This is a review of the book U2 At The End Of The World by Bill Flanagan.
Is there another U2 book as good as this one? Actually yes, if you believe my ratings, I have this book as equal best, alongside Anton Corbijn’s U2 & I. The significant difference between these two books and almost every other one out there is that they are both from an inside point of view, and both are eminently re-readable. They contain things that other books don’t know (or if they do, they know it because they have read it in these), and they have stories that you want to read more than once.
I do have to say off the top that this book was published in 1995, and I have complained about that before. The idea that you can have a definitive book about U2 is an impossibility, as they are still an active band. For example, every single book about them that is currently out has nothing on the Innocence + Experience tour, and probably nothing about Songs Of Innocence (the very latest books might have a couple of lines mentioning that it was released). So the books that call themselves the history of U2, or the complete anything, well, they’re not. They’re outdated as soon as they’re published. But this book doesn’t pretend that, it quite clearly finishes when it was published in 1995, so it is a history up until that point.
So Bill Flanagan had what I think is unprecedented access to the band, to their families and friends, to acquaintances and others. This is what I mean by an inside point of view. It’s something you simply do not get by interviewing people who used to work with them, and who in some cases now have a grudge to hold. This is what it was like to travel with them, to stay in hotels with them, to drink with them. When he is writing about staying up all night with the guys drinking, then getting on a plane to New York with Edge because they have to be at some event, you know this is the story that no-one else has.
It’s simply impossible to mention all the stories in the book, you have to read them. Flanagan wasn’t at all of the events, of course, but his writing gives them an immediacy that makes you feel like you were there. And he certainly was at enough of them to give an in-person story that really does make it seem like you are present.
Since I already mentioned U2 & I by Anton Corbijn, I have to tell you that these two books go together very well. Anton’s photos combined with Bill’s words tell a really complete story of the band from the early days through the mid 90s. If I were to give a recommendation for the year so far, it would be to get both these books and read them together.
My best recommendation for this book is simply that I wish he wrote a new one, covering the years since 1995. It is that good.
My rating for U2 At The End Of The World: 8 / 10