Bruce Springsteen's memoir beautifully dissects his own masculinity

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In performances in the early- and mid-1970s, Bruce Springsteen sometimes played "Wings for Wheels," an early version of what would become his famous rock-and-roll romance, "Thunder Road." The best-known rendition of the song, preserved as part of a well-circulated concert bootleg, was in 1975, when 25-year-old Bruce played The Main Point in Philadelphia, six months before his third studio album, Born to Run, would lead Springsteen, in the words of Ed Sciaky, the DJ who introduced him that night, "to conquer America and the world."

"Wings for Wheels" is a great song, different from "Thunder Road" in its rawer and less pretty look at young masculinity. In it, Springsteen weighs his car against his girl, with the car coming out ahead — "This 4/4 is gonna overheat / Make up your mind girl I gotta get her back out on the street." He yearns to take his companion "to some sandy beach where we'd never grow old" and he begs her to do what he cannot seem to do for himself: "make me feel like a man."

Springsteen is now close to 70, which you would not guess if you'd attended any one of his recent record-breaking four-hour concerts or if you read his 500-page memoir, Born to Run, published this week and just as hyper, giddy, and jam-packed with words and ideas and desires as any of his music or his live performances. If you are a Springsteen fan, you will not spend an instant wondering if this book was ghostwritten: It is eager, hammy, yearning, unmistakable, and inimitable Bruce from start to finish.

But one of the book's most unexpected pleasures is Springsteen's willingness to pick apart the kind of masculinity — the cars, the perspective on girls, the making of the man — to which he has been so firmly attached in our imagination. Springsteen is an iconic American white guy, associated with totems — guitars and highways and leather jackets — obsessed with Steinbeck and Elvis and obsessed over by male scribes from David Remnick and Eric Alterman to Leslie Fiedler. In his memoir, Springsteen unexpectedly lays bare the contradictions, complexities, and downright artifice on which his very public version of manhood has been built.

Which is important, in part, because so many of his fans are women. And yes, many of those women love the cars and the guitars just as much as the guys, and are no less vital in our enthusiasms (or rueful in our realities) than Springsteen's male admirers. But a lot of us have also long heard (or perhaps wanted to hear) in Bruce something more nuanced and appreciative in his portraits of the Candys, Marys, Janeys, and Rosies. We have loved that he doesn't just sing about perfect beach babes, but about women who've been around a time or two, who put our makeup on and our hair up pretty, who push our baby carriages down the street and drink warm beer, and may not be beauties but are alright nonetheless.

