Whether you are looking for a literary Christmas gift or simply wanting to lose yourself in the life of another, there is no shortage of inspiring and intriguing biographies to pore over. For those looking to revisit the plight of the suffragettes or delve into the turbulent and creative life of Patti Smith,
IBTimes UK has selected the ten biographies that should be at the top of your Christmas list.
The tale of how Margaret Thatcher took on everyone in sight and won Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume Two: Everything She Wants by Charles Moore (Allen Lane)
Thatcher is the key to understanding today's Britain. Volume One of Moore's biography demonstrated how a strict and frugal childhood created the unbending leader.
Volume Two tells the tale of how she took on all-comers and won: the Labour party, coal miners, the Soviet Union – nobody stood a chance. But when she turned on her most loyal ministers, the end beckoned.
Steve Coogan gives the low-down on his enormous family and Alan Partridge Easily Distracted, by Steve Coogan (Century)
This is the star of the showbiz bios. Coogan offers an engaging memoir, ably assisted by ghostwriter Amy Raphael.
The highlight is an account of a childhood spent in a massive Catholic family, made more massive still by the host of foster-kids his parents took in.Perhaps less startling are the revelations of the worrying personality overlap between Coogan and his protégé Alan Partridge.
Patti Smith's elegant account of her peripatetic life and all her loves M Train, by Patti Smith (Bloomsbury)
In the brilliant
Just Kids, Smith wrote about her early career and her relationship with cult photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. M Train is a worthy follow-up, chronicling the life she leads now.
Smith starts and ends in Greenwich Village, and takes in trips to London, Berlin and Mexico City. She offers elegant, often lyrical, prose and is always acute and insightful.
The tragedy of the later Orson Welles and his magnificent swansongs Orson Welles, Volume 3: One-Man Band, by Simon Callow (Cape)
In this lavish extended scrutiny of the greatest film director ever Callow covers Welles' later years. These saw several triumphs including the noir masterpiece Touch of Evil and the Shakespearean spin-off Chimes at Midnight – the latter nowadays often rated as Welles' finest film after Citizen Kane.
Throughout, Callow teases out the tragic pessimism at the heart of Welles' creative chaos.
Never mind Ted Hughes' poetry: dishing the dirt is more satisfying Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life by, Jonathan Bate (William Collins)
Bate was set to write the authorised bio of Hughes, but when the poet's estate withdrew consent he continued, regardless, to produce this more racy volume.
Hughes' first wife, Sylvia Plath, committed suicide and he had countless affairs. Hughes' poetic reputation is mixed – in truth, Plath was the genius – but Bate gives chapter and verse on a bard of outstanding licentiousness.
All of the pain and torment that lies behind Eliot's Wasteland Young Eliot: From St Louis to The Waste Land, by Robert Crawford (Cape)
Crawford charts the life of the supreme modernist poet up to the publication of his most famous work. Previously, the Eliot estate blocked biographers' researches, but that has changed with his widow Valerie's death.
The result is a rounded picture of TS Eliot's formative years and the ways in which his work was informed by the pain of his private life, notably his disastrous first marriage.
The conman father who inspired John Le Carré to create Smiley John Le Carré: the biography, by Adam Sisman (Bloomsbury)
For his bestselling thrillers Le Carré drew on his experiences in MI5 and MI6. But another inspiration was his conman father Ronnie, whose scams included pretending to start up an airline and to build a whole town in Canada. He even impersonated his long-suffering son to perpetrate frauds.
Alongside the colourful life of Smiley's creator, Sisman tells all about the dodgiest of dads.
The monumental debauchery and treachery of Guy Burgess laid bare Guy Burgess: Stalin's Englishman, by Andrew Lownie (Hodder & Stoughton)
Few spies were as exotic as Burgess, one of the most notorious traitors of the 20th century. Blessed with an exceptional intellect and a product of Eton and Cambridge, his life featured staggering excesses of duplicity and debauchery.
It is said that many senior establishment figures breathed long sighs of relief when he fled to Moscow, taking their darkest secrets with him.
Of a multimillionairess suffragette and her exotic and eccentric life Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, by Anita Anand (Bloomsbury)
Sophia Singh was a most unlikely suffragette, as the daughter of the fabulously wealthy Maharaja of the Punjab. She nursed wounded troops during the First World War, but soon became involved in female emancipation, joining protests and refusing to pay her taxes and fines.
Anand also covers other eccentric family members, including Sophia's grandiose sister Bamba, the self-styled "Queen of Punjab".