Tag Archives: Biographies

Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis

Overview
Image result for scar tissue book cover

Title: Scar Tissue
Author: Anthony Kiedis
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Music
Dates read: 18th – 25th June 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Sphere
Year: 2004
5th sentence, 74th page: So as far as they’re concerned, you and I are best friends, and we work on school stuff together, and that’s it.

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Synopsis

In 1983 four self-described ‘knuckleheads’ burst out of the neo-punk rock scene in LA with their own unique brand of cosmic hard-core mayhem funk. Over twenty years later, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, against all the odds, have become one of the most successful bands in the world. Though the band has gone through many incarnations, Anthony Kiedis, the group’s lyricist and dynamic lead singer, has been there for the whole rollercoaster ride.

Scar Tissue is Kiedis’s searingly honest memoir – a story of dedication and debauchery, of intrigue and integrity, of recklessness and redemption. It is a story that could only have come out of Hollywood.

Thoughts

I read this for the first time about ten years ago. And I was completely blown away. Rereading this as an adult my mind was still completely blown. But I also felt really quite uncomfortable by the stories that Kiedis was imparting. I just can’t fathom a childhood and life such as his. Which of course made it all the more enthralling to read…

Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of those bands that I’ve always loved and will continually return to (no matter how my tastes change). Which meant that reading about the story behind their creation and beginning was absolutely amazing. The fascinating journey that they took and the struggles that were faced are completely beyond anything that I could ever imagine. The amazing insight provided into a world that I had previously known nothing about also made this book nigh on impossible to put down.

I read a lot of good fantasy and fiction books. After all, it’s easy to be swept away in a world that is just not your own. And, although I love biographies, I don’t tend to pick them up as readily. I find that the author has to be very good to sweep me away into their world. After all, I already live in this world, and it can make the stories a little boring if not written well. Luckily, and maybe not surprisingly, Anthony Kiedis is an amazing writer. He foreshadows and builds suspense. Transports you in a way that makes you feel like you’re actually there. And, probably most importantly, makes all of the insanity and bad things that have happened to him, seem like no big deal. It doesn’t have a depressive feeling to it. But one of hope and wonder.

 <- An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth ReviewYami Review ->
Image source: Wikipedia

In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall

Overview
Image result for in the shadow of man book cover

Title: In the Shadow of Man
Author: Jane Goodall
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Conservation, Non-fiction
Dates read: 13th May – 6th June 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Mariner
Year: 1971
5th sentence, 74th page: Christmas that year at the Gombe Stream was a day to remember.

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Synopsis

World-renowned primatologist, conservationist, and humanitarian Dr. Jane Goodall’s account of her life among the wild chimpanzees of Gombe is one of the most enthralling stories of animal behavior ever written. Her adventure began when the famous anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey suggested that a long-term study of chimpanzees in the wild might shed light on the behavior of our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom. Accompanied by only her mother and her African assistants, she set up camp in teh remote Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in Tanzania.

For months the project seemed hopeless; out in the forest from dawn until dark, she had but fleeting glimpses of frightened animals. But gradually she won their trust and was able to record previously unknown behavior, such as the use – and even the amking – of tools, until then believed to be a skill exclusive to humans. As she came to know the chimps as individuals, she began to understand their complicated social hierarchy and observed many extraordinary behaviors, forever changing our understanding of the profound connection between humans and chimpanzees.

Thoughts

I’ve always wanted to read a book by Jane Goodall but I just never seem to quite get around to it…. until now. And now I’m mostly just annoyed that it took me this long and I have to wait until next pay day to buy any of her other books. Not only was it impossible not to fall in love with Flo and Fifi and all of the other characters in Jane’s chimpanzee family, but it was so inspiring. Conservation studies and the sciences may have changed a lot since the founding of Gombe Research Station, but our passions and slightly unorthodox approaches to what fascinates us kind of remain the same… it gives you hope.

One of my favourite aspects to this novel is that each chapter deals with a different aspect of chimp (and human) behaviour and interaction. In each mini story, a span of years of observations is covered. It ties everything in beautifully so that you can really gain an insight and understanding into this unique group of animals and individuals. That is of course, aside from the first few chapters which provide a storyline for the start of Jane’s career and how she found herself in such an amazing opportunity.

