Li Feng grew up in Mao's communist China with her mother's motto burning in her ears - success demands two things: unconditional sacrifice and absolute mental focus.
Finally breaking free of her mother's overbearing clutches and fleeing to Sydney as an adult, Li struggled to make sense of her own lost childhood by piecing together her family's history. What she found was a heartbreaking tale of love and loss that echoed across four generations of women - from Silver Dollar, who fought to regain her dignity and change her destiny after being sold into a loveless marriage at the age of 13; to Ming Xiu, who was forced to make a choice no mother should ever have to make following the execution of her husband; to Li's mother Rong, who grew up as an outcast on the periphery of society but never gave up hope of a better life for herself and for her daughters.
Despite economic and political upheaval, these women battled to offer their children a better future through sheer determination in the face of unimaginable adversity. This is an inspiring true story about modern China, iron will and the strength of a mother's love.
In his early thirties, Stephen Fry - writer, comedian, star of stage and screen - had, as they say, 'made it'. Much loved in A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster, author of a critically acclaimed and bestselling first novel, The Liar, with a glamorous and glittering cast of friends, he had more work than was perhaps good for him. What could possibly go wrong?
Then, as the 80s drew to a close, he discovered a most enjoyable way to burn the candle at both ends, and took to excess like a duck to breadcrumbs. Writing and recording by day, and haunting a never ending series of celebrity parties, drinking dens, and poker games by night, in a ludicrous and impressive act of bravado, he fooled all those except the very closest to him, some of whom were most enjoyably engaged in the same dance.
He was - to all intents and purposes - a high functioning addict. Blazing brightly and partying wildly as the 80s turned to the 90s, AIDS became an epidemic and politics turned really nasty, he was so busy, so distracted by the high life, that he could hardly see the inevitable, headlong tumble that must surely follow...
Containing raw, electric extracts from his diaries of the time, More Fool Me is a brilliant, eloquent account by a man driven to create and to entertain - revealing a side to him he has long kept hidden.
Stephen Fry is an award-winning comedian, actor, presenter and director. He rose to fame alongside Hugh Laurie in A Bit of Fry and Laurie (which he co-wrote with Laurie) and Jeeves and Wooster, and was unforgettable as Captain Melchett in Blackadder. He also presented Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, his groundbreaking documentary on bipolar disorder, to huge critical acclaim. His legions of fans tune in to watch him host the popular quiz show QI each week.
We know this: on 15 April 2013, two homemade bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding 264 others. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of the brothers suspected of committing this atrocity, died in the ensuing manhunt; angelic-looking Dzhokhar awaits trial. What we don't know is why. How did such a nightmare come to pass?
Acclaimed Russian-American author Masha Gessen is uniquely endowed with the background, access, and talent to make us understand who the brothers were and how they came to do what they appear to have done. From their displaced beginnings, as descendants of ethnic Chechens deported to Central Asia in the Stalin era, Gessen follows them from strife-ridden Kyrgyzstan to war-torn Dagestan, and then, as emigres to the United States, into an utterly disorienting new world. Most crucially, she reconstructs the struggle between assimilation and alienation that ensued, fueling the brothers' apparent metamorphosis into a new breed of homegrown terrorist, with their feet on American soil but their loyalties elsewhere - a split in identity that seems to have incubated a deadly sense of mission. This probing and powerful story of dislocation, and of the longing for clarity and identity that can reach the point of combustion, will be the enduring account of an indelible tragedy.
When Oliver Sacks was twelve years old, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report: 'Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.' It is now abundantly clear that Sacks has never stopped going. From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy.
As he recounts his experiences as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, first in California and then in New York, where he discovered a long forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital, as well as with a group of patients who would define his life, it becomes clear that Sacks' earnest desire for engagement has occasioned unexpected encounters and travels - sending him through bars and alleys, over oceans, and across continents.
