Entertaining, emotional & eye-opening: our latest biographies

Take a peek at some of our most recent biographies.  Unprotected : a memoir is gay black actor Billy Porter’s testimony to the power of talent and courage that overcame an environment of abuse, racism, and homophobia.  John Higgs helps us better understand the poet, artist and visionary that was William Blake in William Blake vs the world. Experience the global refugee crisis through the eyes of Mondiant Dogon, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, as he recounts a saga of horror, deprivation, frustration and ultimately hope in Those we throw away are diamonds. Read on to find more of our latest biographies.

Act like you got some sense : and other things my daughters taught me / Foxx, Jamie
“In this hilarious and heartfelt memoir, award-winning, multi-talented entertainer Jamie Foxx shares the story of being raised by his no-nonsense grandmother, the glamour and pitfalls of life in Hollywood, and the lessons he took from both worlds to raise his two daughters” (Catalogue)
“A practical, sometimes profane, always entertaining guide to the fine art of parenting.” (Kirkus Review)

Unprotected : a memoir / Porter, Billy
“Before Billy Porter was slaying red carpets and giving an iconic Emmy-winning performance in the celebrated TV show Pose; before he was the groundbreaking Tony and Grammy Award-winning star of Broadway’s Kinky Boots, Porter was a young boy in Pittsburgh who was seen as different, who didn’t fit in. At five years old, Porter was sent to therapy to ‘fix’ his effeminacy. He was endlessly bullied at school, sexually abused by his stepfather, and criticized at his church. Porter came of age in a world where simply being himself was a constant struggle.”(Catalogue) Also available an eBook and as an eAudiobook narrated by the man himself!

William Blake vs the world / Higgs, John
“Poet, artist and visionary, William Blake was an archetypal misunderstood genius. His life passed without recognition and he worked without reward, mocked, dismissed and misinterpreted. Yet from his ignoble end in a pauper’s grave, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual art of the Romantic Age. Taking the reader on wild detours into unfamiliar territory, John Higgs places the bewildering eccentricities of a most singular artist into context. And although the journey begins with us trying to understand him, we will ultimately discover that it is Blake who helps us to understand ourselves.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Going there / Couric, Katie
“For more than 40 years American journalist Katie Couric has been an iconic presence in the media world. In her brutally honest memoir, she reveals how she has balanced her personality, intellectual curiosity and desire to be taken seriously while facing a host of challenges: an eating disorder, sexism, the perils of celebrity– and rebuilding her life with two young daughters after her husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer. Couric writes about the culture at CBS– rife with gender inequality and predatory behaviour–and the downfall of Matt Lauer.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Those we throw away are diamonds : a refugee’s search for home / Dogon, Mondiant “A stunningly beautiful and heart-breaking lens on the global refugee crisis, from a man who faced the very worst of humanity and survived to advocate for refugees everywhere. One night when Mondiant Dogon, a Bagogwe Tutsi born in Congo, was very young, his family fled into the bush after learning that they were to be killed within hours. Beginning their long and dangerous journey into Rwanda, his family made their way to the first of several UN tent cities in which they would spend the next quarter century. Against all odds, and through grit and good fortune, he managed to be one of the few Congolese Tutsis to receive an education in Rwanda. Eventually, Dogon came to the US and became an advocate for his people. ” (Adapted from catalogue)

Odd boy out / Brandreth, Gyles Daubeney
“In Odd boy out, Giles Brandreth provides a revealing and entertaining account of growing up and coming of age in an apparently well-to-do but always strapped-for-cash middle-class English family. It is a story about the ordinary things – family life, happiness, ambition and love, but it also about adventures – meeting princes and presidents, visiting death-row in America, exploring the sex clubs of Copenhagen. It is a story of a boy blessed with wit, what he got up to and who he met in those remarkable years after the Second World War.” (Adapted from catalogue). Also available as a eBook.

COVID Calamities & Anxiety Antics: Our latest Biographies

Living through a pandemic brings all sort of challenges that we have to contend with. This latest selection of biographies brings laugh out loud moments, stories of perseverance and courage, and even a local mystery to distract and entertain us.

