By Michael Coveney
WINNER OF BEST MEMOIR AT THE WOMAN & HOME READERS' CHOICE AWARDS 2016 AND A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEKNo one does glamour, severity, girlish charm or tight-lipped witticism better than Dame Maggie Smith, one of Britain's best-loved actors. This new biography shines the stage-lights on the life and work of a truly remarkable performer, one whose career spans six decades.From her days as a star of West End comedy and revue, Dame Maggie's path would cross with those of the greatest actors, playwrights and directors of the era. Whether stealing scenes from Richard Burton (by his own admission), answering back to Laurence Olivier, or impressing Ingmar Bergman, her career can be seen as a Who's Who of British theatre in the twentieth century. This book also covers her success in Hollywood, inaugurated by her first Oscar for her signature film, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, as well as her subsequent departure to Canada for a prolific four-season run of leading theatre roles.Recently Dame Maggie has been as prominent on our screens as ever, with high-profile roles as Violet Crawley, the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham, in the phenomenally successful television series Downton Abbey, and as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film franchise: what she herself describes as 'Miss Jean Brodie in a wizard's hat'. Yet paradoxically she remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public and carefully guarding her considerable talent. Michael Coveney's absorbing biography, drawing on personal archives, interviews and encounters with the actress, as well as conversations with immediate family and dear friends, is therefore as close as it gets to seeing the real Maggie Smith.
My Life with Wagner
By Christian Thielemann
Over a distinguished career conducting some of the world's finest orchestras, Christian Thielemann has earned a reputation as the leading modern interpreter of Richard Wagner. My Life with Wagner chronicles his ardent personal and professional engagement with the composer whose work has shaped his thinking and feeling from early childhood.Thielemann retraces his journey with Wagner - from Berlin to Bayreuth via Venice, Hamburg and Chicago. The book combines reminiscence and analysis with revealing insights drawn from Thielemann's many years of experience as a Wagner conductor. Taking each opera in turn, his appraisal is illuminated by a deep affinity for the music, an intimate knowledge of the scores and the inside perspective of an outstanding practitioner. And yet for all the adulation Wagner's art inspires in him, Thielemann does not shy away from unpalatable truths about the man himself, explaining why today he is venerated and reviled in equal measure.My Life with Wagner is a richly rewarding read for admirers of a composer who continues to fascinate long after his death.
Margot at War
By Anne de Courcy
An unconventional view of the First World War from inside the glittering social salon of Downing Street: a story of unrequited love, loss, sacrifice, scandal and the Prime Minister's wife, Margot Asquith.Margot Asquith was perhaps the most daring and unconventional Prime Minister's wife in British history. Known for her wit, style and habit of speaking her mind, she transformed 10 Downing Street into a glittering social and intellectual salon. Yet her last five years at Number 10 were a period of intense emotional and political turmoil in her private and public life. In 1912, when Anne de Courcy's book opens, rumblings of discontent and cries for social reform were encroaching on all sides - from suffragettes, striking workers and Irish nationalists. Against this background of a government beset with troubles, the Prime Minister fell desperately in love with his daughter's best friend, Venetia Stanley; to complicate matters, so did his Private Secretary. Margot's relationship with her husband was already bedevilled by her stepdaughter's jealous, almost incestuous adoration of her father. The outbreak of the First World War only heightened these swirling tensions within Downing Street. Drawing on unpublished material from personal papers and diaries, Anne de Courcy vividly recreates this extraordinary time when the Prime Minister's residence was run like an English country house, with socialising taking precedence over politics, love letters written in the cabinet room and gossip and state secrets exchanged over the bridge table. By 1916, when Asquith was forced out of office, everything had changed. For the country as a whole, for those in power, for a whole stratum of society, but especially for the Asquiths and their circle, it was the end of an era. Life inside Downing Street would never be the same again.
