October 1, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books

The best new memoirs for autumn 2014

Autumn is traditionally the time of year when the great and the good (and, quite often, the not so good) put pen to paper and reval their life stories to the world. 

But which ones are actually worth reading? Here are a few of the best new autobiographies and memoirs deserving of your time and dollar this autumn…

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Here’s the list, for those of you who don’t like photos of book covers:

1. More Fool Me by Stephen Fry (out now from Michael Joseph): You know who Stephen Fry is, you know he’s funny and eloquent and charming, and you know that this book will be all of those things. But there’s also a darker, more troubling side to his life, with Fry addressing addiction and depression. Absorbing stuff.

2. Hopeful by Omid Djalili (out now from Headline): Omid’s done pretty well for a bloke who had to fake his A-Level results to get in to uni. This is the story of his chaotic upbringing and quest for fame.

3. Only When I Laugh by Paul Merton (out now from Ebury): The Have I Got News For You and Just A Minute man tells his life story in his usual surreal and witty fashion. Impossible to read without a) hearing Paul’s voice in your head, and b) imagining Ian Hislop chuckling along.

4. Chapter and Verse by Bernard Sumner (out now from Bantam Press): We will cut to the chase: here’s why we love Bernard Sumner. So you should definitely read this.

5. Taking Command by General David Richards (out 9th October from Headline): Something a bit different, so we will be serious here for a minute. One of the best known British generals of modern times, General Sir David Richards retired in 2013 after over forty years of service in the British Army. On the way to becoming Chief of the Defence Staff, he served in the Far East, Germany, Northern Ireland and East Timor and saw some incredibly shocking, terrifying and historic things along the way. He’s a genuine, real-life hero, and this brutally honest, yet often humorous autobiography is a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in military history and the armed forces.

6. Play On by Mick Fleetwood (out 30th October from Hodder & Stoughton): As the drummer with one of the most successful and turbulent bands of all time, Mick has seen a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff. This is his story, from his childhood in Cornwall through to opening his restaurant in Hawaii, via debauchery, affairs, drugs and bloody good music.

7. So, Anyway by John Cleese (out 9th October from Random House): By this stage in his career, you’ve probably decided if you’re a John Cleese fan or not. If you are, then this new book from the Monty Python legend is an essential read.

8. Going Off Alarming by Danny Baker (out now from W&N): The second volume of Mr Baker’s autobiography, following the excellent Going to Sea in a Sieve. Apparently he forgot to put in the first volume that he’s been shot twice, so we’ll be intrigued to read about that…

9. Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming (Out 13th November from Canongate): This is set to be a powerful and moving story and the critically acclaimed actor’s memoir has had some pretty stunning pre-publication reviews.

All images © the respective publishers

best uk bookshops

September 30, 2014, Posted by Ben Willis in Books

Best UK Bookshops as voted by you – Part 1

A couple of weeks ago on Twitter we asked you to tell us your favourite UK bookshops and why. It didn’t matter what kind of bookshop – independent, chain, charity. If they’re awesome, we wanted you to tell us about them. And by golly there are a lot of great bookshops here in the UK, based on your responses.

So here is Part I of the best UK bookshops, as voted by you:



Where: Shropshire
Twitter: @wenlockbooks



Where: Leicestershire
Twitter: @kibworthbooks



Where: Scottish Borders
Twitter: @mainstreethare



Where: Devon
Twitter: @totnesbookshop



Where: Manchester
Twitter: @ChorltonBkshop



Where: London
Twitter: @ottieandthebea



Where: London
Twitter: @GoldsboroBooks


Later in the week we’ll be posting the rest of your favourites, so stay tuned.

And if you know any others that you think are the best UK bookshops then don’t hesitate to tell us on Twitter: @StareAtBooks

September 29, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Music

Chapter and Verse – Bernard Sumner’s finest moments

With his bloody fantastic new autobiography, Chapter and Verse, out now, we thought it seemed like the opportune moment to celebrate the musical genius of Bernard Sumner.