Theroux the keyhole / Theroux, Louis
“Step inside Louis’ life like never before as he turns his critical eye on himself, his home, and family and tries to make sense of our weird and sometimes scary world. Like millions of others, Louis’ plans were mothballed by the onset of COVID. Unable to escape to the porn sets, prisons and maximum-security psychiatric units that are his usual journalistic beat, he began reporting on a location even more full of pitfalls and hostile objects of inquiry: his own home during a pandemic. Honest, hilarious and heart warming Theroux the keyhole is a diary of the weirdness of family life in Covid World.” (Adapted from catalogue)

My mess is a bit of a life : adventures in anxiety / Pritchett, Georgia
“Multi award winning television writer and producer (Veep, Succession, The Thick of it, Miranda) Georgia Pritchett knows a thing or two about anxiety. From a worrier as a child to an adult living with sometimes crippling anxiety, she takes us through her life sharing stories with warmth and humour. Told in comic vignettes, this delightfully offbeat, painfully honest and snort out aloud funny memoir is a joyful reflection on just how to live and sometimes even thrive (sometimes not) with anxiety” (Adapted from catalogue)

Start your engines / Briggs, Sam
“UK CrossFit superstar Sam Briggs, aka ‘The Engine’, is a true hero in the sport, with a level of endurance unparalleled in the game. From being kicked out of ballet as a child, to qualifying for the CrossFit game 7 times, this is the story of how Sam got to the top of her sport, and battled with everything she had to stay there. Start Your Engines is the story of how, with a combination of grit, training and dogged motivation, it’s never too late to achieve your dreams.” (Adapted from catalogue)

The opposite of butterfly hunting / Lynch, Evanna
“Cast as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films, Evanna Lynch has long been viewed as a role model for people recovering from anorexia. Here, in her memoir, Evanna confronts all the complexities and contradictions within herself and reveals how she overcame a serious eating disorder, worked to conquer her self-hate and began to confront her fear of leaving the neatness and safety of girlhood for the unpredictable journey of being a woman, all in the spotlight of international fame. This is a story of the tragedy and the glory of growing up, of mourning girlhood and stepping into the unknown, and how that act of courage is the most creatively liberating thing a woman can do”. (Catalogue)

Come back to Mona Vale : life and death in a Christchurch mansion / McKinnon, Alexander
“A beautifully written, compelling narrative/memoir that sets about unravelling the mysteries and anomalies behind the public history of a wealthy Christchurch business family in the first half of the 20th century. The story unfolds like a crime or detective tale, and also delves into the history of the Canterbury settlement, contrasting Christchurch’s public values, aspirations and beauty with its murkier private behaviour. The story is told with a graceful touch and an eye for the vivid, comic and telling detail. Alexander McKinnon’s exploration of his family’s past is the record of a beautiful and grand (yet gradually crumbling) manor interwoven with social history – with a sense of the Gothic, of obsession, and of a tight-knit circle where secrets wreak a terrible climax leading to a form of inter-generational haunting.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Chaise longue / Dury, Baxter
“Methods of parenting and education have progressed in recent years, especially compared to some of the more casually experimental routes inflicted on children of artistic professionals in the 70s and 80s. One experience that would take some beating is that endured by Baxter Dury. When punk rock star Ian Dury disappeared to make films in the late 80s, he left his teenage son in the care of his roadie, in a rundown flat in Hammersmith. But this was no ordinary roadie; this was the Sulphate Strangler. The Strangler, having taken a lot of LSD in the 60s, was prone to depression, anger and hallucinations. He was also, as the name suggests, a drug dealer. What could possibly go wrong? Chaise Longue is an intimate account of the adventures, escapades, and perilous times of Dury’s childhood set in bohemian west London populated with feverishly grubby characters. Narrated in Dury’s candid tone, both sad and funny, this moving story will leave an indelible imprint on its readers.” (Adapted from catalogue)

 

A bonanza of new biographies for your holiday reading

What a feast we have for you for this holiday period. There’s the larger-than-life Scottish Drag Queen Lawrence Chaney with their book Drag Queen of Scots : the dos and don’ts of a drag superstar. We have a stunning coffee table styled glossy pictorial tribute to Dan Carter. The delightful but naughty Julian Clary has written a doggy memoir… celebrating man’s best friend what else? Megan Dunn entertains us with an utterly engaging memoir-in-essays about art, sex, family and growing up in New Zealand. Never give up is the inspiring autobiography from Bear Grylls who takes us behind the scenes of some of his toughest expeditions. And what holiday wouldn’t be complete without the comedic wit from the consummate entertainer Billy Connelly!

With such a super book line up Wellington City Libraries truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Drag Queen of Scots : the dos and don’ts of a drag superstar / Chaney, Lawrence
“Lawrence Chaney has wowed audiences across the globe as the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. From the tiny town of Helensburgh, near Glasgow, Lawrence has exploded on to the world stage, charming us with their charisma, humour and damn good looks. But as with any success story, it wasn’t all plain sailing. In Lawrence (Drag) Queen of Scots, the loch ness legend themself takes us through the struggles faced to get to where they are now. From a little boy feeling self-conscious and turning to humour to avoid being bullied, to finding drag as a vehicle towards confidence and self-love. With their top tips on everything from padding and make-up to building your own drag community, you’ll have all you need to strut your way to the top, too. You’ve seen the looks, the laughs, and my goodness you’ve seen a lot of tears, but now it’s time to grab a bottle of Irn-Bru and dive heard first into the purple haze that is the world of LAWRRREEENNNCE CHAAANEYYYYY!” (Catalogue)

