By Colin Mylrea, photo by Angela Tilley
It’s been about a month since former One Direction member Zayn Malik released Z, a memoir/photo diary about the transition period between his last days as a boy-band member and his solo career. Unfortunately, it’s not well-written or trashy enough to recommend. Fortunately for you, I’ve compiled a list of books, fiction and nonfiction, by other celebrities that are more than worth your time.
I’ll Never Write My Memoirs – Grace Jones
Grace Jones’ career has been a long and diverse one. She’s been a model, singer, actress, muse, and shows no signs of stopping. Having worked with Keith Harring, Andy Warhol, and Yves Saint Laurent, Jones has had a long and storied career—the kind that’s perfect for a tell-all book. Written in a cheeky style suited to the diva’s personality, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs is the ideal to which all other celebrity autobiographies aspire. In addition to all the pettiness and shade-throwing expected of books like this, there are a number of genuinely moving passages about Jones’ early life in Jamaica. It’s the best of both worlds, and a great introduction to one of pop music’s unsung heroes.
One More Thing – B.J. Novak
Less of a short story collection than a transcription of unused stand-up bits, B.J. Novak’s One More Thing mixes the author sardonic sense of humor with some inspired bits of magical realism. Featuring some great multi-layered jokes, which make the book ripe for rereadings, and excellent prose, which makes said rereadings even more enjoyable, One More Thing shows that Novak has a lot of potential as a fiction writer and is worth reading even if you aren’t familiar with his other work.
Palo Alto – James Franco
James Franco has had a reputation as something of a critical punching bag for his attempts at branching outside of acting. His directing, painting, and poetry have been roundly critiqued as amateurish at best and an abuse of the public’s good will at worst. However, his fiction is the notable exception to this. While his lone published novel Actors Anonymous is a little too surreal, Palo Alto, a series of interrelated short stories, is well-written and accessible enough to recommend. Inspired by his childhood in the neighbourhood of the same name, Palo Alto is a lyrical take on high school even if Franco’s ability can’t quite reach his ambition.
Just Kids – Patti Smith
Far and away the best book on the list—it won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2010—Patti Smith’s memoir of her years as a struggling artist with her friend, the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, is exquisitely written and one of the more poignant portrayals of the pursuit of fame. Smith, in addition to being a fantastic musician, is an excellent poet—something that shows in the dreamy and lush prose. Smith’s poetic ode to Mapplethorpe- The Coral Sea—is also worth the read after you’ve finished Kids.