Since rising to prominence as the guitarist with Joy Division in the late seventies, he’s been a pioneering figure in British music ever since. Here, in no particular order, are five of his finest moments. Go easy on us – it wasn’t easy to pick just five. Love Will Tear Us Apart isn’t even in there, for God’s sake…

1. Transmission (with Joy Division)

2. Getting Away with It (with Electronic)

3. Ceremony (with New Order)

4. Disorder (with Joy Division)

5. True Faith (with New Order)

Chapter and Verse is out now from Bantam Press. If you’ve ever cried along to Atmosphere, danced to Blue Monday, or tried to do the John Barnes rap from World in Motion, it’s an essential bit of music reading.

Chapter and Verse

September 23, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books

Book news – Man V Fat coming soon

Entrepreneur and former food critic to publish practical, no-nonsense guide for normal blokes looking to shift some pounds…

Back in 2011 Andrew Shanahan was working long hours, stressed and eating poorly. That’s something we can all probably identify with. As a result of this he was 60 lbs overweight and chronically unfit, and one morning he took a selfie of his gut (or a ‘guttie’ as some people might call it) to text to a mate for a joke. But once he had taken the picture, he couldn’t stop looking at it. The sheer horror of it forced him to wake up and realise how unhappy he was about his body and resolve to change it.

But what he found was that the dieting industry had turned its back on men. Despite being desperate for information and support, he realised dieting was strictly for women. Men were expected to get fit, get ripped and turn fat into a six-pack in six weeks. But there was nothing for men who simply didn’t want a beer belly any more.

shan_headshotAndrew Shanahan: this man can help you

Andrew had to learn how to lose weight the hard way and it left him with two things: the certainty that this was something the world needed, and a desire to help as many overweight men as possible. He launched a crowdfunding campaign to start MAN v FAT, a digital magazine and website which offered men support and practical advice. It must have been a damn good idea, as the campaign soon gained support from the likes of Jamie Oliver, The British Dietetic Association, The Men’s Health Forum, Heart UK, Diabetes UK, and not to mention the thousands of normal men who have used it and found it useful.

In January 2015, Andrew is bringing his findings, recipes, guidance and all-round words of wisdom together and is publishing MAN v FAT: The Weight Loss Manual. He promises to break down weight loss into clear stages, answer all the key questions about dieting and give normal blokes like you and I everything we might need in order to lose weight. Perfect for shifting that post-Christmas flab.

We’re going to be paying attention to this one as it sounds like a great idea that could actually make a positive difference to normal blokes like us. Bravo Andrew, we like what you’re doing.

MAN V FAT will be published by Headline in January 2015

Man V Fat

September 19, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books, Books, Sport

The 8 coolest sport books of 2014

2014 has been a ruddy good year for sport books. Here, in no particular order, are eight of the best that we’ve already read, or that we’re looking forward to reading once they hit book shops in the coming weeks…

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The list of 2014’s coolest sport books in full:

1. KP: The Autobiography by Kevin Pietersen, published 9th October by Little, Brown – The sometimes controversial England cricketing legend spills the beans on his incredible career

2. Football Clichés by Adam Hurrey, published 9th October by Headline – Student of the game Adam Hurrey translates the ridiculous language of the world of football (with real aplomb)

3. Guy Martin: My Autobiography by (you guessed it) Guy Martin, out now from Virgin Books – Put this man on a motorbike and amazing things happen, and we don’t just mean he’s good at wheelies. Here’s the story behind his success

4. I Think Therefore I Play by Andrea Pirlo (with ), out now from BackPage Press – The bearded Italian footballing icon discusses his career in a way that is arrogant, insightful and hilarious

5. My Story: Crossing the Line by Luis Suarez, published 23rd October by Headline – The ex-Liverpool man’s autobiography covers bites, bans and bloody good goals with surprising depth and real honesty

6. Swim, Bike, Run: Our Triathlon Story by Alastair and Jonathan Brownlee, out now from Penguin – Want to swim, cycle and run for an extended period of time? Get some inspiration from the Olympic heroes

7. Bobby Moore: The Man in Full by Matt Dickinson, out now from Yellow Jersey – A comprehensive biography of England’s most successful football skipper from the well-respected sports correspondent for The Times

8. Bend it Like Bullard by Jimmy Bullard, out now from Headline – The cult hero tells hilarious stories from his career. Not your standard football autobiography, and all the better for it

 All images © the respective publishers

September 19, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books

A Most Wanted Man – The genius of John le Carré

We’re huge John le Carré fans, so naturally we’re very excited about the late Philip Seymour Hoffman-starring film adaptation of A Most Wanted Man. Directed by Anton Corbijn, the genius behind the Ian Curtis biopic Control and music videos by the likes of Arcade Fire, Nirvana and Depeche Mode, it’s in UK cinemas now and has received rave reviews.