Dan Carter : 1598 / Carter, Dan
“Coffee table books of a sporting variety have been rare in New Zealand during the years. Dan Carter 1598 attempts to change this as a large scale pictorial tribute to his astounding point scoring feats in test rugby. There is great variety in the images which convey the drama, camaraderie, emotion and physicality of the sport. It’s also a reminder of the power of the photograph, easily forgotten in our digital, fast twitch world. Dan Carter 1598 is a wonderful tribute to a remarkable player. ” (Adapted from Ketebooks, read the complete review here)

The lick of love : how dogs changed my life / Clary, Julian
“From one of Britain’s best-loved comedians comes this wonderfully funny, sharp and touching memoir and a celebration of the bond between man and dog – an autobidography, if you will. The Lick of Love takes us on a tour of Julian’s colourful life and the dogs that were by his side from the age of 21. An entertaining read, that celebrates the joy of being a dog lover, told with Julian Clary trademark humour.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Image from Mighty ApeThings I learned at art school / Dunn, Megan
“Part memoir, part essay collection… Things I Learned at Art School tells the story of Megan Dunn’s early life and coming-of-age in New Zealand in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. From her single mother’s love life to her Smurf collection, from the mean girls at school to the mermaid movie Splash, from her work in strip clubs and massage parlours (and one steak restaurant) to the art school of the title, this is a dazzling, killer read from a contemporary voice of comic brilliance.” (Catalogue) Also available as an ebook 

Never give up / Grylls, Bear
“In Never give up, global adventurer, Chief Scout and TV presenter Bear Grylls immerses readers in some truly remarkable adventures and survival missions. Bear takes readers behind the scenes of Man vs. Wild, the series that spawned an entire adventure industry. He also provides a unique and revealing insight into what it’s really like to go Running Wild with President Obama, Roger Federer and Julia Roberts, to name but a few of his global superstar guests. Along the way, Bear opens up about his most personal challenges, discovers the true value of adventure, and embodies the enduring power of courage, kindness and a never give up spirit.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Windswept & interesting : my autobiography / Connolly, Billy
In his first full-length autobiography, comedy legend and national treasure Billy Connolly reveals the truth behind his windswept and interesting life. Billy’s life is a remarkable story of success against all the odds. But it was his ability so spin stories, tell jokes and hold an audience in the palm of his hand that truly set him apart. As a young comedian Billy broke all the rules. He was fearless and outspoken – willing to call out hypocrisy wherever he saw it. But his stand-up was full of warmth, humility and silliness too. His startling, hairy ‘glam-rock’ stage appearance – wearing leotards, scissor suits and banana boots – only added to his appeal. It was an appearance on Michael Parkinson’s chat show in 1975 – and one outrageous story in particular – that catapulted Billy from cult hero to national star. TV shows, documentaries, international fame and award-winning Hollywood movies followed. Billy’s pitch-perfect stand-up comedy kept coming too – for over 50 years, in fact – until a double diagnosis of cancer and Parkinson’s Disease brought this remarkable live performances to an end. Windswept & Interesting is Billy’s story in his own words. It is joyfully funny – stuffed full of hard-earned wisdom as well as countless digressions on fishing, farting and the joys of dancing naked. It is an unforgettable, life-affirming story of a true comedy legend.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Politics and personalities: our latest biography picks

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny Simon Bridges is the man of the moment. How timely that he has released a biography National identity: confessions of an outsider. While this biography doesn’t delve into his politics, it is an opportunity to better understand the man himself and make your own mind up about him. In contrast Labour saving: a memoir by the late Sir Michael Cullen describes his lengthy political career and achievements during one of the most turbulent times in our political history. Check out these and other recent biographies below.

National identity : confessions of an outsider / Bridges, Simon
“In National Identity, Bridges offers an attempt to question himself and the country he loves. Politics, crime, kai, music, nature: these are the stuff of a life. Through candid and self aware reflections, he points out that politicians have become less robust, and that people don’t participate as much anymore – eroding our institutions and national life. He speaks his mind on an education system in crisis, the decline of Christianity, and how being the smallest, most isolated developed country in the world explains why we are how we are”. (Catalogue) Also available as an ebook.

Labour saving : a memoir / Cullen, M. J.
“In this clever, witty and detailed memoir, Sir Michael Cullen describes his lengthy political career, including his pivotal roles as Minister of Finance for nine years and Deputy Prime Minister for six years in Helen Clark’s government from 1999 to 2008. Best known for his major economic policies, Sir Michael was also the principal author of the Working for Families package which substantially increased the incomes of many low income families. As one of Labour’s most trusted and senior party members, he has had a box seat during the highs and lows of the party’s fortunes.” (Adapted from catalogue) Also available as an e-book.

