May Books 8) Who on Earth is Tom Baker? An Autobiography
Four years ago I listened to an abridged audio version of this book, read by the man himself; now I've finally read the whole thing, fourteen years after frenziedly speed-skimming a newly published copy in an Oxford bookshop without actually buying it. It is quite an extraordinary and painful book, by a man who doesn't much like himself and, to his continuing amazement, found in his early 40s that everyone suddenly liked him. Baker confesses many tales of personal betrayal, of lovers, colleagues, relatives, and himself; he is rather fascinated by his own awfulness as a human being, and he achieves the difficult task of communicating his fascination to the reader, because he is also very funny. The book (deliberately, I think) doesn't do justice to himself; I was struck, having read this just after listening to Big Finish's April podcasts, which feature a long interview with him divided into several sections, by the fact that most of the anecdotes he shared this year with Nicholas Briggs were very different from the stories spun for his readers in 1997. I also take a wild guess, judging from hints dropped in interviews, that he has actually had some serious and effective psychotherapy; no mention of that in the book, which itself may have been a cathartic experience to write, but also perhaps writing about healing and acceptance might have spoiled the story.
If you are looking for insider information on Doctor Who, this book doesn't give you much - perhaps 30 pages out of 270, and the show's history has been better chronicled elsewhere (including in the DVD commentaries to which Tom Baker has contributed). But if you are interested in reading a peculiar personality study, written by its own subject, this is one of the more memorable ones out there.