Tag Archives: Biographies

A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter

Overview

Title: A Woman in the Polar Night
Author: Christiane Ritter
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Nature
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 1938

Thoughts

A Woman in the Polar Night is a stunning and incredibly emotive memoir. I can see how it is a popular classic. Ritter’s writing is just filled with emotive imagery that I doubt I’ll ever get out of my head. You can feel her love for the landscape and journey with every passing paragraph. You can also feel the different challenges she faces to her mental health as she undergoes a night that lasts for over 100 days.

Living at the north pole like this would be a phenomenal journey all on its own. But to do this almost 100 years ago? I can’t even imagine the intensity and difficulties of such a journey. I love how as you go on this journey with Ritter, you can slowly begin to process the difficulties of this life right alongside her. As Ritter realises that there are unforeseeable and dangerous challenges, you grow to appreciate them too. As Ritter falls in love with the landscape, so do you.

There is something incredibly soothing about the whole tale. I’m not sure if it’s the idea of the endless night and solitude, or the beauty of the landscape. But there is most definitely something about the dark Polar nights that leave you with a sense of serenity and peace. Again, I think that’s just the incredibly powerful and emotive way with which Ritter writes about her journey.

I loved this memoir and will definitely look forward to picking it up again in the future. It is a wonderful tale of triumph and hardship. But also, the majestic beauty of the far-flung corners of the earth.

<- Anna: A Teenager on the RunGogo Mama ->

Image source: Kobo

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson

Overview

Title: The Gender Games: The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both
Author: Juno Dawson
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, LGBTQI, Memoirs
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2017

Thoughts

This memoir is fantastic, intense, and seriously wonderful. It was also very thought provoking and sometimes confronting. Dawson has a great style of writing that makes you want to dive into her story page after page. Even in those moments that you might feel a little bit uncomfortable. There is just something about her writing that is enjoyable and emotional, even when the topic is sometimes difficult.

As one would expect, this memoir is a very intense look at gender and how it makes life difficult. Dawson is a lot more brutal with her analysis of that, but that’s the overall idea. I also love that Dawson is able to highlight the different challenges that come to each gender. Whilst she was identified to society as a male for the first twenty, thirty (I can’t remember exactly) years of her life, and then has started her transition, the expectations which are placed on us for an arbitrary classification are all encompassing. And Dawson has the unique experience of seeing this from both sides.

This was one of those slower reads for me. Not because it wasn’t brilliant, but because every single chapter was thought provoking. It took me a long time to absorb everything that Dawson had to say. And I honestly felt like Dawson’s words deserved that time to process. Gender and sexuality is something that has long fascinated me, and I really wanted to understand more of Dawson’s experiences. As much as someone who identifies as the gender, I was born ever can…

This memoir is brilliantly written, impossible to forget and just all round fantastic. I definitely fell completely in love with Dawson’s voice. And now that I know she is a YA author, I just want more of her work on my shelves!!!

<- An Appetite for WonderSurvival ->

Image source: Booktopia

50 Years at Gombe by Jane Goodall

Overview

Title: 50 Years at Gombe
Author: Jane Goodall
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Nature
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2010

Thoughts

Personally, I would recommend that you read In the Shadow of Man before reading 50 Years at Gombe. Mostly because it gives a much more in-depth insight into Goodall’s first experiences in Gombe. Which, then gives you so much more of a base from which to understand this wonderful 50th anniversary insight into Jane’s work.

This novel is a great overlook at all of the ground-breaking work that has occurred at Gombe over the years. It’s filled with images and snapshots into the many different aspects of not only life at Gombe, but Goodall’s life and her j fluency throughout the world.

I’ve always admired people like Jane and wished that I could accomplish what they have. But, for a long time, I didn’t actually understand the sacrifices that have to be made for this to happen. Goodall spends approximately 3 weeks a year at her home. She is amazing and so important to the survival of earth, but I can’t imagine the sacrifice that that would be.

I loved revisiting the world of Jane Goodall and Gombe, it’s reminded me that I want to dive into more of her books. And even watch the documentary about this phenomenal woman’s life and contributions not only to science, but the way we move through the world.