Ten thousand aftershocks / Tom, Michelle
“After Michelle Tom’s house was damaged by a deadly magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2011, she and her young family suffered through another 10,000 aftershocks before finally relocating to the stability of Melbourne, Australia. But soon after arriving, Michelle received the news that her estranged sister was dying. Michelle Tom explores the similarities between seismic upheaval and her own family’s tragedies: her sister’s terminal illness, her brother’s struggle with schizophrenia and ultimate suicide, the sudden death of her father, her own panic disorder and, through it all, one overarching battle – her lifelong struggle to form a healthy connection with her mother.” (adapted from catalogue)

Bourdain : the definitive oral biography / Woolever, Laurie
“When celebrity chef, author and traveller Anthony Bourdain died in June 2018, fans around the globe came together to celebrate the life of an inimitable man. Now, for the first time, people have been granted a look into Bourdain’s life through the stories and recollections of his closest friends and colleagues. Laurie Woolever, Bourdain’s longtime assistant and confidante, interviewed nearly a hundred of the people who shared Tony’s orbit, from members of his kitchen crews to his writing, publishing, and television partners, to his daughter and his closest friends, to piece together a remarkably full, vivid, and nuanced vision of Tony’s life and work.” (Adapted from catalogue)

This much is true / Margolyes, Miriam
“BAFTA-winning actor Miriam Margolyes is the nation’s favourite (and cheekiest) treasure. Now at the age of eighty, she has finally decided to tell her life story, and it’s well worth the wait. Find out how being conceived during an air raid gave her curly hair; what pranks led to Miriam being known as the naughtiest girl ever to be educated at Oxford High School; how, as a teenager, she ended up posing nude for Augustus John; what she did when Warren Beatty asked ‘Do you fuck?’ and much, much more. With a cast list stretching from Martin Scorsese to Barbara Streisand, a cross-dressing Leonardo DiCaprio to an incomprehensible Isaiah Berlin, This Much is True is as clever and self-critical, as warm and honest, as full of life and surprises, as its wonderful author.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Starstruck : my unlikely road to Hollywood / Maltin, Leonard
“Hollywood historian and film reviewer Leonard Maltin invites readers to pull up a chair and listen as he tells stories, many of them hilarious, of 50+ years interacting with legendary movie stars, writers, directors, producers, and cartoonists. Maltin’s career as a free-lance writer and New York Times-bestselling author as well as his 30-year run on Entertainment Tonight, gave him access to Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery, Shirley Temple, and Jimmy Stewart among hundreds of other Golden Age stars, his interviews cutting through the Hollywood veneer and revealing the human behind each legend.” (Adapted from catalogue)

From persecution to flamboyance: our latest biographies are here!

In the latest biographies to hit our shelves we have a miscellany of experiences and memoirs to peruse.  We run the gamut of emotions with a poet, TV presenter, rugby coach, actress, asylum seeker and resident of Centrepoint all sharing their stories which range from heartache, persecution and abuse to flamboyance, success and healing. There’s something for everyone.

After the Tampa : from Afghanistan to New Zealand / Nazari, Abbas
“Escaping from Taliban persecution in Afghanistan, Abbas Nazari’s parents fled the country in 2001 to find a safe place in which to bring up their five children.  Abbas tells his story 20 years on, from the Taliban’s horrendous rule in Afghanistan to his family’s desperate search for safety, to how this became an international political hot issue, to settling and growing up in far-off New Zealand.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an ebook.

Poet warrior : a memoir / Harjo, Joy
“The first Native American to serve as US poet laureate Joy Harjo offers a vivid, lyrical, and inspiring call for love and justice in this contemplation of her trailblazing life. Poet Warrior reveals how Harjo came to write poetry of compassion and healing, poetry with the power to unearth the truth and demand justice. Moving fluidly among prose, song, and poetry, Poet Warrior is a luminous journey of becoming that sings with all the jazz, blues, tenderness, and bravery that we know as distinctly Joy Harjo.” (Catalogue) Available as an ebook.

Lost and found : my story of heartbreak and hope / Street, Toni
“Toni Street’s easy on-air style and warm personality has made her a firm favourite with thousands of New Zealanders. But behind the bubbly persona, is a story of heartbreak and resilience. Toni and her family’s story is one of almost unbelievable trial and tragedy, but also love, determination and incredible resilience and will strike a chord with anyone who has gone through difficult times.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an ebook.

