Posts tagged with ‘biography’

Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! by Douglas Coupland

Pointless fact about Marshall McLuhan: he has always been oddly tangled up in my mind with Malcolm McLaren, he of the Sex Pistols and Buffalo Gals. The lingering after-effects of a youthful misunderstanding. Malcolm McLaren, in turn, gets mixed up with Malcolm McDowell. I’m a fan of Douglas Coupland’s novels — they’re not all masterpieces, but they’re […]

The Fortunes of Wangrin by Amadou Hampaté Bâ

The Fortunes of Wangrin is my book from Mali for the Read The World challenge. It’s a novel — or at least it seems to be universally described as a novel, despite the fact that Hampaté Bâ says in the Afterword: I don’t know why, even is spite of the specific assertions contained in the Foreword, […]

The Unknown Matisse by Hilary Spurling

The Unknown Matisse is the first of two volumes, taking our hero from 1869-1908. I actually bought it some time ago on Jee Leong‘s recommendation, but it has taken me some time to finish, mainly I think because the simple physical size of it makes it slightly awkward to read in bed. It’s not that huge, […]

Nature’s Engraver by Jenny Uglow

 Jenny Uglow wrote the excellent The Lunar Men, about the Lunar Society that included Josiah Wedgwood, Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestley and Matthew Boulton. Nature’s Engraver is a biography of the wood engraver Thomas Bewick who, born in 1753, was just about contemporary with those men. He worked in Newcastle at a time when it was just starting to turn from […]

Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

The definite article in the title seems a little hubristic. I don’t know if this is the definitive biography of Shakespeare — haven’t read any of the hundreds of others — but I certainly enjoyed it. I don’t know if I completely trust Ackroyd as a historian; it’s probably unfair, but I just get a nagging sense sometimes […]

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar is a biography of Stalin, focussed on his domestic life and the tightly-knit group of people around him: his own family, and politicians, bodyguards, and their families. As a piece of history, it’s very impressive. It’s clearly the result of a huge amount of research by Montefiore: he […]

George III and the Mad-Business by Ida Macalpine and Richard Hunter

I highly recommend this fascinating book; it seems to be out of print, but there are lots of second-hand copies on Amazon. As the title suggests, it’s about poor mad George III. And even Americans, brought up to think of George III as a tyrant, might have a little sympathy for him after reading this. […]

Erasmus Darwin by Desmond King-Hele

This is a biography of Charles Darwin’s grandfather. He was a doctor by trade, and one of the most highly rated in the country, but was one of those classic Enlightenment figures whose interests included botany, meteorology, physics, chemistry, engineering, philosophy and just about anything else that came his way. And for a few years […]

Fave books of 2006

It’s end-of-year list time. These weren’t all first published this year, and I daresay I’ve forgotten some, but they are at least all books I’d recommend. In no particular order: Rembrandt’s Eyes by Simon Schama. I blogged about this before. Simon is a serious historian (rather than, say, a journalist who writes occasional books) who […]

Biography

I do enjoy reading biographies. Not just to learn more about people I have a special interest in, but as a more entertaining way of reading about history. There can be something a bit stifling about the careful thoroughness of the conscientious historian trying to lay out all the strands of a complicated subject. The […]

Shelley the lost Victorian

Well, I’ve finished Richard Holmes’s Shelley:The Pursuit. I didn’t find it as gripping as his superb biography of Coleridge, but it became more enjoyable as it went along. Mainly, I think, because Shelley became much more likeable as he matured personally, politically and poetically. Not that he became less radical, or completely lost the restlessness […]

Grayson Perry: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl

I’ve just read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl, which is the autobiography of Grayson Perry, the artist who won the Turner Prize in 2003. I quite like his art, but the main reason I bought the book was that I enjoy his columns for the Times (if that link doesn’t work, you’ll […]

Shelley update

I’m still reading the Shelley biography. Remarkably, his personal life seems to have stabilised somewhat, I suspect mainly because his grandfather died and so, while the exact terms of the legacy are still with the lawyers, he’s not actually having to hide from the bailiffs any more. The chances of his life running smooth are […]

Shellier than thou

I didn’t mention in the last post that, as well as the two elopements, Shelley has been shot at by a Welsh ghost, is under observation by the government because of his seditious publications, and is going extravagantly into debt in expectation of an inheritance from a family which has disowned him. Was there ever […]

Shelley, Shellier, Shelliest.

I’m reading a biography of Percy Bysshe. An interesting and talented man, but perhaps just a wee bit erratic; he’s just eloped for the second time, abandoning his first wife and their new child in order to run off with a 16-year-old. And her sister. And he’s still only 21.

Rembrandt’s Eyes by Simon Schama

I’ve only read two books by Schama; Citizens, his book about the French Revolution, and this biography of Rembrandt. Both have been excellent. They’re also quite hard work simply because he’s so thorough. Thoroughness is no doubt a virtue in a historian, but it does make for large books. Rembrandt’s Eyes is frankly too large […]

‘Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson’ by Paula Byrne

I picked up Perdita at the airport on the way to Egypt. It’s the biography of Mary Robinson, who was an actress, the most beautiful and fashionable woman in London, who became famous as the mistress of the Prince of Wales (and later Charles Fox and Colonel Tarleton, among others). Then, after she developed rheumatic […]