<- More Jane GoodallAfrica in My Blood ->

Image source: Amazon

Island of the Lost by Joan Druett

Overview

Title: Island of the Lost
Author: Joan Druett
Rating Out of 5: 2 (Managed to read it… just)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, History, Oceans
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2007

Thoughts

This was an incredibly well researched book. It was even well written, a little dry, but not overbearingly so. It stated the facts and gave you a bit of a personality insight into each of the key players without taking too many liberties.

This book really wasn’t my thing. Partly because although it was great that it didn’t take liberties, I actually wanted a little more drama to the story. There was nothing to inspire me to keep reading.

And then there’s the fact that I actually have zero interest in maritime history. So, maybe not the best book for me to try and read in hindsight, but still 1uite interesting.

<- The Happiest RefugeeZlata’s Diary ->

Image source: Booktopia

Shotgun Angels by Jay Demarcus

Overview

Title: Shotgun Angels: My Story of Broken Roads and Unshakeable Hope
Author: Jay Demarcus
Rating Out of 5: 3 (On the fence about this one)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Music
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Year: 2019

Thoughts

I absolutely love the music by Rascal Flatts. So I was excited to know a little bit more about their history and the journey to becoming a band. This really wasn’t about that. It was more about Demarcus’ faith. Which is fine, but definitely not my cup of tea.

I’m really funny about anything that is a little too Bible heavy. Again, just not my cup of tea. And although this was a sweet journey, it is incredibly obvious that this is a HUGE aspect of Demarcus’ life. It literally permeates everything in this story. And whilst I can see how a lot of people would find this incredibly uplifting, I just felt incredibly uncomfortable.

Because I did enjoy this, but also felt uncomfortable, I’m going to write a short review here. This was good and interesting. Definitely not too pushy with the belief. But also, not what I was expecting, anticipating and looking forward to reading.

<- Mao’s Last DancerThe Happiest Refugee ->

Image source: HarperCollins Australia

Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

Overview

Title: Lady Sings the Blues
Author: Billie Holiday
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Music, Race
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 1956

Thoughts

Two words reading this: HOLY CRAP. I know next to nothing about blues and jazz. In both the best and worst ways possible. I mean, the holy crap meant that it was impossible for me to put this book down. In a bad way, it was just a horrible life for someone to live. And, all that much sadder to know that Holiday passed away only a few years after this book was first published.

I loved the style and tone of voice throughout this biography. Holiday is immediately relatable and totally foreign. She has such a distinct voice and refuses to shy away from the reality of the world and herself. In fact, there are some truly and deeply horrifying moments recounted in this, but it’s not done in a woes-me way.

This is a seriously dark biography. There are very few moments throughout that I would consider to be a bright moment. It was horrifyingly dark and, even a few days later, sitting here to write a review… I’m in awe of all of the feelings this inspired. And, the strength of a woman who was able to overcome unimaginable odds.

A seriously brilliant and intense biography. One that I will pick up again in the future to totally destroy my emotions all over again.

<- An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on EarthSurviving Year Zero ->

Image source: Amazon

Will by Will Smith and Mark Manson

Overview

Title: Will
Author: Will Smith & Mark Manson
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: AudiobooksBiographies, Celebrity
Pace: Medium
Format: Audiobook, Novel
Year: 2021

Thoughts

Whilst I’m new to audio books, this is one that I would 100% not recommend getting in print. Having the audio book version with Will Smith himself telling his story was amazing. And that doesn’t even take into account the musical moments throughout. Examples of the raps and tunes he’s talking about just bring this even more to life.

I’ve been doing a bit of binge watching of Fresh Prince lately. It’s been very interesting to watch that and listen to this audiobook throughout the same time period. There’s so many more bits of information that I picked up on. Background tidbits that somehow add more to the storyline and give even greater context to the jokes made throughout.

I’m not going to lie, this is definitely a biography written by a bit of a narcissist. There are many moments throughout where Will tries to sound wise and all knowing. And to me it just doesn’t quite come of that way. Not to say that his worldview isn’t inherently interesting. And honestly, for someone to do as well as he has in his chosen careers… you’ve got to be a narcissist. But, it definitely made a large contrast in tone to the types of biographies I have been listening to.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the insanity that is celebrity life. The kind of personality and drive it takes to ENJOY such a way of living. It’ll be a long time before I want to dive into this world again. But for those 17 hours, it was fun.