Jayne Mansfield : the girl couldn’t help it / Golden, Eve
“Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967) was driven not just to be an actress but to be a star. One of the most iconic sex symbols of her time, she was known for her platinum blonde hair, hourglass figure, outrageously low necklines, and flamboyant lifestyle. This funny, engaging biography offers a nuanced portrait of a fascinating woman who loved every minute of life and lived every minute to the utmost”. (Adapted from Catalogue)

You can see Jayne Mansfield star in the 1956 motion picture ‘The Girl can’t help it’ available to borrow as a DVD Movie 

Steve Hansen : the legacy / Paul, Gregor
“Between the years 2012 and 2019, Sir Steve Hansen oversaw an era of such remarkable success that it would be almost impossible to repeat. His 15-year career in the All Blacks coaching team is the heaviest footprint in rugby history. Of the 210 tests he was involved with, his team lost just 25 times. Of the 107 tests he served as head coach, Sir Steve accumulated a record 4 World Rugby Coach of the Year awards and orchestrated 93 victories – a winning percentage of 87 per cent, the highest of any All Blacks coach.” (Catalogue) Available as an ebook.

Surviving Centrepoint : my years in New Zealand’s most infamous cult / King, Rachel C
“In this intimate and harrowing account, Rachel Clare King tells her story of the years she spent in New Zealand’s notorious commune, Centrepoint, and life there under the rule of its cult leader and founder Bert Potter. Surviving Centrepoint was first published under the pseudonym Ella James. Now, for the first time, and using her real name, Rachel shares her journey from physical hurt and emotional pain to the reality of survival and the healing power of telling the truth.” (Adapted from catalogue) Also available as an ebook.

 

Biopics: an international feast online at Kanopy and Beamafilm

Have you run out of books? We can help with a fabulous selection of biopics to entertain and educate. You can access these films through our online movie streaming platforms Kanopy and Beamafilm. Just sign in with your Wellington City Libraries card and PIN.

The Oxford English Dictionary (which incidentally is also available through our online e-resources here) define biopic as “a biographical film, esp. one dramatizing the life of a public or historical figure”. Check our selection of fabulous international biopics below:

Neruda
“It’s 1948, and the Cold War has reached Chile. Following a ban on communism, Chilean poet-diplomat Pablo Neruda is forced into hiding. Beloved by the populace, he slips underground and is pursued by incompetent, vainglorious police inspector Oscar Peluchonneau, hoping to make a name for himself by capturing the country’s most infamous fugitive.

Blending visual grandeur and literary wit, Neruda is a beguiling reinvention of the ‘standard’ cinematic biography. Playfully confounding expectations at every turn, the film offers a startling rumination on the split between the person and persona, the man and the artist. 2017 Golden Globe nominee, Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language. Winner of the next bill of Best Actor and the Cine Latino Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.” ( Adapted from Beamafilm)

A Royal Affair
“Denmark, 1766, Caroline Mathilde is married to the mad and politically ineffectual King Christian VII. When the King returns from a tour of Europe accompanied by Struensee, his new personal physician, Queen Caroline finds an unexpected ally within the kingdom. The attraction between the two is initially one of shared ideals and philosophy, but it soon turns into a passionate and clandestine affair.

Committed to the ideals of the Enlightenment that are banned in Denmark, Struensee convinces the King to assert his previously untapped power to remove the conservative political council and implement drastic changes to Danish society. As the Court plot their return to power and the downfall of the Queen and Struensee, the consequences of their affair are made clear and the entire nation will be changed forever.” (Adapted from Kanopy)  A Royal Affair is also available as a DVD from our collection.

Maya Angelou: And still I rise
“Distinctly referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep roots in American culture,” Dr. Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014) led a prolific life. As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer, she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries.

With unprecedented access, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack trace Dr. Angelou’s incredible journey, shedding light on the untold aspects of her life through never-before-seen footage, rare archival photographs and videos and her own words.” (Kanopy)

Southside with You
“On a summer’s day in 1989, a young law associate named Barack Obama used all his charms to woo attorney Michelle Robinson. From executive producer John Legend comes this uplifting romantic movie based on the real-life first date between the future First Couple.” (Kanopy)

Southside with You is also available as a DVD to borrow from our collection.

Yellow is Forbidden
“A modern-day Cinderella story where the brave, diminutive and daring heroine’s dream doesn’t end at the ball. Guo Pei is chasing every designer’s fantasy to become part of the exclusive yet savage world of Haute Couture.

It’s an unprecedented story, taking the viewer inside the world where Guo Pei creates magic: a 50kg dress so heavy Guo Pei has to consider a gymnast not a model to walk the runway, a gown spun by 300 embroiderers, precious gold material printed with centuries-old Swiss fresco. All from a woman who learnt her craft at Number 2 Light Industrial School after the reign of Mao Tse Tung.” (Beamafilm)

Yellow is Forbidden is also available as a DVD to borrow from our collection.