PHOTOS: Bruce Springsteen early in his career

Bruce Springsteen through the years
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Bruce Springsteen through the years
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 11: REDBANK Photo of Bruce SPRINGSTEEN, Bruce Springsteen performing on stage - Born to Run Tour, 27 (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Bruce Springsteen Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Springsteen (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1973: Photo of Bruce Springsteen (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Bruce Springsteen (Photo by Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Bruce Springsteen (Photo by Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
American musician Bruce Springsteen plays at the Trenton War Memorial, Trenton, New Jersey, November 1974. (Photo by Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images)
American musician Bruce Springsteen plays at the Trenton War Memorial, Trenton, New Jersey, November 1974. (Photo by Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images)
Singer Bruce Springsteen walking down Sunset Strip with his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, 1975. He is in Los Angeles to promote his album Born To Run. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images)
Bruce Springsteen taking a break from the soundcheck at Alex Cooley's Electric Ballroom ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Tom Hill/WireImage)
Bruce Springsteen is seen in concert in New York's Madison Square Garden, Aug. 21, 1978. (AP Photo/Jim Pozarik)
American musician Bruce Springsteen plays at the Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 26, 1978. (Photo by Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images)
Rock and roll musician Bruce Springsteen sings at New York's Madison Square Garden during a concert sponsored by Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE), Friday night, Sept. 22, 1979. Proceeds from the benefit are to support development of energy sources other than nuclear power. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)
NEW YORK, NY - CIRCA 1983: Bruce Springsteen circa 1983 in New York City. (Photo by Laura/IMAGES/Getty Images)
American rock singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen stands onstage, holding an electric guitar at his side during a concert, 1980s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
**FILE PHOTO**LANDOVER, MD - AUG. 25: Opening night of Bruce Springsteen's four sold-out concerts at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD on Aug. 25, 1984. (Photo by Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Bruce Springsteen, circa 1984 (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
10/02/1985: Bruce Springsteen performs during the last show of the 1985 'Born in the U.S.A. Tour'. (Photo by Bob Riha Jr/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - CIRCA 1984: Bruce Springsteen circa 1984 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Platzer/Images/Getty Images)
Bruce Springsteen performing at the CNE Stadium in Toronto, Canada on July 24, 1984. (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)
American Bruce Springsteen performs, on June 29, 1985 in La Courneuve, outside Paris. AFP PHOTO MICHEL GANGNE (Photo credit should read MICHEL GANGNE/AFP/Getty Images)
Rock Star Bruce Springsteen makes an all-out effort during live performance at Ullevi Soccer Stadium in Gothenburg, on Saturday evening, June 9, 1985 where some 64,000 fans enjoyed his music. (AP Photo/Peter Claesson)
Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Springsteen (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
Sting, left and Bruce Springsteen meet the press at their arrival to Barcelona's airport, Sept 9. 1988. They will sing tomorrow at the Nou Camp Stadium in front of almost 90,000 persons in the concert "Human Rights Now!" organized by Amnesty International. (AP Photo/Amilcar De Leon)
American Bruce Springsteen performs, on October 10, 1988 during an Amnesty International concert Abidjan. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Rock music superstars Sting (L) and Bruce Springsteen perform together, on September 19, 1988 during the finale of the first US leg of the Amnesty International concert at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. The world wide tour is trying to bring attention to human rights abuses throughoutthe world. AFP PHOTO LUKE FRAZZA (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)
Bruce Springsteen holds his Oscar for Best Original Song for "Philadelphia", March 21, 1994 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. (AP Photo)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 1: Singer Bruce Springsteen holds his four Grammy awards 01 March 1995 for Song of the Year, Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Song Written specifically for a Motion Picture or Tv for his song 'Streets of Philadelphia.' (COLOR KEY: Awards are gold) (Photo credit should read DAN GROSHONG/AFP/Getty Images)
Bob Dylan is joined by Bruce Springsteen, right, during Dylan's set for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame benefit concert Saturday night, Sept. 2, 1995, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Bruce Springsteen is shown in the undated photo released Monday, Oct. 16, 1995. (AP Photo/Pam Springsteen/ho)
ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, NOV. 26--Bruce Springsteen plays solo acoustic guitar during a concert at the State Theater in New Brunswick, N.J., on Nov. 21, 1995, the release day for his new album, "The Ghost of Tom Joad." Springsteen performed selections from the album before an audience of 1,800 to benefit World Hunger Year.(AP Photo/Mike Derer)
Bruce Springsteen smiles outside the Royal Courts of Justice London Thursday, December 10, 1998, after winning a legal battle against the British company, Masquerade Music. The U.S. rock star took legal action against the company, which was trying to release an album of songs he wrote and recorded 26 years ago. (AP Photo/Danielle Smith)
Bruce Springsteen joins Jakob Dylan of the band "The Wallflowers" on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards at New York's Radio City Music Hall Thursday, Sept. 4, 1997. (AP Photo/Adam Nadel)
US rock star Bruce Springsteen performs on stage in the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland, Monday, April 26, 1999, in front of about 12,000 spectators. (AP Photo/KEYSTONE/Anita Maggi)
Bruce Springsteen performs with E Street band at the MCI Center in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2002. Springsteen performed songs from his new album "The Rising," which reunites the 52-year-old with the E Street Band and focuses on Sept. 11 and its aftermath. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Bruce Springsteen, left, sings with Little Steven at the Museum of Natural History in New York, Thursday, August 29, 2002. Springsteen and his E Street band opened the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards show and continued to play for about 90 minutes for the crowd at the museum. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)
Bruce Springsteen, left, sings with Steven Van Zandt as they open the first of 10 sold-out shows Tuesday, July 15, 2003, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Bruce Springsteen greet the crowd at a rally at the Bayfront Park Amphitheater in Miami, Fla. Friday, Oct. 29, 2004. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Bruce Springsteen performs at a rally for Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio Thursday, Oct. 28, 2004. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
** FILE ** Bruce Springsteen performs at a campaign rally for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in a Cleveland file photo from Nov. 1, 2004. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
Bruce Springsteen performs during the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Sunday, April 30, 2006. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Bruce Springsteen, left, performs with his band on the NBC "Today" television program in New York's Rockefeller Center, Friday Sept. 28, 2007. Other band members are Steven Van Zandt and Patti Scialfa, Springsteen's wife. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
** FILE ** This is a Sept. 28, 2007 file photo of Bruce Springsteen on the NBC "Today" television program in New York's Rockefeller Center, Springsteen of Freehold, N.J., is among 15 famous New Jerseyans selected as the first inductees to the New Jersey Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, file)
Bruce Springsteen performs in a concert Sunday night, July 27, 2008, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bruce Springsteen performs to tens of thousands of people at a free outdoor concert in support of Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and in a push for voter registration, in downtown Philadelphia Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
Before the arrival of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his wife Michelle, Bruce Springsteen performs at an outdoor rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Mickey Rourke, left, poses with the actor drama award for âThe Wrestlerâ with Bruce Springsteen and his award for music and lyrics from the film backstage at the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Bruce Springsteen, center, performs during the halftime of the NFL Super Bowl XLIII football game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
** FILE ** In this Feb. 1, 2009 file photo, Bruce Springsteen, left, and Steven Van Zandt, of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, perform at halftime at the NFL Super Bowl XLIII football game between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson, file)
US rock star Bruce Springsteen performs on stage at the Stade de Suisse stadium in Berne, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Keystone, Peter Klaunzer)
Bruce Springsteen surfs the crowd while performing with the E Street Band, Friday, Nov. 20, 2009, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)
Kennedy Center honorees Bruce Springsteen, right, Robert De Niro sit in the East Room of the White House in Washington Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Bruce Springsteen performs at the 54th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Bruce Springsteen, left, performs with Steven Van Zandt during their Wrecking Ball tour at TD Garden in Boston, Monday, March 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Bruce Springsteen performs at Fenway Park in Boston, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Bruce Springsteen and drummer Max Weinberg perform at the Rogers Centre on Friday, August 24, 2012, in Toronto. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)
President Barack Obama, accompanied by singer Bruce Springsteen, waves as he arrive at a campaign event near the State Capitol Building in Madison, Wis., Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Honoree Bruce Springsteen is seen at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday Feb. 8, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Bruce Springsteen performs among fans during the Rock in Rio music festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. The week long festival will feature a list of headliners including Muse, Justin Timberlake, Metallica, Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Bruce Springsteen performs during the USC Shoah Foundationâs 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Bruce Springsteen and U2 perform during the World AIDS Day (RED) concert In Times Square on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Bruce Springsteen performs at the 9th Annual Stand Up For Heroes event, presented by the New York Comedy Festival and The Bob Woodruff Foundation, at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Bruce Springsteen, center, performs with Patti Scialfa, right, and Stevie Van Zandt and the rest of the East Street Band in the first stop of his River Tour 16 concert on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 17: Bruce Springsteen Visits 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' at Rockefeller Center on November 24, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images for 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon')
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band perform in concert, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

