Top Ten Biographies and Autobiographies

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Other people's lives are fascinating. The best biographies and autobiographies allow you to immerse yourself in the lives of American pioneers, prisoners of war, football managers (even though Bookbag supports Everyone But Man U), or to see the experiences that shaped everyone's favourite children's author. These are our favourite biographies. Why not tell us about yours?


Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa by Peter Godwin

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Mukiwa - White Man - is possibly the best memoir you'll ever read. Peter Godwin is one of the founding presenters of the BBC's flagship foreign affairs programme, Correspondent. Godwin was born in Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia as it was then, and this is the story of its bloody and painful transition to independence, from the time Ian Smith declared UDI to the atrocities committed by Robert Mugabe. There were terrible times and no-one emerges unscathed. Full review...

Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

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For children and adults, Boy will make everybody laugh, as does everything written by Roald Dahl. More than that though, it provides rich and arresting detail and some of the inspirations for all those other, fictional stories written by the master. It goes some way towards explaining that disgust at the adult abuse of authority that pervades all of his books. Perhaps, with Boy, Dahl wanted finally to win the argument. Grown ups are naughty. You will love it. They will love it. Five stars. Full review...

The Boss: The Many Sides of Alex Ferguson by Michael Crick

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An investigative biography with mass-market appeal which presents a balanced picture of the man behind the success at Manchester United. Highly recommended at Bookbag Towers. Full review...

Hellfire and Herring by Christopher Rush

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A lyrical description of a harsh childhood in a Scottish fishing village in the nineteen forties and fifties is one of Bookbag's best reads for a long time and is highly recommended. Full review...

Little House In The Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Little House In The Big Woods is the first in the famous series of pioneer books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They are deservedly famous. There's history, there's a strong moral code and there's some fabulously sensuous descriptive writing. Easy to read aloud, you could begin with stories at bedtime and end in a Year 6 cross-discipline project if you were educating your children at home. It's a classic. Bookbag also loved Farmer Boy. Full review...

Empire of the Sun by J G Ballard

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It's not really possible to sum up Empire of the Sun in just a few words if not to simply say, "Don't miss it." It's a book about war. It's about more than just the fighting. In fact, there isn't any fighting. It's beautifully written. It's mesmerising. It provides a revealing background to Ballard's later novels. It's a great definition of that made-up word, "dystopia". Oh, just don't miss it. Ok? Full review...

The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle by Russell Miller

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A biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Although his name is indelibly associated with that of Sherlock Holmes, arguably the most renowned fictional detective of all, he had several careers in one. This is a remarkably objective and compulsively readable biography of a gifted but deeply flawed man. Full review...

Jacky Daydream by Jacqueline Wilson

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Easy to read and full of sparkle as ever, Jacqueline Wilson comes up trumps with this story of her childhood. It's a revealing snapshot of both 1950s Britain and the passion with which she approaches her work. Full review...

Redbirds by Rick Bragg

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Wonderfully evocative and fully aware of the storytelling tradition, Redbirds is a deeply moving, honest and affectionate book. It will also add to your understanding of the wider social situation in America's southern states at that time. It is certainly one to which you may well want to return. Full review...

Toast: the Story of a Boy's Hunger by Nigel Slater

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The story of Nigel Slater's childhood will have you laughing out loud one minute and reaching for the Kleenex the next. It's sexually frank but not explicit and above all it's about food. Buy it - it's a book to read again and again. Full review...

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