New Biographies and Memoirs

From a rugby player fighting dementia to a wild woman of history, the working class kids to one of the most iconic women of our times, we have some fantastic new biographies and memoirs in our collection this month.

Unforgettable : rugby, dementia and the fight of my life / Thompson, Steve“Unforgettable is at once a powerful, affecting sports memoir from a true giant of rugby, and a raw call to arms to safeguard the sports we love and all those who play them.” (Catalogue)

Thief, convict, pirate, wife : the many histories of Charlotte Badger / Ashton, Jennifer“Charlotte Badger is a woman around whom many stories have been woven: the thief sentenced to death in England and then transported to New South Wales; the pirate who joined a mutiny to take a ship to the Bay of Islands; the first white woman resident in Aotearoa; the wife of a rangatira, and many more. The author shows how history and historical figures like Charlotte Badger are made and remade over time by journalists and historians, painters and playwrights. Thief, Convict, Pirate, Wife is the fascinating story of a remarkable, curious, ordinary woman and her place in history.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The all of it : a bogan rhapsody / Bell, Cadance“Seven years ago, Ben was loveless, overweight, in debt and living in his parents’ rumpus room, trying to find a way to quietly die. Days passed by in a haze of marijuana smoke and self-loathing. Then, one day, Ben decided not to die. He decided to change everything – starting with the Ben bit. Becoming Cadance would be more than a gender transition. It would be a transition in every way. It would mean leaving behind a rural Mudgee childhood filled with Frogger, hot chips, Godliness and a forbidden love of Sarah Parker’s My Little Pony; and the violence, drugs and secrecy that plagued her twenties. Choosing to live was just the beginning; what mattered was how she existed. She was going to experience the all of it.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Corrections in ink : a memoir / Blakinger, Keri“An elite, competitive figure skater growing up, Keri Blakinger poured herself into the sport, even competing at nationals. But when her skating partnership ended abruptly, her world shattered. With all the intensity she saved for the ice, she dove into self-destruction. From her first taste of heroin, the next nine years would be a blur-living on the streets, digging for a vein, selling drugs and sex, eventually plunging off a bridge when it all became too much, all while trying to hold herself together enough to finish her degree at Cornell. Then, on a cold day during Keri’s senior year, the police stopped her. Caught with a Tupperware container full of heroin, she was arrested and ushered into a holding cell, a county jail, and finally into state prison. There, in the cruel “upside down,” Keri witnessed callous conditions and encountered women from all walks of life-women who would change Keri forever.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Muddy people : a Muslim coming of age / El Sayed, Sara“A quick, clever, warm-hearted debut about growing up in an Egyptian-Muslim family. Sara is growing up in a family with a lot of rules. Her mother tells her she’s not allowed to wear a bikini, her father tells her she’s not allowed to drink alcohol, and her grandmother tells her to never trust a man with her money. After leaving Egypt when Sara was only six years old, her family slowly learns how to navigate the social dynamics of their new home. Sara feels out of place in her new school. Her father refuses to buy his coworkers a ginger beer, thinking it contains alcohol. Her mother refuses to wear a hijab, even if it would help them connect with other local Muslims. And Sara learns what it feels like to have a crush on a boy, that some classmates are better friends than others, and that her parents are loving, but flawed people who don’t always know what’s best for her, despite being her strongest defenders.