<- The Jane Austen Writers’ ClubStephen Hawking: A Life in Science ->

Image source: Goodreads

Breathe by Rickson Gracie

Overview

Title: Breathe: A Life in Flow
Author: Rickson Gracie
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Audiobooks, Biographies, Martial arts, Sport
Pace: Slow
Format: Audiobook, Novel
Year: 2021

Thoughts

My coach told me about this book and, after a bit of a delay, I decided to download and listen to the audiobook. I knew that it would be good and interesting. But I had no idea just how… unforgettable it would be. Not to mention seriously confusing, overwhelming and intense. I’ve always joked that BJJ is a bit of a cult – I didn’t quite realise how correct and true to reality that comment would be.

Listening to this story of the origins of BJJ and the history of the Gracie family while I was driving to and from BJJ training was definitely a bit of a surreal experience. I had some basic understandings of where the martial arts form comes from. And I had some understanding of the intricacies and politics of the Gracie family. But, honestly, until I read this – I didn’t realise that I just had no idea.

Although the focus on this biography is very much around fighting and martial arts, it also talks about family and love. Rickson Gracie talks about his (many, many) brothers, his father, his children, his wife… and all of it intertwined with his life and love of BJJ. There are many moments of wisdom and love that I took away from his story that I really wasn’t expecting. I know that BJJ was developed for those who are smaller and not necessarily stronger than their opponents. But I didn’t expect such a spiritual journey and attachment, such a beautiful acceptance of life in all of its glory and horrors.

For anybody who is interested in sports, spiritual wellbeing and the growth of an international phenomenon, this is the biography for you. I love that not only does Gracie talk about the origins of BJJ, his own family history, and his training, but the origins of UFC also take centre stage here. I honestly had no idea how intertwined BJJ was with UFC from the very beginning – I thought it was just something that had evolved over time. Definitely a book that I will be picking up again and again and again.

<- Born to RunAn Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth ->

Image source: HarperCollins Australia

On Writing by Stephen King

Overview

Title: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Author: Stephen King
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Writing
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Year: 2000

Thoughts

Stephen King fascinates me. And terrifies me. I mean, that is a twisty man who writes the kinds of stories he writes. Which all leads me to be fascinated by the idea of his take on writing and his own writing history. Who wouldn’t be? He’s one of the most famous writers…

I really enjoyed how this book was set out. It starts with a more autobiographical account if King’s life. And then heads towards tales and information on how he actually goes about the writing process. It males a complete logical sense and still provides insights to the man behind the writing.

Personally, although I enjoyed all of the writing on HOW to write. It was the autobiographical aspect of this novel that I loved. And it’s this first half that I would read again.

<- Needful ThingsThe Outsider ->

Image source: Bookdepository

Blackout by Sarah Hepola

Overview

Title: Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
Author: Sarah Hepola
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Alcohol, Biographies, Memoirs, Mental health
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Year: 2015

Thoughts

As someone who has had a few years of drinking too heavily and experiencing blackouts… this hit a bit too close to home. But in a good way. Because rather than being judgemental and harsh, Hepola talks about her journey with acceptance, honesty and a good dose of humour. Brutally honest and wonderfully open, this book was definitely well worth the read.

Not only does this memoir delve into issues with alcohol, but also talks about what its like to be a woman. We’re in a world where being a drinker as a woman is impressive in your late teens and early twenties. But by the time you start edging towards the thirties? Expectations change. Its a hard reality to walk and Hepola did such justice to highlighting how difficult it is to navigate.

One of the many aspects of this memoir that I loved is that Hepola doesn’t blame her insecurities and reliance on alcohol on anyone or anything. In fact, she mentions friends having concerns about their kids following the same route she did and pointing out that there’s nothing that can be done. There is no blame or fault throughout this, and its… a refreshing way to talk about an issue that affects a lot of people.

Once I opened the first one of Blackput, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There is something intense and honest about this. And a little too relatable. It’s definitely a journey that I look forward to taking again and again. I reminder of the line that we all need to draw, and how some people have more difficulties with that than others.

<- The Truths We HoldThe Not So Subtle Art of Being a Fat Girl ->

Image source: Booktopia