MixedThe Washington PostFascinatingly (and occasionally maddeningly) discursive memoir of the lightning-rod U2 frontman ... Celebrity do-gooders will and should be greeted with skepticism, but it’s tough to name another who has so successfully advanced from thrilling but largely ineffectual public condemnations of social ills to doing the tedious, unsexy, year-over-year, administration-over-administration work of building relationships with people who hold the levers of power ... Self-deprecating ... That’s not what most readers will be here for. Nor will they expect, or find, much...debauchery in the remembrances of a guy who’s been in a band with the same three dudes for 45 years and married to his high school sweetheart for 40; both relationships he reflects upon with candor and humility ... More introspective than salacious or score-settling ... A lot of it is also familiar, the author having shared many of its anecdotes — the same phrases, even — in concert introductions to songs ... Beginning with an account of a critical heart operation Bono underwent in 2016, the book bobs and weaves among subjects and eras, guided by thematic links more than by temporal signposts. The dexterity with which Bono pivots from the mysteries of songwriting to dissertations...is variable ... Bono knows his way around a joke, and he is well aware of his unfortunate habit of turning an earnest discussion of almost any subject that isn’t music into a TED Talk. That doesn’t mean he can always stop himself from doing it or that he even tries. It does mean the book is a representational self-portrait, not an aspirational one.
Jann S. Wenner
MixedThe Washington PostWenner might just as accurately have called his doorstop of a book \'I Am Very Rich, and All My Friends Are Extremely Famous\' ... That Wenner demonstrated great vision when he created, at age 21, a publication that treated rock and politics as subjects equally deserving of serious examination is undeniable. So is his eye for talent. His book is at its most thrilling when Wenner recalls discovering and/or significantly boosting Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Annie Leibovitz, Mark Seliger, William Greider, Greil Marcus and other writers and photographers whose work in Rolling Stone made their careers ... Wenner’s prose is...impatient, alighting in spurts of two or three hundred words before leaping ahead to some unrelated subject ... Wenner may have meant to write an ink-stained history of a hugely important publication, but what he’s ended up with is an account of the largely frictionless life that extravagant wealth enables, and the obliviousness it breeds ... So many of Wenner’s subjects cry out for more reflection than he is inclined to grant them ... For all the things Wenner saw, it seems he didn’t witness much.
RaveWashington Post\"This hopscotching in time enriches the characters but costs the book in pacing and tension, traditionally Mann strengths. Mann’s 170-minute film races toward its inevitable-but-satisfying climax like a bullet. Mann and Gardiner’s 470-page novel ambles along in fits and starts, intermittently picking up narrative steam only to let it dissipate. It’s frustrating ... What’s more damaging is the arbitrary character-as-device that Mann and Gardiner use to bridge the 1988 and 2000 segments—a sociopathic home invader and sex offender named Otis Wardell, who crosses swords with both McCauley and Vincent Hanna...Wardell is a frightening, if indistinct character, but his role hinges wholly on coincidence spanning a dozen years and half a continent ... That Heat is plotted as tightly as a Swiss watch makes the shapelessness of this follow-up all the harder to forgive. And the writing, alternately terse and florid, isn’t elegant enough to disguise the sloppy storytelling. Mann’s cinema may be poetry, but his prose is … well, prosaic.\
RaveWashington PostThe most comprehensive look yet into the franchise’s crowning achievement ... A candid, sometimes contradictory, always compelling examination of the most unlikely big-budget cinematic triumph since Titanic ... Assembled from more than 130 interviews with “Fury Road’s” makers and notable admirers, Buchanan’s book is a chronicle of near-miraculous creative, diplomatic and financial perseverance on the part of co-writer/producer/director George Miller ... Buchanan’s vivid account of the project reads like an auteur filmmaker’s version of the Book of Job ... Buchanan’s book will give even Fury Road’s most ardent admirers new reasons to celebrate Miller & Co.’s singular achievement.
J. Michael Straczynski
PositiveThe Washington Post... grandly titled but harrowing ... The book leavens the episodic structure of most autobiographies by threading a family mystery through Straczynski’s account of his horrific upbringing and his escape into superheroes and science fiction ... If this \'What Would Kal-El Do?\' philosophy occasionally makes our narrator come off as self-righteous, let us just be glad that he chose to emulate a virtuous (if imaginary) outsider instead of the violent and cruel adults who populated his most impressionable years ... Straczynski revisits his eclectic resume in breezy, conversational prose ... Straczynski dishes more freely about his TV years than his film career. His accounts of quitting staff jobs when his bosses demanded changes that offended his sense of integrity make for juicy reading. He’s candid, where he can be, about the hazards — other than executive interference — that can mar a creative endeavor ... Part Hollywood how-to, part Frank McCourt-style reflection on emotional neglect and poverty, Becoming Superman is an enveloping look back at a unique career.
PanThe Washington PostThere’s nothing especially timely about the dutiful-but-not-colorful new Grant biography Bring It on Home, nor much that Zeppelin die-hards are likely to find revelatory ... the tepid epiphany that Grant developed a conscience once he got clean and got old simply isn’t enough of a reward for most readers to invest 300 pages into an account of his life. In his prologue, Blake declares Grant’s story \'a celebration, a cautionary tale, and a compelling human drama — far stranger than any fiction.\' But the book he’s written is neither celebratory nor cautionary nor strange enough to support such an extravagant claim.
RaveThe Washington Post\"In a book that’s structured like a double LP — 19 \'tracks,\' or chapters, apportioned over four \'sides,\' Hyden dissects the traditions and punctures the myths of rock fandom (and rock criticism) with a specificity that can only be called love. He’s like a kinder, married-with-children version of Rob, the record-shop proprietor who narrates Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Or rather, Rob wishes he’d grown up to be Steven Hyden ... The crumbling of the monoculture means that you probably won’t ever have to squint to make out any of these artists from the other side of a football stadium, but that’s a good thing. Hyden’s warm and witty scholarship is, too.\
PositiveThe Dallas Morning News...a thorough, compelling survey of a transitional genre that burned briefly but brightly in the U.K. in the latter 1950s ... As good a writer as Bragg is, some imagination on the part of the reader is still necessary to conjure a time and place wherein a genre of music performed on a guitar, a 'tea chest bass,' and a washboard could be deemed so rhythmic and suggestive that it threatened public decency and order.
PositiveThe Washington Post[a] fluent, frequently hilarious, ultimately persuasive attempt to wring enlightenment from old Rolling Stone interviews, unauthorized biographies and video music awards clips. What compensates for his planned obsolescence is his deep knowledge of music and music-journalism history. He’s as entertaining on Eric Clapton vs. Jimi Hendrix as he is on Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West ... Hyden’s book chucks chronology and embraces digression and is all the stronger for it. He’s no less authoritative (or fun) when riffing on the feuds that predated his own lifetime than he is when surveying the ones he lived through as an actual high schooler ... Even before the heartbreaking news of Prince’s sudden death, Hyden’s chapter examining his competition with Michael Jackson in the mid-1980s stood out as among the book’s most nimble and heartfelt ... his impulse to interrogate the preferences we declare so stridently, coupled with the wisdom of 25 years of obsessing about music, is what makes Hyden a critic worth reading.