Remember that whole “books on tape” trend? Where guys would buy Tony Robbins’ latest, or some other motivational speaker—some “you can do anything you set your mind to” guru—and pop the CD into the jeep’s dash and listen intently to the prose read aloud by—gasp!—many times the author himself?
Or James Earl Jones. See: That was never necessary. Guys have always been able to find the guts they’re looking for, the motivation they so desperately need at a given time, in the pages of a book; but the memoir is where to do it.
Check these biographies out.
1. The Dirt: This no-holds-barred tell-all involving every member of the rock band Mötley Crüe, written by Neil Strauss, is probably the best autobiography to ever grace a bookstore shelf. It certainly is as far as the music genre is concerned. (Strauss also wrote the best-seller The Game, which every red-blooded American male should read). You don’t even have to love the music the Crüe made, although it definitely does help. The way these four rock and roll misfits found each other, and the brink of disaster they each sat upon just before doing so (never mind many more times throughout the band’s storied history), is simply awe-inspiring. They are as candid as ever, and each get the opportunity to tell their version of a certain story thanks to the way Strauss structured the book. While the accounts occasionally vary, they come off more as brothers than enemies, and the book aptly illustrates that a singular goal, shared by four very different people, is not only attainable, but it can also be inevitable.
2. Steve Jobs: It ain’t a love letter, that’s for sure. This unabashed biography on the late innovator/media mogul/businessman was written during his final days, and Jobs encouraged everyone approached by author Walter Isaacson to speak with unflinching honesty. They did. Jobs—a notorious control freak—asked for none of the contents of the book, save for the cover. The book, originally to be called iSteve, was released 19 days after his death, and Jobs comes off fascinating, focused and bold. His flaws are ably illustrated, and while that resonates and can be relatable to many readers, they pale in comparison to his abilities as far as drive, fearlessness and bombast are concerned. It was eventually made into a feature film starring Michael Fassbender. Yeah, that’s right: Magneto, Assassin’s Creed. That Michael Fassbender.
3. King of the World: This book on the late, great Muhammed Ali is one of the better ones, if not the best. Just like he was one of our better boxers, if not the best. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Remnick acknowledges the athletes who preceded “The Greatest”—from Babe Ruth to Joe Louis to Jo DiMaggio—but uses them as springboards to tell the tale of how young Cassis Clay changed the world of sports with style and approach, and may have even changed the world while doing so. Described as a “heavyweight Fred Astaire” and “a rapper before rap was born,” it is difficult to put the book down, let alone walk away from it uninspired. It’s the story of one man’s rise and self-creation. And every man should at least know it.
4. American Rebel: Biographer extraordinaire Marc Eliot has made a living writing about the greatest actors of the past, well, 100 years, really. He’s done books about Cary Grant, John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, all the way up through Michael Douglas and Jack Nicholson. But the rebel in question here isn’t the one who “flew over the cuckoo nest;” it’s Clint Eastwood. Eastwood—from his TV days to his “spaghetti western” ones to Dirty Harry and, ultimately, a revered force in the director chair—fought convention every step of the way. With brief yet successful forays into politics, this is the story of a man who not only didn’t take no for an answer, but that no was oftentimes gasoline that filled the tank of Hollywood’s resident Oscar-winning Gran Torino.
5. The Kid Stays in the Picture: Probably the most recognizable title on this list, the Robert Evans’ autobiography is everything one is supposed to be: self-indulgent, self-congratulatory and salacious. But, seriously, how could it not be? Evans lived a tried-and-true rags-to-riches story, from pants salesman to running Paramount pictures. His rise and fall is the stuff of legend, both cautionary tale and motivational speech all wrapped up in one.
6. Empire State of Mind: This “Street Corner to Corner Office” bio about Jay-Z, as told to scribe Zack O’Malley Greenburg, functions as both an entertaining memoir and a business book. Filled with anecdotes about street life—including some moments when Z’s father taught him extraordinarily important survival lessons—it shows how Z applied hustling techniques to the music business and eventually built his empire. He went from music to fashion to sports, and he dominated each field. What’s more: He always applied the same principles, a key lesson to glean here. As he so often puts it: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!”