“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Andy Warhol might (or might not) have said that in 1968, but the publishing industry has always known it. In the world of arts and letters, the “celebrity biography” often takes a seat at the kids’ table, and not always undeservedly. Much of the genre consists of ghost-written, tell-all “brand extenders,” dishing dirt (and moving units) before the clock tolls on a certain quarter-hour notoriety. Yet there are good ones out there, too — moving, sometimes thrilling accounts of remarkable lives, told directly by those who have lived them. Let’s be honest, though — a little dirt doesn’t hurt.
Recently, a few of the Amazon Books editors sat down to discuss some of their favorites, starting with personal the journals of the king of Pop Art himself. See the books below, or hear our conversation on the Amazon Book Review Podcast.
Beginning in 1977, Warhol called his friend Pack Hackett every day to dictate the events of his very public and unusual life. The Andy Warhol Diaries is a monument to pop culture, a collection of more than 20 years of hobnobbing and high society, where no detail is too picayune to share and no name is too small to drop. Always a trend-setter, Warhol might have presaged our era of over-sharing and celebrity by association.
From Gidget to The Flying Nun, Norma Rae, and even The Cannonball Run, Sally Field has enjoyed an award-winning career on the big and small screens. But her “girl next door” charm masked the depth and difficulties of her private life, including a troubled childhood, professional challenges, and complicated, often fraught relationships with her mother and high-profile romantic partners. In Pieces could have been just another Hollywood tell-all, and instead is an honest, open, and refreshing account of an extraordinary life and talent.
Though Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, Volume One preceded it by six years, Keith Richards’s Life not only created a still-breaking wave of rock star autobiographies, it set a high standard for them. Here is a memoir that lives up to its lofty title — note that it’s not My Life — through more than 600 pages of music history and sometimes salacious detail viewed through a tack-sharp lens. Many readers were surprised, given the guitarist’s well-deserved reputation for, shall we say, indulgence. But Richards is a survivor and, as it turns out, a great storyteller.
To many, Trevor Noah was a bit of an unknown when he assumed Jon Stewart’s chair at The Daily Show. That’s a perfect opportunity to publish an autobiography, but Born a Crime is not necessarily the book you’d expect from the host of a comedy show. The son of a black mother and a white father, Noah’s existence was literally a crime in South Africa, and his stories about growing up under late-stage apartheid are often shocking and harrowing. Heavy stuff, for sure, but Noah’s leavens his memories with wisdom, insight, and — yes — humor.
Hynde makes one point abundantly clear: She, and no one else, could have been Chrissie Hynde. It’s hard to imagine how anyone else could so consistently find oneself time and again in the eye of the cultural storm: In just over 300 pages, Reckless charges through her life with, ahem, reckless abandon, taking us from her blue-collar northern Ohio upbringing through the demise of the first, combustible incarnation of her iconic band, The Pretenders. Hynde’s tell-all is as audacious, raw, and unapologetic as her music.
We’ve become accustomed to the larger-than-life personalities — and sometimes outrageous behavior — of “celebrity chefs,” but there might not be any such thing without Marco Pierre White. Once the youngest chef to receive three Michelin stars, he’s the only one to give them back — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce?) where his “rock star” credentials are concerned. The Devil in the Kitchen lives up to the sex, pain, and madness of its subtitle. In some ways, this is the book we might have expected Keith Richards to write.
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This article was originally published on Amazon Charts on February 20, 2019