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Coconut / Olajide, Florence“1963, North London. Nan fosters one-year-old Florence Ọlájídé and calls her ‘Ann.’ Florence adores her foster mother more than anything but Nan, and the children around her, all have White skin and she can’t help but feel different. Then, four years later, after a weekend visit to her birth parents, Florence never returns to Nan. Two months after, sandwiched between her mother and father plus her three siblings, six-year-old Florence steps off a ship in Lagos to the fierce heat of the African sun. Swapping the lovely, comfortable bed in her room at Nan’s for a mat on the floor of the living room in her new home, Florence finds herself struggling to adjust. She wants to embrace her cultural heritage but doesn’t speak Yoruba and knows nothing of the customs. Clashes with her grandmother, Mama, the matriarch of the family, result in frequent beatings. Torn between her early childhood experiences and the expectations of her African culture, she begins to question who she is. Nigerian, British, both?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Annie’s boy / Todd, Gary“Annie’s Boy is a coming-of-age story as seen through the eyes of a boy and his mum living in Scotland in the 1970s and 80s where fear, violence and struggle was an everyday part of life. It is a story of hope and quiet courage and perseverance that will take you on an emotional roller coaster that spans over fifteen years of their lives and what they did to survive. Gary and his mother lived in fear at the intimidation and violence that came from his father. At the age of ten, he agreed to testify against his father in court to try and stop the ordeal from continuing. The book is also a look at the tough and gritty life of Dundee during the period.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The gift of a radio : my childhood and other trainwrecks / Webb, Justin“Justin Webb’s memoir of his 1970s upbringing is as much a portrait of a strange decade in our history as of his own dysfunctional childhood. Justin Webb’s childhood was far from ordinary. Between his mother’s un-diagnosed psychological problems, and his step-father’s untreated ones, life at home was dysfunctional at best. But with gun-wielding school masters and sub-standard living conditions, Quaker boarding school wasn’t much better. And the backdrop to this coming of age story? Britain in the 1970s. Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and Free. Strikes, inflation and IRA bombings. A time in which attitudes towards mental illness, parenting and masculinity were worlds apart from the attitudes we have today. A society that believed itself to be close to the edge of breakdown.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Yoko Ono : an artful life / Brackett, Donald“For more than sixty years, Yoko Ono has fascinated us as one of the world’s most innovative, radical artists. From a childhood of both extraordinary privilege and extreme deprivation in war-time Japan, she adopted an outsider’s persona and moved to America where, after a spell at Sarah Lawrence College, she made a place for herself in bohemian arts circles. She was already twice divorced and established as a performance artist in the Fluxus movement and in Tokyo’s avant-garde scene before her fortuitous meeting with the Beatles’ John Lennon at a London Gallery in 1966. Their intense yet fraught relationship, reputed to have blown-up the Beatles, made headlines around the world, as did their famous bed-ins in protest of the Vietnam war, and their majestic, Grammy-winning musical collaborations. Through it all, and for decades after Lennon’s tragic death, she remained defiantly herself. Yoko Ono: An Artful Life charts her journey of personal turmoil, artistic evolution, and activism, and at last tells her iconic story on her own terms.” (Catalogue)

