Wandering Through Life: New Biographies and Memoirs in the Collection

Reading about extraordinary lives is often inspirational, intriguing, fascinating, shocking or outrageous.  Every biography or memoir has the potential to take you on a real adventure in it’s pages.  We have another month of new titles that have arrived in the collection, and have selected some for you below to try.

Wandering through life : a memoir / Leon, Donna
“From a childhood in the company of her New Jersey family, with frequent visits to her grandfather’s farm and its beloved animals and summers spent selling homegrown tomatoes by the roadside, Donna Leon has long been open to adventure. In 1976, she made the spontaneous decision to teach English in Iran, before finding herself swept up in the early days of the 1979 Revolution. After teaching stints in China and Saudi Arabia, she finally landed in Venice. Having recently celebrated her eightieth birthday, Leon now confronts the dual challenges and pleasures of aging. Wandering through life offers Donna Leon at her most personal.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Berserker / Edmondson, Adrian
“Ade Edmondson smashed onto the comedy circuit in the 1980s, stormed The Comedy Store and, alongside Rik Mayall, brought anarchy to stage and screen. How did a child brought up in a strict Methodist household – and who spent his formative years incarcerated in repressive boarding schools – end up joining the revolution? Well, he is part Norse. Could it be his berserker heritage? With wisdom, nostalgia and uniquely observed humour, Ade traces his journey through life and comedy: starting out on the alternative scene, getting arrested in Soho, creating his outrageously violent characters and learning more about his curious (possibly Scandinavian) heritage. With star-studded anecdotes and set to a soundtrack of pop hits which transport the reader through time, it’s a memoir like no other.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Astor : the rise and fall of an American fortune / Cooper, Anderson
“The story of the Astors is an extraordinary but true tale of ambition, invention, destruction, and reinvention–and of cunning, determination, hard work, hubris, infighting, and greed. One of the wealthiest men to have ever lived, John Jacob Astor first arrived in New York in 1783 and built a fortune through a ruthless expansion of his beaver trapping business, which he grew into an empire through real estate that enriched him at the expense of Manhattan’s poorest residents.  In this unconventional, page-turning historical biography, featuring black-and-white and color photographs, Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe chronicle the lives of the Astors and offer a window onto the making of America itself.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Pulling the chariot of the sun : a memoir of a kidnapping / McCrae, Shane
“When Shane McCrae was three years old, his grandparents kidnapped him and took him to suburban Texas. His mom was white and his dad was Black, and to hide his Blackness from him, his maternal grandparents stole him from his father. In the years that followed, they manipulated and controlled him, refusing to acknowledge his heritage–all the while believing they were doing what was best for him. For their own safety and to ensure the kidnapping remained a success, Shane’s grandparents had to make sure that he never knew the full story, so he was raised to participate in his own disappearance. But despite elaborate fabrications and unreliable memories, Shane begins to reconstruct his own story and to forge his own identity. Gradually, the truth unveils itself, and with the truth, comes a path to reuniting with his father and finding his own place in the world.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Oh Miriam! : stories from an extraordinary life / Margolyes, Miriam
“From being escorted off the Today programme (for saying what we were all thinking) to declaring her love to Vanessa Redgrave; from Tales of the Unexpected to Graham Norton’s sofa, she is our most loved and most outspoken national treasure. Oh Miriam! takes you inside both her head and her heart. Buckle up for the most irrepressible, hilarious and moving read of 2023.” (Catalogue)


Maestros & monsters : days & nights with Susan Sontag & George Steiner / Boyers, Robert
“Robert Boyers’ memoir of his fifty years of friendship with Susan Sontag and George Steiner offers a revelatory, personal perspective on two of America’s most influential thinkers. What emerges in Maestros and Monsters are compelling life stories and reflections on admiration, friendship, and the will to power of these two renowned intellects. Though a steadfast friend to both Sontag and Steiner, Boyers recounts their mutual antipathy as well as their combustible but always intellectually engrossing interactions with many other luminaries, among them Nadine Gordimer, Christopher Hitchens, Irving Howe, Christopher Lasch, Arthur Koestler, Philip Rieff, Edward Said, and James Wood. If Sontag and Steiner often tested Boyers’ patience, his loyalty was always rewarded with their unwavering trust.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Behind the shoulder pads : tales I tell my friends / Collins, Joan
“In her new book, Dame Joan Collins returns in dazzling form to share the most memorable moments from her eclectic and vibrant life, in and out of the limelight. Taking us on an incredible journey from her early years as a young star in the golden era of Hollywood to stamping her stilettos in Dynasty; from the glittering heights of St Tropez to the busy Oscars season in LA over the years. Joan writes movingly about her grief and adventures with her sister Jackie, delving deeper into the ups and downs of love and relationships, and her happiness with husband Percy. Filled with a cast of household names, including the late Queen Elizabeth, Diana, Princess of Wales, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Caine, Warren Beatty, and many more, Behind the Shoulder Pads is a spectacularly entertaining tour de force bound to delight and shock in equal measures.” (Catalogue)

