffragettes’ most notable figures.

This classic text explores the life of this great woman in her own words, which inspired the 2015 motion picture Suffragette starring Meryl Streep.

 

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983–1992 by Tina Brown

A sizzling portrayal of Tina Brown’s eight years reinventing Condé Nast’s magazine Vanity Fair.

Offering a young Englishwoman’s view of the competitive New York media world in which she arrived and the scoops and covers that turned around the troubled flagship’s fortunes: the Reagan kiss, the meltdown of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles and the sensational Annie Leibovitz cover of a gloriously pregnant, naked Demi Moore.

 

The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

Alexievich won the Nobel prize in 2015, and in 2017 her most famous work was republished in a fully-uncensored version in English.  It explores the first-hand accounts of the million women who fought in the Red Army in World War II.

Read it in companion with Alexievich’s 2016 book, Second-Hand Time, a requiem for the Soviet era that helps to explain the appeal of Putin’s promises to bring pride back to a wounded, post-imperial nation.

 

Robin by Dave Itzkoff

Drawing on more than a hundred original interviews with family, friends and colleagues, Robin is a fresh and unique look at a the life of Robin Williams.

Robin’s innovative and beloved performances, his quick and original wit, and his well-documented battles with addiction and depression which delivers a moving portrayal of a man whose work touched so many lives.

 

Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

Almost 60 years after the death of author Zora Neale Hurston, this portrait of one of the last known survivors of the slave trade, based on three months of interviews Hurston carried out with Cudjo Lewis in 1931, is finally published for the first time, illuminating the tragedies of a life in slavery through Hurston’s poetic style.

 

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

In the wake of his tragic death, it’s worth returning to the book that kicked off the famous chef’s second career as a journalist.

A brutal portrayal of life in top New York restaurant, Brasserie Les Halles, that catapulted Bourdain to the status of celebrity chef – it opened the door to a string of TV shows in which he explored the world’s vibrant local cuisines, their communities, and cultures.

 

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala

The British political commentator and MOBO-award winning musician reveals his own experiences of growing up and widens them out to look at the social, historical and political context in a way that speaks directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class.

 

The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House by Ben Rhodes

With 2018 awash with offensive depictions of life in the current White House, such as Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury and James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty, it is refreshing to read a tale of an altogether more gentler and kinder White House.

As a former speechwriter for President Obama, Rhodes charts his journey from idealism to a more nuanced vision of “the world as it is,” peppered with anecdotes that do much to shore up the Obama legend.

 

Room to Dream by David Lynch, Kristine McKenna

Room to Dream tells the story of Lynch’s journey from 1950’s Mid-Western childhood to Hollywood through alternating chapters of Lynch’s lyrical personal reflections and McKenna’s straight biographical sections based on more than one hundred new interviews with surprisingly candid ex-wives, family members, actors, agents, musicians, and colleagues who all have their own takes on the story.

 

Brave by Rose McGowan

As one of the #metoo movement’s most compelling voices, Rose McGowan paints a dark picture of both her upbringing and of Hollywood in this candid and brave memoir which is, at once, a manifesto for changing the misogynistic culture that pervades society and, especially, the entertainment industry and a call to action.

 

Reporter by Seymour Hersh

Hersh, the reporter who in 1969 single-handedly broke the story of the atrocities committed by an American platoon in My Lai, South Vietnam (which won him a Pulitzer prize in 1970), details his stories throughout his journalistic career to deliver a powerful overview of the times he has reported on.

 

The Restless Wave by John McCain

John McCain is fighting cancer at the same time as battling for Republican values – what he sees as enduringly American values – in the Senate.

This book is his farewell address, a political and personal petition for the causes for which he has fought all his life.

 

From the past or from the present, there are so many stories to inspire you. Here’s a nice vacation challenge: pick up a pen a notebook and start writing your memoirs… Who’s to tell if you’re not the JK Rollowing!

 

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