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Brilliant biographies

(49 Posts)
EffiePerine Mon 25-May-09 20:42:34

Currently reading the biog of Wilfred Thesiger: good but not immensely so, relies a LOT on quotation, which I guess is a big problem for any biography of a good writer. I do enjoy a good biography (or autobiography), so any suggestions?

artifarti Mon 25-May-09 20:47:47

Don't know if this counts but An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan is a cracker - the account of his time (6 years) imprisoned in Beirut with John McCarthy.

EffiePerine Mon 25-May-09 20:49:56

Reckon that counts as autobiography - thanks, sounds good

artifarti Mon 25-May-09 20:55:15

The Mitford Girls by Mary Lovell also good. Barking mad family. smile

LightShinesInTheDarkness Mon 25-May-09 20:55:56

'Moab is my Washpot' by Stephen Fry. Laugh out loud funny and a real insight into the brilliant man.

EffiePerine Mon 25-May-09 21:05:36

Have read Moab, it's a great book

v tempted by the mitford book tho I find them rather disagreeable en masse

EffiePerine Mon 25-May-09 21:07:25

tho if you like the Mitfords have you read these?

the first volume is the best and they all have fantastic photos

midnightexpress Mon 25-May-09 21:07:39

Have you read Testament of Youth (Vera Britten)?
Frost in May - Antonia White (I think).

EffiePerine Mon 25-May-09 21:08:50

Frost in May - yes (I think, was a while ago
Testament of Youth - no, v good idea

Meglet Mon 25-May-09 21:10:43

Cybill shepherds is good (she shagged elvis). Richard e grants was interesting too. And marc almonds. (Sorry, I can only think of sleb ones blush).

spicemonster Mon 25-May-09 21:12:18

Have you read Portrait of a Marriage (Nigel Nicholson about his parents - Vita S-W and Harold Nicholson)? Very good

snigger Mon 25-May-09 21:14:24

Evening in the Palace of Reason by James Gaines - re Bach and Frederick the Great, very informative musically and with a very human perspective on the history of the time.

There's another I've read recently, and I'm damned if I can remember what it was, so thank you OP, I'll be trawling my bookcases till I find it now grin

midnightexpress Mon 25-May-09 21:14:32

Effie make sure you have a good stash of hankies - tis v sad.

Mintyy Mon 25-May-09 21:16:16

One of the best books I have ever read, across all genres, is Harry Thompson's biography of Peter Cook. It is an amazing fantastic book, a perfect biography.

Penthesileia Mon 25-May-09 21:17:21

I have recently really, really enjoyed reading "Ludwig Wittgenstein", by Ray Monk and "John Adams", by David McCollough. I felt I learned a tremendous amount.

lulu25 Mon 25-May-09 21:18:08

George Plimpton's Truman Capote. Pieced together from interviews with people who knew him, so it's like different voices telling the story.

Isabel Allende's My imagined country and Paula.

Motley Crue The Dirt. No, really.

littlelamb Mon 25-May-09 21:19:44

Yes yes yes to An Evil Cradling. I had to read it for my degree and it really affected me.
Yes to Moab
And Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl are great reads too

EffiePerine Mon 25-May-09 21:20:04

I would highly recommend Francis Wheen's biog of Karl Marx - interesting and v v funny grin

also Renoir by Jean Renoir is a beautifully written book, good summer garden reading

EffiePerine Mon 25-May-09 21:21:25

Peter Cook - sounds great

Lots of good ideas here, am valiantly resisting trawling Amazon and will search in the library first

brimfull Mon 25-May-09 21:22:01

margaret forsters bio of daphne dumaurier is excellent

EffiePerine Mon 25-May-09 21:24:38


For music biogs, Beecham's A Mingled Chime is pretty good (in my non-expert opinion)

The Gaines book sounds great but the Amazon review calls it 'popular history' which puts me off. Unreasonably.

snigger Mon 25-May-09 21:40:18

I've remembered the other one two - for a food memoir, forget Nigel Slater's Toast and try Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl, and Picklehead by Ronan Candappa - the second one is a thoroughly lightweight read 90% of which is lifted verbatim from Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Bible ... until ... you reach the sections on his family experience of departing Burma during the war, and his 2 most memorable meals. Book's worth reading for those, imo.

snigger Mon 25-May-09 21:42:07

I'd agree re the Bach book, it's pitched low, but there's musical theory in there that piqued my interest (as an utter musical no-know) and made me read hard and pay attention - to me, it's like Antonia Fraser's Henry VII - it was an easy read that encouraged further study.

EffiePerine Mon 25-May-09 21:47:12

mmm food books

<scoffs more choc biscuits>

foxinsocks Mon 25-May-09 21:50:12

it is written very much like the Sun or News of the World, but if you want an autobiography to leave in the loo that is a seriously good read (especially if you were around in the 80s), read True the autobiography of Martin Kemp.

I found it quite fascinating tbh. Not a heavy read if that's what you're looking for though.

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