Born OTD in 1868, James Connolly. From Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, to conservative Irish nationalists and the Church, many groups have claimed Connolly as their own, his ideas and strategies used and distorted to justify particular political positions. Kieran Allen breaks this mould, assessing the founder of the Irish Marxist movement ideas from a revolutionary socialist perspective.

Allen considers the strengths and weaknesses of Connolly’s revolutionary strategy, the effect of his commitment to international socialism on his … More

Soren Kierkegaard, one of the most passionate and challenging of modern philosophers, is now celebrated as the father of existentialism – yet his contemporaries described him as a philosopher of the heart. Over about a decade in the 1840s and 1850s, writings poured from his pen analysing love and suffering, courage and anxiety, religious longing and defiance, and forging a new philosophical style rooted in the inward drama of being human. As Christianity seemed to sleepwalk through a changing world, Kierkegaard dazzlingly revealed its spiritual power while exposing the poverty of official religion.

His restless creativity was spurred on by his own failures: his relationship with the young woman whom he promised to … More

Born OTD in 1922, Trinidadian calypsonian, Aldwyn Roberts, AKA Lord Kitchener. He toured Jamaica for six months in 1947-8 with Lord Beginner (Egbert Moore) and Lord Woodbine (Harold Philips) before they took passage on the Empire Windrush to England in 1948. Upon his arrival, Kitchener performed the specially-written song “London Is the Place for Me”.

Combining factual biography with the imaginative structure and investment in the language of the novel, Anthony Joseph fully engages with … More

David Lynch – co-creator of Twin Peaks and writer and director of groundbreaking films such as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive – opens up about a lifetime of extraordinary creativity, the friendships he has made along the way and the struggles he has faced to bring his projects to fruition.

Room to Dream is both an astonishing memoir told in Lynch’s own words and a landmark biography based on hundreds … More

In 1981, Rebecca Solnit rented a studio apartment in San Francisco that would be her home for the next twenty-five years. There, she began to come to terms with the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, and the authority figures that routinely disbelieved her. That violence weighed on her as she faced the task of having a voice in a society that preferred women to shut up or go away. Set in the era of punk, of growing gay pride, of counter culture & West Coast activism, during the latter years of second wave feminism, Recollections of My Non-Existence is the foundational story of an emerging artist struggling against patriarchal violence & scorn.

Recalling the experience of living with fear, which Solnit contends is the normal state of women, she considers how oppression … More

Born OTD in 1933, Eunice Kathleen Waymon, AKA Nina Simone. Simone was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B and gospel. ‘From her raging, handwritten letters to late-night phone calls with David Bowie, this biography gets up close and personal with the tempestuous Nina Simone’

Drawing on glimpses into previously unseen diaries, rare interviews and childhood journals, and with the aid of her daughter, What … More

Edna O’Brien depicts James Joyce as a man hammered by Church, State and family, yet from such adversities he wrote works ‘to bestir the hearts of men and angels’. The journey begins with Joyce the arrogant youth, his lofty courtship of Nora Barnacle, their hectic sexuality, children, wanderings, debt and profligacy, and Joyce’s obsession with the city of Dublin, which he would re-render through his words.

Nor does Edna O’Brien spare us the anger and isolation of Joyce’s later years, when he felt that the world … More

More than eight decades after his death, the works of Franz Kafka continue to intrigue and haunt us. Even for those with only a fleeting acquaintance with his unfinished novels, or his stories, diaries and letters, ‘Kafkaesque’ has become a byword for the menacing, unfathomable absurdity of modern existence. Yet for all the universal significance of his fiction, Kafka’s writing remains inextricably bound up with his life and work in the Czech capital Prague, where he spent every one of his 40 years.

Klaus Wagenbach’s biography provides a meticulously researched insight into the author’s family background, his education and employment, his attitude to … More

Born OTD in 1883, English lawyer, soldier and politician, Clement Attlee. His government’s Keynesian approach to economic management aimed to maintain full employment, a mixed economy and a greatly enlarged system of social services provided by the state. To this end, it undertook the nationalisation of public utilities and major industries, and implemented wide-ranging social reforms, including the passing of the National Insurance Act 1946 and National Assistance Act, the foundation of the National Health Service (1948) and the enlargement of public subsidies for council house building. His government also reformed trade union legislation, working practices and children’s services; it created the National Parks system, passed the New Towns Act 1946 and established the town and country planning system.

Clement Attlee was the Labour prime minister who presided over Britain’s radical postwar government, delivering the end of the Empire … More

Who was the real George Eliot? In Love with George Eliot is a glorious debut novel which tells the compelling story of England’s greatest woman novelist as you’ve never read it before. Marian Evans is a scandalous figure, living in sin with a married man, George Henry Lewes. She has shocked polite society, and women rarely deign to visit her. In secret, though, she has begun writing fiction under the pseudonym George Eliot. As Adam Bede’s fame grows, curiosity rises as to the identity of its mysterious writer. Gradually it becomes apparent that the moral genius Eliot is none other than the disgraced woman living with Lewes.

Now Evans’ tremendous celebrity begins. The world falls in love with her. She is the wise and great writer, sent … More