By Guillem Balague
The story of one of the greatest footballers of all time, Barcelona and Argentina's Lionel Messi.'I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentine football and his name is Messi' Diego MaradonaDespite all the fame and adulation, remarkably little is known about Lionel Messi, the modest and intensely private footballing genius. Just how did the boy from Rosario, Argentina, become the world's greatest player?Guillem Balague has had unprecedented access to Messi's inner circle: his coaches, team-mates and family. In addition, Pep Guardiola has provided exclusive analysis of the player. The result is an authoritative and compelling account of the wonderful mystery that is Messi.'I can tell my grandkids one day that I coached Lionel Messi' Pep Guardiola
Making it Happen
By Carl Hester, Bernadette Hewitt
The lively memoirs of dressage rider and Olympic Gold medallist Carl Hester, with a foreword by Martin Clunes.Carl Hester is one of the greatest ever equestrians, leading Great Britain to Gold Medal victory at the London 2012 Olympics. In these vibrant memoirs, he tells the incredible story of the passion for horse-riding which revolutionised his life and made him the champion he is today.Carl grew up on the remote Channel Island of Sark, moving to the UK mainland at the age of 16 to work with horses, mainly as a way to leave home. He could never have predicted what a great affinity he would have for dressage. Carl's career enjoyed a stratospheric rise as he progressed from working as a groom/rider to riding international dressage horses full time for renowned owners Dr and Mrs Bechtolsheimer, to training his own horses, and other top riders, to international success.Carl's early career revealed someone capable of monumental achievements. He provides a rare insight into both the people and the horses that drove him to victory, initially the skewbald mare Jolly Dolly on which he won the 1985 Young Riders Dressage Championship. During the early 1990s he rode in the World Championships, the European Championships and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, becoming Great Britain's youngest ever rider to compete in the Games. His riding skills have increased with age, culminating in the hugely successful years as part of the Gold Medal teams that won the 2011 European Dressage Championships and, of course, that made history at London 2012. He achieved both feats on the same extraordinary horse, Uthopia, while as a trainer he produced the even more remarkable combination of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.A first-class sportsman and a witty and engaging writer, Carl now offers his admirers the opportunity to read an intelligent, humorous and, above all, inspiring account of his life - from the ups and downs of his career to the motivations and techniques which have helped him to win 66 national titles, represent Team GB at four Olympic Games, two World Championships and seven European Championships, and become one of the best riders - and horsemen - in the world.
By Colin Montgomerie
The autobiography of Colin Montgomerie, the triumphant Ryder Cup captain and one of Britain's most successful golfers.Colin Montgomerie is a golfing legend. Ranked Europe's No. 1 for an unparalleled seven years in a row, he is equally renowned as a player of great passion. The son of a keen Scottish golfing family, Colin was already showing his prodigious talent as a young boy. After completing his education in America, where he benefited from a golf scholarship, Colin turned professional in 1987, beginning a truly remarkable career.Even with more than 40 international tournament victories and eight European Order of Merit titles to his name, Monty is perhaps best known for his amazing contributions to the European Ryder Cup team, eight times as a player, winning five times and undefeated in singles, and most recently as a victorious European Ryder Cup captain, amid unforgettable scenes at Celtic Manor in October 2010.Montgomerie's autobiography is the story of both a fantastic talent and a complex personality, and of a golfer who remains determined to add to his already impressive achievements. It is a book about one of the greatest golfing characters in the world trying to achieve a personal and professional balance. And it is about a true hero of the Ryder Cup.
By A.P. McCoy
The fully updated autobiography of Tony 'A.P.' McCoy, Grand National and BBC SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR winner and unquestionably the greatest jump jockey ever.Tony 'A.P.' McCoy is without doubt the greatest and most successful jump jockey of all time. He has collected a record 16 consecutive jump-jockey titles to date, since 1992 he has ridden more than 3,000 winners, saying 'I never stop dreaming of the day I'll reach 4,000', and in 2002 he beat Sir Gordon Richards's record of 269 winners in a season by riding 289. In April 2010, A.P. achieved his lifelong ambition when he won the Grand National at Aintree on Don't Push It. It was his 15th attempt to win the race, a victory that captured the public's imagination and further enhanced a glittering career in which he had seemingly won all there was to win. It was the missing piece in the racing jigsaw for a champion jockey who had already had famous victories in the King George VI Chase, Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup.This powerfully honest autobiography looks at life at the very top in National Hunt racing, and includes the highs and lows of A.P. winning his second Gold Cup, in 2012 on Synchronised, fifteen years after his first, only to see the horse put down after a fall in that year's Grand National.These are the memoirs of a true champion, an icon of sport, whose astonishing achievements are unlikely to be surpassed. It is a great story of courage and modesty, pain and professional setbacks, strong family values and sporting triumphs, the good guy coming first - and staying there.
Memos from Purgatory
By Harlan Ellison
Hemingway said, "A man should never write what he doesn't know." In the mid-fifties, Harlan Ellison - kicked out of college and hungry to write - went to New York to start his writing career. It was a time of street gangs, rumbles, kids with switchblades and zip guns made from car radio antennas. Ellison was barely out of his teens himself, but he took a phony name, moved into Brooklyn's dangerous Red Hook section and managed to con his way into a "bopping club." What he experienced (and the time he spent in jail as a result) was the basis for the violent story that Alfred Hitchcock filmed as the first of his hour-long TV dramas...This autobiography is a book whose message you won't be able to ignore or forget.