Normally I like to read biographies and non-fiction books before bed. They’re an easy read that is interesting, but also simple to put down. Not so much with this book. There was something about the extra relatability of chimpanzees and Jane’s journey with them that made it stupidly difficult to put this novel down. Like ridiculously difficult… I stayed up WAY too late reading this. And had quite a few sleepless nights… but it was totally worth it!

 <- Hope for Animals and Their World ReviewJames and Other Apes Review ->
Image source: Jane Goodall’s Good For All News

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz

Overview
Image result for laughing all the way to the mosque book cover

Title: Laughing All the Way to the Mosque
Author: Zarqa Nawaz
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Comedy, Memoirs, Muslims
Dates read: 21st April – 7th May 2019
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Virago
Year: 2014
5th sentence, 74th page: ‘Too late,’ said Dr McMaster.

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Synopsis

Being a practising Muslim in a Western society is sometimes challenging, sometimes rewarding and sometimes downright absurd. How do you explain why Eid never falls on the same date each year; why it is that Halal butchers also sell teapots and alarm clocks. How do you make clear to the plumber that it’s essential the toilet is installed within sitting-arm’s reach of the tap?

Zarqa Nawaz has seen and done it all.

And it’s not always easy to get things right with the community either: Zarqa tells of being asked to leave the DBW (Dead Body Washing) committee after making inappropriate remarks; of undertaking the momentous trip to Mecca with her husband, without the children, thinking (most incorrectly) that it will also be a nice time to have uninterrupted sex; of doing the unthinkable and creating Little Mosque on the Prairie, a successful TV sitcom about htat very (horrified, then proud) community.

You have to laugh.

Thoughts

I’ve not really read much about Muslim culture and religion. I’ve really only recently started to delve into the world of non-fictional books. It’s an area that is absolutely fascinating and I can’t wait to continue to find more and more stories like this. Especially written as well as this novel. Nawaz is brutally honest about her life and her religion, but tempers everything that could feel quite serious with a lot of humour. I was constantly laughing out loud throughout this story. And at the end of every long day, I couldn’t wait to pick it back up again.

Most of the biographies that I’ve read lately follow a very linear storyline. They’re the kind of tales which work in a very obvious and understandable manner. They’re not jumpy, and they tend to cover a smaller span of years. Laughing All the Way to the Mosque was completely different. Each chapter was a whole new adventure. Which made the storyline overall incredibly jumpy. Actually it almost worked as a series of short stories together, rather than one big, long journey.

Zarqa Nawaz not only sweeps you away with her humour and wit. But, she also helps to conceptualise and help you to understand the ways in which a coloured, Muslim woman sometimes struggles to fit into contemporary Canada. I may be from Australia, but I imagine that many people are in the same situation. This insight provided a great way in which to understand just how difficult life can be from someone who is a minority. And just how funny some of the gaffs made when you are trying to marry different world views together and fit into the society that you call your own…

 <- The Radium Girls ReviewThe Fish Ladder Review ->
Image source: Amazon

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Overview
Image result for the diary of a young girl anne frank book cover

Title: The Diary of a Young Girl
Author: Anne Frank
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Classics, History, War
Dates read: 4th – 11th March 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Bantam Books
Year: 1947
5th sentence, 74th page: Number Two was that, Mr. Vossen having left earlier than usual the previous evening, we didn’t know definitely whether Elli had been able to get hold of the key, and had perhaps forgotten to shut the door.

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Synopsis

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic – a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.

In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.

In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Thoughts

I can’t believe that I’ve waited so long to read this book! It’s been on my shelf for so long and I’ve always wanted to read it (even before I bought it), but I just never seemed to have the time… or the inclination. And now I really, really, really don’t know why I took so long. This story was amazing, and heart-wrenching and just so damn knock-your-socks-off that I can’t stop thinking about it.

This book was both impossible to put down, and heart-wrenching to pick up. Not because it was overly sad, but the knowledge of Anne’s death throughout was haunting. There is so much hope and optimism, even in her darkest moments that it is hard to realise that she doesn’t have that happily ever after. Although, I suppose that is why we read non-fiction – there isn’t the happily ever after for everyone, just a very real and very tragic ending.

