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Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run review roundup: What critics are saying

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With decades of music under his belt, Bruce Springsteen has moved into literary territory with his autobiography Born to Run. In his own words, The Boss tells of his rise from a kid in New Jersey to a rock legend. The lengthy memoir is rich and revealing, and critics have devoured it: The book, which multiple critics note feels like a long Springsteen concert, just debuted to strong reviews. 

In his B+ review, EW’s Clark Collis praised Springsteen’s revealing narrative, noting that Springsteen doesn’t shy away from reflecting on the bad as well as the good. He calls the book “an entertaining account of Springsteen’s marathon race to the top and a reminder that the one thing you can’t run away from is yourself.”

Read more of Collis’ review below, and see what other critics had to say about Born to Run, out now.

Clark Collis (Entertainment Weekly)

“While tales of his subsequent professional life can be less vibrant than those depicting his early struggles, Springsteen’s prose comes alive whenever he writes about his relationships with loved ones, including late sax player Clarence Clemons, and his mentally troubled father, who would ultimately be diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. But Springsteen is at his most revealing when he talks about his relationship with depression, a disease he calls “the prize in the Cracker Jack box in our family,” and which he attempts to keep at bay with therapy and prescription meds. The result is both an entertaining account of Springsteen’s marathon race to the top and a reminder that the one thing you can’t run away from is yourself.”

Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone)

“Like a Springsteen show, Born To Run goes on forever – five hundred pages, no index — and leaves you worn out, yet fiending for one more one-two-three-four. … Born To Run is not the Bruce Springsteen story — it’s another chapter in the lifelong story he’s kept telling for nearly 50 years, onstage and on wax, in his songs and between them, all over his interviews and liner notes and guitar solos. The tone is loose and rambling, full of all-caps punch lines and the exclamation points of a dad who loves to text. He skips over many of his best tales just because he’s already told them elsewhere. He goes light on the Hopes-‘n’-Dreams talk. This book is a guy telling stories to himself, trying to figure his deepest questions out.”

Dwight Garner (The New York Times)

“The book is like one of Mr. Springsteen’s shows — long, ecstatic, exhausting, filled with peaks and valleys. It’s part séance and part keg party, and then the house lights come up and you realize that, A) you look ridiculous dancing to ‘Twist and Shout’ and, B) you will be driving home in a minivan and not a Camaro. His writing voice is much like his speaking voice; there’s a big, raspy laugh on at least every other page. There’s some raunch here. This book has not been utterly sanitized for anyone’s protection, and many of the best lines won’t be printed in this newspaper.”

Richard Williams (The Guardian)

“In a book that bears the hallmarks of having been written by his own hand, Springsteen is particularly good at capturing the exhilaration of his rise to success with the E Street Band, formed as a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ in 1972 after he had grown weary of playing in co-operative groups. … Overwriting and repetition sometimes make it feel as though he has chosen to issue the literary equivalent of the four-CD deluxe version, complete with demos and out-takes, instead of the finished album itself. The sentimental stuff about his kids could have been tightened up and the occasional splurges of capital letters and exclamation marks require understanding as an attempt to reproduce on the page the comic melodrama of his on-stage storytelling. His editor might have given him better advice on that.”

Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune)

“On his first visit to the doctor’s office, he breaks down in tears, and some of the unburdening, some of what he learned about himself and dad and ‘the ties that bind,’ to quote one song title, provides a narrative thread through 500-plus pages. The potential for maudlin sentimentality is great. But Springsteen keeps the tone relatively breezy and conversational. The voice in this book is a more confiding version of the one heard on stage. It is self-deprecating and sometimes withering in its honesty, especially when judging himself.”

David Brooks (The Atlantic)

He is a literate, artful, and even urbane writer (there is no way this book is ghosted) who has reaped the sorts of insights you get from more than three decades in therapy. He is still tortured and haunted, but he has gotten himself more or less together. The journey from obscurity to rock-and-roll fantasy is not as important in this book as the internal journey from anxious urgency to some sort of self-forgiving peace.”

Barbara J. King (NPR)

Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen’s memoir set for release on Tuesday, is a virtuoso performance, the 508-page equivalent to one of Springsteen and the E Street Band’s famous four-hour concerts: Nothing is left onstage, and diehard fans and first-timers alike depart for home sated and yet somehow already aching for more.”