The Motorcycle Diaries
“In 1952, two young Argentines, Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado, set out on a road trip to discover the real Latin America. Ernesto is a 23-year-old medical student specializing in leprology, and Alberto, 29, is a biochemist. The film follows the young men as they unveil the rich and complex human and social topography of the Latin American continent.” (Kanopy)

The Motorcycle Diaries is also available as a DVD to borrow from our collection.

A Fortunate Life
“At eight years old, an impoverished Bert Facey was forced to start the backbreaking, dawn-to-dusk life of a farm labourer. Unschooled, his father dead, abandoned by his mother, by the age of twenty he had survived the rigours of pioneering the harsh Australian bush and the slaughter of the bloody WWI campaign at Gallipoli. Adapted from A.B. Facey’s best-selling autobiographical novel, this is the extraordinary tale of an ordinary Aussie battler, and remains one of the great Australian miniseries.” (Beamafim)

You can also read the original book the DVD mini series was adapted from, or listen the original book as a Book on CD.

Stories of strength, resilience, racism, and the hope and despair of climate change

In our latest biographies we read about the indomitable Helen Kelly, President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions from 2007 to 2015, whose life was tragically cut short at the age of 52. Beloved NZ writer Patricia Grace takes us on a journey through her childhood and writer, columnist and former lawyer Charlotte Grimshaw opens up about growing up as daughter of the famous CK Stead. There are stories of strength and resilience from Sharon Stone and from the winner of the 2020 Costa Biography Award: Lee Lawrence who documents the shooting of his mother by police, the subsequent uprising, the fight to clear his mothers name and racial prejudice he encountered. Finally we hear the story of kiwi scientist Dave Lowe who for decades has been recording the changes in our climate and trying to open people’s eyes to the effects of increasing fossil fuel emissions.

Helen Kelly : her life / Macfie, Rebecca
“When Helen Kelly died on a Wellington spring night in October 2016, Aotearoa New Zealand lost an extraordinary leader. Kelly was the first female head of the country’s trade union movement, but she was also much more – a visionary who believed that all workers, whether in a union or not, deserved to be given a fair go; a fighter from a deeply communist family who never gave up the struggle; a strategist and orator who invoked strong loyalty; a woman who could stir fierce emotions.” (Adapted from catalogue)

From the centre : a writer’s life / Grace, Patricia
“With photographs and quotes from her many, hugely loved books, Patricia Grace begins with her grandparents and parents and takes us through her childhood, her education, marriage and up to the present day in this touching and self-deprecating story of her life, the life of a writer, of a Maori woman and of a teacher. It expresses the love for family and for ancestral land; shows the prejudices she had to face and that made her stronger; and tracks her career as a writer.” (Catalogue)

In this memoir you witness the slow, bittersweet reclamation of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga from a time when our culture was in desperate peril through the eyes of someone who has lived it. With Grace there is no distance between us, no shallow interpretation and we recognise that, in learning history, it matters who is telling the story.” (Emma Espiner, Kete) Read the complete review here.

The mirror book : a memoir / Grimshaw, Charlotte
“‘It’s material, make a story out of it,’ was the mantra Charlotte Grimshaw grew up with in her famous literary family. But when her life suddenly turned upside-down, she needed to re-examine the reality of that material. The more she delved into her memories, the more the real characters in her life seemed to object. So what was the truth of ‘a whole life lived in fiction’? This is a vivid account of a New Zealand upbringing, where rebellion was encouraged, where trouble and tragedy lay ahead. It looks beyond the public face to the ‘messy reality of family life’ and much more.” (Catalogue) Also available as an e-book.

The louder I will sing / Lawrence, Lee
“On 28th September 1985, Lee Lawrence’s mother Cherry Groce was wrongly shot by police during a raid on her Brixton home. The bullet shattered her spine and she never walked again. For Lee, it was a spark that lit a flame that would burn for the next 30 years as he fought to get the police to recognise their wrongdoing. The Louder I Will Sing is a powerful, compelling and uplifting memoir about growing up in modern Britain as a young Black man. It’s a story both of the underlying racism beneath many of our most important institutions, but also the positive power that hope, faith and love can bring in response.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The beauty of living twice / Stone, Sharon
“Sharon Stone suffered a massive stroke that cost her not only her health, but her career, family, fortune, and global fame. Stone chronicles her efforts to rebuild her life and writes about her slow road back to wholeness and health. Stone made headlines not just for her beauty and her talent, but for her candor and her refusal to “play nice,” and it’s those same qualities that make this memoir so powerful. The Beauty of Living Twice is a book for the wounded and a book for the survivors; it’s a celebration of women’s strength and resilience.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an e-book.

