2. Sticky Fingers
The story around this book threatened to overshadow the book itself: After hiring and firing multiple writers over the years, Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner commissioned reporter/writer Joe Hagan to write his definitive biography timed with this year’s 50th anniversary of his magazine. Wenner imagined he’d get the Woodrow Wilson-esque presidential biography he’d envisioned would be his due since he was a boy—he saved all his personal correspondence for most of his life—and Hagan delivered the only book he realistically could: one that emphasizes the sex and the drugs alongside the rock and roll. Wenner didn’t see the book till it rolled off the press, and went about disowning it, refusing to appear alongside Hagan at events and counterprogramming against it (the timing of a much more fawning HBO documentary seemed weirdly timed).
Hagan’s book, though, is an amazing read about how the ambition of one man could lead to so many different cultural shifts, from youth being able to define themselves by the music they listen to, to advertisers preying on that fact, to general celebrity becoming, and eventually overtaking, the old idea of “stardom.” Wenner might have been an egomaniac, reformed drug addict and general crazy person, but it was his triumph that made Rolling Stone what it is. Hagan’s book doesn’t pretend Wenner was a saint, or even that good of a person, and because of that, this book has lionized him as the king he thinks he is, even if he can’t tell.