Tag Archives: Memoirs

Gotta Get Theroux This by Louis Theroux

Gotta Get Theroux This Louis Theroux‘Gotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times in Television’ is Louis Theroux’s memoir reflecting on over twenty years of making television documentaries. His career began in 1994 with a one-off segment on Michael Moore’s ‘TV Nation’ on apocalyptic religious sects followed by the ‘Weird Weekends’ series which focused on odd aspects of Americana. More recently, he has moved towards documentaries about hard-hitting topics such as eating disorders and addiction. Continue reading

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Educated by Tara Westover

Educated Tara WestoverI had heard of ‘Educated’ before it was longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize but hadn’t considered Tara Westover’s widely acclaimed memoir of her childhood growing up in a Mormon fundamentalist family in rural Idaho as a possible contender. Although not immediately obvious from the title or basic premise of the book, there are numerous connections to the main thematic criteria of the prize related to health. Isolated from mainstream society by radical survivalist parents, Westover and her six older siblings didn’t attend school and the family never saw doctors – even serious incidents like car accidents and third degree burns were treated at home with her mother’s herbal tinctures rather than at hospital. She didn’t receive a birth certificate until she was nine years old and spent most of her time working at her father’s junkyard, later studying independently at home.  Continue reading

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The Wellcome Book Prize Longlist 2019

Wellcome Book Prize Longlist 2019
The 12 books longlisted for this year’s Wellcome Book Prize are:

Amateur by Thomas Page McBee
Astroturf by Matthew Sperling
Educated by Tara Westover
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar
Mind on Fire by Arnold Thomas Fanning
Murmur by Will Eaves
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Polio: The Odyssey of Eradication by Thomas Abraham
Sight by Jessie Greengrass
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein
This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein

Among the five fiction and seven non-fiction titles, the judges have noted that gender, identity and mental health have emerged as prominent themes this year. I will be shadowing the shortlist of six books which will be announced on 19th March with fellow book bloggers Rebecca, Annabel, Paul and Laura and we will also be covering the longlist between us over the next few weeks. Continue reading

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Mayhem by Sigrid Rausing

Mayhem Sigrid RausingShortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize, ‘Mayhem’ is Sigrid Rausing’s family memoir about drug addiction. Her younger brother and heir to the Tetra Pak fortune, Hans Kristian, met American businesswoman, Eva Kemeny, when they were in rehab together in the late 1980s. They later married and became well-known philanthropists based in London. However, they relapsed and in 2007, Sigrid was granted custody of Hans and Eva’s four children. In July 2012, Hans was stopped by the police after driving erratically through London and was found with drugs in his possession. When the police searched his Belgravia mansion, they discovered Eva’s remains hidden under a mattress. She had been dead for approximately two months. Continue reading

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Edinburgh Book Festival: I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death Maggie O'FarrellThe last event I attended at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday was Maggie O’Farrell in conversation with Hannah Beckerman. The discussion during the first half focused on her latest novel This Must Be The Place which I read last year while the second half explored her new book and first work of non-fiction ‘I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death’ which is published in the UK this week. Continue reading

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Four Non-Fiction Books I’ve Read Recently

The Outrun Amy LiptrotShortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize earlier this year and winner of the Wainwright Prize, The Outrun by Amy Liptrot is a memoir about her descent into alcoholism and subsequent recovery after returning to her childhood home of Orkney at the age of thirty. There is a stark contrast between Liptrot’s hipster lifestyle in east London in her twenties where her addiction to alcohol led to relationship breakdowns, job losses and a driving conviction and the contemplative days spent observing corncrakes and living on the remote island of Papa Westray with a population of just seventy. Above all, it is a book which explores the meaning of connections, whether it is through people, places, drugs, wildlife or technology. Much like the excellent H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, it successfully brings together a moving narrative of trauma with nature appreciation and could be a contender for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction (formerly known as the Samuel Johnson Prize) ahead of the longlist announcement next month. Continue reading

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A Notable Woman: The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt

A Notable Woman Romantic Journals Jean Lucey PrattJean Lucey Pratt was born in October 1909 and began writing her journal in 1925, filling up 45 exercise books until her death in 1986. Her diaries have been edited by Simon Garfield in the collection ‘A Notable Woman: The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt’. As a young woman, she lived with her widowed father in Wembley before going on to study architecture and pursuing a career in journalism in London. She moved to a cottage near Slough in 1939, taking a job in the publicity department at a metals company during the Second World War and later ran her own bookshop. However, it was her ongoing search for a husband which preoccupied her the most throughout much of her adult life.  Continue reading

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Please, Mister Postman by Alan Johnson

Please Mister Postman Alan JohnsonI really enjoyed reading Alan Johnson’s first memoir This Boy which recounted his childhood growing up in poverty in north Kensington during the 1950s and 1960s. In the second volume, ‘Please, Mister Postman’, Johnson reflects on his early career as a postman while bringing up a young family in Slough. During the 1970s and 1980s, he became more and more involved in trade union activities at work, thus setting him on the path to a long and eventful political career. Continue reading

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Dead Babies and Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly

Dead Babies and Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly‘Dead Babies and Seaside Towns’ is Alice Jolly’s memoir about her attempts to have a second child. When her first son Thomas is two years old, Jolly falls pregnant again but a scan reveals that the placenta has become partly detached. Her daughter, Laura, was stillborn in 2005, twenty-four weeks into the pregnancy. After several miscarriages, rounds of IVF treatment and failed attempts to adopt, Jolly had a daughter named Hope born in 2011 to a surrogate mother in Minnesota using a donor egg. Continue reading

