Five autobiographies you should read this year
I was the child with no imagination. My best friend finds it hilarious that, until the Harry Potter films came out to give me a reference point, Hogwarts looked like my old primary school in my mind's eye. Although I still love fiction, autobiographies and memoirs are my favourite books to read as it's a lot less work when conjuring up faces and places. Below are some of my favourites, each important in their own way.
Honourable friends? by Caroline Lucas
Caroline Lucas is the UK's first Green MP (for Brighton Pavilion) and her book follows her first year in office at Westminster. She is really down-to-earth and honest in it, calling out all the outdated traditions and rules she sees along the way. She talks about the outrage she caused by wearing a "No more page 3" tshirt in the House of Commons and why it's so difficult to make changes to the UK's political system. This is a great book if you're interested in learning about the basics of politics or an easy read if, like me, you're knee deep in analysis every day!
Then Again by Diane Keaton
I'm a big Diane Keaton fan. One of my favourite things is watching Oscar acceptance speeches; seeing how happy everyone is always cheers me up. Diane Keaton accepted her Annie Hall Oscar wearing a skirt and suit jacket with her hair thrown up and it was wonderful.
She's always been on the outskirts of Hollywood, a bit of an oddball and a goof despite her beauty. She talks openly about her eating disorder as a teen, her relationship with Al Pacino and decision to adopt two children alone. This was written before the Woody Allan scandal became more tangible so I take everything she says about him at face value. An interesting look at success from the point of view of a woman who is always doubting herself.
Not my father's son by Alan Cumming
I bought this for my mum a few Christmases ago, as Alan is a local lad and we've been a fan of his from 'Emma' in the 90s right up to The Good Wife. The manager of the Waterstone's I bought it from came over to tell me it was his favourite book of the year. On Christmas Day, I unwrapped a copy from my mum (great minds think alike) and we sat reading our identical hardbacks on Boxing Day.
Cumming talks about his relationship with his father and the abuse he suffered at his hands as a child. If you've been a victim of any abuse, the situations he talks about will set alarm bells ringing for you. It can be hard going at times, but it made me feel less alone in my recovery. An alternative to "a child called it" type slush.
How I escaped my certain fate by Stewart Lee
Comedy is an overlooked art form. In fact, I'm sure there are few people who would describe it as such. I'm by no means well versed in it, other than Dylan Moran who I've been a fan of for almost 15 years. Mike listens to comedy podcasts like most people listen to music and he was only too happy to give me an education, starting with this book.
Stewart Lee is possibly the anti-Ross Noble, who has no two shows alike and is known to go off on huge tangents. Similarly, Billy Connolly has a rough idea of what he'll say when he gets on stage but allows himself room to improvise. Stewart Lee knows every word of his routine and does not divert from it. This book is a transcript of one of his shows, with annotations and footnotes to explain every joke and it's wonderful. If you haven't seen any of his standup, then I suggest watching at least a few clips so you get an idea of how he talks.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
I don't think it's an exaggeration to call 'Just Kids' one of the best books of the last 10 years. I warn you that you'll want to quit your job, fly to New York and live in a big, airy flat "making art" (whatever that means). I can't say anything more about it other than, if you read one book this year, make it this one. Please.