Twelve of the best biographies for those looking to expand their horizons this Christmas.

Biographies show us the best and worst of humanity. They give us experiences outside of our own and let us see the world through someone else’s eyes. Perspective is important, but more than that, it’s entertaining, it teaches and it affirms. Stepping into the shoes of Barack Obama or Mary McAleese this winter could light the spark of leadership in you, or Martina Cox and Sinéad Burke could inspire you to overcome all the odds and adversity against you. We’ve picked out voices that inspire and rally, that tell the truth and stand up to injustice for your shopping lists this Christmas, and they’re exactly the boost we all need right now.

'A Promised Land' by Barack Obama (Penguin)

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from a young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his presidency - a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, the first African American to hold the nation's highest office.

‘A Promised Land’ is extraordinarily intimate and introspective-the story of one man's bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage.

‘How to Be a Champion’ by Sarah Millican (Hachette)

Part autobiography, part self-help, part confession, part celebration of being a common-or-garden woman, Sarah Millican’s debut book delves into her super normal life with daft stories, funny tales and proper advice on how to get past life’s blips – like being good at school but not good at friends, the excitement of IBS and how to blossom post-divorce.

If you’ve ever worn glasses at the age of six, been contacted by an old school bully, lived in your childhood bedroom in your thirties, been gloriously dumped in a Frankie and Benny’s, cried so much you felt great, worn leggings two days in a row even though they smelt of wee from a distance, then this is YOUR BOOK. Hilariously relatable and witty, this is a must for any bookshelf this Christmas.

‘A Guarded Life: My Story of the Dark Side of An Garda Siochána’ by Majella Moynihan with Aoife Kelleher (Hachette)

A garda, a forced adoption, a fight for justice…

In 1984, 22-year-old Majella Moynihan was a fresh-faced garda recruit when she gave birth to a baby. Charged with breaching An Garda Síochana's disciplinary rules - having premarital sex with another guard - she was pressured to give up her baby for adoption, or face dismissal. It was an experience that would have devastating impacts on her life.

In her memoir, Majella tells her story: from an institutional childhood after she lost her mother as a baby, to realising her vocation of becoming a guard, only to confront the reality of a police culture steeped in misogyny and prejudice.

But up until now, her full story has never been told…

‘Beyond the Tape: The Life and Many Deaths of a State Pathologist’ by Dr Marie Cassidy (Hachette)

Dr Marie Cassidy became Ireland's State Pathologist from 2004 until 2018, her image synonymous with breaking news of high-profile cases - a trusted figure in turbulent times.

Here, with the scalpel-like precision and calm authority of her trade, Marie shares her remarkable personal journey from working-class Scotland into the world of forensic pathology, describing in candid detail the intricate processes central to solving modern crime.

Her name became synonymous with murder and tragedy. In over thirty years of practice she has performed thousands of postmortems and dealt with hundreds of murders. This unputdownable read is the perfect choice for the crime documentary fanatics in your life.

‘Break the Mould’ by Sinéad Burke and illustrated by Natalie Byrne (Wren and Rook)

'There are so many people in this world - 7.53 billion to be exact. But there is only one of me and one of you. It's easy to think we are not good enough, or that our nose is too big, or wish we could be more like our friends....'

Sinéad Burke is an advocate, activist, teacher, and a British Vogue Contributing Editor. She also happens to be a little person at three and a half feet tall. Sinéad offers a heartfelt and inspiring guide to young readers on believing in themselves and finding comfort and pride in their own skin. From the power of being different and discovering self-love, to inspiring children to use their voices to be an ally and show friendship to others, Sinéad helps readers break the mould and find their place in the world.

‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ by Florence Given (Octopus Publishing Group)

‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ is an accessible entry point into progressive feminist discussion, covering topics such as body image, toxic beauty standards, and identity-building in a world still plagued by misogyny and sexism.

Florence's debut book will explore all progressive corners of the feminist conversation; from insecurity projection and refusing to find comfort in other women's flaws, to deciding whether to date or dump them, all the way through to unpacking the male gaze and how it shapes our identity.