Image from Victoria University PressThe alarmist : fifty years measuring climate change / Lowe, D. C.
“His research was urgent fifty years ago. Now, it’s critical. In the early 1970s, budding Kiwi scientist Dave Lowe was posted at an atmospheric monitoring station in the North Island. On a shoestring salary he measured carbon in the atmosphere, collecting data towards what became one of the most important discoveries in modern science. What followed was a lifetime’s career marked by hope and despair. Dave has faced down climate deniers, foot-dragging bureaucracy and widespread complacency to open people’s eyes to the effects of increasing fossil fuel emissions on our atmosphere.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Follow your dreams: biographies to inspire and entertain

In our latest Biography picks we meet New Zealand peanut butter baron Pic Picot, curator of fashion Claire Wilcox who tells her story in a series of vignettes,  former model and muse Jenny Boyd who was twice married to Mick Fleetwood, and Emmy award winner Julianna Margulies who starred as Carol Hathaway in the long running series ER. We also feature comedian Tom Allen, Australian film producer Al Clark (of  The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert fame) and Kaiya Stone who writes with humour and honesty about the difficulties of living with dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Everything is going to be K.O. / Stone, Kaiya
“A hilarious and heartfelt illustrated memoir of living with specific learning difficulties. In Everything is Going to be K.O. , Kaiya Stone writes about her experiences of living with specific learning difficulties: from struggling at school, to being diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia at university, and performing her own one-woman stand up show inspired by her journey. Always funny and unfailingly honest, Kaiya not only outlines the frustrations of having SpLDs, but also the ways in which they have fuelled her creativity.” (adapted from catalogue)

Patch work : a life amongst clothes / Wilcox, Claire
“Claire Wilcox has been a curator of fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum for most of her working life. In Patch Work, she steps into the archive of memory. From her mother’s black wedding suit to the swirling patterns of her own silk kimono, her memoir unfolds in spare, luminous prose the spellbinding power of the things we wear. Through the eye of a curator, we see how the stories and the secrets of clothes measure out the passage of time, our gains and losses, and the way we use them to unravel and write our histories.” (adapted from catalogue)

Jennifer Juniper : a journey beyond the muse / Boyd, Jenny
“Jenny Boyd’s extraordinary life is the stuff of movies. With boyfriend Mick Fleetwood, sister Pattie, George Harrison and the rest of the Beatles, she lived the London scene in the flower power era.  Later her two marriages to Mick Fleetwood, founder member of Fleetwood Mac, brought her to the forefront of the world of rock and roll – and its fame, money, drugs and heartache.  Jenny has spent her life in the company of some of the greatest musical and cultural influencers of the last 50 years – and the journey she takes to finding her own sense of self and creative ability makes Jennifer Juniper a truly captivating and inspiring story.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

No shame / Allen, Tom
“When I was 16 I dressed in Victorian clothing in a bid to distract people from the fact that I was gay. It was a flawed plan. This book is a very funny, candid and emotional ride of a memoir by one of our most beloved comedians. The working-class son of a coach driver, and the youngest member of the Noel Coward Society, Tom Allen grew up in 90s suburbia as the eternal outsider. In these hilarious, honest and heart breaking stories Tom recalls observations on childhood, his adolescence, the family he still lives with, and his attempts to come out and negotiate the gay dating scene. They are written with his trademark caustic wit and warmth, and will entertain, surprise and move you in equal measure.” (Catalogue)

Time flies / Clark, Al
“Al Clark is best known for his role as producer of Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert . This idiosyncratic memoir with a distinctive voice and a sense of the absurd delivers a wistful, reflective, sometimes comic view of his childhood and working life. Clark first worked as a journalist at Time Out in London before becoming Publicity Director at Virgin Records. It was here that he represented the Sex Pistols, Phil Collins and Mike Oldfield. What emerges from Time Flies is Clark’s deep connection with music and film. Where so many showbiz memoirs are about deals, dirt and revenge, Times Flies is about a fan who never lost his sense of wonder.” (Adapted from Filmink review)

Sunshine girl : an unexpected life / Margulies, Julianna
“Known for her outstanding performances on The Good Wife and ER, Julianna Margulies now unleashes her sharp talent with a powerful debut memoir chronicling her life and her work, examining from within, her journey from chaos to calm. Along the way, there were failed romances, difficult choices, and overwhelming rejections. But there was also the moment that fate, faith, and talent assembled in a perfect storm that lead to the roles of a lifetime. Sunshine Girl is an accomplished coming of age story that offers readers a rich sense of relatability as well as the intimate details of a life unimagined” (adapted from catalogue)

Image from Mighty ApePic : adventures in sailing, business, and love / Picot, Pic
Now known for his famous peanut butter, Pic Picot has gone from selling the odd jar at the Nelson farmers market to running a multi-million dollar company. But his journey didn’t start there, he has been a leather sandal maker,  travelling rock musician, boat builder, restaurateur and has sailed the Pacific. In his book Pic discusses his successes and failures with honesty, perception and a great deal of humour. Pic’s unusual path to business success offers hope for anyone wanting to follow their dreams.