With unbridled honesty and humour, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions - bodybuilding, weightlifting, and swimming - also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual, his guilt over leaving his family to come to America, his bond with his schizophrenic brother, and the writers and scientists - A.R. Luria, W.H. Auden, Francis Crick - who influenced him. On the Move is the story of a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer - and of the man who has illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human.
Tove Jansson's first book for adults drew on her childhood memories to capture afresh the enchantments and fears of growing up in Helsinki in the nineteen tens and twenties. Described as both a memoir and 'a book of superb stories' by Ali Smith, her startlingly evocative prose offers a glimpse of the mysteries of winter ice, the bonhomie of balalaika parties, and the vastness of Christmas viewed from beneath the tree. With rare images from the Jansson family archive, it makes a perfect gift.
The Skeleton Cupboard is Professor Tanya Byron's account of her years of training as a clinical psychologist, when trainees find themselves in the toughest placements of their careers. Through the eyes of her naive and inexperienced younger self, Tanya shares remarkable stories inspired by the people she had the privilege to treat. Gripping, poignant and full of daring black humour, this book reveals the frightening and challenging induction faced by all mental health staff and highlights their incredible commitment to their patients. Powerfully moving and beautifully written, The Skeleton Cupboard shares the tales of ordinary people with an amazing resilience to the challenges of life.
He was the Western convert who would plunge deep inside al-Qaeda. He named his first son Osama after 9/11 and became a Jihadist. But then - after a sudden loss of faith - Morten Storm made a life-changing decision. He became a double agent and joined the CIA, MI6 and MI5. Filled with hair-raising close calls and deception, Storm's story builds to the climactic finale when he must betray his friend and mentor al-Awlaki - al-Qaeda's biggest threat to the West. Storm is trusted to find al-Awlaki a wife from Europe. She becomes the bait for a possible American drone strike.
While the Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy, Flora Thompson's much-loved portrait of life in the English countryside, has inspired a hit television series, relatively little is known about the author herself. In this highly original book, bestselling biographer and nature writer Richard Mabey sympathetically retraces her life and her transformation from a post-office clerk who left school at fourteen to a sophisticated professional writer. Revealing how a formidable imagination can arise from the humblest of beginnings, Dreams of the Good Life paints a poignant, unforgettable portrait of a working-class woman writer's struggle for creative expression.
On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot. Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did?
David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells the surprising, profoundly American story of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Far more than a couple of unschooled Dayton bicycle mechanics who happened to hit on success, they were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity, much of which they attributed to their upbringing. The house they lived in had no electricity or indoor plumbing, but there were books aplenty, supplied mainly by their preacher father, and they never stopped reading. When they worked together, no problem seemed to be insurmountable. Wilbur was unquestionably a genius. Orville had such mechanical ingenuity as few had ever seen. That they had no more than a public high school education, little money and no contacts in high places, never stopped them in their mission to take to the air. Nothing did, not even the self-evident reality that every time they took off in one of their contrivances, they risked being killed.
In this thrilling book, master historian David McCullough draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including private diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence to tell the human side of the Wright Brothers' story, including the little-known contributions of their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them.
Heart-warming, funny and moving, this is the inspirational story of one woman's work with animals, first training them for film-work, and then developing a sanctuary for abandoned animals and rescuing them. Carolyn Press-McKenzie runs an organisation called HUHANZ ('Helping You Help Animals') as well as two animal sanctuaries, and her years of working with animals have given her many warm, funny and sad stories to tell. This memoir tells her story, and is interwoven with heart-warming stories of animals she has rescued, trained and loved. She writes with a lovely gentle sense of humour and perfectly pitched comic timing. It's a charming mix of one woman's drive to follow her passion, along with great animal stories both happy and sad - but that are ultimately happy-ever-after stories.