By many measures, Born to Run is for us. It cracks the macho exterior and really pulls out the guts of Bruce's thinking on identity, on his own manhood. It reveals an appreciation and respect for women, and questions about men and how they're made, that many of us have long suspected underpinned his music.

Other critics have already noted that one of the great revelations of Born to Run is the admission that Bruce himself didn't even know how to drive a car until he was in his mid-20s, making all those ballads about escape down the highways of New Jersey a manufactured fantasy, a projected idea of what male self-direction entailed. "When I say I didn't drive I mean I DID NOT KNOW HOW," he writes. I was even more struck by the story of how he came to find imaginative salvation in cars to begin with: not as a place to score (though there is plenty of that) or a getaway, but when, as a boy, he was so scared of lightning that he "caterwauled until my parents would take me in the car" — safe on rubber tires — "until the storm subsided." He then "proceeded to write about cars for the rest of my life."

BUY: Pick up copy of Bruce Springsteen's book

A lot of the book is about Bruce as a boy. Doted on by a grandmother who'd lost a daughter as a child, Springsteen describes himself as slightly ruined by her overindulgence — made into "an unintentional rebel, an outcast weirdo misfit sissy boy" at 7. But he was also deeply shaped by that grandmother, and by his exuberant and steady Italian mother, Adele. A rebel and an outcast, Springsteen writes of how, when he was 12, his mother became pregnant and he saw it as "a miracle." "I loved the maternity clothes," he writes, describing how he and his other sister "would sit in the living room in the final months of her pregnancy, our hands resting upon her stomach, waiting for our little sister to kick." When the baby was born, Springsteen writes, "I was enchanted with her. I was thankful for her. I changed her diapers, rocked her to sleep, ran to her side if she cried, held her in my arms." It is a testament to how poisoned we are in our ideas of what pubescent boys — especially the angry misfits who go on to become fist-pumping rock stars — are like that I had to read this passage several times to make sure I was understanding the chronology correctly, and that in the 1960s, a disaffected teenage Bruce Springsteen had indeed doted on his pregnant mother and changed his baby sister's diapers.

