I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I have this thing for autobiographies/memoirs. Mostly of famous people, though sometimes not. I once spent a summer going through the music biography section of my library, picking up whoever looked interesting.
I’m not entirely sure why I gravitate towards those kinds of books, mostly because the idea of “famous people” is one I find confusing. A person in a local theater production is an actor, and so is the guy on my TV, but because the guy on my TV is seen by more people, I should buy his book?
Nah. This is why I get most of these things from the library. They’re generally short, contain quick entertaining stories, and more often than not have giant print so you think you’re getting an actual 300 page book when really it’s more like 100.
I enjoy them, for the most part, but right after I’m done reading them they sort of fall out of my brain. But there are a few that have stuck with me over the years.
So, if you ever find yourself in a mood to read about famous/semi-famous people, here are some books to consider:
Meatloaf: To Hell and Back: Not a brilliant book, but he’s clearly honed his favorite stories to a fine point, and he lays them out randomly, but entertainingly.
Tom Green: Hollywood Causes Cancer: I never watched a lot of his show, and his movie was pretty awful but after reading his book I at least knew why. (He was trying to imitate Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, which even the Python guys think is pretty dang flawed.) Green writes with honesty, a little anger, and not a lot of ego.
Frank Zappa: The Real Frank Zappa Book: Part biography, part political screed, and one of those things your read and think, “This guy is the smartest man alive, or completely bonkers.” Most interesting, he laid out how iTunes would work in about 1988. Before the Internet actually became a thing. I just reread it and its’ scary how right-on he was.
Michael Ian Black: You’re Doing it Wrong: It’s rare you see something this strangely honest. To the point where one of the chapters of his book was called, “I Hate My Baby.” Dark. But fun dark.
David Sedaris: Me Talk Pretty One Day: Get the audiobook, if you can. And listen to Jesus Shaves, wherein a bunch of people speaking bad French attempt to explain Easter to each other. “One may eat of the chocolate. One may also eat of the ham.”
Mankind/Mick Foley: Have a Nice Day. Mick Foley is a weird little dude. He portrayed a complete freak on WWE wrestling. He did things like wrestle in a ring strung with barbed wire. Not fake barbed wire. The real stuff. And then he wrote this book, which is massive and surprisingly entertaining. Then he went on to write three more books about his wrestling days, plus two novels and some children’s books. None of them are as good as the first one.
Paul Reiser: Couplehood, Babyhood, Familyhood: Paul Reiser has, over the years, evolved from this nice guy who everyone kind of likes to something like of a punchline, and I kind of see both sides of the equation. On one hand, he created Mad About You, which captured some aspects of marriage and relationships so well that it was really kind of freaky. On the other hand, he starred on a TV show for five years, wrote two books mostly taken from his standup material, and then stopped working for about a decade, just because he could. This is the kind of thing that wins you no fans, which is why, I’m guessing, that his new TV series vanished without a trace. Still, the books are solid examinations of relationships and parenting.
Robert Rodriguez: Rebel Without a Crew: Any time someone tells me they want to make a movie, but don’t know where to start, I tell them to read this. $7000, and the guy came out with El Mariachi and a career. Great stuff. Even people I know who don’t want to make movies tend to fall in love with the book, then go out and do something cool.
William Goldman: Adventures in the Screen Trade/Which Lie Did I Tell? If you want to know how movies don’t get made? Read these books. They’ll tell you.