Book Reviews: Autobiographies & Biographies

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Catch Me If You Can by Frank AbagnaleBook Cover of Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale

Read by Natalie 2003

Natalie recommends this as really amazing!

This is the story of Frank Abagnale, aka Frank Williams aka Robert Conrad aka Frank Adams aka Ringo Monjo. Frank was a conman, forger, impostor and escape artist who managed to pull off some of the most amazing criminal acts in history. This included wearing a pilot's uniform and co-piloting a Pan-Am jet, donning a lab coat to act as a member of hospital management, practicing law without a licence, passing himself off as a University sociology professor and cashing over $2.5 million worth of forged cheques! And this was all before he was 21. Known by police around the world and all over America, the law finally caught up with him and he was imprisoned in a hellish jail in France. He has now cleaned up his act and is recognised as a leading authority on financial fraud, having lectured everyone from the Department of Justice, American Institute of Banking and leading executive companies. He even founded his own anti-fraud company! This is an amazing read and at times it's hard to believe it could be true. The book has also be turned into a movie starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks, which is also entertaining, it even features a cameo from Frank himself!

Abagnale also has a website for his company Abagnale and Associates to document his work with the US Government and particularly with the FBI Academy over the last 35 years - it makes interesting reading.

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The Pianist by Wladyslaw SzpilmanBook Cover of The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman

Read by Natalie 2003

Natalie recommends this as an amazing first-hand account of a Jewish prisoner during WWII

I actually saw the movie version of this book first. This was an incredibly moving story that went on to win the Cannes Film Festival Palme Dor, a BAFTA and three Academy Awards. I then went and read the book, which was equally amazing and moving. Szpilman tells his story frankly, never with anger or frustration, just acceptance of this happening to him. He was an up and coming pianist right before the Nazi invasion of Warsaw. He managed to escape being sent to Auschwitz where most of his family perished and instead remained trapped in Warsaw, first when it was a ghetto and then when it was all but deserted. He fought to stay alive, often going long periods without food or water and nearly starving to death or dying of disease. His final survival at the end is a miracle, as he is almost gunned down by Russian soldiers when they see him wearing a German coat just to stay warm. The book also features extracts from a German soldier who was instrumental in saving his life. I actually became friends with a Polish woman who knew Szpilman and she told me what a fantastic man and pianist he was. He was full of humour, despite everything he had gone through and never once harboured resentment for it, sitting down to write his story straight after the war. It is an amazing story of survival and human nature.

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