Six Incredibly Badass Autobiographies

booksmain

Reading the intimate details of a famous person’s life can be a tedious process. No matter how many albums you’ve sold or wars you’ve fought in, at the end of the day, nobody cares about your schoolboy upbringing and years spent toiling in the fast food industry.

That’s why these autobiographies are so fascinating. From front to back, they’re filled with tales of debauchery that make your average Hollywood blockbuster look like the first two hours of Titanic.

Here are six incredibly badass autobiographies…

Slash: It Seems Excessive… But That Doesn’t Mean It Didn’t Happen, by Slash

slash

Slash’s autobiography is more than the inside story of one of the most oversexed, overdosed, flat out epic rock bands in history. It is a Greek tragedy about the rise and fall of Axl Rose as witnessed by its closest spectator…

slashThis guy.

…and it reads like a rock star-studded version of Paradise Lost:

“Our stripper friend Adriana Smith made an appearance on that trip as well; she was on the East Coast visiting friends who lived in Alphabet City. It was good to have her there, because Adrian was a fun-loving, high-spirited individual, but once Axl coaxed her into his bed, I had to put up with listening to them fuck all night in the room we were sharing.”

Most badass line:

The Batman-esque beginning of the Slash we all know:

“I stole a concho belt from a place called Leathers and Treasures that was black and silver, just like the one Jim Morrison always wore. I planned on wearing it with my jeans or my pair of leather pants (which I’d found in the Dumpster of my grandmother’s old apartment complex) and continued browsing the various shops. I found something interesting in a place called Retail Slut. There was no way that I could afford it, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t sure how I could steal it—but I knew I had to have it.”

hat“It.”

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, by Thomas de Quincey

opium

The book reads like Fear and Loathing in Nineteenth-Century London, only written in the voice of Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Sherlock Holmes.

Most badass line:

“Sometimes in my attempts to steer homewards, upon nautical principles, by fixing my eye on the pole-star, and seeking ambitiously for a north-west passage, instead of circumnavigating all the capes and headlands I had doubled in my outward voyage, I came suddenly upon such knotty problems of alleys, such enigmatical entries, and such sphinx’s riddles of streets without thoroughfares, as must, I conceive, baffle the audacity of porters, and confound the intellects of hackney-coachmen.”

There’s not one word in that huge, rambling, drug-induced sentence that would not make for an Academy Award-nominated screenplay, or at the very least a vast improvement of From Hell.

deppThe worst part of this movie was every other part of this movie.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, by Frederick Douglass

douglass

Born a slave and, in his own words, “broken in body, soul, and spirit,” Frederick Douglass managed to beat up his slaveowners, escape the South and write a book all about it.

Douglass’ writing was so eloquent that no self-respecting Southern racist believed he could have written it. The work made Douglass an instant celebrity and immediately put his life in danger. Due to laws like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, there was a genuine threat that the book’s popularity would prompt Douglass’ ex-owner, Hugh Auld, to find a way to get him back.

He never did.

Most badass line:

“My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”

The Red Fighter Pilot, by Manfred von Richthofen

fighter

Why it’s awesome: You probably know von Richthofen by his nickname: The Red Baron.

It’s the closest you’ll ever come to reading Darth Vader’s autobiography.

Most badass line:

“I honored the fallen enemy by placing a stone on his beautiful grave.”

stone

Also…

“It is a pity that my collection of trophies contains not a single Russian.”

The Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman, William T. Sherman

sherman

In addition to providing the inside story of the man credited with inventing modern warfare—on US soil, no less—Major General William T. Sherman’s memoirs read like the Ph.D. thesis of either a Roman dictator or a Star Trek villain:

“You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out…

You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war.”

If you can believe it, that’s what a Civil War-era olive branch from Gen. Sherman looked like.

Most badass line:

“We rode out of Atlanta by the Decatur road… and reaching the hill, just outside the old rebel works, we naturally paused to look back upon the scenes of our past battles. We stood upon the very ground whereon was fought the bloody battle of July 22d, and could see the corpse of wood where McPherson fell. Behind us lay Atlanta, smouldering and in ruins, the black smoke rising high, and hanging like a pall over the ruined city….

Then we turned our horses’ heads to the east; Atlanta was soon lost behind the screen of trees, and became a thing of the past.”

Genghis Khan could not have said better.

Histoire de ma vie, by Giacomo Casanova

casanova

The most famous record of sexual exploits in history, this life’s work weighs in at 12 volumes and 3,500 pages. Then again, would you expect anything less from the seminal Casanova?

Most badass line:

A note:

“My aunt will ask you to supper but you will decline. You will leave when we sit down at table, and Marta will go to light you to the street door, which she will open; but you will not go out. She will close it and come back. Everyone will believe you gone. You will go up the stairs in the dark, and then up two more flights until you reach the fourth floor. The stairs are good. You will wait there for the three of us.”

Long story short, Casanova loses his virginity to two sisters that evening.

The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, by Benvenuto Cellini

cellini

What makes The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini so entertaining after so many years is not simply the life he lived but how much he enjoyed talking about it. The dude knew just about everyone in the Italian Renaissance from Michelangelo to a guy who beat up Michelangelo to an entire series of Popes to countless prostitutes. A true Renaissance man, Cellini was also a painter, a musician, a goldsmith, a war hero, a sex-offender, a mass-murder, a plague-survivor, an escape-artist and one of the most accomplished sculptors in history.

Most badass line:

Seriously, the whole goddamn book.

“I have always taken pleasure in keeping fine weapons.”

“I too rose from the table, buckled on my sword (in those days everyone used to wear one)…”

“Then I said to him, in Italian: ‘If you make any objection to what I propose, just one word from you and I’ll stab you so many times that I’ll make you spill out your guts.’”

“Still mad with anger I ran downstairs and out into the street, and there I found all the rest of the household waiting for me, more than a dozen of them. One of them had an iron shovel, another a thick length of iron piping…”

“Other of them stake-heads, hammers, and nudgels. I joined battle, snorting like a mad bull, threw four or five to the ground and fell down with them, all the time hitting out with my dagger.”

“The first man I attacked was a plaintiff who had sued me; and one evening I wounded him in the legs and arms so severely, taking care, however, not to kill him, that I deprived him of the use of both his legs. Then I sought out the other fellow who had brought the suit, and used him also in such wise that he dropped it.”

“As soon as my brazen-faced whore set eyes on such a handsome young man she began to have designs on him.”

“If I had known he was a man of such weakness I would never have contemplated taking the humiliating revenge that I did. Not satisfied with having made him take such a shameless little whore as his wife, as well as this – to round off my revenge – I used to send for her to make use of her as my model. Every day I gave her thirty soldi; and I made her pose in the nude.”

“‘If you don’t move off this instant,’ I said, ‘I shall hit you on the head with this sword.’”

“Standing near me, half-asleep, there was a young lout of a stable-boy who said: ‘The landlord won’t move a finger for the Pope – he’s got a tart in bed with him that he’s been after for a long time.’”

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