What are your all time favourite autobiographies?

(127 Posts)
GetOrfMo1Land Wed 28-Sep-11 18:53:50

I want to find something new to read, I love autobiogs.

Mine (off the top of my head, after not too much thought)

Biography of Gayatri Devi (last Maharani of Jaipur) - a brilliant story about a rich Maharani and her life pre war.

Chance Witness by Matthew Parris - I would not normally say I would rate the autobiography of a Tory boy but this is brilliant, he is really engaging and has lived a fascinating life.

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford - it's just so funny. Also, whislt not strictly an autobiog, The Letters of Decca Mitford is brilliant as well.

Ricky by Ricky Tomlinson - not normally my cup of tea, would not choose a sleb autobiography, but he is very honest about his ups and downs and being imprisoned as a political prisoner in the 70s.

Pagwatch Wed 28-Sep-11 18:58:02

David Niven The moons a balloon and Bring on the empty horses.

I love all the Hollywood glamour and he is such a great storyteller. Tales of Gable and Errol Flynn. The Vivien Leigh stuff is sad. But so fab

I love the quote from the Director ( who's name escapes me) who coined
"you think I know fuck nothing but I actually know fuck all"

PomBearAtTheGatesOfDawn Wed 28-Sep-11 19:02:10

I enjoyed Clarissa (of the Two Fat Ladies) "Spilling the Beans" - I don't read a lot of bios but I did enjoy hers. I am a fan of the show though.
I love Pip Grainger's books, one is an proper autobiography (I think it's just called "Alone") and her novels are all sort of based on people she knew as the child of "dodgy" oparents in Soho in the forties and fifties. Her way with words is fab - the one I like best is the villain named Fluck and 'Great Aunt Dody' always called him Clunt grin

GetOrfMo1Land Wed 28-Sep-11 19:04:39

I must look out the David Niven - I do love old time hollywood glamour (have read a brilliant biog of Katharine Hepburn by Scott Berg, which I can highly recommend)

wordfactory Wed 28-Sep-11 19:04:41

Not an autobiography but a cook book with autobiographical tendencies - Halleluia The Welcome Table - by Maya Angelou.

And I've just finished a memoir by James Frey called A Million Tiny Pieces which was fabulous. Apparently some of it was stretching the truth, but it's rather fab all the same.

Marianne Faithfull

An oldie but a goodie.

LadyBeagleEyes Wed 28-Sep-11 19:06:02

I was about to say The Moons a Balloon but Pag beat me to it.
David Niven knew everybody in Hollywood when Bogart, Errol Flynn, Lauren Bacall and Judy Garland were the stars.
I loved the bit about the drunken dwarves who were hired as Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz.
My memory has just been jogged about the book, it's years since I read it, I may buy it on kindle.

Pagwatch Wed 28-Sep-11 19:08:07

Oh god they all got on a canopy at the premier didn't they? Weren't there cocks out and profane bawdiness grin

EvilTwins Wed 28-Sep-11 19:09:34

"Boy" by Roald Dahl. OK, so it's a kids' book, but it's fabulous.

piprabbit Wed 28-Sep-11 19:18:27

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee.

Samuel Pepys diary - not exactly AB, but fantastic.

TheRedSalamander Wed 28-Sep-11 19:19:27

Lady she beat me too! (and you did now as well<grumbles>)

The bit where they go to a fancy dress party dressed as goats complete with dried poo round their bottoms had me roaring, picked up the book from a holiday let shelf and I was hooked. Laughed out loud so often reading both, brilliant.

AKMD Wed 28-Sep-11 19:20:26

yy Roald Dahl's 'Boy' and 'Going Solo'.

'The Shadow of the Sun' by Ryszard Kapuscinski. Excellent book that made me rethink the West's relationship with Africa.

'Not Quite World's End' by John Simpson. Funny and interesting.

'The Lost Kingdoms of Africa' by Jeffrey Tayley. Excellent book about places I hadn't really give much thought to before.

