This book reminds me a lot of the Beatles Anthology in that the sizes are quite similar (if not identical) and the concept is exactly the same, the four voices of the band telling their story in chronological order. In U2’s case, the fifth voice of manager Paul McGinnis is appropriately added since he has been a vital member of the band almost from the start. Another difference is that the U2 book is, to me, a more compelling read. Perhaps I was just SO well-versed in the Beatles story that when their Anthology came out there was little that I didn’t know but I have found the U2 book hard to put down. (The Beatles Anthology was actually more than just a book – it was also a video series and a set of albums. The book was the last of the three to be released which may have also blunted its impact. It should be noted that I’ve watched the video series on television, on VHS and on DVD multiple times and listened to the CDs countless times so this is not meant to be critical the Beatles stuff even a little bit. It’s just an obvious point of comparison.)
I actually started reading U2 by U2 by dipping into it at random places and reading a page or two. I had some other things I needed to read and didn’t let myself really commit to reading it yet. But then I got hooked somewhere around the writing and recording of War and just kept going. When I finished I went back to the beginning to read what I missed. Then, when I got to the point that I had already read I just kept going again. Now I’m nearly finished for a second time. I haven’t done that with any book in recent memory.
Part of it is that I’m still reading it in five or ten minute snatches and that sort of reading fits this book well but I also am compelled by the way they tell their story, by the insights I’ve gotten into albums that are among my all-time favorites and also by the pictures which are sometimes really cool.
If you’re a U2 fan this book is an absolute must. It is one of my three must-read U2 books, the others being Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas and U2 at the end of the World by Bill Flanagan. (There are, of course, many books analyzing their music, especially from a Christian perspective which I think are valuable as well. My favorites are Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2 by Steve Stockman and Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog by Raewynne J. Whiteley and Beth Maynard.)
If you still have time to add something to your Christmas list U2 by U2 would be a great addition.