First published in 2008, A Most Wanted Man is a thriller that follows a German espionage agent, played brilliantly in the film by Hoffman, leading a team as they try to capture and use a potentially dangerous refugee from Chechnya. If you like your novels, or indeed your films, tense, gripping and political, then this is one for you.

To celebrate the cinema release of A Most Wanted Man, we have five copies of the book to give away. Just scroll to the bottom of this page and answer the question.

John le CarreJohn le Carré

For more interesting John le Carré reading, check out this superb feature he wrote for the New York Times about the hugely talented and much missed Philip Seymour Hoffman, and our review of his appearance at the 2013 Hay Festival.

Enter our snazzy little giveaway for the chance to win 1 of 5 copies of A Most Wanted Man. Just answer this stupidly simple question and pop in your email…

Fields marked with a * are required.

Five winners picked at random from email entries. Closes midday, Friday 26th September. Apologies to our friends around the globe, but it’s UK entries only.

AMWMA Most Wanted Man is published by Sceptre. Both the book and film are out now.

September 4, 2014, Posted by Tom in Books

8 autumn books we can’t wait to read

The final third of 2014 sees many literary heavyweights unleash their new masterpieces, and it’s a damn exciting time. We’ve picked out some of the big autumn books we’re looking forward to reading…

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The full list of big name autumn books that are on our reading lists:

  1. Us by David Nicholls (published 30/9/2014 by Hodder & Stoughton) – The One Day king is back with this rather brilliant Booker-longlisted tale of a man trying to fix his marriage and his relationship with his son. Sure to sell a ridiculous number of copies.
  2. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel (published 25/9/2014 by HarperCollins) – A collection of short stories from the double Man Booker Prize-winning author. We’re not sure how much of it will be about Thatcher, but we’re certain it’ll be superb.
  3. Football Clichés by Adam Hurrey (published 9/10/2014 by Headline) – A glorious deconstruction of the language used by football fans/pundits/commentators/players all over the country. It’s a thing of beauty throughout.
  4. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (published 2/9/2014 by Sceptre) – The literary equivalent of a prog rock album, albeit one you’d actually want to listen to. A twisting, turning tale that spans continents and time periods. Well worth immersing yourself in.
  5. Waiting for Doggo by Mark B. Mills (published 20/11/2014 by Headline Review) – A short but sweet tale of a man who gets dumped and is left to look after a very ugly dog. Funny, charming and just sentimental enough without ever being cheesy.
  6. Crossing The Line: My Story by Luis Suarez (published 23/10 by Headline) – The former Liverpool striker tells his side of the story, describing his journey to becoming one of the best players in the world, and what exactly happens in his more ‘controversial’ moments.
  7. Funny Girl by Nick Hornby (published 6/11/2014 by Viking) – You’ve read Fever Pitch and About a Boy and High Fidelity and all the rest. You know how good he is. You know you’re going to enjoy this story of a young northern woman who becomes a huge star. You just know it.
  8. Shark by Will Self (published 4/9/2014 by Viking) – More brilliantly disturbing stuff from the man who eats dictionaries for breakfast. If you enjoyed Umbrella then this should be next on your list.

Who have we missed? Loads, probably. Let us know: @StareAtBooks

All images © the respective publishers

August 29, 2014, Posted by Richard in Books

The Best Bookshops in the North

The North. To the uneducated, it conjures up images of Kes, of towers belching black smoke into a gravy-flecked sky, of Geoffrey Boycott using an Eccles cake to make a perfect forward defensive.

But of course this is only 90% accurate.

Have a look at these names: Bennett, Brontë, Barker, Bragg, Browning, Burgess – six legendary writers from the north of England and that’s only the bloody Bs. With such a rich literary heritage, it’s no wonder that there is a veritable smorgasbord of brilliant bookshops in the north that deserve to be shouted about.