Alongside Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron possesses a star-quality unlike other classic British authors. His life as poet, philanderer, homosexual, and freedom fighter is legendary, and this new selection from his powerful letters and journals tells the story from the inside, in Byron's own racy and passionate style. Though Byron is chiefly known as a poet, his letters and journals are one of the glories of English prose literature, and one of the greatest British acts of autobiography, alongside Pepys' Diary and Boswell's Journal. This new selection, taken from the authoritative and unbowdlerized edition prepared by Leslie Marchand in the 1970s, not only provides the cream of his informal prose; it amounts to a biography in Byron's own words. No other English writer lived so remarkable an existence, from rented rooms in Aberdeen to a Nottinghamshire peerage, from European fame to English infamy, and notorious Italian exile to a glorious death in the Greek War of Independence.The letters and journals are selected, introduced, and annotated to provide a running narrative of the life and career of his remarkable man in his own unmistakable words.
Forced to flee his native Bangladesh, eight year-old chess prodigy Fahim arrived in Paris with his father. Refused asylum, as illegal immigrants they spiralled downwards into homelessness and desperation. By a stroke of luck, Fahim was introduced to one of France's top chess coaches, Xavier Parmentier, who tutored him and gave him a sense of purpose, his struggles on the chessboard mirroring both his victories and his crushing defeats in his battle for a normal life. Rising through local and national tournaments to be crowned France's Under-12 Chess Champion in 2012, Fahim became a national sensation. In 2013 he went on to win the World Under-13 Student Championship. Told through the clear eyes of a child, Fahim's tale is not only a moving account of the grim realities that underlie a supposedly caring society, but also a heartwarming testimony to a father's determination, the kindness of strangers, and one small boy's courageous will to succeed.
Keenly observed and irresistibly funny, My Salinger Year is a memoir about literary New York in the late nineties, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing. After leaving graduate school to pursue her dream of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. Precariously balanced between poverty and glamour, she spends her days in a plush, wood-paneled office - where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and agents doze after three-martini lunches - and then goes home to her threadbare Brooklyn apartment and her socialist boyfriend. Rakoff is tasked with processing Salinger's voluminous fan mail, but as she reads the heart-wrenching letters from around the world, she becomes reluctant to send the agency's form response and impulsively begins writing back. The results are both humorous and moving, as Rakoff, while acting as the great writer's voice, begins to discover her own.
What was it like to be Charles Dickens? His letters are the nearest we can get to a Dickens autobiography: vivid close-up snapshots of a life lived at maximum intensity. This is the first selection to be made from the magisterial twelve-volume British Academy Pilgrim Edition of his letters. From over fourteen thousand, four hundred and fifty have been cherry-picked to give readers the best essence of 'the Sparkler of Albion'.
Dickens was a man with ten times the energy of ordinary mortals. There seem to have been twice the number of hours in his day, and he threw himself into letter-writing as he did into everything else. This eagerly awaited selection takes us straight to the heart of his life, to show us Dickens at first hand. Here he is writing out of the heat of the moment: as a novelist, journalist, and magazine editor; as a social campaigner and traveller in Europe and America, and as friend, lover, husband, and father. Reading and writing letters punctuated the rhythms of Dickens's day. 'I walk about brimful of letters', he told a friend. He claimed to write 'at the least, a dozen a day'.
Sometimes it was a chore but more often a pleasure: an outlet for high spirits, sparkling wit, and caustic commentary - always as seen through his highly individual and acutely observing eye. Whether you dip in or read straight through, this selection of his letters creates afresh the brilliance of being Dickens, and the sheer pleasure of being in his company.
Following his acclaimed life of Dickens, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst illuminates the tangled history of two lives and two books. Drawing on numerous unpublished sources, he examines in detail the peculiar friendship between the Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Alice Liddell, the child for whom he invented the Alice stories, and analyzes how this relationship stirred Carroll 19s imagination and influenced the creation of Wonderland. It also explains why Alice in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass (1871), took on an unstoppable cultural momentum in the Victorian era and why, a century and a half later, they continue to enthrall and delight readers of all ages.