This book is for people at all stages of their journey who are seeking to reshape and transform the way they view themselves. In a world that tells women we're either not enough or too much, it's time we stop directing our anger and insecurities onto ourselves, and start fighting back to re-shape the toxic structures of our patriarchal society.

‘Unqualified Love and Relationship Advice from a Celebrity Who Just Wants to Help’ by Anna Faris (Dutton Books)

Anna Faris has advice for you.

And it's great advice, because she's been through it all, and she wants to tell you what she's learned. After surviving an awkward childhood, navigating dating and marriage in Hollywood, and building a podcast around romantic advice, Anna has plenty of lessons to share: Advocate for yourself. Know that there are wonderful people out there and that a great relationship is possible. And, finally, don't date magicians.

Part memoir-including stories about being "the short girl" in elementary school, finding and keeping female friends, and dealing with the pressures of the entertainment industry and parenthood, along with unflinching advice from her hit podcast the book will reveal Anna's unique take on how to master the bizarre, chaotic, and ultimately rewarding world of love.

‘With Hope in Your Heart’ By Martina Cox (Gill)

Life as we know it can change in an instant, in the blink of an eye.

 And it did for Martina Cox and her family in 2018.

On an ordinary day in April of that year, Seán Cox travelled to Anfield to watch his beloved Liverpool play. But he never made it to the match. A vicious, unprovoked attack left him with a severe brain injury, unable to walk or talk. Here, Martina tells their remarkable story. of inner strength, determination, dedication and commitment.

With the help of their family, community, the Liverpool spirit and tens of thousands of people across the world who were touched by Seán’s story, they have achieved what was thought to be impossible. At its heart, this is a love story – the kind of love that conquers all.

‘Rory’s Story (My unexpected journey to self-belief)’ by Rory O’Connor (Gill)

Nobody thought Rory O'Connor would make it - written off as 'thick' at school he struggled to find a career he felt he could succeed in. When a hot tip led to a win on the horses it was the beginning of a dangerous spiral into a gambling addiction that gnawed away at his self-esteem even further.

How did the man who thought he had nothing to live for go on to become a stand-up comedian selling out venues around Ireland and reaching 800,000 people through his social media platforms? This is Rory's Story.

‘Here's the Story: A Memoir’ by Mary McAleese (Penguin)

When a young Mary McAleese told a priest that she planned to become a lawyer, the priest dismissed the idea: she knew no one in the law, and she was female.

The reality of what she went on to achieve - despite obstacles like the sectarian attack that forced her family to flee their home - is even more improbable.

In this luminous memoir, Mary McAleese traces that astonishing arc: from the tight streets of north Belfast, to a professorship in Dublin while still in her twenties, behind-the-scenes work on the peace process, and two triumphant terms as President of Ireland. She writes of prime ministers, popes and royalty with the same easy candour and intimacy with which she describes her childhood.

Here's the Story is an extraordinarily intimate memoir by one of the most remarkable public figures of our time.

‘True Colours’ by Barry Geraghty with Niall Kelly (Gill)

From his first win in 1997 to when he retired in July 2020, Barry Geraghty, Irish horseracing legend, rode almost 2,000 winners, making him the fourth most accomplished rider of all time. With more wins at Cheltenham than any other jockey, he has worked with all the greats - Moscow Flyer, Kicking King, Monty's Pass.

But Barry is covered in scars. He has broken all his limbs, his shoulders, his ribs and his nose. He has survived falls too numerous to recall and spent most of 2019 with a metal cast on his leg. And yet, he kept getting back on the horse.

This book is about resilience; the mental power that enables the great to keep going despite the odds and a must-read for all sporting fans.

‘The Switch’ by Amanda Byram (Gill)

At 47, Amanda Byram is in the shape of her life, both mentally and physically, but for over two decades she was trapped in a cycle of yo-yo dieting and self-criticism, convinced that unless she was 'perfect' she wouldn't be happy or worthy. By the time she reached her 40th birthday, she was mentally and physically exhausted ... something had to change.

The Switch is a distillation of all the simple and life-changing techniques, tips and tricks she used to get herself off the 'perfection treadmill' once and for all.

Switch to a balanced lifestyle where food, fitness, family, friends and self-care are all in sync and discover the happiest and healthiest version of yourself - a life-changing guide for a lean and serene future!

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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