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Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  3,618 ratings  ·  285 reviews
The only authorized, authentic book about the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club by founding member, Sonny Barger—featuring a brand new introduction

Narrated by the visionary founding member, Hell's Angel provides a fascinating all-access pass to the secret world of the notorious Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. Sonny Barger recounts the birth of the original Oakland Hell's Angels
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 2nd 2001 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 1975)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  3,618 ratings  ·  285 reviews

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Start your review of Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club
Dec 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Angel story told by the longtime president of the Oakland chapter. Bold and informative stuff, one would think, right? Wrong. Barger seems to be not only the most taciturn and non-introspective memorialist ever, but just plain dumb. He tells the reader nothing about what he feels, thinks, opines, or even guesses about any of the events of his life. Why did he rise to become leader of the Angels – not how, but why? What’s special about him? The book doesn’t reveal the answer.

What does he thin
I read this book in one weekend, which means that it was captivating enough to keep me turning the pages, and the simplicity of the oral style didn't hold things up either. I'm no biker, but I am keenly interested in the alternative lifestyles and subcultures of the 60's, and the iconic legend of the HAMC is an obvious object of curiosity and fascination. The fact that the events are told from an Angel's point of view,(and not just any Angel but Barger himself) rather than that of a journalist o ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is listed on GR with the main page genre of 'autobiography'. That didn't feel completely accurate. It felt more like a 'history' of the how the Hell's Angels in Oakland came to be and how they were organized. It contained some interesting facts and even answered some of the questions I've always had.

The author did mention his 'early life' circumstances, but it done in a way of an explanation of how he ended up where he did. I listened to the audio, and while I can't fault anything he
Nov 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
I like Barger. He's a blue-collar, no-shit guy from nowhere who became someone by virtue of simply being who he was. I have to admire that.

I don't admire some of the stuff he did in his life, but the book is like listening to one long and terrific tale from a guy you happen to start talking to in a bar, only to find out at the end of it that holy crap, yes, he's *that* guy. There's nothing false about him - he simply serves it to you, in his voice and from his point of view. Honestly, out of the
Gina M Jordan
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm giving it 4 stars mainly because it's a dangerous subject written by an insider & founder. Barger ' s writing style could definitely be more warm & forthcoming, many key details or depth are missing. This is certainly not a tell-all book by any means but does include quite a few juicy tidbits, mostly involving deceased members.

Having been involved in one 9 what Barger called the big 4 (Outlaws) myself, I'm actually amazed this book exists at all. MC's are closed societies like the Eagles Clu
Oct 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I feel like I really I know Sonny Barger after reading Hell's Angels. Even though he is a convicted felon, drug runner, and violent man he really does seem like a stand up guy. The best way I could describe Sonny after reading his autobiography would be as a very loyal and honest friend. The founder of the world wide motorcycle club the " Hell's Angels" and the founder of a world wide brother hood, Sonny created an expansive sanctuary for those who wanted to be part of something. Regardless of S ...more
Mary K
Oct 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
A bad ass who isn’t all that bad. A few sections of this book made me almost quit reading but Barger is funny, a good writer, and has one hell of a unique story.
Rachel Sauer
Jul 28, 2021 rated it did not like it
Let me begin with a warning: I am about to use quotes from this book that are filled to the brim with profanity. Next warning: I am about to rip this book to shreds in this review.

I picked this gem up at Goodwill just to have something to read and it was an absolutely horrifying train wreck. On every page Hell’s Angel leader Sonny Barger tells a new story about how he was a badass, never did anything wrong, and was the coolest dude to ever walk the planet.

Here is one page of the book to give you
Apr 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, california
As a general rule, I stay away from autobiographies simply because I feel that it’s absolutely impossible to be objective about the subject of oneself. That said, there are of course a few exceptions…only, this book is not one of them but I have my reasons nonetheless.

The biggest reason is that I have some personal history with Sonny that is admittedly a few degrees removed from myself. As a teenager, Sonny apparently would eat dinner over at my grandparent’s house who lived on E. 25th St. in Oa
Feb 29, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I suffered through the first 2/3 of the book about how badass Sonny Barger (president of the Hell's Angels) thinks he is. It was 150+ pages about beating people, earning respect, loyalty, and brotherhood. Boiling it all down it seemed to be hundreds of men who can't handle the masses of alcohol and drugs they ingest. Finally, by the last 3rd of the book I found it interesting and not so juvenile.