To see what else is new in our collection, go to what’s new & popular (wcl.govt.nz)

New biographies and memoirs this August

From movie stars to political figures, queer icons to Hollywood royalty, we have some fantastic new biographies and memoirs in our collection this month.

Back to the prairie : a home remade, a life rediscovered / Gilbert, Melissa
“Known for her childhood role as Laura Ingalls Wilder on the classic NBC television show Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert has spent nearly her entire life in Hollywood. From Dancing with the Stars to a turn in politics, she has always been on the lookout for her next project. She just had no idea that her latest one would be completely life-changing. When her husband introduces her to the wilds of rural Michigan, Melissa begins to fall back in love with nature. And when work takes them to New York, they find a rustic cottage in the Catskills to call home. But ‘rustic’ is a generous description for the state of the house, which requires a lot of blood, sweat, and tears from the newlyweds to make it habitable. Then the coronavirus pandemic descends upon the world, further nudging Melissa out of the spotlight and into the woods.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Bookends : a memoir of love, loss, and literature / Owens, Zibby“Zibby Owens has become a well-known personality in the publishing world. Her infectious energy, tasteful authenticity, and smart, steadfast support of authors started in childhood, a precedent set by the profound effect books and libraries had on her own family. But after losing her closest friend on 9/11 and later becoming utterly stressed out and overwhelmed by motherhood, Zibby was forgetting what made her her. She turned to books and writing for help. Just when things seemed particularly bleak, Zibby unexpectedly fell in love with a tennis pro turned movie producer who showed her the path to happiness: away from type-A perfectionism and toward letting things unfold organically. What unfolded was a meaningful career, a great love, and finally, her voice, now heard by millions of listeners.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Both/and : a life in many worlds / Abedin, Huma“Hillary Clinton’s famously private top aide and longtime advisor emerges from the wings of American political history to take command of her own story. Here Abedin reveals a crystal clear portrait of Clinton as a brilliant and caring leader, a steadfast friend, generous, funny, hardworking, and dedicated. She chronicles her marriage to Anthony Weiner, the devastation wrought by his betrayals, and their shared love for their son. Abedin’s journey is a testament to her profound belief that in an increasingly either/or world, she can be both/and.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Countess from Kirribilli : the mysterious and free-spirited literary sensation who beguiled the world / Morgan, Joyce“Elizabeth von Armin may have been born on the shores of Sydney Harbour, but it was in Victorian London that she discovered society and society discovered her. She made her Court debut before Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace, was pursued by a Prussian count and married into the formal world of the European aristocracy. It was the novels she wrote about that life that turned her into a literary sensation on both sides of the Atlantic and had her likened to Jane Austen. Elizabeth von Armin was an extraordinary woman who lived during glamorous, exciting and changing times that spanned the innocence of Victorian Sydney and finished with the march of Hitler through Europe. Joyce Morgan brings her to vivid and spellbinding life.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dinner for one : how cooking in Paris saved me / Dacres, Sutanya“Jamaican-born and Bronx-raised, she had never dreamed she herself could be one of those American women in Paris she admired from afar via their blogs, until she met the man of her dreams one night in Manhattan. A couple of years later, she married her Frenchman and moved to Paris, embarking on her own “happily-ever-after.” But when her marriage abruptly ended, the fairy tale came crashing down around her. Reeling from her sudden divorce and the cracked facade of that picture-perfect expat life, Sutanya grew determined to mend her broken heart and learn to love herself again. She began by cooking dinner for one in her Montmartre kitchen. Along the way, she builds Parisienne friendships, learns how to date in French, and examines what it means to be a Black American woman in Paris—all while adopting the French principle of pleasure, especially when it comes to good food, and exploring what the concept of self-care really means.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Don’t laugh, it’ll only encourage her / Cooper, Daisy May“The achingly funny, always entertaining and often heart-breaking memoir from the creator and star of BBC’s This Country. When things were really bad, Mum would always say to me- ‘Don’t worry, it will be a good read for your memoir one day.’ I suppose that’s a weird way of coping, isn’t it? Trying to turn the bleakest situation into a positive. Life hasn’t always been straightforward for Daisy May Cooper- growing up in rural poverty in Gloucestershire with her brother Chaz, she had to work a myriad of low-paid, unrewarding jobs just to make ends meet. Don’t Laugh, It’ll Only Encourage Her is the endearingly honest and hilarious memoir from the creator and star of award-winning BBC comedy This Country” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Love that story : observations from a gorgeously queer life / Van Ness, Jonathan“From experiencing heartbreaking grief to uncovering the hidden LGBTQ history of his hometown, Quincy, from overcoming body image issues and living with HIV to cultivating his personal style, Jonathan Van Ness speaks out a wide range of topics with heart, honesty and flair. He not only shares his personal experiences, but with the help of conversations with experts, he also offers captivating perspectives on the wide number of issues we are dealing with today: the current nature of race issues in the US, the rise of white supremacy, transphobia and imposter syndrome.” (Catalogue)

Out of the corner : a memoir / Grey, Jennifer“In this beautiful, close-to-the bone account, Jennifer Grey takes readers on a vivid tour of the experiences that have shaped her, from her childhood as the daughter of Broadway and film legend Joel Grey, to the surprise hit with Patrick Swayze that made her America’s sweetheart, to her inspiring season eleven win on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. With self-deprecating humor and frankness, she looks back on her unbridled, romantic adventures in Hollywood. Grey inspires with her hard-won battle back, reclaiming her sense of self from a culture and business that can impose a narrow and unforgiving definition of female worth. She finds, at last, her own true north and starts a family of her own, just in the nick of time” (Adapted from Catalogue)

So now you know : growing up gay in india / Tejuja, Vivek“The year was 1991. Vivek was eight. He realized he was gay. Only he didn’t: he just figured that he wanted to be different. And that he was in love — for want of a better word — with Deepak, his best friend. Then Mast Kalandar released, with Anupam Kher playing Pinku, a stereotypical gay character. And Vivek realized he didn’t want to be Pinku. So he tried to walk differently, gesticulate differently, and speak in as gruff a voice as he could — all to avoid being Pinku. Funny, poignant, heartwarming and heart-breaking all at once, this is a memoir of growing up gay in India in the 1990s, with Bollywood, books, and the Bombay sea for company.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

