British Celebrity Memoirs to Read This Winter

In case I’ve never mentioned it, I work at a public library. That’s why in some of the pieces I write for Telly Visions I suggest borrowing DVDs from the library when on-line streaming is not an option. At my job when patrons stump my co-workers with a movie or TV series request, I’m often called upon to step in and solve the mystery.  It’s a role I enjoy and I spend a lot of time and effort building up my knowledge to share with others.

But wait, you say. Isn’t a library about books? Indeed it is and all the employees on our staff are expected to read widely in order to help people find an enjoyable or informative book to read. Therefore when I find the time, I’m sure you can hazard a guess at what I read. You‘ve got it, British authors. I’ve just finished the most recent Ian McEwan novel, The Children Act, and I have several more on my bedside table waiting for my attention including one entitled Us by David Nicholls, the author of books such as Starter for Ten and One Day, both of which have been adapted for the big screen.

However, at this point, I must admit my favorite combination is a book written by a British celebrity. It can be a memoir about hitting bottom and finding a home like Craig Ferguson’s American on Purpose or the humorous life lessons of Miranda Hart’s Is It Just Me?

Whenever I see a British actor or comedian announcing a book signing on Twitter, I immediately go to the library’s catalog to see if I can get my hands on the newest star-studded literary offering. Sadly, there are many times my search is unsuccessful. The celebrity has to be famous enough in the US for it to be worth releasing here. Case in point, when James Corden released his autobiography May I Have Your Attention, Please? in 2012, I asked our collection resources librarian if she could order this book for our system. She placed a request to purchase and after a few months informed me it fell through even though the title was available on Amazon. I’m curious to see if once Corden’s latest film Into the Woods is released at Christmas and he begins his run on the Late, Late Show in January, his story might have grown a bigger readership.

Here are a number of memoirs and celebrity musings by British personalities that have been published this fall. If you check with your local library you’re likely to find them there and here are some of the reasons why.

Alan Cumming. Scottish actor Alan Cumming is familiar to American audiences for his many Hollywood roles including Eli Gold on The Good Wife, Nightcrawler in X-Men 2 and of course his hosting duties with Masterpiece Mystery. He’s also been a frequent fixture on Broadway particularly in his Tony-winning role as the emcee in Cabaret.

Cumming’s latest project, however, is the true story of his harrowing journey of childhood abuse at the hands of his dad and learning at the age of 45 that the man who made his young life so miserable was not his biological father. Not My Father’s Son is a story of family secrets and self-discovery told with unflinching honesty. 

Not My Father's Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming

I’m currently reading this book and am finding it quite a page turner. Cumming moves from past to present and back again with ease and there’s a wealth of family photos to accompany the events he describes.

John Cleese. It’s hard to believe that legendary comedian John Cleese has never written an autobiography before especially considering his colleague Michael Palin has published two novels, three sets of diaries and numerous travel books, but that’s another post all its own.  But I digress. At 75 Cleese has finally taken the time to sit down and write about his life from childhood to his comedy beginnings at Cambridge to his ascent to comedy royalty with the Pythons and beyond. 

Eddie Izzard talks to John Cleese about his school days and when he discovered comedy

I’m on a wait list for this title on CD since when it comes to comedy specifically I like to hear the author read their own anecdotes. I can guess how they might deliver it, but it’s better to hear it from the master himself.

Russell Brand. You may not like or even understand him but you must admit he does have a lot to say. A columnist for The Guardian newspaper for years, Brand has two compilations of articles from said paper on the topics of his greatest love, football (particularly the West Ham team) and his grasp of popular culture. He’s also written two memoirs, My Booky Wook Volumes One and Two, that chronicle his drug addiction, rise to fame and the hedonistic life that accompanied it all.

But if you’ve seen Brand on TV recently, you know he is talking less about himself and more about how society and our political systems are broken. He’s taking on the media pundits confusing them with his fast-talking, almost poetic rap.  So if you want to hear more than sound bites and three minute interviews, you might want to read his  newest tome called Revolution. In it he offers an alternative vision for a more equitable and inclusive society.

'Revolution' Exclusive First Reading (By Me)

Whether or not you agree with his politics or lack thereof, you have to give him credit – Brand has an impressive vocabulary and a distinctive way with words.

Judi Dench. A professional actress for 57 years now, Dame Judi Dench remains a hardworking artist who still strives to perfect her craft. Doubtless, she has many stories to share from her life on stage and in front of the camera. Her first memoir And Furthermore was published in 2012 and this November a follow-up volume was released entitled, Behind the Scenes.

In it Dench recounts her most recent work – playing M in the James Bond films, appearing  with an amazing ensemble cast in the fan favorite Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies and her triumphant portrayal of Philomena Lee in last year’s Oscar nominated film, Philomena. This personal book includes photos, many from Dench’s personal archives, that illustrate the reminisces of her work and life off-screen.


I have this one in my library queue as well since, as a fan of Dame Judi, (and who isn’t) I can imagine her stories will be filled with humor, class and humility.

Stephen Fry. Finally, I come to the British luminary I admire probably more than any other, Mr. Stephen Fry. Everything he does from acting to documentary and panel show presenting to tweeting is done with wit, thoughtfulness and intelligence.

This year, Fry released the third installment of his intriguing life story appropriately called More Fool Me. Unfortunately, it will not be available in the US until the spring. For those of you who haven’t read the first two collections, Moab Is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles, this delay gives you a chance to catch up before the upcoming chapter hits library and virtual store shelves.

Stephen Fry introduces More Fool Me

If your library doesn’t offer these titles or if you’re looking for a gift for your favorite Anglophile, all the books above can be ordered (or pre-ordered) on Amazon. Most of them are available in Kindle eBook format as well. Also if you’ve read a notably memorable British memoir, please share it with us in the comments section below.

Happy reading!