Astonishing journeys and bookish broads: recent biographies of note

Astonishing journeys, a pioneering feminist, bookish broads, an Ockham Award winning book and a funny but thoughtful reflection on turning 50, all feature in these latest biographies.

Nuestra América : my family in the vertigo of translation / Lomnitz-Adler, Claudio
“A riveting exploration of the intersecting lines of Jewish and indigenous Latin American thought and culture, by way of a family memoir. In Our America, eminent anthropologist and historian Claudio Lomnitz traces his grandparents’ exile from Eastern Europe to South America. His grandparents stories intersect with leftist political movements in 1920s Peru, the Holocaust, Colombia’s political unrest and Israel’s beginnings. This immigrant family memoir recounts history with psychological insight and the immediacy of a thriller.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Floating in a most peculiar way / Chude-Sokei, Louis Onuorah
“The first time Chude-Sokei realizes that he is ‘first son of the first son’ of a renowned leader of the bygone African nation is in Uncle Daddy and Big Auntie’s strict religious household in Jamaica, where he lives with other abandoned children. Then his mother, the onetime “Jackie O of Biafra,” sends for him to come live with her in Inglewood, Los Angeles. In this world, anything alien– such as Chude-Sykes’s secret obsession with science fiction and David Bowie– is a danger. His yearning to become a Black American gets deeply, sometimes absurdly, complicated. This is his memoir of the redemptive skill of navigating not just Blackness, but Blacknesses, in his America. — adapted from jacket” (Catalogue)

Kate Edger : the life of a pioneering feminist / Morrow, Diana
“In 1877, Kate Edger became the first woman to graduate from a New Zealand university. Edger went on to become a pioneer of women’s education in New Zealand. She also worked tirelessly to mitigate violence against women and children and to fortify their rights through progressive legislation. She campaigned for women’s suffrage and played a prominent role in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and in Wellington’s Society for the Protection of Women and Children. Diana Morrow tells the story of this remarkable New Zealand woman’s life in a very readable book which provides valuable insights into the role of women social reformers in our history.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Bookish broads : women who wrote themselves into history / Marino, Lauren
“Women have written some of our most extraordinary literary works while living in societies and cultures that tried to silence them. In Bookish Broads, Lauren Marino celebrates fierce, trailblazing female writers, reworking the literary canon that has long failed to recognize the immense contributions of women. Featuring more than 50 brilliant bookish broads, Marino cleverly illuminates the lives of the greats as well as the literary talents history has wrongfully overlooked. Each intimate portrait delves into one woman’s works and is accompanied by vibrant illustrations depicting each literary legend in her element and time.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Of the winner of the General Non Fiction category at the 2021 Ockham Book Awards (Vincent O’Sullivan’s biography of Ralph Hotere), category convenor Dr Sarah Shieff said that as a biographer, O’Sullivan displayed masterly skill:

This is a sensitive, detailed portrait of one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most important modern artists, shaped around the four pou of Hotere’s identity: his Māoritanga, his faith, his whenua, and his whānau. The judges would like to commend Vincent O’Sullivan for an extraordinary achievement in biography.” (NZ Book Awards Trust)

Ralph Hotere : the dark is light enough : a biographical portrait / O’Sullivan, Vincent
“Ralph Hotere (Te Aupouri and Te Rarawa; 1931-2013) was one of Aotearoa’s most significant modern artists. Hotere invited the poet, novelist and biographer Vincent O’Sullivan to write his life story in 2005. Now, this book – the result of years of research and many conversations with Hotere and his fellow artists, collaborators, friends and family – provides a nuanced, compelling portrait of Hotere: the man, and the artist.” (Publisher information)

Turns out, I’m fine / Lucy, Judith
“Judith Lucy was just Great! Sure, the last remaining member of her immediate family had died, she was menopausal, she suspected her career was in the shitter and it seemed like the world was going to hell in a handbasket – but everything would work out because SHE HAD A MAN. Then, in the space of twenty-four hours, her relationship came apart and so did she. A broken heart became the catalyst for a complete existential melt down. She was nearly fifty, suddenly alone and unsure about every aspect of her life. How had this happened? She tries everything from dating a tree to getting a portrait of her vulva done to swimming with a whale shark. Thanks to a series of revelations and a slight drowning experience, Judith slowly starts to realise that her life is still full of possibilities and despite death, heartache and a dry vagina it turns out … she’s fine.” (adapted from Catalogue)