Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness

This is a book that I challenge you not to read in the Jonathan’s dulcet tones – in fact, he even makes reference to the fact that, as a reader, you may be doing exactly that.

Anyway, down to business: book two of ‘Non-fiction November’ is ‘Over The Top’ from another star of my beloved ‘Queer Eye’. Jonathan Van Ness is responsible for grooming on the show (just in case you have never seen it – which, of course you have). However, he does not make his tale about ‘Queer Eye’. I mean, do not get me wrong, it gets a mention, but it is not the full focus of the book. This is a bit of a warts-and-all telling of the journey Jonathan Van Ness has been on to become who he is today.

This not a book for the faint-hearted, as Jonathan is honest about the demons and struggles he has had in his life. However, it is told, at times, with humour and always with strong emotion. This is not a sob story, but it will allow you to build even nore respect for Jonathan.

An interesting point was that Jonathan presents meeting Karamo very much as Tan did in his book. And the way that they talk about their time on the show suggests they are really the team that we see on the screen – which makes me happy!

I feel that putting this book together was an important step for Jonathan Van Ness on his journey, and I am so glad that he has put pen to paper, because it will be a story to help others.

Naturally Tan by Tan France

I love Netflix’s ‘Queer Eye’ – my dream would be to hang out with the Fab 5! But, as that it is all it is – a dream – I will have to read books from the boys instead!

So, I have started that journey with Tan France and his autobiography, ‘Naturally Tan’. I loved every single second of this book and if I had to take a break from the book I could not wait to get back to it.

This is an insprirational read as Tan so openly shares his experiences about growing up in the North of England: the horrible experiences of racism, but also the confidence that he had in who he was (even if that was not the person culture dictated to him). However, he did exactly what he wanted to do, found his place, found his husband and has been on quite a journey finding his place in the Fab 5. Although, the first impressions he had of the boys is quite a revelation. Thank goodness those impression changed – and Antoni is defintely good looking – haha!

Throughout, Tan also offers fashion advice (of course he does); my favourite is the fact that the perfect jeans don’t exist. (This is an important lesson after 35 years). Although, the most important is the fact that confidence and what makes you feel confident will always present the best you to the world.

Tan France has certainly come across as an inspiration. Someone who values love, values the success he has achieved and the friends he has made.

So…be more Tan!

The Choice by Edith Eger

I have just returned from Krakow, Poland. The purpose of this visit was to visit Auschwitz and educate young people on the past, present and future of the Jewish community of Europe. After all as the quote from George Santayna states, ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

One of the greatest ways for us to understand the tragic events of the Holocaust is from the testimonies and memories of those who sadly had to experience them. One such survivor was Edith Eger, and has put pen to paper to bring us a true story of hope in her work ‘The Choice’.

I knew nothing about this book until a friend had read it and passed it on to me, as she wanted a History teacher’s view of it. And she could not have timed it better to coincide with my trip to Poland.

Oh my – what a book – what a life. I am so glad that Edith Eger felt she could tell her story as part of her attempt to release herself from her past.

Edith became a prisoner of Auschwitz when her family was sent there along with thousands of Hungarian Jews. She talks about her experiences in the camp – even her encounter with Doctor Mengele. However, this is not the sole focus of the book; this is about the choices she consciously makes to survive. And these choices are made by Edith every day, from the moment she was taken to the camp right up to now.

Edith Eger comes across as an extremely strong woman who did not want her past to define her, but to allow her to become the woman she is today. Now, she helps others to make the choices they need to, for them to become the best versions of themselves. Edith does not want others to make the mistakes that were made in the past.

This book is one that is almost impossible to put down, as you follow Edith Eger through her life story. It certainly made me consider the choices I make a little more carefully as, ultimately, we are the only people in control of our future and we do not have to rely on others or events beyond our control to take over.

This book is an inspiration and certainly made me look at my trip to Krakow a little differently to those trips I had made before.

Everything I know about Love by Dolly Alderton

This book is an autobiography for the modern age, and I could almost end my blog post there, but clearly that would not be enough.

I knew nothing about this book when I started it. I simply found it as a little half-price bargain and happened to pick up a copy.

When I started I was not sure I would enjoy it. I can not put my finger on what in those opening pages did not completely grip me. However, once I got right into the book, I was hooked. Dolly Alderton is simply telling an ordinary tale of a girl finding herself. A true coming-of-age tale. Alderton does not try to dress anything up – she’s honest, almost brutally, about the journey she has taken in life. She tells tales that will make you laugh (Rod Stewart), she recounts events that will make you cry (Florence), but most importantly she makes you reflect on your on journey to thirty (wherever you may be on that journey).

Dolly Alderton has a natural writing style (I know I said a the start of the book I was not sure) once you fall into it. The chapters where she parodies those emails that so many of us will have had about ‘Hen Dos’, ‘Weddings’ and ‘Baby Showers’ that are just a little bit ‘extra’ had me laughing like a hyena on my daily commute.

However, I think the most important lesson in this book is the realisation that the most important thing we need to know about love is to love ourselves. It is certainly the most important lesson that Dolly Alderton herself appears to learn.

Spectacles – A Memoir by Sue Perkins

A good memoir is one you can relate to. Where you read some of the tales and they trigger some of your own memories. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not expect to have the life of a celebrity or a historical figure, but when they talk about the real world you realise that everyone’s paths are not so different.

