Alexandra Heminsley | Contributing Writer | Sunday, 22 November 2015

5 Autobiographies To Ask For At Christmas That Are Actually Good

5 Autobiographies To Ask For At Christmas That Are Actually Good

The Debrief: For when you need a good read written by a successful woman

Five kick-ass women take on memoir this autumn, and there’s something for everyone..

1. My Life on the Road - Gloria Steinem (Oneworld) 

International feminist icon Gloria Steinem has spent much of her life travelling - her father drove the family across the states every year and she’s remained on the move, seeking adventure, as well as understanding between people. These are stories of her social activism in India, her political campaigning for women and also some feminist air hostesses. Taking travel as the theme works beautifully, as it consistently reveals how open she is to new people, new ideas, and the younger generation of feminists. It’s atmospheric, inspiring, and warm hearted.

 

2. Wildflower - Drew Barrymore (Virgin Books) 

Less traditional biography, more a series of vignettes, this is still a lovely slice of memoir from the ever-lovely Drew. Her style is hardly sophisticated, but each of the (quite random) stories - whether it’s her mum making her move from sleazy West Hollywood once she ‘made it’ in ET or her getting her knockers out live on Letterman - is told in her familiar, intimate tone. She sounds happy, kind, and honest, and she certainly has some great stories amidst the more therapy-inspired musings. You won’t mistake it for something Jackie Collins might have written but at least it sounds like Drew herself did.

 

3. Charlotte Bronte: A Life - Claire Harman (Penguin Viking) 

This formal, traditional biography looks like the sort of thing you might get out of the library when you’ve got to write an essay but reads like the sort of thing only your wackiest friend might make up. Bronte really had quite the life, from her grim boarding school (the inspiration for Jane Eyre’s totally traumatising Lowood), to trying opium (via over the counter laudanum) to fuel her writing fantasies and falling in love married men. Then there’s the iconic feminist writer bit too, which is particularly fascinating when she’s basically writing Byronic fan fic with her sisters and calling it Scribblemania. 

 

4. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl - Carrie Brownstein (Virago) 

Brownstein is today best known for her roles in Portlandia and Transparent, but this autobiography deals with her early life - childhood and her music career, most notably as part of post-punk band Sleater Kinney. Her writing is almost uncomfortably raw, which echoes her musical output more than the more wry, heartfelt roles she’s played on screen. Some childhood stories are pretty difficult to read (particularly her mother’s illness) but she is consistently engaging. What’s most striking is that this is simply a fantastically honest account of being a passionate, geekily creative young women: a read for the over-thinkers among us. 

 

5. The Prince George Diaries - Clare Bennett (Michael Joseph) 

The diaries of a two year old: not in a grim ‘mumsnet forum’ way, but in a ridiculous and hilarious satirical one. All toddlers behave as if they will one day rule us all, but this one actually will, and Tatler writer Clare Bennett takes this ludicrous fact and spins it into something as keenly perceptive as it is truly daft. The royals, and the world’s fawning response to them, are dealt with as if your funniest mate was writing the Daily Mail Sidebar of shame just for you. Think Adrian Mole meets the Alan Clarke Diaries - the very best of the year’s fun Christmas titles. 

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Follow Alexandra on Twitter @Hemmo 

Tags: books