By Brian Matthews
Manning Clark was one of the most influential Australian intellectuals of the last half century. His political pronouncements were often highly provocative and his sweeping judgements, dire denunciations and oracular prophecies infuriated conservatives and made him a controversial figure.His most enduring legacy, however, was his magisterial six-volume History of Australia. In it he reshaped the now familiar story of our nation's modern evolution; from the First Fleet's arrival, the convicts, the rum rebellion, gold, the sheep's back, Federation, and the glorious defeat at Gallipoli, up to the nation emerging from the Great Depression and on the threshold of a new world war. Within the dramatic narrative, which he envisaged as an epic, are highly original and insightful portraits of its great men with their tragic flaws: Phillip, Macquarie, Burke and Wills, Bligh, Wentworth, and above all Henry Lawson. But behind this ambitious work - with its more than a million words and twenty-five, long slogging years of research and scholarship - was a man as flawed as the historical figures he was presenting, figures in whose personalities and life events he often saw himself dauntingly mirrored. He was wracked with self-doubt, and dogged by fears of failure and personal weakness, he craved forgiveness for the betrayals that stalked and threatened his marriage to Dymphna, and wrestled with an elusive Christ in whom he longed to have a secure faith. Behind the signature broad hat and the stern unsmiling visage was a tortured man.That is the complex, enigmatic and thoroughly enthralling Clark who emerges in this remarkable biography by Brian Matthews, whose previous acclaimed memoir of Louise Lawson was judged to be both ground breaking and revolutionary. Manning Clark: a life draws a compelling portrait of the great historian, who attracted both critics and acolytes alike in equal number. Both sides can expect to be astounded and captivated.
Mary Queen Of Scots
By Antonia Fraser
Antonia Fraser's bestselling biography of one of the most romantic and controversial figures in British history - a special 40th anniversary edition.Mary Queen of Scots passed her childhood in France and married the Dauphin to become Queen of France at the age of sixteen. Widowed less than two years later, she returned to Scotland as Queen after an absence of thirteen years.Her life then entered its best known phase: the early struggles with John Knox, and the unruly Scottish nobility; the fatal marriage to Darnley and his mysterious death; her marriage to Bothwell, the chief suspect, that led directly to her long English captivity at the hands of Queen Elizabeth; the poignant and extraordinary story of her long imprisonment that ended with the labyrinthine Babington plot to free her, and her execution at the age of forty-four.
My Unwritten Books
By George Steiner
George Steiner, the eminent professor of English at Cambridge and Geneva universities, has outlined seven books he has never written, but has always wanted to write, in seven sections.In this fiercely original and audacious work, George Steiner tells of seven books which he did not write. Because intimacies and indiscretions were too threatening. Because the topic brought too much pain. Because its emotional or intellectual challenge proved beyond his capacities.The actual themes range widely and defy conventional taboos: the torment of the gifted when they live among, when they confront, the very great; the experience of sex in different languages; a love for animals greater than for human beings; the costly privilege of exile; a theology of emptiness.Yet a unifying perception underlies this diversity. The best we have or can produce is only the tip of the iceberg. Behind every good book, as in a lit shadow, lies the book which remained unwritten, the one that would have failed better.
The Man Behind the Shades
By Nolan Dalla, Peter Alson
The extraordinary life of the best poker player who ever livedWhen Stuey 'The Kid' Ungar took his first World Series of Poker title, one journalist asked him what he would do with the money. His answer: 'Gamble it'.Stuey grew up among the hoodlums and wiseguys of New York's Lower East Side. A pint-sized high-school drop out who never worked a day in his life, never had a bank account or paid a penny in taxes, he lived to gamble and became the world's most feared card player. From the multi-million dollar fortune he won and lost, the addictions that consumed him, and one of the greatest phoenix-from-the-ashes comebacks of all time, this is the story of a Las Vegas legend.
By Jonathan Spence
A biography that penetrates Mao's rhetoric and infamous self-will to distil an intimate portrait of a man as withdrawn and mysterious as the emperors he disdained.From humble origins in the provinces, Mao Zedong rose to absolute power, unifying with an iron fist a vast country torn apart by years of weak leadership, foreign imperialism and war. In this sharply drawn account Jonathan Spence, award-winning historian and author of acclaimed books about the old and the new China, brings to life this modern day emperor and the tumultuous era that he did so much to shape. He presents Mao as a 'Lord of Misrule', who deliberately turned upside-down the traditional hierarchies of Chinese society. Spence captures Mao in all his paradoxical grandeur and sheds light on the radical transformation he unleashed that still reverberates in China today.