The government and media fascination with the Hell's Angels was interesting. I had no idea about the
Matt McGlynn
Nov 25, 2022 rated it really liked it
Sweet Cocaine!

This book is pretty cool. Genuinely liked a lot of it. Was hoping for more but I really enjoyed the detailed motorcycle stuff as I ride. If you watched Sons of Anarchy some of the stories from the book are in the show, or at least a variation of it. Pretty cool!
Nov 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A memoir that read like a story. Most people would not like this book because the Angels are loaded with criminal activity. I enjoyed the “truth” throughout this book. It was fascinating to the point I don’t understand how Sonny Barber was never killed. His notoriety amongst MC clubs, law enforcement and federal agencies is incredible. He is truly one of the top infamous people of his time.
May 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2011
Sonny Barger's memoir of his life dedicated to the cause of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club is somewhat interesting, but poorly written, a bit on the redundant side and all-to-brief when Barger goes into some episode of violence/sex/philosophy of the biker that I wanted to know more on. He should of really juiced this up and gave even more sex and violence and given an insider's tour of what it's really like to live the "outlaw" biker lifestyle that he gripes about non-stop in the pages of the ...more
Adam Greven
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An interesting look at the history and development of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. Sonny Barger is a charismatic writer who keeps you glued to the pages with his wild adventures. It does shy away from much of the criminal element of the One-Percenter world and instead focuses on the heart and origin of outlaw Motorcycle Clubs. I think it is good at showing the true intention behind the formation of those older clubs as well as tell a lot of funny, crazy, and the sometimes very sad stories ...more
Apr 02, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a very weird and random read for me. (Bought for $1 at a used book sale.) But, surprisingly, I found myself pretty engrossed throughout. Albeit obviously biased (written by the leader of the Hell's Angels), I admit that I knew zilch about them beforehand and now can say I know more than zilch, from the group's perspective.

Testosterone on steroids, frat boys gone wild, a good old boys club doing really bad things...whatever. I'm reminded of how much us human beings seek to belong to som
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Valentin Ciocîrlan
Feb 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
DISCLAIMER: I am not a member of the HAMC

If you are looking for a book that is well written, incredibly structured and that follows a clear narrative line, this is not the book for you and you might find it at times confusing or frustrating the way the action is narrated. This is a book written in a style that resembles the culture of the HAMC: weird for those that are from the outside, unique in its action and showing you the other side of the story.

I believe that this is a book to be read by
John Turner
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This book is not to be confused for Hunter Thompson's 1966 treatise, "Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga." Thompson's book title is plural -- the story, history and notoriety of the club, the introduction of the members of the motorcycle gang, and the "club" culture. He spent nearly two years immersing himself in that culture, doing ride-alongs to their "picnics," drinking excessively and doing psychedelic and mind-altering drugs, all to "get his story." Ralph "Sonny" Barger, the founder ...more
Antony Filho
Spoiler alert. Bikes. The club. Bikes. The sixties. Bikes. Old Ladies. Bikes. Altmont. Bikes. Fights. Bikes. Drugs. Bikes. Doing time. Don't get me wrong. I love bikes and all things related to biker culture. However, possibly Mr Zimmerman's fault, the narrative is somewhat flat, even childish at times. ...more
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I first found this in a used book store, I just had to get it. I don't think I ever seen anything related to something as big as the Hell's Angels being written by someone who was a president of one of the most important chapters in making the club what it is today.

The book goes into a brief history of how the clubs might of been formed, what influenced the biker lifestyle that the Angels live by today, and how they pretty much put themselves on the map and influenced the culture of socie
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
An interesting and entertaining little book that teeters a fine line between "I'm not really a bad man, honestly guvnor" and "Nobody f**ks with me, because I'm a c*nt". But it does leave you with more questions than answers.

It's not as free flowing and truthful as other autobiographies, like "Broadmoor" by Charlie Bronson for instance, where he's already paid the price and so can speak freely.