So, continuing our trawl around this sceptered isle, here – in no particular order – are our favourite bookshops in the north.


Yorkshire (Tom)

1. Waterstones, Bradford

Despite being the home of such cultural icons as David Hockney, J. B. Priestley and Zayn from One Direction, Bradford is often cruelly overlooked in the hierarchy of great British cities. But one thing you can’t deny is that it has a bloody brilliant Waterstones. Within the grade-I listed Wool Exchange, it’s a beautiful setting for browsing the huge selection of titles. Good coffee too.

Follow Waterstones Bradford on Twitter


2. The Whitby Bookshop

If you’re on a literary pilgrimage to the picturesque coastal Yorkshire town of Whitby, chances are it’s something to do with that Dracula guy.  But once you’ve finished with all that nonsense, make sure you call in and see the amazing books, and staff, at the Whitby Bookshop. Knowledgeable, friendly booksellers who can always recommend something to really sink your teeth into (Bram Stoker is turning in his grave as we speak), they’re a top bunch.

Follow Whitby Bookshop on Twitter


3. The Children’s Bookshop, Lindley

As a young scamp growing up in Yorkshire, you could often find me out walking my whippet, usually to the pork pie shop. On the way, I’d regularly call in to the Children’s Bookshop in Lindley, a lovely town just outside Huddersfield. I rarely use the word ‘charming’, but it really does apply here. Even if you don’t have anyone to buy children’s books for, it’s worth popping in just to be temporarily transported back to your childhood. And if that sounds soppy or dewy-eyed, sue me.


North East (Rich)

4. Barter Books, Alnwick

Sometimes a bookshop isn’t just a bookshop. Sometimes it’s a sanctuary, a home from home. Barter books, located in the old Alnwick railway station (there’s a model train that runs around the place for God’s sake!), is just that. It’s one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Europe and the shelves are packed to the rafters with the weird and wonderful tomes. A place to visit and revel in, and then barter for books. In 2000, the owner was looking through an old box of books bought at auction when they discovered a poster from 1939 with the slogan: ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. A phenomenon was born, and merchandisers have spent fourteen years manipulating a beautiful, poised sentiment into prosaic, tawdry old bollocks. Way to go guys!

Follow Barter Books on Twitter


5. Cogito Books, Hexam

A good example of a bookshop embracing the traditonal and innovative with fantastic results. Situated in the sexy market town of Hexham, Cogito Books are strong on events and embracing local writers, and  their ‘Reading Treat’ gift for book-lovers (where you are sat down with a cuppa and come away with £75-worth of books selected especially for you) is a wonderful touch.

Follow Cogito Books on Twitter


6. Blackwell’s, Newcastle

Primarily frequented by zomie-like students pawing ineffectually at the door with vodka-soaked fingers, knowing that they have to read Paradise Lost in twenty-five minutes before a class, this branch of Blackwell’s is absolutely top notch (and not just for students). Their regularly updated blog is well worth a read.

Follow Blackwell’s Newcastle on Twitter


Manchester and Liverpool (Tom and Rich)

7. Urmston Bookshop 

With some great events, a deliciously well-stocked (and very reasonable) café, and admirable link ups with local schools, Urmston Bookshop is the place to go if you’re ever wandering approximately six miles southwest of Manchester city centre. A ruddy lovely shop.


8. Silverdell Books, Kirkham

Another example of an indie who combines good old-fasioned bookselling with lively events with everyone from Chris Ryan to Benjamin Zephaniah. Oh and they only bloody well sell ice-cream! Go and visit them. We guarantee you’ll leave with a bag of books and a mucky face.

Follow Silverdell Books on Twitter


9. Linghams, Liverpool

Linghams was named independent bookseller of the year in 2013 by The Bookseller, and those guys are never wrong. Poetry evenings, a book club, a packed events calendar, a nice coffee bar AND passionate, knowledgable booksellers all combine to make Linghams a real community hub and somewhere that’s a joy to spend your hard earned dollar.

Follow Linghams Books on Twitter


Are we missing some of the Best Bookshops in the North? Let us know then, for God’s sake: @StareAtBooks