I got through quite a handful of books over the past few weeks, but I didn’t feel they all warranted a full review. Here are four short reviews for some of the books I’ve read recently.
While the poet Lord Byron is well-known as being ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’, as it turns out his ancestors may have had something to do with that reputation. Byron’s heritage is full of adventures and wealth but also ruin, promiscuity, and even murder. Emily Brand’s meticulously researched history of the Byron family draws on correspondence of the Byrons and those who knew them, newspaper and tabloid reports of the family’s doings, and other historical records to paint a portrait of the lineage of one of literature’s most notorious poets.
Jonathan Van Ness, one fifth of the fabulous Queer Eye team we’ve all come to know and love, tells his story from the very beginning, starting back when Jonathan was just little Jack living in a small town in the mid-west, all the way up to breaking onto our laptop screens with a Netflix-backed reboot that has become an international phenomenon.
After over 25 years in the business, Louis Theroux recounts his time in documentary television making and his personal life alongside it, shedding light on the behind the scenes action of some of his most memorable – and controversial – TV subjects.
In his first and only autobiography, Elton John charts his rise from his shy childhood as Reginald Dwight to one of the biggest selling artists of all time. From his outrageous outfits to outrageous antics, Elton John leaves no stone unturned in telling his life story, warts and all.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was only the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court bench, nominated in 1993. Initially considered a moderate, RBG has now become an internet phenomenon as her lawyerly prowess has impressed and inspired thousands of young feminists. Borne out of the original Tumblr blog of the same name, Notorious RBG uses interviews with family, friends, clerks and Ginsburg herself to draw an honest, intimate, and entertaining portrait of a Justice that has devoted her career to making the world a better place.
Sofie Hagen is a comedian, writer, and podcaster who wants to reclaim the word ‘fat’. Her debut book is part memoir, part social commentary on how society seeks to make us smaller. Drawing on her own experiences as a child and as an adult, and on the experiences of other fat activists and educators, Sofie builds an empowering book full of comical and sometimes moving anecdotes which show the reader that it is okay to be both happy and fat.
Zlata’s Diary begins as the daily musings of a typical 11-year-old girl, who loves music and her friends. Soon after she starts her diary, war breaks out and Sarajevo becomes a battleground that changes Zlata’s life forever. With no more school or music lessons, the highlights of Zlata’s days are birthdays celebrated with canned food rations, whilst her worst days find her saying goodbye to escaping family and grieving for lost friends.
Montefiore charts the ascension and downfall of one of the most intriguing royal families in history, the Romanovs. Ruling Russia for over three centuries from 1613 until their brutal assassinations in 1917, the Romanovs spawned 18 tsars and tsarinas. Their reigns gave rise to multiple myths and legends and more than a few impostor heirs. This tome explores the political and the personal lives of this legendary dynasty.
When Terese Marie Mailhot finds herself hospitalised due to a combination of PTSD and bipolar, she is given a notebook and begins to write. Heart Berries is what this notebook became. Part memoir, part memorial, Mailhot uncovers her sometimes troubling relationships with her parents and her lovers and tries to make sense of them and herself.