Sue Perkins is probably most recently recognisable for hosting the real ‘Great British Bake Off’ (oooh yes I went there), and her memoir is just as real as she appears on TV. I was laughing from page one and reading snippets out to my poor holiday companion Miss W (who has read the book, so probably didn’t need to hear it at 10 o’clock at night). I could hear Sue’s voice telling the every tale and there was a really natural flow to the words. And, again, the tales told were honest and relateable. One anecdote about Granny Smith really struck a chord with me – reminding me of my very own family.

However, Sue Perkins does not shy away from the darker side of life and some struggles, but it is all told so naturally and with no sugar coating, and no over-dramatic adjectives, that you simply quietly empathise and have a little think.

Another reason I found reading this a joy is that this is the same copy read by ‘Hayley From Home‘ and ‘Adventures with One of Each‘, as we love to pass books along. So, thank you Sue for bringing us joy on TV (often with Mel) and sharing that little bit more with us too.

Poirot and Me by David Suchet

As you may have realised, I am a fan of Agatha Christie’s work and, in turn, a fan of the TV adaptation with David Suchet in the role of Poirot. This book seemed it would be a perfect read to offer a little insight into the work of Suchet as the iconic Belgian detective , which spanned 25 years and included all of the Poirot stories being brought to the small screen.

The book starts incredibly emotionally at the end, with Poirot’s final case, ‘Curtain’, and led me to shed a few tears. Suchet writes about Poirot with such love and affection that you are immediately drawn in and almost forget that he is in fact a fictional character. We are then taken back to the beginning of Suchet and Poirot’s story and taken on their journey.

David Suchet explains the process he went through to create the Poirot he believes would do Christie’s work justice. How he stood up for the man he created to ensure that Poirot remained ‘real’. Each story is described as it was made, with anecdotes about those many actors who starred alongside Suchet to bring us these wonderful stories. The dynamics between Poirot and Hastings, as well as Inspector Japp and Miss Lemon, is always spoken of with great affection and is something that I always think is clear when you watch the episodes. Although, I feel that I was always as disappointed as Suchet when these three were not in the stories – but I guess it is always best to try to be loyal to original works.

David Suchet does not restrict his tales to Poirot; he also offers insight into other parts of his work during the Poirot years. In fact, the story about a Duke and a mango was one of my favourites – especially as it made its way into a Poirot.

This book was a lovely insight into the world of one of our best-loved actors playing one of our most-loved fictional characters. It has certainly filled me with a desire to rewatch all the Poirot episodes. This is so much more than the memoir of Suchet – it is the memoir of Poirot!

How Not To Be A Boy by Robert Webb

This has been on the trusty ‘to be read’ pile since the January sales, so thought I had better pick it up and give it a go (little did I know I made that decision the same week it came out in paperback). I am pleased I finally did pick this book up; it is really quite a good read.

This is not a simple memoir or autobiography by Robert Webb but really quite an examination of what truly makes us who we are – well what made Robert Webb who he is. There is a wonderful honesty throughout this book about his life and those that surrounded him. However, there is a great deal of affection in the writing too. I found it a very emotional read from start to finish, but it does not lack the humour you would expect from a book by Robert Webb. You follow the story of Webb as he struggles to really find his place in the world (although he has some dreams) – what should and shouldn’t he do as a boy from Lincolnshire? What is his place, really? How much do we allow others and society to define us?

Overall, this book is incredibly thought provoking as Webb does tackle the complex issue of gender in society and, however much we think we may be fighting against those roles that time has defined for men and women, do we actually, blindly, still fall into them? It has really made me reflect on how I view being female, especially as I sometimes consider myself not to follow all the stereotypes (although I actually probably do).

If you fancy more than a memoir and something that challenges ‘normal’ then this is the book for you. (Also, there are some amazing quotes used at the start of every chapter – including one from RuPaul!)

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

Like so many, I am a huge Gilmore Girls fan, so when I spotted that Lauren Graham – aka Lorelai Gilmore – had written a memoir, I had to give it a go. I managed to find a copy in The Works at a bit of a bargain price, so I had to grab a copy.

I will be honest: other than that iconic show for so many and a couple of film roles, I did not know an awful lot about Lauren Graham so I was looking forward to finding out a little bit more about her. You do have to take a moment to get your head around the writing style as never has a title been so apt for a book; she is certainly talking as fast as she can (which appears to be something that has come from working on the Gilmore Girls, as there are some epic speeches in most episodes).

This is clearly an honest reflection on the journey that she had on becoming a star, the ups and downs that come with such a career, however, she does seem to take most experiences for their positives and rarely seems defeated. She speaks with such fondness about stars she admires, such as Carrie Fisher and Betty White, and their successful careers. Of course, she acknowledges the chances that the Gilmore Girls gave her and what a great cast she worked with during this show, originally and for ‘A Year in the Life’.

Once you start this, you are hooked. It is like reading words from a friend; you will laugh and you will cry sometimes at the most unexpected moment, but it does give you some faith that not all things Hollywood have a dark side.

Fan of the Gilmore Girls or not, I think that we could all take something away from this memoir – even if it is just to be a bit more positive about the paths our lives take, because there is always a silver lining!