Do you like to listen to or read books? Given the hustle and bustle of everyday life (and the effects of aging eyes), it’s hard to carve out time to sit down and read a printed book, which makes audiobooks so popular these days.
With that in mind, I opted to go with the audiobook version of “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story” by U2 lead singer Bono, and I’m glad that I did! Not only did Bono write the book, he also narrated the audiobook version, putting a personal touch on the memoir. Reading the printed version provides an interesting look into the band’s history, but hearing its author and key player in the history of U2 reading it, added even more of a personal touch to the story.
Upon listening to the book, it was interesting to learn that many of U2’s songs have a basis in Christianity. In fact, the band has based many of its songs on the teachings and practices of Christianity. Songs like “Until the End of the World,” “Elevation,” “40,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” and “Mysterious Ways”—to name a few—focus on man’s relation to God and Jesus Christ. In all honesty, if asked to name the most well-known and successful Christian rock band of all time, U2 would not have come to mind.
The author examines these truths in deeper detail in “Surrender,” which, in essence, serves as a promotional piece for the band’s upcoming album, “Songs of Surrender,” due to release on March 17. The album will contain 40 reimagined versions of some of U2’s biggest hits, including “With or Without You,” “Vertigo,” “Beautiful Day,” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”
Back to the book.
Listening to Bono narrate “Surrender” is like listening to an animated relative at a family reunion tell stories of the good (and not-so-good) ol’ days. The stories and accounts he offers of how the band formed and rose to superstardom are interesting, but I’ve got to admit that the details he provides, some 40+ years after they happened, had me wondering about the accounts’ veracities. I don’t doubt that the events happened (most are verifiable), but I’m not convinced they actually happened exactly the way he described in the book.
With this in mind, I dived into the audiobook like I would when listening to that animated relative at the family reunion: Take the stories for what they’re worth with the understanding that embellishments are bound to happen. This made the book more enjoyable.
An interesting story from the book points out that the members of U2 formed the habit early on of huddling together backstage before each show to pray, to pray for God to bless them to share what He’s given them with the audience for which they’re about to perform. This, according to Bono, is part of their routine to this day.
Like romance in the books you read? “Surrender” offers a little of that as readers and listeners get to learn about how Bono and his wife Allison came together, and have stayed together for over 40 years.
A feature that the audiobook version of “Surrender” offers that the printed book cannot is the inclusion of song snippets of some of the reimagined songs on the forthcoming album and the original versions of others, both of which play in the background during segments of Bono’s narration. This gives the narration more of a radio show vibe than a typical audiobook feel.
“Surrender” is a good read for U2 fans and those who aren’t. I’ve long been a lover of the band’s music, but, as Bono points out in the book, not everybody is. To this point of view, The Edge, the band’s guitarist, says those who don’t like U2 aren’t trying hard enough.
You don’t have to like U2’s music to appreciate the accounts of the band’s successes, failures, and longevity as described in this book.
Released on Nov. 1, 2022, “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story” has 576 pages (about 20 hours of audiobook time) and is available in print and electronic editions. You can find it on the Libby app, but expect long wait times. I got in line for the audiobook and found out it wouldn’t be my turn for about four to six months. The loophole I found was to get a 30-day free trial of Audible and get a copy that way instead. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
From life before the formation of U2 to the band’s struggle to succeed to its meteoric rise to fame in the 1980s and beyond, “Surrender” is a memoir rich in inspiration, insight, and introspection.