But that's not the only surprise. In a tome that could easily have been a gratifyingly dirty sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll tell-all, there are ... no drugs. At least none consumed by Springsteen, who was always "too scared" to try them. In the early 70s, he writes, "Everybody wanted to give you drugs all the time. I was a stubborn young man and set in my fearful ways." Springsteen spent the weekend of Woodstock in New Jersey. "From where I stood the whole thing up north looked like too much of a hassle, too much traffic, too many drugs." There it is kids, the revelations of a rock god: There was too much traffic!

Wary of his father Douglas's dark relationship to alcohol — one that traumatized young Bruce so much that he blinked uncontrollably and chewed the flesh on his knuckles to callouses — adult Bruce doesn't even take a drink until his early 20s, before finally discovering that he's "a merry drinker simply prone to foolish behavior and occasional sexual misadventure."

PHOTOS: A look back at Springsteen's best collaborations

Bruce Springsteen collaborations
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Bruce Springsteen collaborations

17. Lady Gaga, Elton John, Blondie, Sting, Shirley Bassey / 'Don't Stop Believin'

Bruce and Lady Gaga singing Journey's famed '80s anthem along with Elton John. Sounds almost like an acid trip, but it actually happened and here is the evidence from the Rainforest Fund's 21st Birthday Celebration benefit concert at Carnegie Hall Thursday, May 13, 2010 in New York City.

16. REM / 'Man on the Moon'

Bruce joined REM at a vote for change concert. He starts singing at about 4:10 into the performance, duets with Michael Stipe and then breaks off a pair of cool guitar solos. This is a performance any child of the '90s will appreciate.

15. Neil Young / 'All Along the Watchtower'

The Godfather of Grunge and The Boss team up on the Bob Dylan classic popularized by Jimi Hendrix in what seems like an unrehearsed 2004 duet.

14. The Rolling Stones / 'Tumbling Dice'

At a concert in Rio Lisboa earlier this year, Mick Jagger brought Springsteen, who was vacationing there at the time, out on stage to join the band on its 1972 classic from 'Exile on Main St.'

13. Dave Grohl and Elvis Costello / 'London Calling'

In 2003 at the Grammy Awards, the boss joined Elvis Costello and Dave Grohl, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame, in a tribute to The Clash's Joe Strummer.

12. Joan Jett / 'Light of Day'

The '80s rocker invited Springsteen to join her onstage for the title song written by Springsteen from 'Light of Day,' a 1987 film she starred in with Michael J. Fox.

11. Phish / 'Glory Days'

Bruce joined the ultimate jam band to rock out to one of his own classics, 'Glory Days,' at Bonnaroo in 2009.

10. U2 / 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For'

'I'm looking for the Boss,' Bono exclaims in the middle of the song ... and almost magically Springsteen materializes.

9. John Fogerty, Jackson Browne and Eddie Vedder / '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love & Understanding'

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band with Jackson Browne, John Fogerty and Eddie Vedder a Nick Lowe song that was popularized by Elvis Costello in East Rutherford NJ, at the Vote For Change concert on October 13, 2004.

8. Bob Seger / 'Old Time Rock and Roll'

This performance in New York City is one of just two times, according to Rolling Stone, the two have shared a stage.

7. Chuck Berry / 'Johnny B. Good'

The earliest rock influencer that Bruce has performed with is Chuck Berry on his iconic hit during the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1995.

6. Axl Rose / 'Come Together'

The Guns 'N' Roses frontman and Bruce performed a duet of the Beatles' 'Come Together' at the 1994 Hall of Fame Inductions Ceremony, when John Lennon was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a solo artist.

5. Melissa Etheridge / 'Thunder Road'

Etheridge tells an amusing story about having called Springsteen on the phone to ask 'what if?' The result: a very cool unplugged version of 'Thunder Road.'

4. Billy Joel / 'New York State of Mind'

'Are you ready for the bridge and tunnel summit meeting?' Bruce asked the crowd at the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert in 2009. The 'King of Long Island' met New Jersey on 'neutral ground' at Madison Square Garden, and this is what happened.

3. Paul McCartney / 'I Saw Her Standing There' and 'Twist and Shout'

The two rock legends came together for an amazing finish to Springsteen's final concert of Hard Rock Calling 2012 in London. The collaboration was amazing, but not amazing enough for concert promoters. It's not in the video above, but promoters -- to the great surprise of McCartney and Springsteen -- pulled the plug on their encore when the show broke the building's sound curfew.