When Marilyn met the queen : Marilyn Monroe’s life in England / Morgan, Michelle“In July 1956, Marilyn Monroe arrived in London–on honeymoon with her husband Arthur Miller–to make The Prince and the Showgirl with Sir Laurence Olivier. It was meant to be a happy time . . .Marilyn would work during the day at Pinewood Studios, in Iver Heath, while Arthur would write. Then, in the evening, the couple would be able to relax together in their private English country cottage. But the cottage was a mansion, in Englefield Green, and Marilyn, used to living in tiny hotel rooms and apartments, felt herself being watched. She was, by several of owner Lord Drogheda’s servants, who were selling stories to the papers. And when filming began, all did not go as hoped. Over time, Marilyn grew to hate Olivier; the feeling was mutual. Marilyn found herself a curiosity for the frequently hostile British press. She took solace in bike rides in Windsor Great Park, in small acts of kindness from members of the public, and in a growing fascination with Queen Elizabeth, whom she longed to meet–and eventually did.” (Catalogue)

To see what else is new in our collection, go to:

What’s new & Popular (wcl.govt.nz)

Hot New Biographies For Cold Winter Months

Check out these new biographies in our collection.  From entertainers like Alan Cumming, Viola Davis and Hannah Gadsby to a Jubilee biography of Queen Elizabeth II, to an examination of the Silicon Valley powerful like Peter Thiel and the bookish tales of Ruth Shaw and Elizabeth Boyle, there’s something for everyone.

Baggage : tales from a fully packed life / Cumming, Alan
“In a series of episodes that are bookended by two marriages, the ending of his first to his wife, and the start of his second to his husband, Baggage charts Alan’s unique and wonderful career onstage and onscreen and all the times that Hollywood has, since his nervous breakdown at the age of twenty-eight, swooped into his life to whisk him away from all sorts of calamity or moments of personal destruction.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The bookseller at the end of the world / Shaw, Ruth
“Ruth Shaw weaves together stories of the characters who visit her bookshops, musings about her favourite books, and bittersweet stories from her full and varied life before bookshops. She sailed through the Pacific for years, was held up by pirates, worked at Sydney’s King’s Cross with drug addicts and prostitutes, campaigned on numerous environmental issues, and worked the yacht Breaksea Girl as an expedition/tourist boat with her husband, Lance.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

The contrarian : Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s pursuit of power / Chakin, Max
“A biography of venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel, the enigmatic, controversial and hugely influential power broker who sits at the dynamic intersection of tech, business and politics. Since the days of the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s, no industry has made a greater global impact than Silicon Valley.” (Catalogue)

Fierce appetites : loving, losing and living to excess in my present and in the writings of the past / Boyle, Elizabeth
“Fierce Appetites is the exhilarating and deeply humane result. Not only does Elizabeth Boyle write dazzling accounts of ancient stories, familiar and obscure, from Ireland and further afield, but she uses her historical learning to grapple with the raw and urgent questions she faces, questions that have bedevilled people in every age. She writes on grief, addiction, family breakdown, the complexities of motherhood, love and sex, memory, class, education, travel (and staying put) with unflinching honesty, deep compassion and occasional dark humour.  (Adapted from Catalogue)

Finding me / Davis, Viola
“This is Viola Davis’ story, in her own words, and spans her incredible, inspiring life, from her coming-of-age in Rhode Island to her present day. Hers is a story of overcoming, a true hero’s journey.” (Catalogue)

No. 91/92 : a diary of a year on the bus / Elkin, Lauren
“A love letter to Paris and a meditation on how it has changed in two decades, evolving from the twentieth century into the twenty-first, from analog to digital”– Provided by distributor.” (Catalogue)

