Posts Tagged ‘autobiography’

Year of Yes

Saturday, February 20th, 2016 | Books

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person is a 2015 book by Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes is the creator Grey’s Anatomy and a number of other very successful TV shows. In the book she talks about how she made 2014 the year in which she would say yes to everything.

What does that mean in practice? A number of different things. Challenging her fears for one thing. She started doing TV show interviews and accepting public speaking engagements. She said yes to her family and started making time for her kids when she ‘should’ have been working. And not feeling guilty when she didn’t.

The book is a first-person autobiography of the changes she made and how it changed her life.

Did I learn anything? Probably not. However, maybe that was the point. We all know that we should look after ourselves and spend more time with the people we love, rather than being in the office. Maybe the message is “if the woman who owns Thursday nights can do it, so can you.”


iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon

Monday, June 8th, 2015 | Books

iWoz, autobiography of Steve Wozniack, has a very long subtitle: “How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It”. It’s also quite a bold statement for someone as reserved as Woz.

The first half of the book looks at his childhood and college days. His dad was at the forefront of the transistors game and was a firm believer in science, which no doubt gave Woz an excellent start in life. When he says he knew more about chip design than anyone else in the world, it’s not arrogance, it’s probably true.

He is an unashamed geek. He talks about his quest to get the best phone number he can – we wanted all the digits to be the same. I read this wondering “is this really important? Is this something you want to devote so much of your book to?”

Apparently it is, as it was packed with details like this. Apple only gets mentioned in the second half, and it’s pretty brief.

It also gets quite technical at many points. Chances are they if you are reading the Great and Powerful Woz’s biography, you are in the computer game, so that probably makes sense, but some of it I struggled to follow so a non-technical person would be lost.

My favourite anecdote from the book was when he talked about confusion between his number and the airline Pan Am’s. He started taking bookings for them (he would eventually tell the customer he was joking). He tried to see what they would agree to – multiple stops, travelling in cargo, 36 hour flights. The surprise is that most people agreed to all of this if it would get the price down! No wonder budget airlines have boomed, consumers will put up with a lot to save some cash.


How I Escaped My Certain Fate

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 | Books

I was recommended this book, and by recommend I mean that somebody asked me if I had read it and I decided to change the answer from “no” to “yes”. However, I did not really know what it was about and the description of the book was pretty vague.

“The bestselling book by acclaimed stand-up comedian Stewart Lee revealing the inside workings of his award-winning act.”

There is no gentle introduction either, you are left thinking “what is this?” Lee just jumps straight in to an essay describing his early career and the rise of Alternative Comedy. Not that it is not interesting, I just did not really know what was going on.

Eventually it settles down to a mixture of describing his career and transcripts from his sets, which he has extensively annotated. So extensively that at times you feel the book is almost entirely written in footnotes. Which is good because otherwise I am just paying to read the jokes that I have already paid to see on DVD.

Comedy is clearly a small world. I lost count of the number of household stars that Lee discusses having being on the same bill as, or run into, or been bitter about playing the same club as to then see them rise to arenas. Ricky Gervais in particular, whose style regularly gets confused with Lee’s. This is completely unjust as it was Gervais that was inspired by Lee, and anyway, Lee is fairly open about the fact that he ripped his style of Johnny Vegas.

The book covers three of his sets in detail – Stand-Up Comedian, 90s Comedian and 41st Best Comedian Ever. It was enjoyable to re-read the transcripts for two of them. However, I have not seen 90s Comedian, and so without knowing the timing and intonation, most of the humour is lost. With the other two, you can replay Lee’s voice though the text as you read (or at least you can if you have seen the sets as many times as I have) and thereby preserve the humour.


Grinding It Out

Saturday, April 5th, 2014 | Books

Ray Kroc is founder of McDonald’s Corporation. I found out he had written an autobiography, entitled Grinding it out: the making of McDonald’s, when I was listening to one of Mark Knopfler’s songs. “Boom, Like That” was obviously about McDonald’s, so I did a little reading up on it and sure enough, it was inspired by Kroc’s story, this book being cited.

The book itself is short and simple. At under 200 pages it only took me a week to get through it without much perseverance. In some ways this was a little disappointing as the book never really goes into much detail. You do not feel like you are gleaming so many secrets to success as you might feel you were if you were reading Duncan Bannatyne’s or James Khan’s autobiographies. But there is valuable content in there and given the length, comes at an easy price. Kroc did always place an emphasis on value as well as quality after all.

It has somewhat dated. It was written in 1977, Kroc having died in 1984, and the ages shows. He finishes up by talking about how he now has 4,000 restaurants and is dreaming of 5,000, maybe even 10,000. McDonald’s now has over 34,000 restaurants worldwide. Similarly, at the time it only had 21 restaurants outside of the United States, now I would be very surprised if the majority are not elsewhere in the world. Not that this detracts from the reading much.

The real take-away message from the book though is that Kroc only founded McDonald’s when he was 55! Too often we hear about the success of irritating people like Sebastian Vettel who is now a four-times Formula One world champion, despite being younger than me. I haven’t even won one yet. Kroc however, spent his whole life grinding out a living, and it was only after many would consider you are past your prime (especially in 1954) that he built a multi-billion dollar business empire in less than two decades. It is comforting to know that there is a possibility, however slim, that I could spend the next 30 years of my life messing around and still have the chance to make it big.


I, Partridge audiobook

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 | Books

Back in May I read I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan. It was well worth a read and so James recommended I listen to the audiobook as well.

I was good, but not amazing. Steve Coogan did a good job of providing the Partridge voice for so many hours (though his normally voice is very similar anyway) but I would have liked it to be even more annoying. It’s not quite the emotionally-charged whining that I remember from the TV show.


I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 | Books

Given that we saw Alan’s book, Bouncing Back, get pulped due to low sales, it would seem somewhat ironic that his recent book, “I, Partridge” doesn’t seem to be doing too well either – originally priced at £20, I picked my copy up for £3.99. Admittedly, that was on Kindle, but the book shop round the corner has the hardback for £6.

I don’t know why. This is one of the best books I have read recently. I couldn’t put it down – having purchased it one Sunday morning I had read from start to finish by the end of the day.

Presenting a vivid depiction of Alan’s life, often weaving in and out of the TV show, the book reads like you’re in conversation with him – and it works brilliantly. Not to mention his description of a fleeing Dave Clifton probably being the funniest simile you will ever read.

Ironically, as I only started reading it because Elina was keeping me awake by playing Scrabble on her laptop. But ten minutes after she had started playing the site went down for maintenance, so needless to say, I had the last laugh.

I, Partridge book cover