2. Bon Jovi / 'Born To Run'

The two Jersey boys looked and sounded like they've been (or maybe should have been) touring together for decades as they rocked out on 'Born To Run' at Madison Square Garden during the 12/12/12 Sandy Relief concert.

1. Eddie Vedder, Tom Morello / AC/DC's 'Highway to Hell'

In a moment of rock awesomeness, Bruce was joined by Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, for a cover of AC/DC's 'Highway To Hell' at a show in Melbourne, Australia in February 2014.

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 29: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band with Billy Joel perform onstage at the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert at Madison Square Garden on October 29, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
Bruce Springsteen, left , and Chuck Berry laugh during the performance of the Berry hit "Johnny B. Goode" at the Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on Saturday, Sept. 2, 1995. Berry was the opening act of the concert. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Lady Gaga and Sir Elton John, right, greet Bruce Springsteen after his performance during the Rainforest Fund's 21st Birthday Celebration benefit concert at Carnegie Hall Thursday, May 13, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Musician Bruce Springsteen, left, performs with Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Bruce Springsteen, right, and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, left, take part in the "Vote for Change" concert on Monday, Oct. 11, 2004 in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band performs in concert during their ‘High Hopes Tour’ at Hershey Stadium on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Hershey, Pa. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Musicians Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Max Weinberg perform at '12-12-12' a concert benefiting The Robin Hood Relief Fund to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy presented by Clear Channel Media & Entertainment, The Madison Square Garden Company and The Weinstein Company at Madison Square Garden on December 12, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen during 'Vote For Change' Closing Night Concert - October 13, 2004 at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Debra L Rothenberg/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 30: Bruce Springsteen (C) performs onstage with the Edge (L) and Bono (R) of U2 at the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert at Madison Square Garden on October 30, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)
(L-R) Musicians Bruce Springsteen and Axl Rose performing. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 23: Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters (Left), Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello perform during the 45th Annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden on February 23, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
Jackson Browne, John Fogerty, Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen (Photo by Debra L Rothenberg/FilmMagic)

There is a lot of sex in Born to Run, with too many women to count, women who — with the exception of his first kiss and his two wives — Springsteen takes care not to name. But even in the stories of his exploits, there's a shyness and an unexpected reluctance to be the man he is assumed to be. "Who cares what's going on at the Playboy Mansion?" Springsteen remembers thinking as he turns down invitations. "That's not real." Mostly, his stories about women reflect appreciation and respect, and his regrets at not having lived up to most of the ones he's dated. And also, there's just a little too much information to be cool. Take, for instance, his memory of inspiration for his concert staple "Rosalita": "a sweet blonde who I believe was the first gal I had successful intercourse with, one fumbling afternoon at chez mama (though, due to the fog of war, I can't be absolutely sure.)" This is less rock-and-roll tell-all than "Oh, my God, dad! Stop!"

Springsteen is unashamed to explore, from a perspective of whiteness and maleness, his impressions of race and gender. He writes often about race relations, the fights between the blacks and whites that he's sung about taking place in his hometown, but also about the chasms of experience that couldn't ever wholly be bridged with his long-term professional partner, the E Street Band's late saxophonist Clarence Clemons. "For a long time he was alone, and no matter how close we were, I was white. We had as deep a relationship as I can imagine, but we lived in the real world, where we'd experienced that nothing, not all the love in God's heaven, obliterates race." Clemons, who died in 2011, gets some of the warmest and funniest writing in the book; Bruce's love for him is boundless and heartbreaking. "It's hard to imagine that Clarence was once a normal person," he writes, and you can practically hear him laughing and shaking his head all over the page. "One thing ... about Clarence is that Clarence was very important to Clarence. In this he was not so different from most of us, except by fabulous degree."

But Clemons isn't the only one whose love prompts Springsteen to consider the limitations of his own identity. He writes of how, in 1984, "I wanted my band to reflect my evolving audience, an audience that was becoming increasingly grown up and whose lives were about men and women." It was tricky, he writes, because he understood his audience's imaginative investment in the world he'd created, and that up until then, that world — his band — had been male. "But in 1984, I wanted, on my stage, that world of men and women; so, I hoped, would my audience." Springsteen hires Patti Scialfa, a Jersey musician whom he'd first interviewed by phone for a back-up singer gig when she was in high school, and who would go on to become his second wife, to whom he's married today. But when Scialfa first joined the band, Bruce writes of his own discomfort at critiquing how she dressed for a concert, and his dawning realization that "The E Street Band carried its own muted misogyny (including my own), a very prevalent quality amongst rock groups of our generation."

