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John Lennon: The Life

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  7,696 ratings  ·  410 reviews
For more than a quarter century, biographer Philip Norman's internationally bestselling Shout! has been unchallenged as the definitive biography of the Beatles. Now, at last, Norman turns his formidable talent to the Beatle for whom being a Beatle was never enough. Drawing on previously untapped sources, and with unprecedented access to all the major characters, Norman pre ...more
Hardcover, 851 pages
Published October 28th 2008 by Ecco
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4.16  · 
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 ·  7,696 ratings  ·  410 reviews

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Ana O
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was born on the same day (October 9th) as John Lennon. Sadly, I am not musically talented. Oh, the injustice.

 photo john lennon_zpsml062qvu.jpg
Leo .
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Love is the only way. John Lennon knew. Pride In The Name Of Love. Martin Luther King knew. Love is the only way...Gandhi knew. All these great men knew. Like Jesus in the Christian Bible. Love is the only way. Not violence, greed, profit, usury, hate, fear, war, rape, vanity, greed, sloth, wrath...

All knew that it is Love that is the only way. All paid with their lives. All assassinated. Just like countless others. So Love is the real meaning of Truth it would seem. Telling the Truth gets one k
Oct 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
"In September 2003, I suggested to John's widow, Yoko Ono, that I should become his biographer," writes Philip Norman in the Acknowledgements section of John Lennon: The Life. However, after reading the final manuscript, "Yoko Ono was upset by the book," Norman tells us, "and would not endorse it . . . [saying] I had been 'mean to John.'"

I actually don't think Yoko's got anything to worry about; Norman's book is both clear-eyed and appropriately sympathetic as it traces the arc of Lennon's all-t
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
What I learned:

John Lennon's parents were terrible.

He needed therapy.

A lot of drugs were involved, but never, remarkably, during a recording session.

John really was a genius.

Yoko Ono is not an artist.

Writhing around in a bag is not art.

Screaming like you're in labor isn't music.

I really feel bad for Julian.
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Highly
Don't panic. I'm not going to give you a long (boring) review. I'm not very good at that. But I will say I just finished reading all 822 pages of JOHN LENNON - THE LIFE. I think it's an excellent book. Well written and very detailed. With all my respect and love for Yoko Ono, who withdrew her support for the book because she felt it was "mean to John". I must say I don't find the book "mean to John" at all. Mr. Norman is quite kind in my opinion. The 'sex with his mum stuff that Mr. Norman tells ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This long, in-depth biography was engrossing, although for me there were sometimes more details than I wanted. It began with John's grandparents, his entire family, the culture he grew up in. It explains the emotional traumas he carried all his life and how his attitudes developed. The culture and current events of the time throughout John's life are told as background and explanation.

I enjoyed learning what the inspiration for certain songs were and what they represented.

John was a very troubl
Troy Blackford
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly thorough and well-researched look at the entire stretch of John Lennon's furiously artistic and much-too-short life. The man's frustrations, interests, facility with language, playfulness, and distressing mood swings are documented in the full, and the story will leave you feeling his loss even more keenly than before. The insights I gained here will stick with me for life. A truly balanced and remarkable work. For anybody with more than a passing interest in the man.
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wonderful...glad I finished it....I was engrossed.....having a love of the Beatles, and of John motivated me to finish this book. A bit long.....but it goes into all the complexities of John's life,and the man certainly lived quite a life...A lot to tell....I enjoyed it. If you are a fan....this is a must read for you.....
Jarrett Dobson
Dec 26, 2012 rated it liked it
I am a massive admirer of the work of John Lennon. So I sought after a biography, with this one promptly displayed. The massive size(800+ pages) appealed to me. Little did I know what I was in for...

First of, the reason for the three stars. It IS immersive and very readable. I found the later chapters to almost redeem the earlier issues, and the handling of his assassination to be truly heart-breaking, especially the well thought of call back that closes the final chapter.

That being said, this i
Aaron Badgley
Jan 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People who dislike Lennon and like fiction.
Recommended to Aaron by: An enemy.
Oh not another hatchet job on John, yes folks, it is. I should Have Know Better. Nothing new to report in this book. Same stories we have heard and read before. I was hoping for more. I did not like this book for several reasons.
Sep 15, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: John Lennon fanatics only
Recommended to Kristina by: Jack W.
I've given up on this book. I'm 200 pages in and I'm still getting minute details of Lennon's life with his band that is almost the Beatles, but not quite. This book is really only for psycho crazed John Lennon fans who must know EVERYTHING about him. I'm only a casual fan and I don't want to know what books he read as a child and that he liked to circle jerk. Norman (and/or his assistant) researched the hell out of Lennon's life and I'm getting an almost day-by-day blow of his activities. I eve ...more
Valerity (Val)
A very big heavy bio book on Lennon that I learned a lot from. It made me remember the book written by May Pang I'd read long ago about the time they'd spent apart from Yoko out in LA recording, and the affair they had. I really enjoyed the book, but I like biographies about famous people like Lennon, and the kind of life they live(d) behind the scenes.

I still remember when Lennon was shot, how sad and pointless it was. A beautiful voice silenced forever.
Lorrie Kim
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Almost two months after I read it, the brilliance of this biography stayed with me and I thought about something from its contents daily. Philip Norman, who first dazzled me in the early 1980s with his "Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation," has achieved a depth and greatness with this work that sets a benchmark for all biography, in my opinion.

