My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen review – sex, self-loathing and growing up in the limelight

No detail is deemed too personal in the singer’s affecting account of her rise to fame and being constantly under scrutiny

Anyone familiar with Lily Allen’s songs will know all about her capacity for bluntness. In 2009’s “Not Fair” she grumbled about rubbish sex and being left lying in the wet patch, while in “As Long As I Got You”, an ode to new love, she sang: “Staying in with you is better than sticking things up my nose.” So it’s not surprising to find that her first memoir has a tendency towards oversharing. In recalling her childhood, her rise to fame and her travails as a pop star, daughter, wife and mother, no detail is deemed too personal.

In the introduction, Allen, 33, says she’s too young to write her entire life story; instead she’s interested in “the things in my life that changed events, upended things, upset the cart”. Her father, ...

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs –growing up as Steve Jobs’s daughter

The Apple founder’s daughter has the last word in a memoir detailing years of neglect and controlling behaviour

When Lisa Brennan-Jobs, eldest child of the late Steve Jobs, was three years old, her parents went to court over her father’s refusal to pay child support. Jobs denied paternity, and declared in a deposition that he was sterile. After a DNA test showed they were in fact father and daughter, he agreed to pay her mother, Chrisann Brennan, $500 a month. A few days later, Apple became a public company and Jobs’s net worth shot up overnight to $200m.

Relating this tale in her memoir, Brennan-Jobs doesn’t berate or make excuses for her father. As the founder of NeXT and co-founder of Apple, Jobs enjoyed enormous power in his working life. At home, he exerted power by withholding things: money, conversation, affection. Nowadays his behaviour would be seen as abusive, ...

Pops by Michael Chabon review – what parenthood asks of a man

The prolific and prizewinning novelist reflects on the pram in the hall, what children can teach fathers and a trip to Paris men’s fashion week

A year before he published his first novel, Michael Chabon met a famous author at a literary party. This man, who was twice Chabon’s age, offered him some unsolicited advice. “Don’t have children,” he said. “That’s it. Do not. That is the whole of the law.” He went on to explain how, after one book, there would be a second that would inevitably be more difficult and unwieldy than the first, and would probably bomb. A third would nonetheless be expected, followed by a fourth, fifth and sixth, and so on for as long as his “stubbornness and luck held out”. All this would happen, he said, unless Chabon made the same fatal mistake as so many fledgling writers before him. “You can write ...

Lost Connections by Johann Hari review – too many drugs, not enough understanding

Part personal odyssey and part investigation, this rigorous if flawed study finds fault with contemporary treatment of depression and anxiety

When Johann Hari was 18 he took his first antidepressant. That morning he had visited a doctor and explained how, ever since he was small, he had battled with feelings of overwhelming sadness. When he wasn’t taking himself off to cry quietly, an anxious monologue would be running in his head. “Get over it,” it would say, “stop being so weak.” The doctor was reassuring, explaining that these feelings were to be expected since Hari was one of many people whose brain had depleted levels of serotonin. And so he prescribed some pills that would restore the balance. As Hari swallowed his first tablet, he says, “it felt like a chemical kiss”.

It wasn’t until he was in his 30s that he thought of all the questions the doctor didn’t ...

How Not to Be a Boy by Robert Webb review – the gender conditioning of men

This is less a manifesto by the actor and comedian than a highly personal story of not fitting in and a crisis in early adulthood. It is also funny

The actor and comedian Robert Webb is seven years old when the penny drops about boys and their feelings. He is in his final year at infant school and is known for being quiet. “I wish they were all like you, Robert,” say the mums at birthday parties as the boys run noisily amok, while his mother tells his teachers, “He’s just a bit shy.” At the local golf club where his granddad works as a kitchen steward, Webb finds a bee on the gravel courtyard and, observing its laboured attempts at crawling, realises it is close to death. Rain is on its way so he builds a small circle of tiny stones around it for protection and, with tears ...

How Not to Be a Boy by Robert Webb review – the gender conditioning of men

This is less a manifesto by the actor and comedian than a highly personal story of not fitting in and a crisis in early adulthood. It is also funny

The actor and comedian Robert Webb is seven years old when the penny drops about boys and their feelings. He is in his final year at infant school and is known for being quiet. “I wish they were all like you, Robert,” say the mums at birthday parties as the boys run noisily amok, while his mother tells his teachers, “He’s just a bit shy.” At the local golf club where his granddad works as a kitchen steward, Webb finds a bee on the gravel courtyard and, observing its laboured attempts at crawling, realises it is close to death. Rain is on its way so he builds a small circle of tiny stones around it for protection and, with tears ...