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In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

In Order to Live Yeonmi Park‘In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom’ is Yeonmi Park’s account of how she escaped from North Korea when she was thirteen years old. Born in 1993, Park left Hyesan with her mother in an attempt to track down her older sister Eunmi who had already defected. However, they were sold to traffickers in China where they both experienced horrific abuse. Two years later, they fled across the Gobi desert to Mongolia before arriving in South Korea where Park has since become a leading human rights activist. Continue reading

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Stammered Songbook by Erwin Mortier

Stammered Songbook Erwin MortierI’ve been reading more non-fiction and more translated fiction this year but not very much translated non-fiction. After reading Flemish author Erwin’ Mortier’s ‘While the Gods Were Sleeping‘ earlier this year which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, I got hold of a copy of ‘Stammered Songbook: A Mother’s Book of Hours’ which is Mortier’s personal memoir documenting his mother’s diagnosis, decline and death from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 65. Originally published in 2011, it has recently been translated from Dutch into English for the first time by Paul Vincent and has been longlisted for the Green Carnation Prize this week which celebrates LGBT writing.

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This Boy by Alan Johnson

This Boy‘This Boy’ is Alan Johnson’s memoir of his childhood growing up in poverty in North Kensington during the 1950s and early 1960s. His womanising father Steve was mostly absent and his mother Lily struggled to provide a better life for her children whilst suffering from a chronic heart condition. After she died at the age of forty-two when Johnson was thirteen, his sixteen-year-old sister Linda fought for them to stay together in their own council flat despite their young age. Continue reading

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H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H is for HawkAs a commuter in London, I automatically assume that strangers who are trying to talk to me or distract me are probably attempting to pickpocket me. However, for the first time ever on my way home from work recently, I was briefly stopped by a stranger at a train station who commented on the book I was reading. He noticed I was holding a copy of ‘H is for Hawk’ by Helen Macdonald and just said “Great book! Really great book!” At the time, I was just over half way through it and had already arrived at this conclusion. I quickly said “Yes, I’m really enjoying it!” before we went our separate ways. Continue reading

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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusI enjoyed ‘The Circle‘ by Dave Eggers earlier this year but it has to be said that the core message about the evils of the Internet was pretty overdone. However, what Eggers lacks in subtlety, he makes up for in irony and it’s therefore unsurprising that he gave his memoir the title ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’. First published in 2000, this was Eggers’ first book which is a loose account of his life following the deaths of his parents from cancer in the early 1990s within six weeks of each other. At the age of twenty-one, Eggers found himself to be the unofficial guardian of his eight-year-old brother Christopher known as Toph. They moved from the suburbs of Chicago to California where Eggers later co-founded the satirical magazine ‘Might’. Continue reading

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A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

A Man in Love‘A Man in Love’ is the second book in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle six-part autobiographical series of novels.  This particular volume focuses on Knausgaard’s relationship with his second wife, Linda, and their life in Stockholm with their three young children. At the time, Knausgaard had recently published his first novel to widespread critical acclaim but was finding it difficult to balance the demands of his domestic life with his writing. Continue reading

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A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

A Death in the FamilyRegarded as a national obsession in his native Norway, ‘A Death in the Family’ is the first book in the six volume ‘My Struggle’ series of autobiographical novels by Karl Ove Knausgaard.  Despite being marketed as fiction, ‘My Struggle’ is an unflinchingly honest and controversial memoir which explores both the mundane everyday details and the more significant events in Knausgaard’s life.

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Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn

Bedsit Disco QueenEven though I love music, I rarely seek out autobiographies or biographies about musicians.  In fact, I don’t think I have read any books even vaguely related to music since starting this blog over eighteen months ago.  However, I love love LOVE Tracey Thorn and was very excited to get hold of a copy of her memoir ‘Bedsit Disco Queen: How I grew up and tried to be a popstar’ at the library this week.  If her writing was half as eloquent and understated as her songwriting, then I knew I would be in for a treat. Continue reading

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Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel

‘Giving Up the Ghost’ is Hilary Mantel’s memoir first published in 2003, six years before she won the Booker Prize in 2009 for ‘Wolf Hall.  The ghosts in question are the ghost of her step-father, the ghost she saw in the garden at the age of seven and the ghost of the child she could never have.   Continue reading

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Back Story by David Mitchell

I love David Mitchell.  Just to clarify, I am of course referring to the David Mitchell who stars in one of my favourite ever sitcoms, ‘Peep Show’, rather than the David Mitchell who wrote a really weird book called ‘Cloud Atlas‘ which I failed to finish earlier this year.  ‘Back Story’ is David (‘Peep Show’) Mitchell’s memoir about his peaceful middle-class childhood, his experiences with Footlights at Cambridge University and his route to fame as a critically acclaimed actor and comedian.  It definitely has nothing to do with ‘Cloud Atlas’ although Mitchell says he is frequently mistaken for the author of the bestselling book.

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Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

‘Levels of Life’ by Julian Barnes is (I think) the only book I have reviewed on this blog which I have tagged as both fiction and non-fiction.  Part essay, part fiction and part memoir, the book certainly defies simple categorisation despite being less than 120 pages long. Continue reading

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