What haunts me the most about The Diary of a Young Girl is how similar Anne Frank is. A lot of what she writes in her diary is exactly what I would have written as a stubborn, opinionated teenager. The holocaust and World War II have never really been moments in history that I can relate to. After all, I’ve lived an incredibly privileged and happy life. So reading the words of a young girl who was going through exactly the same things as me, and hearing my own voice reaching out over the passage of time… it was just… haunting. There is no other word for it.

 <- Zlata’s DiaryBorn to Run ->

Image source: Amazon

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

Overview
Image result for the blind side book cover

Title: The Blind Side
Author: Michael Lewis
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Book to Film, Non-fiction, Sport
Dates read: 18th – 24th February 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Norton
Year: 2006
5th sentence, 74th page: Did you see the way that kid moved?

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Synopsis

When we first meet him, Michael Oher is one of thirteen children by a mother addicted to crack; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday, or how to read or write. He takes up football, and school, after a rich, white, Evangelical family plucks him from the streets. Then two great forces alter Oher: the family’s love and the evolution of professional football itself into a game where the quarterback must be protected at any cost. Our protagonist becomes the priceless package of size, speed, and agility necessary to guard the quarterback’s greatest vulnerability – his blind side.

Thoughts

I decided to buy this book since I absolutely love the movie. And I love books. So I really figured that I couldn’t go wrong. And I was right. I absolutely loved this book. I was drawn in completely and actually had quite a bit of trouble putting this story down. Which is quite surprising for a biography – normally I read them because they are easy to pick up and put down…

Inspirational biographies are always interesting. Especially when they give an insight into a area of life which I have no experience with. So pretty much anything from America suits this requirement. Memphis and Hurt Village, and all these other places that were mentioned gave me such an interesting insight into a life that I won’t ever have to live. The amazing way in which everything just lines up for Michael and how some incredibly giving souls are willing to help him was kind of jaw dropping. I want to imagine that people like that exist in the world, but it isn’t until you read about specific examples that you truly believe that it’s possible.

Although Michael Oher’s story is intense and powerful, I loved the anecdotes and tales from the NFL that filtered throughout this novel. I still don’t 100% understand this game, but I feel like I have a much better grasp of what is going on.

This novel managed to combine a powerful biography with the historical evolution of the game. Key players are mentioned, statistics cited and plays described. All alongside the plight of a young boy from a bad situation. It combines to create such a unique, powerful and enthralling story that I can’t stop thinking about.

 <- Yami ReviewLong Walk to Freedom Review ->
Image source: Amazon

The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury

Overview
The Fish Ladder

Title: The Fish Ladder
Author: Katharine Norbury
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves:
 Biographies, The CoastEasy readingMemoirs
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: But if we were in the wrong place, so too had Ieuan Lleyn been, when he came here in 1799.

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Synopsis

Katharine Norbury was abandoned as a baby in a Liverpool convent. Raised by loving adoptive parents, she grew into a wanderer, drawn by the beauty of the British countryside.

One summer, following the miscarriage of a much-longer-for child, Katharine sets out – accompanied by her nine-year-old daughter, Evie – with the idea of following a river from the sea to its source. The luminously observed landscape provides both a constant and a context to their expeditions. But what begins as a diversion from grief soon evolves into a journey to the source of life itself, when a chance circumstance forces Katharine to the door of the woman who gave her up all those years ago.

Combining travelogue, memoir, exquisite nature writing, fragments of poetry and tales from Celtic mythology, The Fish Ladder has a rare emotional resonance. A portrait of motherhood, of a literary marriage and a hymn to the adoptive family, this captivating story of self-discovery is, most of all, an exploration of the extraordinary majesty of the natural world. Imbued with a keen and joyful intelligence, this original and life-affirming book is set to become a classic of its genre.

Thoughts

I needed to read a book with a river on the cover. When I googled such a requirement, this is one of the few books that came up. And man, am I glad that it did. There is just something about the winding, lazy way in which Norbury tells her story that was both completely relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable. Although I have nothing to compare her adventures to, I almost feel like there is a part of me that has now been discovered and it gives me the inspiration to go forth into my own life and keep finding my own way forward.

