End of year lists! My favourites by or about people that came out this year. Who have been your favourite (auto)biographies from 2014?
Not My Father’s Son – Alan Cumming.
With celebrity memoirs, there’s doses of scandal, gossip and an insight into controversial periods of their careers through their own eyes. That’s usually how it goes, but not here.
Alan Cumming’s Not My Father’s Son has its little oddities (like his ever-evolving hair), but overall it’s a unique memoir on the relationship with his father, and the family secrets that were set to unravel with his appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? and beyond.
It’s an honest look at families and definitely something unique when it comes to the celebrity memoir. Read it on sitting, can’t really do it justice, so perhaps I’ll momentary pinch Neil Gaiman’s ringing endorsement for it:
“Equal parts memoir, whodunnit and manual for living… I was completely sucked in.” | Publisher: Canongate ★★★★★
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. – Viv Albertine.
Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I’m a bit of both. Though Viv Albertine will always really be known as the guitarist of the Slits, her autobiography tells the story of the art student, boy crazy, mother, cancer survivor and the guitarist of the Slits with a sense of humour that’s really rare to find in books like this.
Her musical journey is fantastic, and the era in which she thrived is iconic. To see stories and characters from another perspective is always fun.
Before I take a slight detour, I’ll sum up with this: Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is a really good book; reading about a woman determined to succeed in a day where women didn’t really do music like she wanted to was a great read | Publisher: Faber & Faber ★★★★★
The Art of Asking: or; How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help – Amanda Palmer.
Amanda Palmer is a musician, artist, TED speaker, crowdfunder, now author – and, it’s worth nothing, pretty damn wonderful. She wasn’t afraid to ask for help, when it came to a couch to crash on or funding her post-label art, but it hasn’t always been this way.
Her fearlessness is documented here, for better and worse, but more importantly: her fear. Sure, she can strip down and be comfortable in her body, she can be a streetside, bridal art installation to captivate the passerby, but is she a bad feminist for asking for her help from her husband? Is she a failure in some way?
If you learn but two other wee things, it’s that her job as a street artist handing out flowers sounds absolutely gorgeous when she details it from her point of view, and that you want to take the donuts | Publisher: Little Brown Book Group ★★★★★
The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC – Jesse Fink.
Here’s the thing with biographies on rockstars – a lot of the time they seem to kiss ass, or regurgitate the same chronological events with a new prosaic flare. But, as Fink’s 50+ page introductory chapter explains, this isn’t like that. In fact, he’s quick to point out that, far from being the perfect producers of music, they’ve actually produced quite some crap in their time too.
Is this where AC/DC fans curl their toes in discomfort? Well, no, because Fink looks into the Youngs overall without a lipstick print on an ass cheek in sight.
Absolute must read for AC/DC fans. A new approach, new ground covered, and while it’s clearly written by a fan, it’s also written with a view to producing an insightful book that the trove of AC/DC works seemed to lack | Publisher: Black & White Publishing ★★★★★
Yes Please – Amy Poehler.
It’s kind of weird, because it’s an autobiography-cum-self-help-cum-life-lessons mish mash that’s not written specifically to be funny, but it’s just… funny anyway.
You really read this and get some positivity from it, whether it’s in relation to career, parenthood, sex or relationships. I mean, I wasn’t in a bad mood when I started reading this, but I’ve certainly left it feeling a lot happier and positive.
Basically, if you like Amy Poehler in any way, from a long term fan to liking her in one show or sketch, I think you’ll like this. It’s not a heavy book at all, but it just makes you feel good about stuff | Publisher: Picador ★★★★★