Barger comes across as someone who has got away with a lot more than he's letting on, and so can't say
Aug 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hell's Angel, more or less, is the story of Ralph "Sonny" Barger, the leader of the notorious motorcycle group known as The Hell's Angels. Throughout the book Barger describes the inner workings of the motorcycle club, giving the reader a captivating, as well as extremely disturbing, idea of what the life of the most serious of motorcyclists is like. Undoubtedly, Hell's Angel will show you that the Hell's Angel's stand out among all other motorcycle gangs when it comes to the dedication to a gro ...more
Alex Irwin
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
The life and times of Sonny Barger was a fascinating book that started with Sonny's true adventures of him riding across the country to different book signings for another book that he has written. This book quells many myths about how the Hell's Angels are out to hurt people and cause anarchy, but how most of the Gang are just normal people that love to ride and have a great time with friends. Sure, while most of the gang are not perfect role models, they aren't cold blooded killers that our so ...more
Dec 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book is a random collection of stories mostly told by the author which obviously makes him feel so badass but it was actually just so annoying. There were no redeeming qualities in his story. He talks about how he is a huge animal lover but ‘accidentally’ killed pets. Domestic violence is no big deal. If a member smacks their woman, ‘hey sometimes it’s deserved’. Or how the Rolling Stones aren’t hardcore rockers bc they didn’t like when the hells angels were providing security at the woodst ...more
Apr 25, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
"Looking back over forty years in the club, I can almost break it down by decades. We formed the club in the fifties to party and ride. During the psychedelicized sixties, the Hell's Angels became a household word. Citizens, cops, and writers wondered and fantasized about the patches we wore. In their whacked-out imaginations they made up their own stories about us. The movies made us out to be the wildest motherfuckers to roam the earth since Ghengis Khan and his warriors.
The seventies were a
Jul 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting history book. There have been lots of books about biker gangs esp. Hell's Angels by Hunter Thompson but this is done by Sonny Barger who founded the Hell's Angels motorcycle club. By the way Barger points to Thompson as a chickenshit and his book being fantasy crap. The Hell's Angels beat the daylights out of Thompson after his book was released and sent him packing. I think for me what was most interesting was getting the viewpoint of what for the most part are very violent thugs. I ...more
Jun 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Sonny tells it like it is in this book, at least as much as is possible in a book about an organization surround by so much criminal activity. I was amused by how "Hollywood" the Hell's Angels were. Sonny's "job" was as a technical consultant for biker movies, and he held press conferences. You would think a group involved in so much crime would shun the limelight as much as possible, but it seems like we're all attracted to fame like moths to a flame.

It was interesting to me on one hand how se
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Got this book for free... and I had a riot reading it. I think that Sonny Barger actually took his adventures in the motorcycle club seriously. He does believe that he is a well loved American Icon (even though I had never heard of him) and that the cops are out to get him. He believes that by riding his motorcycle and making a lot of money off of this book he is protecting America, and America equals freedom. That said, I read the book as a big fat joke, and appreciated that he did not make any ...more
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
I had hoped for more. More sex, more drugs, more wild details. Sure, he mentioned all of those things but there were absolutely no juicy details. The only times he gave details were when he was arrested (I guess that makes sense seeing as the cops know those details already so it can't get him in trouble with the law if he gives details about what happened in any situation.) I am sort of glad that I read it. I was interested when he talked about his cancer and about his women. All of the talk of ...more
Apr 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
A small part of the life and times of Sonny Barger and HAMC, from his point of view.
After reading the book I can tell for sure three things:
- he is a tough, smart, energetic and charismatic asshole;
- he is cosmetically enhancing his side of the story, leaving aside details that would disgust people (he's good PR also);
- he can't write. The book is barely passable although it is written with two guys who apparently are doing it for a living (they wrote for some mobster and for the Mythbusters gu
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Ralph Hubert "Sonny" Barger (born October 8, 1938) is a founding member (1957) of the Oakland, California, U.S. chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. He is also the author of five books - Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club (2000), Dead in 5 Heartbeats (2004), Freedom: Credos from the Road (2005), 6 Chambers, 1 Bullet (2006), and Let's Ride ...more

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