A queen for all seasons : a celebration of Queen Elizabeth II on her Platinum Jubilee / Lumley, Joanna
“A sparkling celebration of our much-loved Queen Elizabeth II for her Platinum Jubilee including special writings and illuminating insights around key moments in her 70-year reign, introduced and edited by her biggest fan Joanna Lumley. In 2022 Queen Elizabeth II celebrates seventy years as Queen and Head of the Commonwealth. She is Britain’s longest reigning monarch and the very first to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. A Queen For All Seasons, edited and introduced by Joanna Lumley, is a perceptive, touching and engaging tribute to this unique woman.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Ten steps to Nanette : a memoir situation / Gadsby, Hannah
“In her first book, the queer Australian comedian, writer, and actress takes us through the key moments in her life that ultimately led to the creation of Nanette and her startling declaration that she was quitting comedy. She traces her growth as a gay woman from Tasmania–where homosexuality was illegal until 1997–to her ever-evolving relationship with comedy, to her struggle with late-in-life diagnoses of autism and ADHD, and finally to the backbone of Nanette–the renouncement of self-deprecation, the rejection of misogyny, and the moral power of telling the truth” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Truly, madly : Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and the romance of the century / Galloway, Stephen
“In 1934, a friend brought fledgling actress Vivien Leigh to see Theatre Royal, where she would first lay eyes on Laurence Olivier in his brilliant performance as Anthony Cavendish. That night, she confided, he was the man she was going to marry. There was just one problem: she was already married-and so was he. TRULY, MADLY is the biography of a marriage, a love affair that still captivates millions, even decades after both actors’ deaths.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Manifesto : on never giving up / Evaristo, Bernardine
“Evaristo’s astonishing nonfiction debut, Manifesto, is a vibrant and inspirational account of Evaristo’s life and career as she rebelled against the mainstream and fought over several decades to bring her creative work into the world. With her characteristic humor, Evaristo describes her childhood as one of eight siblings, with a Nigerian father and white Catholic mother, tells the story of how she helped set up Britain’s first Black women’s theatre company, remembers the queer relationships of her twenties, and recounts her determination to write books that were absent in the literary world around her. She provides a hugely powerful perspective to contemporary conversations around race, class, feminism, sexuality, and aging.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

For more biographies, go to our dedicated page on the library catalogue.

Biographies Behind the Famous Brands

From Sky TV to Tesla and from Dyson to Cadbury Chocolate; read the legendary stories of the genius brains behind the big brands; their lives, their difficult times and how they thrive on success.

Invention : a life / Dyson, James
“Famously, over a four-year period, James Dyson made 5,127 prototypes of the cyclonic vacuum cleaner that would transform the way houses are cleaned around the world. Dyson reveals how he came to set up his own company and led it to become one of the most inventive technology companies in the world. Dyson has always looked to the future, even setting up his own university to help provide the next generation of engineers and designers. It is a compelling and dramatic tale.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Elon Musk : how the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is shaping our future / Vance, Ashlee
“Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, sold one of his internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. The author captures the genius’s life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits. Musk has dedicated his energies and fortune to inventing a future comparable to science-fiction fantasy.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

No limits : how Craig Heatley became a top New Zealand entrepreneur / Black, Joanne
“No Limits describes Craig Heatley’s entrepreneurial life. It charts his philosophies, his approach to currency trading and the significance of joining the world’s most prestigious golf club, Augusta National, home of the Masters. It is Sky Television that was his boldest and most precarious undertaking. The fledgling company teetered in the early nineties as rugby suffered its own crisis, torn between its amateur heritage and the forces of professionalism.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Chocolate wars : from Cadbury to Kraft : 200 years of sweet success and bitter rivalry / Cadbury, Deborah
“Deborah Cadbury takes a journey through this award-winning documentary into her own family history to uncover the 250 years of chocolate empire-building. John Cadbury founded the first Cadbury’s coffee and chocolate shop in Birmingham in 1824; then his grandson George made this company’s fortune. This is also the story of their Quaker rivals, the Frys and Rowntrees, and their European competitors, the Nestles, Suchards and Lindts.” (Adapted from Overdrive)

The contrarian : Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s pursuit of power / Chakin, Max
“A biography of venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel, the enigmatic, controversial and hugely influential power broker who sits at the dynamic intersection of tech, business and politics. Since the days of the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s, no industry has made a greater global impact than Silicon Valley.” (Catalogue)

All this way to meet you: New biographies

Recent Biography Picks

via GIPHY

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, and the one who doesn’t read, lives just one.” – George RR Martin

Dive into someone else’s life for a bit with our new biographies! This month we’ve got a wide range of stories, from standing in front of a Taliban warlord’s home to a drag queen’s rise to stardom. Other highlights from the below list include New York Times bestselling author Jami Attenberg on her journey as a writer, Miriam Margolyes on her rip-roaring life as an actor and The Sunday Times Memoir of the Year, Free : coming of age at the end of history.