'A Passage to Africa' by George Alagiah. I discovered quite a bit about the place immigrants from the Asian sub-continent have in Africa.

Yes, I like reading about Africa grin

ConcreteElephant Wed 28-Sep-11 19:26:32

Gosh, this is going to sound horrendously crap but many years ago now I really really enjoyed Boy George's autobiography Take it like a man <slightly shame-faced emoticon> I was a Culture Club fan in my youth but this book was actually much deeper than the usual 'I'm a pop star, I know all these other pop-stars, we went to France, then Germany, then it went wrong, poor me' type nonsense. His life (up to the point it was written so nothing about chaining male companions to bedheads - which was a particular low point of recent years clearly) was hard, and interesting. It's not really up there with Service's Trotsky or Lee's Virginia Woolf but it was a good read!

Adversecamber Wed 28-Sep-11 19:26:40

Don McCullin the war photographer and also Haing S Ngor, the lead actor in the Killing Fields. His own story of surviving the killing fields was amazing, sadly he was murdered in the USA by a mugger if memory serves me correctly.

SpringHeeledJack Wed 28-Sep-11 19:28:22

oooh, I picked it up at a Tescos in a service station and expected it to be bobbins, but Rupert Everett's is a fucking corker

he can write better than he can act grin

mothmagnet Wed 28-Sep-11 19:29:14

'Will This Do' by Auberon Waugh, it's brilliant, funny and sad.

TheRedSalamander Wed 28-Sep-11 19:29:58

Plus Winifred Foley's "A Child in the Forest" about her childhood growing up in the incredibly poor at the time (turn of the last century ish i think) Forest of Dean. I spent part of my childhood in the same town she lived in and we studied it at school, I remember hiding my tears behind the book when reading her description of her disappointment and her mums hurt feelings when she received a home made rag doll for Christmas. She had longed for a porcelain doll with a pretty dress but the family were incredibly poor, and the one we mum had made her had a button and a piece of coal for eyes. She told her poor mum it "were the nastiest doll I ever seen". Or something like that. Major sobbage.

Really engaging and beautifully written.

minimuffy Wed 28-Sep-11 19:30:03

richard hammond's was a great read, his wife writes the part about when he was in hospital after the crash, made an interesting read.

also, suprisingly, Billie pipers autobiography, gives you a good insight into everything she's been through and her marriage to chris evans etc

SpringHeeledJack Wed 28-Sep-11 19:30:16

...yy Elephant Boy George's also good

fivegomadindorset Wed 28-Sep-11 19:31:09

Antything by Clive James.

John Peels one was very moving.

Not and autobiography as such but Penguins stopped play.

The letters of the Mitford sisters was engrossing.

CeliaFate Wed 28-Sep-11 19:31:23

I was going to say David Niven's autobiographies too! Have read them many times, what a superb writer and raconteur he was. A true gent in the old style. His writing is so funny and effortlessly stylish. I love his story of Tyrone Power being Father Christmas at his party and getting more and more pissed. Ty staggered up the path "Sonofabitch!" hissed Father Christmas grin

DrinkYourWeakLemonDrinkNow Wed 28-Sep-11 19:32:12

Clive James 'Unreliable Memoirs' is v v funny.

Also agree re David Niven. It has been said he never let the truth get in the way of a good story, but both of them are so good who cares grin

yy to Boy George too.

Bought it to read on mini break with DH. Had my head stuck in it the entire weekend. Great stuff about Kirk Brandon and that one that married Gwen Stefani.

GetOrfMo1Land Wed 28-Sep-11 19:33:14

Oh yes Rupert Everett's is brilliant - so so funny, especially when they prank call one of the Fox brothers iirc, and the police raid the house and Jack Nicholson (who was there) wanders off and ends up in a lesbian nightxlub called Gateways. I remember really laughing at that story.

CeliaFate Wed 28-Sep-11 19:33:28

Also Stephen Fry's autobiog "Moab is my washpot" and the sequel are really good.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now