Dancing on eggshells / Whaite, John
“Well-known as the third-series winner of The Great British Bake Off and runner up of Strictly in 2021 with his same-sex dancing partner Johannes Radebe, John Whaite’s personal story is a complicated narrative that embraces coming out on Bake Off, his ongoing body dysmorphia and bulimia as well as mental health challenges and a changing relationship with his mother, particularly after the break-up of his parents marriage. Each chapter takes an element of food or culture and loops it back to John’s northern upbringing above a fish and chip shop which instilled a strong a work ethic, as well as using baking as a form of meditation. He also talks about how gay people in the 1990s had to choreograph their every move depending on the people they were surrounded by to ensure they were protected – the dance on eggshells – and how Strictly changed his life and relationship with his long-term partner, Paul, for the good.” (Catalogue)

The world according to Joan Didion / McDonnell, Evelyn
“An intimate exploration of the life, craft, and legacy of one of the most revered and influential writers, an artist who continues to inspire fans and creatives to cultivate practices of deep attention, rigorous interrogation and beautiful style. Joan Didion was a writer’s writer; not only a groundbreaking journalist, essayist, novelist and screenwriter, but a keen observer who honed her sights on life’s telling details. One of the first books to be published after the revered writer’s death in 2021, The World According to Joan Didion is a literary companion for those embarking on new journeys and a guide to innovative ways of being. It will radically transform the way you explore the world, and will help you answer the question as you sit in a café, or on a plane or train, pondering the future: What would Joan Didion have seen?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Bee Miles : Australia’s famous bohemian rebel, and the untold story behind the legend / Ellis, Rose
“Bee Miles was a truly larger-than-life character. Famous for being outrageous in public, or, as she said, living ‘recklessly’, she shocked and intrigued cities and towns across Australia. But she was no ordinary wanderer. Born into a wealthy family, Bee moved in Sydney’s literary and artistic circles in the 1920s and 1930s before she took up residence on the streets. A consummate performer and a perceptive critic, she caught the public’s imagination with her spectacular acts of defiance, emerging majestically from the surf with a knife strapped to each thigh, stopping a country train in its tracks, hitchhiking across remote Australia and drawing large city crowds with her Shakespeare recitations. This first full biography offers a fascinating glimpse into a dark side of Australia’s history.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fearless : finding the power to thrive / Dokic, Jelena
“In Jelena Dokic’s first bestselling book, Unbreakable, the former world No. 4 revealed her incredible survival story; how she overcame adversity, poverty and violence to rise to the top of the tennis world. Jelena’s revelations about her father’s shocking abuse stunned the world. Fearless is about how you reclaim life when all feels lost. This book is about starting at the bottom and building yourself back up. Jelena opens up on how she has survived trauma and heartache to establish herself as a leading tennis commentator and motivational speaker. The past years have taught her many tough and important lessons, and now she is ready to share them to help you find your voice and the power to thrive.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The young man / Ernaux, Annie
“The Young Man is Annie Ernaux’s account of her passionate love affair with A., a man some 30 years younger, when she was in her fifties. The relationship pulls her back to memories of her own youth and at the same time leaves her feeling ageless, outside of time- together with a sense that she is living her life backwards. Amidst talk of having a child together, she feels time running its course, and menopause approaching. The Young Man recalls Ernaux as the “scandalous girl” she once was, but is composed with the mastery and the self-assurance she has achieved across decades of writing.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

For more new books, go to: What’s new / November 2023 (wcl.govt.nz)

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