I came all this way to meet you : writing myself home / Attenberg, Jami
“From New York Times bestselling author Jami Attenberg comes a dazzling memoir about unlocking and embracing her creativity-and how it saved her life”– Provided by publisher. Attenberg reveals the defining moments that pushed her to create a life and a voice she could claim for herself. Drawn to a life on the road, her wanderlust led her across the country and eventually around the globe. She began to reflect on the experiences of her youth, and began writing: researching articles for magazines, jotting down ideas for novels, and refining her craft, learning to trust her gut, and ultimately, trust herself. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Empower : conquering the disease of fear / Azim, Tareq
“If you knock on Wakil’s door, he’s going to kill you.” That’s what Tareq Azim’s guide told him, as they stood at the foot of the local Taliban warlord’s home. Most people would let fear get the better of them. However, Tareq had already conquered fear. He walked up to the door by himself, and gave three loud knocks.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The tick of two clocks : a tale of moving on / Bakewell, Joan
“Old age is no longer a blip in the calendar, just a few declining years before the end. Old age is now a major and important part of life: It should command as much thought – even anxiety – as teenagers give to exam results and young marrieds how many children to have . . . I am in my 80s and moving towards the end of my life. But in a more actual sense, I have moved from my dear home of 50 odd years into another . . . the home where I will be until the end.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Caught in the act : a memoir / Jenek, Shane
“Meet Shane Jenek. Raised in the Brisbane suburbs by loving parents, Shane realises from a young age that he’s not like all the other boys. At a performing arts agency he discovers his passion for song, dance and performance, and makes a promise to himself: to find a bigger stage. Meet Courtney Act. Born in Sydney around the turn of the millennium, Courtney makes her name in the gay bars of Oxford Street and then on Australian Idol. Over ten years later, she makes star turns on RuPaul’s Drag Race and Celebrity Big Brother UK, bringing her unique take on drag and gender to the world. Behind this rise to national and global fame is a story of searching for and finding oneself.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

This much is true / Margolyes, Miriam
“BAFTA-winning actor, voice of everything from Monkey to the Cadbury’s Caramel Bunny, creator of a myriad of unforgettable characters from Lady Whiteadder to Professor Sprout, 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.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Did ye hear mammy died? / O’Reilly, Séamas
“Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? is Seamas O’Reilly’s memoir of growing up as one of eleven children in rural Northern Ireland in the 1990s after the death of their mother when Seamas was five. He delves into his family – his pleasingly eccentric, reticent but deeply loving father; his rambunctious siblings, intent on enforcing a byzantine age-based hierarchy; and the numerous bewildering friends, relations and neighbours who blew in and out to ‘help’. Seamas describes how his mother’s death changed his childhood relationships with everyone and everything, as knowledge of his tragic experience preceded him.” (Catalogue)

My mess is a bit of a life : adventures in anxiety / Pritchett, Georgia
“Television writer and producer Georgia Pritchett knows a thing or two about anxiety. From worrying about the monsters under her bed as a child (Were they comfy enough?), to embracing womanhood (One way of knowing you have crossed from girlhood to womanhood is that men stop furtively masturbating at you from bushes and start shouting things at you from cars. It’s a beautiful moment) to being offered free gifts after an award ceremony (It was an excruciating experience. Mortifying) worry has accompanied her at every turn. This memoir is a joyful reflection on just how to live and sometimes even thrive (sometimes not) with anxiety”–Publisher’s description.” (Catalogue)

Free : coming of age at the end of history / Ypi, Lea
“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.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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.

 

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)

World War II, and NZ literature: New biographies in May

In this month’s new biographies, read about: a World War II codebreaker at Bletchley Park, a celebrated New Zealand plastic surgeon of the same era, and a renowned literary publisher who fled the Nazis and his storied family history.

Also included this month are a biography of Robin Hyde, as well as Gabriel Byrne’s autobiography, and essayist Fiona Murphy’s memoir which explores her experience of being deaf. Have a browse!

