Thursday, 29 November 2012

8 Biographies at Book Club

This week was probably the most successful Book Club I've been to - having been to several different groups over the years.  The time given to actually discussing the books read was greater than I've ever experienced!  Perhaps it was because each person had chosen their own book, and so could talk with enthusiasm about it.  Perhaps it was simply because there were more books to discuss!
Biographies ranged from:
(1) The Mitford Girls by Mary S. Lovell (with accompanying titles about each of the daughters). Recommended especially if you're interested in Europe's wartime politics and powerful family dynamics...
(2) Stephen Fry's biography Moab is my Washpot about his childhood (age 7-20).  Trying to be too clever in analysis in the second half, but interesting for the life story at the beginning.
(3) My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding, another childhood story this time of the amateur jockey and sports presenter.  Each chapter tells the story of a different animal in her life and the events of life that went alongside.  Light-hearted, humorous but sad at times.
(4) Billy by Pamela Stephenson.  A series of anecdotes about the life of Comedian Billy Connolly by his wife.  Very sad in places, insightful - of course that's what you get when you marry a psychologist!
(5) David Attenborough's Life on Air.  More about his career in TV than personal, but very interesting if you like nature or want to know more about how it's filmed, or how the BBC works!
(6) Anne Robinson's Memoirs of an Unfit Mother, mostly about her own mother but then also covering her own struggles and successes.  Very much warts and all autobiography.
(7) The Eternal Man by Brother Yuan, a book about the underground church in China and the persecution of Christians by Chinese authorities, specifically of Brother Yuan himself.  An inspiring story, full of faithful belief, miracles and resistance to oppression.
My own contribution ended up being One to One by Craig Brown, which is a series of short anecdotes about encounters between 101 famous / influential people.  Great for dipping in and out of and to give you a taste for the life stories of those encountered!
Don't forget to look at www.askmeaboutbooks.co.uk for other Biographies and Memoirs.  More coming to the site soon!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

What's your favourite Biography?

The local book club this week is looking at everyone's favourite auto / biographies.  It will be interesting to see what different people choose.  It's not one of the areas of books that I often dip into - I should pick them up more often, though, since I do really enjoy them.
My favourite biography of all time is No Compromise by Melody Green, about her husband Keith Green who was a singer/songwriter during the 60s & 70s.  He lived 'no compromise', specifically in his Christian faith - standing against any form of hypocrisy.  His songs have intense lyrics and reflect his beliefs, actions and lifestyle.
I think if I was to attempt to pin down what I look for in a biography, it have to be 'valour'.  By that I mean someone overcoming adversity, their own shortcomings or standing against the prevailing negative attitudes and actions of their peers.
Any suggestions of stories like that?  Or what is your favourite biography?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Read and read again!

How many times can you read the same book, I wonder?  And how long do you have to leave it between reads for it to still feel fresh?  I guess it depends on the book, really.  Some books are once only reads for me - something by Tom Clancy, perhaps or one of those girlie 'beach reads' which has no need of substance.  Most books, however, become old friends that I want to return to.  I think the main thing that makes a book 're-readable' for me is the characters.  I don't mind re-reading a book which had a thrilling mystery to it the first time since I like to remember and revisit how the characters dealt with the various crisis or mysteries the plot develops.
At the moment I'm re-reading the 'Vatta's War' series by my favourite author, Elizabeth Moon.  I've had to leave this one a while because I've read it quite often, (try eighteen months) but I've really enjoyed picking up that first book again, anticipating the twists and turns, rediscovering things I'd forgotten, and generally loving re-submerging in the universe and society that Elizabeth Moon creates.

What are your favourite stories to re-read?  I'd love to hear from anyone who reads this blog....