This is a review of the box set U2 Experience by Brian Boyd.
I am on record many times as saying there are a simple set of rules for my liking a book about U2. The simplest rule is that it must be written by someone who knows the band, not someone who decided to write a book and cover their history. If you are writing that way, because you want to write a book about them, it had better have a really good reason to exist. If you’re writing such that you’re essentially summarizing all the other books written about the band, and all your inside stories were written by someone else, then that book doesn’t have much of a reason to exist. So what is your catch, your in, your thing that should drag in the buyers and make it worthwhile?
In the case of the book/box set U2 Experience, by Brian Boyd, the hook is that it contains memorabilia from the band’s history. Now, I’m not naive enough to have ever thought that any of the items included in the book are real. If they were, the book would cost quite a bit more than what it does. But of course the items - posters, ticket stubs, photos, etc - are all reprints from things that the band had many years ago. A few of them say “reproduction” in tiny letters somewhere, but some of them don’t. Worse, the cover of the book will tell you that it contains “rare removable rock memorabilia” which suggests to some that they are real. They’re not, and that is potentially fraudulent of them to print that on the back (I am not a lawyer, this is my opinion etc etc). At the very least I bet they get some sales at Christmas from the aunt who wants to give her U2 loving niece or nephew a neat present.
I have also complained about the histories of the band that ended ten years ago - because they were written then - because time moves on and a subject like U2 is not yet finished. This book was released this year (2015) and is about as up-to-date as a printed U2 history can be. It doesn’t cover the I+E tour, but it does talk about Songs Of Innocence, and it even has a chapter called Songs Of Experience (chapter is a stretch, in this case each “chapter” is just a two page spread, so you get two pages (with photos) about each album, about each band member, and a couple of other items). That chapter is really just a summary of I+E, but written before I+E began, with a sprinkle of rumors about the next album. Nothing you haven’t heard is in there, and I think that page was just added to try and make it look even more up to date.
Okay, this is a little harsh (maybe a lot harsh). This book really is a pretty good overview of the history of the band, and more recent than most. If you have a vague knowledge of the band’s history, or you know someone like that and want them to learn about it, it could be a good item to have and read. But if you’re already a U2 fan, save your money, use it on some real memorabilia. It won’t go very far, but it will have more value to you in the end.
My rating for U2 Experience (book): 2 / 10