Mavis Batey : Bletchley codebreaker, writer, garden historian, conservationist / Stone, Jean
“When World War II was declared, Mavis Batey, previously studying German Romanticism, abandoned her studies to do her duty for her country. At Bletchley Park, Britain’s best kept secret, she became one of the first women codebreakers, a pioneer and a star, breaking codes vital to bringing peace. Mavis Batey, a unique biography, delves into the life of one of Britain’s best female codebreakers.” (Catalogue)

The shape of sound : a memoir / Murphy, Fiona
“Fiona Murphy is an award winning poet and essayist whose new memoir The Shape of Sound explores her experience of being deaf. She was in her first year of school when a hearing test confirmed she was profoundly deaf in her left ear. She has limited hearing in her other ear and has recently learned she will eventually lose her hearing completely.” (Summary drawn from Radio NZ’s article and interview with Fiona Murphy about The Shape of Sound)

Walking with ghosts : a memoir / Byrne, Gabriel
“In vivid, melodic prose, Gabriel revisits his childhood in Ireland, a world that has long since been renovated by time, and juxtaposes these memories with scenes from later years, in which he develops and occupies that strange identity of movie star. Impressionistic and sensual, Byrne’s visions of home, of boyhood and adolescence, are gracefully interspersed with jump-cuts to pointedly unglamorous scenes from his life as he becomes an actor, as he becomes celebrated, as he becomes forever recognizable. Byrne is interested in exploring the pathos in what it means to be famous, in what it means to be praised when everything you’ve learned tells you that are not worthy of praise.” (Publisher description) Also available as an eBook

Shining land : looking for Robin Hyde / Morris, Paula
“Looking for Robin Hyde brings together award-winning novelist Paula Morris and distinguished photographer Haru Sameshima. It is the second in the korero series of picture books edited by Lloyd Jones, written and made for grown-ups, and designed to showcase leading New Zealand writers and artists working together in a collaborative and dynamic way. In Shining Land Morris and Sameshima focus on the New Zealand journalist, poet, fiction writer and war correspondent Robin Hyde, exploring three locations important to her difficult life and ground-breaking work. This beautifully considered small book richly rewards the reader and stretches the notion of what the book can do.”–Publishers’ website.” (Catalogue)

Perfection : the life and times of Sir William Manchester / Brown, Earle
“Hailing from small beginnings in rural Waimate, Sir William Manchester became a battalion medical officer with the New Zealand Army in the United Kingdom during World War II. Selected in 1941 to train as a plastic surgeon, serendipitously under the supervision of the great pioneers Gillies, McIndoe, Mowlem and Barron – all New Zealanders – he excelled in this evolving surgical craft…This biography is based on the extensive archives left by Sir William, the authors’ research into his achievements and their personal knowledge of him, working with his as a trainee and colleague.” (Catalogue) Listen to an interview on Radio NZ with the authors

Endpapers : a family story of books, war, escape, and home / Wolff, Alexander
Endpapers excavates the extraordinary histories of the author’s grandfather and father: the renowned publisher Kurt Wolff, and his son Niko, who fought in the Wehrmacht during World War II before coming to America. Kurt Wolff was born in Bonn into a highly cultured German-Jewish family. Always bookish, Kurt became a publisher at twenty-three, setting up his own firm and publishing Franz Kafka, Joseph Roth, Karl Kraus, and many other authors whose books would soon be burned by the Nazis. Fleeing Germany in 1933, a day after the Reichstag fire, Kurt and his second wife, Helen, sought refuge in France, Italy, and ultimately New York, where in a small Greenwich Village apartment they founded Pantheon Books. Pantheon would soon take its own place in literary history with the publication of Nobel laureate Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago, and as the conduit that brought major European works to the States. But Kurt’s taciturn son Niko, offspring of his first marriage to Elisabeth Merck, was left behind in Germany, where despite his Jewish heritage he served the Nazis on two fronts. As Alexander Wolff visits dusty archives and meets distant relatives, he discovers secrets that never made it to the land of fresh starts, including the connection between Hitler and the family pharmaceutical firm E. Merck, and the story of a half-brother Niko never knew. ” (Catalogue)