Unlike a lot of the memoirs that I have recently read, there isn’t really a central story that is outlined here. Not one specific journey or moment of epiphany that really strikes out at me. Instead, there is the central theme of family and motherhood. The idea that even though she is adopted, there are strong familial ties between Katharine and her adoptive family. But there is also a strong tie to the woman who gave her up for adoption and it is this that really drives the feeling of longing forward and into the reader a Katharine’s beautiful words unfold.

This wasn’t one of those earth shatteringly amazing stories. It probably hasn’t changed my life in anyway. But it was incredibly beautiful. And immensely easy to read. It was a great lazy Sunday read to sink my brain into while I was trying to unwind at the end of the long day. And it certainly reminded me of how lucky and grateful I am to have the mother and family that I have.

<- Laughing All the Way to the MosqueBecoming ->

Image source: Bloomsbury

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

Overview

The Elephant WhispererTitle: The Elephant Whisperer
Author: Lawrence Anthony
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: BiographiesConservationInspirationNon-fiction
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Pan Books
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: If he was shaking, it was with anger – not an overdose of electrons.

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Synopsis

When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of ‘rogue’ wild elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, his common sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd’s last chance of survival – dangerous and unpredictable, they would be killed if Anthony wouldn’t take them in.

As Anthony risked his life to create a bond with the troubled elephants and persuade them to stay on his reserve, he came to realise what a special family they were, from the wise matriarch nana, who guided the herd, to her warrior sister Frankie, always ready to see off any threat, and their children who fought so hard to survive.

With unforgettable characters and exotic wildlife, this is an enthralling look that will appeal to animal lovers and adventurous souls everywhere.

Thoughts

No matter how many times I read this book, I will still be in awe. Inspired. And wishing that I could return to South Africa. I actually originally bought this (and read it) on the way back to Australia from Johannesburg. And it was glorious. Impossible to put down, and one of the most inspiring conservation stories that I have ever read. Reading it the second time, well, my response really hasn’t changed in the slightest…

Lawrence Anthony is both an engaging storyteller and passionate conservationist. His maverick approach to problem solving and incredible gumption mean that you are on the edge of your seat the entire time you read of his exploits. And the fact that his life and exploits feature an amazing herd of elephants, and some incredibly picturesque scenery. After all, Africa has some of the most iconic animals in the world, and it is impossible not to imagine yourself going on game rides right alongside Anthony and his staff.

I love no-hold way in which this story is told. There is no sugar coating the difficulties of life in the bush and the horrors which it can entail. Nature takes its course, and rather than trying to redirect the ebbs and flows of life, Anthony partakes in all of its mystery. It reminds me why I love being out in the bush and just enjoying what our countryside has to offer, even if my countryside has far smaller animals than his…

 <- Babylon’s Ark Review The Last Rhinos Review ->
Image source: Amazon

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Overview
Eat Pray Love

Title: Eat Pray Love
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, InspirationMemoirs
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Year: 2006
5th sentence, 74th page: But Luca and his friends didn’t go out to a bar to cheer themselves up.

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Synopsis

Elizabeth is in her thirties, settled in a large house with a husband who wants to start a family. But she doesn’t want any of it. A bitter divorce and a rebound fling later, Elizabeth emerges battered yet determined to find what she’s been missing.

So begins her quest. In Rome, she indulges herself and gains nearly two stone. In India, she finds enlightenment through scrubbing temple floors. Finally, in Bali, a toothless medicine man reveals a new path to peace, leaving her ready to love again.

Thoughts

I’ve seen the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I thought that maybe the book would be mildly interesting since the movie was something I very much enjoyed. Especially since it’s supposed to be a great book about discovering yourself and finding your path in life. And, honestly, it was. The part that really shocked me though was the fact that it was so amazingly well and engagingly written.

Gilbert’s voice is one of those that you can see lingering throughout the next few generations. She discusses issues and realities that face every woman at some point in their lives. And she does so in a starkly honest manner. I love that in a world where we are constantly bombarded with the idea of women wanting to have children, and be the perfect housewives, this is a woman who wants to travel and has no interest in having children. And it’s a great reminder that it is COMPLETELY okay to feel this way. And it’s okay to go on a massive adventure to find yourself.

