Many modern books have such dark covers, but fortunately the contents of this month’s biography selection are a lot more colourful. Frederick Forsyth reveals that he was secret agent and many of his thrillers were based on his own experiences. A new biography of John le Carre reveals that much of his life was shrouded in mystery. Little spots of light relief are provided by the irrepressible Dick Van Dyke and Diana Melly writing on the magic of movement. Merry Christmas to biography-lovers everywhere!
The outsider : my life in intrigue / Frederick Forsyth.
“Trained first as a pilot, then as a journalist, Frederick Forsyth finally turned to fiction and became one of the most lauded thriller writers of our time. As exciting as his novels, Forsyth’s autobiography is a candid look at an extraordinary life lived to the full, a life whose unique experiences have provided rich inspiration for thirteen internationally bestselling thrillers.” (Syndetics summary)
Keep moving : and other tips and truths about aging / Dick Van Dyke with Todd Gold.
“Show-business legend Dick Van Dyke is living proof that life does get better the longer you live it. Who better to offer instruction, advice, and humor than someone who’s entering his ninth decade with a jaunty two-step? Van Dyke isn’t just a born song-and-dance man; his irrepressible belief in embracing the moment and unleashing his inner child has proved to be the ultimate elixir of youth.” (Syndetics summary)
Pour me : a life / A. A. Gill.
“A. A. Gill’s memoir begins in the dark of a dormitory with six strangers. He is an alcoholic, dying in the last-chance saloon – driven to dry out, not out of a desire to change but mainly through weariness. He tells the truth – as far as he can remember it – about drinking and about what it is like to be drunk. Pour Me is about the black-outs, the collapse, the despair. He recalls the lost days, lost friends, failed marriages … But there was also ‘an optimum inebriation, a time when it was all golden’.”(Syndetics summary)
Strictly ballroom : tales from the dancefloor / Diana Melly.
“Two years ago, at the age of 72, Diana Melly took up ballroom dancing. She was suffering from bereavement, having recently lost her husband George to dementia, and was told that dancing might help. It has done much more than that, opening up a whole new chapter in her life. Ballroom dancing turns out to be incredibly good for you — a complex activity which not only flexes unexpected muscles but rewires the brain, increasing serotonin levels and reducing stress. In this gently humorous book, Diana Melly takes us on an eye-opening tour of dance.” (Syndetics summary)
Vera Brittain and the First World War : the story of Testament of youth / Mark Bostridge.
“Vera Brittain and the First World War tells the remarkable story of the author behind “Testament of Youth” whilst charting the book’s ascent to become one of the most loved memoirs of the First World War period.” (Syndetics summary)
Spectacles / Sue Perkins
“When I began writing this book, I went home to find what my mum might have kept of my stuff. What I found was that she hadn’t kept some of it. She had kept all of it. Sadly, a recycling ‘incident’ destroyed the bulk of this archive. This has meant two things: firstly, Dear Reader, you will never get to see countless drawings of wizards, read a poem about corn on the cob, or marvel at the kilos of brown flowers I so lovingly pressed as a child. Secondly, it’s left me with no choice but to actually write this thing myself. This, my first ever book.” (Syndetics summary)
John le Carré : the biography / Adam Sisman.
“The definitive biography of the internationally adored author of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and A Perfect Spy–arguably one of the most important and influential writers of the post-World War II period–by the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning biographer Adam Sisman. In this definitive biography–blessed by John le Carré himself–Adam Sisman reveals the man behind the bestselling persona. In John le Carré, Sisman shines a spotlight on David Cornwell, an expert at hiding in plain sight.” (Syndetics summary)
And two good ones in another part of the library:
The white road / Edmund de Waal.
“A handful of clay from a Chinese hillside carries a promise: that mixed with the right materials, it might survive the fire of the kiln, and fuse into porcelain” translucent, luminous, white. Acclaimed writer and potter Edmund de Waal sets out on a quest – a journey that begins in the dusty city of Jingdezhen in China and travels on to Venice, Versailles, Dublin, Dresden, the Appalachian Mountains of South Carolina and the hills of Cornwall to tell the history of porcelain.” (Syndetics summary)
Chance developments : unexpected love stories / Alexander McCall Smith.
“It is said that a picture may be worth a thousand words but an old photograph can inspire many more. In this beguiling book, Alexander McCall Smith casts his eye over five chanced-upon photographs from the era of black-and-white photography and imagines the stories behind them.” (Syndetics summary)