Top Ten Autobiographies and Biographies 2016

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We've seen a lot of biographies and autobiographies in 2016 and it hasn't been easy to select just ten as our favourites, but here's what we finally settled on in alphabetical order by author:

Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive


Cameron and his wife, Sam, had been leading a very active, adventurous life. Even after the birth of their three sons they wanted to continue their adventures, so they decided to travel to Thailand for a family holiday. They were having a brilliant time until, suddenly, Sam was involved in a dreadful, almost fatal, accident. The accident left her paralysed and, because of the sudden and extremely severe impact on her life she slid quickly into a very deep and dark depression. Cameron feared for his family's future, and his wife's life, until one day a small abandoned magpie chick came along, and managed to change everything. Full review...

Marooned in the Arctic by Peggy Caravantes


Misogynists are manmade. And if anyone was in a position to hate men and the lot they put on their shoulders, it was Ava Blackjack. Her surname spoke of an abusive man she had a son by, but it was her time with four other men that made for one of the last century's more remarkable stories. An Inuit native, but one brought up in a city and with English lessons, she was invited on an excursion alongside many other 'Eskimo' and four intrepid Westerners, to the uninhabited Wrangel Island, perched off the northern Siberian coast. They were there just to stick a flag in it and call it British, even if they were pretty much fully American and Canadian, and the chap whose ideas these all were bore an Icelandic name; she was along to provide native expertise, especially waterproof fur clothing. And that was it – none of her kin joined her, leaving her in one tent and four men in another, in one of the world's most remote and inhospitable places. And that was just the start of her worries… Full review...

Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was by Sean Cunningham


Prince Arthur was the eldest son of Henry VII. Had he lived longer, there might have been no Henry VIII, thus paving the way for a very large counterfactual 'what if' in British history. The name Arthur, that of the mythical King several centuries earlier, had great expectations attached, never to be fulfilled. Full review...

Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville: A True Romance by Amy Licence


Given the current resurgence in popularity of biographies dealing with the Yorkists, the time is right for an account of the marriage of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, a union that proved so divisive in the era of York vs Lancaster. With several of the great nobility declaring allegiance to one side and then another in turn during the Wars of the Roses, it was a divisive era to start with. Full review...

The World is Elsewhere by Chris McIvor


As a Country Director, Chris McIvor has worked for a number of years at Save the Children. 'The World is Elsewhere' covers his time there and, his journeys across a number of countries. It is a beautiful mix of autobiography and travel. It also captures his philosophical thoughts on international aid. He reflects on both the good and the bad with a very easy, conversational writing style that makes the book truly captivating. I read from cover to cover in a single sitting, unusual for a reviewer. Such was the draw as he laid himself bare. Full review...

The Lady and the Generals: Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's Struggle for Freedom by Peter Popham


On 13 November 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest after spending 15 of the previous 21 years as a prisoner of Burma's military junta. Political reforms soon followed, culminating with Suu (as she prefers to be known) being elected to parliament. The West rejoiced; leaders, business men, and tourists poured in; and Suu entered the pantheon of modern-day political heroes. Burma was a burgeoning democracy, and Suu was a saint. In reality, as Peter Popham argues in 'The Lady and the Generals', the situation was far more complex. Full review...

The Beauty of Her Age: A Tale of Sex, Scandal and Money in Victorian England by Jenifer Roberts


The name of Yolande Stephens (nee Duvernay) is not that well-known in the annals of Victorian England, but behind it lies an enthralling rags-to-riches saga. How did a young girl born into poverty in Paris become one of the most celebrated ballerinas of her time in England, and after that one of the richest women in the country, with a fortune on her death which rivalled that of Queen Victoria? Full review...

Reckoning by Magda Szubanski


In her memoir, actress, comedian and activist Magda Szubanski describes her journey of self-discovery from a suburban childhood as an immigrant child, haunted by the demons of her father's espionage activities in wartime Poland and by her secret awareness of her sexuality, to the complex dramas of adulthood and her need to find out the truth about herself and her family. With courage and compassion she addresses her own frailties and fears, and asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on. Full review...

Toby and Sox: The Heartwarming Tale of a Little Boy With Autism and a Dog in a Million by Vikki Turner


Sometimes I found myself holding him on my knee, quietly crying above his huddled little body – so quietly he wouldn't be able to tell – just hoping that I could physically hold all the broken pieces together and somehow make everything OK.

Vikki Turner is a busy mum of four, and for her, family is everything. Her first two children gave her no cause for concern, hitting their developmental milestones right on cue and behaving beautifully when in public. When Toby came along, she naturally expected things to be the same, but it soon became apparent that there was something different about him. Toby had a fear of bright lights and insisted on wearing sunglasses wherever he went. Sounds bothered him, so he constantly wore earphones to block out the outside world. Earphones in, sunglasses on and hood up, Toby had created his own 'bubble' in which he could feel safe. Full review...

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson


Mara Wilson has always felt a little young and a little out of place: as the only child on a film set full of adults, the first daughter in a house full of boys, the sole clinically depressed member of a cheerleading squad, a valley girl in New York and a neurotic in California, and an adult the world still remembers as a little girl. Tackling everything from how she first learned about sex on the set of Melrose Place, to losing her mother at a young age, to getting her first kiss (or was it kisses?) on a celebrity canoe trip, to not being cute enough to make it in Hollywood, these essays tell the story of one young woman's journey from accidental fame to relative obscurity, but also illuminate a universal struggle: learning to accept yourself, and figuring out who you are and where you belong. Full review...

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