I loved how this novel was broken up – 109 small stories that all worked together but could also be read as somewhat separate tales. It made it very difficult to put down, but also gave great pausing moments when I actually had to be a responsible adult. It was so incredibly nice to have a small moment in which to disappear to Italy, India or Indonesia. A great moment in which to forget all about lives problems and travel on the wings of a woman who has truly experienced life at its fullest. And now I have to wait for the next few books I’ve order to arrive on my shelf…

 <- Committed ReviewEat Pray Love Made Me Do It Review ->
Image source: Book Cover Archive

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Overview

Wishful DrinkingTitle: Wishful Drinking
Author: Carrie Fisher
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Comedy
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Pocket Books
Year: 2008
5th sentence, 74th page: I mean, I could end up being financially independent… and Liza Minelli – but you take the good with the bad.

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Synopsis

Finally, Carrie Fisher comes clean (well, sort of) with the crazy truth that is her life. Intimate, hilarious, and sobering, it is an incredible tale. She reveals what it was like to be the child of Hollywood royalty – Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher – home-wrecked by Elizabeth Taylor, come of age on the set of a little movie called Star Wars, become a cultural icon and bestselling action figure at the age of nineteen, marry (then divorce, then date) Paul Simon, learn the father of her daughter forgot to tell her he was gay, and write four hit novels.

But it isn’t all sweetness and light sabres. Battling addiction and weathering the wild ride of manic depression, this is Carrie Fisher at her best – revealing her worst. She tells her true and outrageous story with inimitable wit, unabashed self-deprecation, and buoyant, infectious humour.

Thoughts

I grew up watching Star Wars and Carrie Fisher. So it was really interesting gaining a bit of insight into her life and what it was like to grow up as the child of two incredibly famous and prominent Hollywood legends. Ones that had their very private lives splashed across the front pages. I actually wasn’t even aware of her very, very famous parents, because apparently I live under a rock. So really, this entire journey came as a surprise to me.

Although Fisher has had her battles with mental health and wellbeing, she writes about it with this amazing humour. In some cases it’s quite a dark sense of humour, but I really enjoyed that. And then felt like I was probably a little dark too. Especially when one of the first chapters outlined how a man had died in her bed. Yes, it is sad, but the way she told it… not so sad, more like a very, very interesting anecdote.

The only complaint I have about this book is that it was way too short. One of my many impulse buys, I had no idea what to expect and what I received was quite a small, short paperback. Actually, the name pocket book (the publishing group) fitted this absolutely perfectly. I could easily have slid this into my coat pocket and read it while out for tea, ignoring the boys talking about their cars… that is, if I hadn’t have finished it so quickly…

<- Vanilla Beans & Brodo Review The Freedom Writers Diary Review ->
Image source: Simon & Schuster

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Overview
Wild

Title: Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Easy readingMemoirsStrong women
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Atlantic Books London
Year: 2012
5th sentence, 74th page: He unscrewed the cap and handed it to me.

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Synopsis

At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed thorught she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s rapid death from cancer, her family grew apart and her marriage soon crumbled. With seemingly nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven hundred miles of the west coast of America and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line on a map. But it held a promise, a promise of piecing together a life that lay shattered at her feet…

Thoughts

This book was a really good journey. I had no idea what to expect from it, since I haven’t seen the movie. But it was a great tale, and I can see why it was made into a movie in the first place. It kind of had everything. Including a happy, hope for the future ending.

Cheryl’s journey to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) was just as much of the tale as her actual journey along it. Instead of breaking the two important aspects of her life apart, Strayed’s tale is filled with flashbacks along the way. Each chapter almost tells two stories – what is happening to her along the trail, and the journey that made her start such an epic (and admittedly insane) journey in the first place. Although there are many moments when I cringe at the choices that made her feel so lost, it’s such a great look into someone who really hit rock bottom. And the ways in which the self-reflection and independence provided by the trail helped her to “find” herself again.

I found Wild a little slow to start with. And as aforementioned, a little bit cringe worthy. But about halfway through, I fell deeply into the tale. There was something about Cheryl’s gumption and strength that made me unable to put her words down. And the epilogue at the end highlighted how far she had come and that even when we hit rock bottom, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Something to look forward to and hope for, even when we feel like we can’t fall down any further.

 <- Hidden FiguresThe Southern Education of a Jersey Girl ->
Image source: College Fashion