Theft By Finding by David Sedaris review – diaries to make you gasp

The humorist’s material includes drug addiction, crazy jobs, his eccentric family and homophobic abuse – but much is achingly funny In his introduction to the first instalment of his diaries, the humorist David Sedaris outlines the difference between the diary a person imagines they will keep, in which they rail against political and social injustice, and the one in which they find themselves “questioning fondue or describing those ferrets you couldn’t afford”. The latter is more entertaining, of course, and, in keeping with the waspish tone of his essays, it’s these types of reflection that make up the first volume. Aside from the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, which he watches in Paris on TV with one hand on the remote and the other on the phone, political events rarely figure, with Sedaris preferring to record unusual or surprising things that he has seen, overheard, or that people have ...

Nevertheless: A Memoir by Alec Baldwin review – charm, candour and egotism

The actor and comedian has been through a tough childhood, a messy breakup and an overdose – and he has axes to grindIn the preface to his memoir, the actor Alec Baldwin levels with the reader. “I’m not actually writing this book to discuss my work, my opinions or my life,” he says. “I’m not writing it to explain some of the painful situations I’ve either landed in or thrown myself into. I’m writing it because I was paid to write it.” This, says Baldwin, is his “mercenary force” at work, something that has guided his decisions since childhood, when he was forced to take on adult responsibilities. At the age of 12 he realised that if he wanted money, he’d have to make it himself, and so he took jobs washing cars and mowing lawns. A chunk of his earnings went to his mother, who would be found crying at the ...

Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti review – elder stateswoman of the avant garde

A performance artist and member of the band Throbbing Gristle, Tutti has spent decades breaking down barriers. This is a fascinating, unfussy memoir It’s taken half a lifetime for Cosey Fanni Tutti to be recognised for her achievements in art, performance and music. Over the years rejection has come from all quarters: from her father, who threw her out of the house in her teens and later cut off all contact; from the police, who drove her out of her home town of Hull and, in London, repeatedly investigated her for indecency (charges were never brought); and, most startlingly, from Genesis P-Orridge, her former lover and fellow member of the art collective COUM Transmissions and the band Throbbing Gristle, who sought to marginalise her. Art Sex Music isn’t merely a memoir, then; it’s a chance for Tutti to clear up the misconceptions about her career and reclaim her own ...

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher review – fame, sex and Harrison Ford

Fisher recently unearthed the diaries she wrote as a 19-year-old playing Princess Leia. They were the inspiration for a memoir that crackles with one-linersBefore being cast as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Carrie Fisher thought she knew about fame. Her mother is Debbie Reynolds, star of various MGM musicals, while her father was the crooner Eddie Fisher, who caused a sensation when he left Reynolds and their young children to marry Elizabeth Taylor. But the fame that Fisher knew as a child of celebrity parents was, she later discovered, “associative fame. Byproduct fame. Fame as the salad to some other, slightly more filling main dish.” When she became famous in her own right, she was completely unprepared. “What is happening?” she would ask herself. “How did we get here? Where is here? How long will it last? What is it? Do I deserve it? What ...

Anxiety for Beginners by Eleanor Morgan and Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon – review

Acute anxiety can begin suddenly, affect anyone, and ruin lives. These memoirs, by two journalists, describe a process of unravelling that is shocking in its ferocity The journalist Eleanor Morgan was 17 when she had her first panic attack. She was in the middle of double biology at school, learning about mitochondria. Suddenly, the blackboard went blurry, her head started to prickle, her hands went numb and her bowels began to bubble alarmingly. “Within seconds I was convinced I was about to detonate there on my wooden stool,” she notes in Anxiety for Beginners. “Crack down the middle, skull to pelvis, like an egg. It was a feeling with no reference point or memory to attach to it and came with the speed of a bullet train.” Continue reading...

Lemmy: The Definitive Biography by Mick Wall review – sex, speed and cigarettes

A life of the Motörhead frontman shows us a man who kept up the habits of a rock’n’roll reprobate till the very endWhen news arrived in December that Lemmy, the frontman of the hard-rock band Motörhead, had died, there was naturally great sadness at the passing of a music legend. But, among the scores of eulogies, there was also surprise that he had lasted so long. The man born Ian Kilminster didn’t go in for healthy living. It was rare to find Lemmy – the name allegedly came from his habit of asking people to “lend me a fiver” – without a Jack Daniel’s in one hand and a Marlboro Red in the other. Following his early, demented adventures with LSD, speed became his drug of choice and remained so for next three decades. He wrote a song about it – 1977’s “White Line Fever”. Continue reading...