The Story of Alice reveals Carroll as both an innovator and a stodgy traditionalist, entrenched in habits and routines. He had a keen double interest in keeping things moving and keeping them just as they are. (In Looking-Glass Land, Alice must run faster and faster just to stay in one place.) Tracing the development of the Alice books from their inception in 1862 to Liddell 19s death in 1934, Douglas-Fairhurst also provides a keyhole through which to observe a larger, shifting cultural landscape: the birth of photography, changing definitions of childhood, murky questions about sex and sexuality, and the relationship between Carroll 19s books and other works of Victorian literature.
In the stormy transition from the Victorian to the modern era, Douglas-Fairhurst shows, Wonderland became a sheltered world apart, where the line between the actual and the possible was continually blurred.
Jason Padgett was an ordinary, not terribly bright, 41-year-old working in his father's furniture shop when he was the victim of a brutal mugging outside a karaoke bar in 2002. That same night his stepfather died of cancer, and two weeks later his only brother went missing (his body was discovered three year later). The combined traumas of these three events proved, unsurprisingly, too much for Jason and he withdrew from life completely, living as a hermit for four years suffering with agrophobia and the onset of OCD. During this time he developed a fascination with the principles of the physical universe, devouring mathematics and physics journals. He also started to see intricate webs of shapes in his head and discovered that he could draw these by hand. A chance encounter in a mall pointed him in the direction of college. There, his extraordinary mind was recognised, and he was set on a path in which his drawings were identified as mathematical fractals and neuroscientists were able to diagnose a unique individual. Jason is a miraculous everyman with an inspiring 'what if' story that pushes beyond the boundaries of what scientists thought possible.
When Nancy Tucker was eight years old, her class had to write about what they wanted in life. She thought, and thought, and then, though she didn't know why, she wrote: 'I want to be thin.' Over the next twelve years, she developed anorexia nervosa, was hospitalised, and finally swung the other way towards bulimia nervosa. She left school, rejoined school; went in and out of therapy; ebbed in and out of life. From the bleak reality of a body breaking down to the electric mental highs of starvation, hers has been a life held in thrall by food. Told with remarkable insight, dark humour and acute intelligence, The Time in Between is a profound, important window into the workings of an unquiet mind - a Wasted for the 21st century.
For a brief moment on December 27, 2007, life came to a standstill in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, the country's former prime minister and the first woman ever to lead a Muslim country, had been assassinated at a political rally just outside Islamabad. Back in Karachi - Bhutto's birthplace and Pakistan's other great metropolis - Rafia Zakaria's family was suffering through a crisis of its own: her Uncle Sohail, the man who had brought shame upon the family, was near death. In that moment these twin catastrophes - one political and public, the other secret and intensely personal--briefly converged.
Zakaria uses that moment to begin her intimate exploration of the country of her birth. Her Muslim-Indian family immigrated to Pakistan from Bombay in 1962, escaping the precarious state in which the Muslim population in India found itself following the Partition. For them, Pakistan represented enormous promise. And for some time, Zakaria's family prospered and the city prospered. But in the 1980s, Pakistan's military dictators began an Islamization campaign designed to legitimate their rule - a campaign that particularly affected women's freedom and safety. The political became personal when her aunt Amina's husband, Sohail, did the unthinkable and took a second wife, a humiliating and painful betrayal of kin and custom that shook the foundation of Zakaria's family but was permitted under the country's new laws. The young Rafia grows up in the shadow of Amina's shame and fury, while the world outside her home turns ever more chaotic and violent as the opportunities available to post-Partition immigrants are dramatically curtailed and terrorism sows its seeds in Karachi.
Telling the parallel stories of Amina's polygamous marriage and Pakistan's hopes and betrayals, The Upstairs Wife is an intimate exploration of the disjunction between exalted dreams and complicated realities.