BUY: Pick up copy of Bruce Springsteen's book

Springsteen doesn't linger too long on racism and misogyny, but they pop up over and over, clearly threading through his memories of work and life, as he tries to work out his identity, his place in the world, and his relationships to the people he loves and relies on: from his black singing idols to his bandmates to his mother and grandmother, his wife, equestrian daughter, and his female fans. It's not lugubrious or overworked; his writing about identity, like so much of the Springsteen canon, is earnest and sometimes corny, but often lyrical in its efforts to make real sense of this country and its inhabitants, himself included. A lot of that he does through therapy, and a moment of earned narrative relief comes as he first meets his therapist: "I walk in; look into the eyes of a kindly, white-haired, mustached complete stranger; sit down; and burst into tears."

Born to Run, like Springsteen's music, is half a raucous celebration of desire and ambition and pleasures and half a stark reckoning with the costs of those impulses, as well as with pain loss and injustice. It's a sad book. In part because it feels like the admission of completion: not of a life or a career— I understand rationally that they are still going. But my lizard brain reacted to Born to Run as I did to the last encore of its author's lengthy concerts — as a winding down, an acknowledgment that there is no sandy beach on which we will never get old. Here is the story of his life, and it's no accident that he's telling it now, and not 20 or 30 years from now because, well ...

BUY: Pick up copy of Bruce Springsteen's book

Here, along with the revelation and cornball charm and the crowded prose is the admission that the immortality he chased as a young man will elude him, as it has already eluded some of his bandmates, the stadiums he's played, and as it will elude all of us. He also wants us to know that that's alright. In fact it's central to the joy of the music he's been driven to make. Bruce writes of his passion for the songs he heard on the radio as a kid, especially for the voices of Sam Cooke and the Drifters, singers who "sound simultaneously happy and sad." I can't think of a better description of Springsteen's own music, or the book he's given us here, a celebration and an elegy all at once.

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"You're nobody until somebody calls you bossy." In her 2011 book, Tina Fey spills all about her rise to fame and what it took to claim that "bossy" title -- all with her signature comedic touch, of course.


Amy Schumer isn’t afraid to say what is on her mind and her new book proves just that. "The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo" is full of personal, eye-opening anecdotes bordering on TMI. It's not all for the laughs -- Schumer will have you feeling every emotion before you reach the last page.


Growing up a tomboy in an era of women proud of their femininity, comedian Jessi Klein felt like an outsider looking in on this woman empowerment movement. In "You’ll Grow Out of It," Klein shares her struggles as a 21st century woman, including her "transformation from Pippi Longstocking-esque tomboy to are-you-a-lesbian-or-what tom man." Klein's great comedic mind book shines in this book making it a must-read this summer.


Amy Poehler started her writing career on top with "Yes Please," which became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. She shares a plethora of stories, poems, photographs and mantras from her life sure to inspire and entertain all readers.


The uber-talented creator of "Grey’s Anatomy" and "Scandal" was challenged by her sister to say "yes" to the everything for a whole year. Rhimes hesitantly agreed and this book details how doing say, just saying "yes," changed her life. If Rhimes hasn't already changed your life with one of her hit shows, she surely will with this inspiring book.


Through a collection of hilarious and insightful essays, Mindy Kaling details her continuing struggle to find peace and joy as an adult, as well as her finding her place in Hollywood despite constantly being reminded that there aren’t many others that look like her. 


Acclaimed TV historian and entertainment writer Jennifer Kelshin Armstrong celebrates the iconic Seinfeld sitcom with her book "Seinfeldia." Armstrong gives readers the inside look of the show while it was still on air and delves into the world of devotees who still adore the show today.


Mindy Kaling’s debut book, "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), leads readers on a tour of her life and into her mind, both of which reveal that Kaling, despite her celebrity, could easily be the girl next door. 


Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump shares his story of his rise to America’s foremost deal maker. In the most Trump-esque way, the businessman-turned-politician opensup about his greatest accomplishments, shatters myths and reveals how exactly to close the deal. 


"Finding Dory" star, Ellen Degeneres, holds nothing back in this tell-all book about her life in recent years, including the hardships she faced prior to landing her "Finding Nemo" gig and namesake show. She just kept swimming and it has paid off pretty well.


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