Christmas is coming! How can we tell? Gingerbread lattes in Costa and Starbucks, reindeer shaped chocolate bars in the shops, mournful cover versions of classic songs accompanying emotionally manipulative adverts, and, of course, an absolute plethora of celebrity (and not so celebrity) autobiographies!
Honestly, I think there are hundreds of them around! Sportsmen and women, pop-stars, politicians, comedians- it seems like every one wants to tell the story of their life! Some people have even written more than one!
Autobiographies have always seemed a little self-indulgent to me. I’ve always felt that perhaps it is a little presumptuous of people to think that their life story is of importance to the strangers that they hope will buy their book.
But they are consistently on the best seller list particularly at this time of year. Strangers do want to read about the childhood of their favourite football player or the impact a bad marriage had on a well-known comedian and so on and so forth.
So what makes a successful autobiography? Why are these tales of how people ended up much richer and much more famous than I would ever want to be so popular?
Looking at the best seller lists, autobiographies tend to be one of the following:
- Popular musicians, TV personalities and actors who have all overcome a difficult childhood (either poverty, a learning difficulty, a body image issue or a difficult family) to be the successful award-winning whatever that they are today.
- Ordinary people who have suffered dreadfully at the hands of an abusive parent/sibling/romantic partner but who have overcome their troubles to become functioning and happy members of society.
- Sports stars/ astronauts/business people who realised reasonably early on that they had some talent in their chosen field and then spent years working their derrieres off, sacrificing social lives, family lives and the chance for love in order to reach the elite level.
- Ex-politicians trying to explain why actually they did a simply marvellous job and/or would have done a marvellous job if it hadn’t have been for that darned democracy
So really I can only draw the conclusion that autobiographies are so popular either because people love reading about how dreadful other people’s lives are or because they love the idea that nothing is impossible. That if these people who appear so successful have overcome the odds, then maybe they can too. That it is possible to beat the disadvantages that seem so insurmountable and to live out the dreams and aspirations that seem so far away.
I think you know which one I hope it is…