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John Lennon: The Life

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  8,383 ratings  ·  436 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
Kindle Edition, 866 pages
Published October 16th 2008 by HarperCollins
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Leo .
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Brian
Oct 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
...more
Jessica
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Richard
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Annie
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Troy Blackford
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aaron Badgley
Jan 01, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jarrett Dobson
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
...more
Gary
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.....
Kristina
Sep 15, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Carol Storm
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lorrie Kim
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jenny
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
Paul Lyons
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
Lisa
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 fair, my in ...more
Michael P. Fertig
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
...more
Sungil
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So I heard “Working Class Hero” by accident, because Spotify thought it would suit me at March 3rd and I was utterly destroyed by that number.

I mean, why haven’t I heard it before ? That’s just so many years without that fantastic tune. Pity. I’ve heard it around 100 times since then. Yes....I know...

I wanted to learn more about John Lennon, especially his childhood and the time after Beatles.
I was not disappointed. It is a great biography

Furthermore this was my first audiobook and certainly n
...more
Jason Abrams
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book was LONG but I fucking loved it.
Drdavidhartman1
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
Jenny
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.
...more
Kerry
Nov 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Austin Farrell
I read this back in high school around the same time I read Helter Skelter and the only thing I remember is a scene of him and his friends wanking each other off in a circle jerk which was profoundly weird to me. Oh, and the shit about how he wished he had fucked his mother before she died. Can't forget that.
Judd
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Beatles. I know most of their songs, as do most people who have been on planet Earth for the past 50 years. Oft times, I would grimace when Beatles fanatics would go off on their sycophantic rants at parties. I respect and appreciate their contributions but I felt like I’d been beaten over the head with the constant influx of their music.

To be completely honest, my desire to read this book didn’t come from the purest of places either. I saw a reddit post that c
...more
Mary Ann
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
This is the best thing I've ever read about John Lennon, quite a contrast to Albert Goldman's The Lives of John Lennon (2001) which is nothing but regurgitated uncorroborated gossip.
Biographer/journalist Philip Norman has done his homework for this in contrast to Goldman's hatchet job. Norman was able to interview hundreds of people including, among others, Yoko Ono, Julian and Sean Lennon, John's half-siblings, cousins, schoolmates, servants, etc, etc.; he meticulously cross-checked their acco
...more
Claudia
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt Micucci
The book's high average rating can only really be explained by the length of the book that people that finish it may find rewarding. However, I have to say that this book is quite average. As any official biography, it tends to never show the man as a terrible person in the right times and never says one single bad thing about Yoko, without whose consent, the book would probably never have been published.
Jacki
May 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Diane Mueller
This book has everything you would want to know about John Lennon and several things you really didn't want to know. At over 800 pages there was a lot of information. At times the book was sluggish and a bit boring but if you keep hanging on there was also interesting facts hiding throughout. If you are a big John Lennon fan it is probably worth a read, everyone else it might be just a waste of time.
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Philip Norman: One, If Not THE Best, Musician Biographer? 3 7 Jan 10, 2015 05:49AM  

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