The first thing that transported me was, as always, the quality of the writing. Norman uses a wider vocabulary than most writers, and almost never fall
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book. I thought I would have to stop reading it so I would have time to start & finish the book I'm supposed to be reading for book club, but I found myself going back to this one each time. It was very disturbing at times & I know celebrities are very different from who they (and the media) portray themselves to be to the public, but it was still disappointing to read some of the things he did or how some of his darker personality traits manifested themselves. To be fai ...more
I've been an audiobooks listener for more than 20 years and this is by far the worst abridgement I've ever heard. First of all, there is no reason why any book should be recorded abridged. Still, I have listened to several that were (when there was no other choice) and there was always an attempt to make it cohesive. No such effort was made by Harper Audio on this one. Entire chapters were simply skipped. I first noticed when a casual referance was made about "ever since John's uncle George died ...more
Carol Storm
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Definitive Lennon biography -- but would have liked more about the Hamburg scene, more about the early Beatles and the complexity of John's creative relationship with Paul McCartney.
Paul Lyons
Jun 25, 2012 rated it liked it
The life of John Lennon is indeed a complicated one, and certainly a challenge to any would-be biographer. Philip Norman's approach is simple, and straight forward...though I did find myself frustrated at times by his verbiage...and use of run-on sentences. I can't say I loved the writing, per se...and the book was no page-turner (which I am ashamed to admit, the Geoffrey Giuliano was)...yet you can't deny Philip Norman's intelligence, extensive research, and access to key players throughout Joh ...more
Michael P. Fertig
Apr 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you're a Beatle fan, you must read this book. If you're not a Beatle fan, you must read this book. If you have aspirations in music, art, politics, domestic homelife, or anything grandiose or banal, you must read this book.

It's easily the most comprehensive story of Lennon's life, and if you're like am, you'll find yourself fighting back tears at certain points in the story. Knowing how the story ends made it difficult, at times, to carry on reading. Learning of how optimistic John was of th
Feb 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
Interesting history of John's parent and grandparents and a rather sordid account of the Beatles' yesr in Germany but in general, the book lacks much psychological underpinning to either John or his relatives. A potential bombshell; that Lennon may have killed artist Stuart Sutcliffe by kicking him in the head in an alcohol-fueled rage is left as an open question, leaving one to wonder whether there is a statute of limitations on homicide or manslaughter in England. Lennon's swings from meditati ...more
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
THE BOOK about John Lennon...finally. If you love John as I do, it's wonderful after all of these years to own and read a book that tells us all, at last, who and what John Lennon was. This book is the most honest and thorough account I've seen yet. It describes John as a human being, with his many positive traits, and his faults. This book provides much detail into John's relationship (or lack there-of) with his parents as well. The only thing I found disturbing about this book was the input by ...more
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Eight hundred plus pages of interesting reading. Much of this was the same as I had read before in the many books about the Beatles, individually and collectively. There was some new information about John's grandparents and other family and friends. There was some information that was contradictory to other things I've read or seen, particularly from the anthology. Overall, I quite liked the book. It was easy to read and often amusing by the way the author tied in song titles and themes into th ...more
May 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
I love John Lennon, but this author relied heavily on hearsay. He even went as far as asking you to imagine how the days were spent at home, using conversation that I assume he did not hear.
Papparazzi writing with a gossip twinge. I don't think I believed half of what I read. Some insight into the life of Lennon was refreshing, but this book is mainly a disheveled look that portrays Lennon as weak and Yoko as barbarous. Not impressed.
Sarah beara
Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
So far this is one of the best Beatles related book I've read. I'm a few chapters in and I they're still discussing his youth. Usually they just give the Readers Digest version we've all heard, but this sheds more light on John and how he came to be the man he was.
Edward  Bartone
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Probably need to stop reading these Biography's of John Lennon. Starting to seem kinda' redundant...
Jason Abrams
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book was LONG but I fucking loved it.
Scott Holstad
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Whew! I finally finished this 850 page beast of a book. There is so much there, it's so packed with information, that it's hard to recall everything one would want to include in a review. Philip Norman did an outstanding job of going through documents, media, and interviewing everyone under the sun who knew John Lennon. I admire the job he did and it obviously took him years to do it. I almost feel guilty for paying just a couple of bucks for a used copy. Norman deserves a lot of money for his e ...more
I hate to say this, but this book was disappointing on a number of levels: it compared poorly with Keith Richards' autobiography LIFE, which I read just previously, both in content and style; there were a number of mistakes in the text (on the copy-editing level); and it turns out that John was, simply put, kind of a jerk, especially when he was younger.

However, it was perhaps unfair of me to read it right after LIFE; if I could jump back in time two weeks, I'd read them in the opposite order.
Lauren Hiebner
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Excellent fresh biography . It tells of John’ s early family life, how a band came together it also tells of life in Germany in the early Beatles years. It points out that John was always a bit edgy which made him I think a genius in music. It also tells of the influence after the Beatles of Yoko Ono. and how he expanded as a musicianI. It was sad reading the ending of the story but we found out in reading it that John was not afraid to show his foibles for example in the song Help and in the so ...more
Bill F.
For most of my life - at least the last 28 years of it - I've been fascinated by the life of John Lennon. His words, music, ups, downs, genius as well as destructive behavior make him one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. Norman's book is fabulous, so I'll get that out quick and up front. Norman criticizes earlier Lennon biographer Ray Coleman for not bringing Lennon 'to life' in his early 1980s work, Lennon. Well, Norman certainly does bring Lennon to life. Here we see all as ...more
Nov 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: my-books
Growing up as I first became aware of the Beatles, (mostly through my mum belting out their songs from the tape deck of our '83 Buick LeSabre wood-paneled wagon) and my budding love from them, I absolutely felt like I first related with John. Mum is a Paul kind of lady, and I'd be just fine with her marrying Sir Paul when he's done with all these other floozies. Bc a left-handed bassist and genius of a songwriter I can surely support my mumsy settling down with.

Per usual digression over, I still
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Philip Norman: One, If Not THE Best, Musician Biographer? 3 7 Jan 10, 2015 05:49AM  

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