Recently I’ve been all about books that tell real stories, albeit often of extraordinary lives. I just haven’t been feeling like reading fiction, for whatever reason. A couple of weeks ago I was in a bookshop when I spotted Kim Gordon’s Memoir Girl In A Band, a book I’d been keen to read, but was putting off buying until the cheaper paperback version came out.
I opened it up – about halfway through the book – and one word on the right hand page jumped out at me. Miranda. I know, right?! I had to buy it. Undoubtedly there is a message for me somewhere in the pages. There has to be. It’s just too weird otherwise. I’m only about a third in so I’m not sure what the message is yet, but I’ll let you know if and when it reveals itself.
While I work my way through Kim’s memories of her life before, during and after Sonic Youth and her relationship with fellow band member Thurston Moore I thought I’d share the autobiographies and biographies I’ve read recently and the ones I’ve enjoyed in the past and think you will too.
The book I read before Girl In A Band Late Fragments Everything I Want To Tell You About This Magnificent Life by Kate Gross made me cry and it will probably make you cry too, but I urge you to read it nonetheless. Kate died on Christmas morning 2014 from cancer at the age of 36. She wrote this book as a gift to her two young sons. Despite the terribly sad reason for it being in existence it’s one of the most life affirming books I’ve ever read. If you know anyone suffering from cancer and, sadly most of us will at some point in our lives, it will help you understand a little bit of what they’re going through and it will motivate you to make the most of every second of your life.
I was lucky enough to hear Diane Von Furstenberg speak at an event in New York when I was working for CosmoGIRL! back in 2004. She was everything you would hope for, elegant, obviously (dressed in a DVF wrap dress, of course), eloquent and inspiring. I downloaded The Woman I Wanted To Be the day it was released and it is just like the woman herself, in book form. From her childhood in Brussels, to life as a jet set princess, her battle with cancer and building a global brand she shares it all with remarkable honesty.
Just Kids by Patti Smith is a beautifully written memoir of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and brings to life New York in the sixties and seventies a time I’m happy to admit I’m obsessed with. I can’t write a round up of my favourite memoirs without including Life by Keith Richards. That he can remember any of it is extraordinary but thank goodness he can, this is a great read. Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington, the creative director of American Vogue and the scene-stealing star of The September Issue, is fascinating, even if you have only the slightest interest in fashion. I’ve written about Wild by Cheryl Strayed on RMS before (here if you missed it) but I have to give it another mention. It was the book I needed to read, at a particular time in my life.
I would also recommend you read Faithfull by Marianne Faithfull with David Dalton and John Peel’s Margrave Of The Marshes. Two very different lives, both in music, told in their own very distinctive voices.
Over to you. Which autobiographies, biographies and memoirs would you recommend? Any strange coincidences happened to you recently?! As always, do leave a comment below.