Cover Image: James Patterson by James Patterson

James Patterson by James Patterson

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When I think of authors who have helped sustain my weekly reading goal across the last decade, the first to come to mind is James Patterson. I was first introduced to his books when my Mom gave me her secondhand copy of Mary, Mary. From the very first page, I was hooked. As a typical high school student, I wasn't necessarily excited to read, but Patterson's book changed everything. This book was fun. I tore through his signature quick chapters, breathlessly needing to see what happened next. With the turn of the final page, I felt a sense of accomplishment at having read a book for pleasure and a yearning to read even more. 

Nearly 20 years later, I still get excited by Patterson's writing. I think it's safe to say that I'm also still excited about reading. One of the perks of reviewing as many books as I do has been the connections I've made with other readers and publishers. My bookstagram buddy Katie (@niftyreads) alerted me to Patterson's self-titled memoir and recommended I listen to the audio. The folks at Little Brown, Patterson's long-time publisher, provided me with a copy of the book, so I eagerly consumed the work by reading and listening. Given my history of reading Patterson's stories, it seems rather fitting that his memoir be book number 52 for the 10th year of A Book A Week. 

In James Patterson: The Stories of My Life, the bestselling author reflects on his life thus far through intimate stories that span the breadth of his storied career. While each chapter mostly follows the chronology of his life, Patterson maintains his signature quick pace by having each chapter serve as a short, conversational recollection. The topics are as varied as they are interesting. He writes about his days in advertising, his initial struggles to get published, and even sets the record straight about his controversial use of co-authors. I found his candor to be refreshing. Patterson narrates the audiobook, so listening to it really does feel like you're having a conversation with an old friend. James Patterson continues to hook readers with each new work, and this memoir is no exception.
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This is a book of stories, in no particular order.  He jumps around his life, telling stories of what he has done, people he has met and how he became the world best selling writer. I enjoyed reading about his time as an advertising executive, his school days, his experience at Woodstock and his lack of confidence at becoming a fiction writer. He talks about his friendship with former President, Bill Clinton and their writing collaboration. It was written in his usual conversational style, with short chapters which makes it a very fast read - just like his fiction novels.

I have read almost all of his Alex Cross books, and all of his Women's Murder Club books and love his writing.  His method of short chapters make most of his book quick reads, but does not diminish the story.   I am almost afraid to start any of his other adult series because I am sure I would get hooked on them, too.  I am going to look up a couple of his non-fiction books, though, especially Walk in My Combat Boots, and, of course his two collaborations with Bill Clinton and his one with Dolly Parton.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for granting my request to read the book even though it was after the book had come out.  I always try to read and review my NetGalley books before they are published so potential readers can see if they want to read the book.  I am sorry I took so long to read this one as I read it in three days!
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Two things I really love about James Patterson's books are:
1) Short chapters!
2) His down-to-earth writing style.

This book is no different, it had both these things. Though I do think "Anecdotes from My Life" might have been a better title, as it's kind of stories from throughout his life as opposed to a real autobiography.

I was under the impression that most writers are introverts, but that doesn't seem to be the case. He knows a LOT of people (as proven by all the name dropping), and he's very chill about all the famous people he's met, and even collaborated with.

Overall an entertaining read, and gives you a bit of an insight into James Patterson's personality as well.
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James Patterson is a born story teller.

His books entertain and get us reading.

The Stories of My Life is like sitting down and having a conversation with James Patterson.

The chapters are short ( he has spoiled me with short chapters ) and I found myself laughing out loud at times.

I sat down thinking I will just read a few chapters and before I knew it I was finished.

James Patterson has an important message and he and his wife do a lot to get our children reading.

I think of my son who read the Alex Cross series and the Women's Murder Club series during his courageous fight  with brain tumors for 12 years.  He said well I have to start back at book one but I don't mind I love these books.    I will always be grateful for those books. ( He lost his battle at age 37)

Thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown and Company for an informative and entertaining read.
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I preordered this book even before I saw it was available on NetGalley. Full disclosure, I think James Patterson is one of the greatest authors out there and his writing style is my favorite. 

This book was a beautiful stream of consciousness that just made me happy throughout. Each of these short recollections brought you into Patterson’s world and each one was enjoyable. I liked this book as much as I liked the recent Jerry Seinfeld book because it felt a lot like you were talking to an old friend. Every story felt like it came from the heart and while I may be bias because I do really enjoy his work, but this is a book I’ll be thinking about for a while. Also for any Castle fans, there is a good story in here with a nod to the show.
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This was really good.    I almost didn't finish it but it got interesting after a while.    I love the books that James Patterson writes.  I'm grateful that netgalley let me read this in exchange for an honest review
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James Patterson is the world’s most commercially successful writer. His career started off normally enough—laboring in obscurity while doing a job he disliked—and resulted in a couple of novels that were critically successful and commercial failures. Throughout the next couple of decades, Patterson would refine his writing and use his advertising expertise and ability to draw in an audience to create a publishing juggernaut. Around the year 2000, Patterson’s books began to take off. He’d had some success with his Alex Cross novels, but when he began to coauthor books—usually outlining novels and leaving the bulk of writing to approved coauthors—did his career really begin to take off. Now, Patterson is involved in dozens of projects a year and has written novels with everyone from Bill Clinton to Dolly Parton. Fiction. Non-fiction. Romance. Suspense. YA. Children’s novels. James Patterson writes books for people who normally don’t read books. And this is the story behind that.

James Patterson by James Patterson (audiobook read by James Patterson) meanders between a celebrity-style memoir—meaning a lot of fluff with no real substance—and occasionally passages that offer a little more meat. James Patterson is at its best when it describes Patterson’s evolving writing career and how he moved into the style that’s made him so successful. It’s a movement from being critically-lauded to loathed, but commercially failing to an estimated $700 million net worth. It’s at its worst when Patterson takes whole chapters that could basically be titled “Famous Friends I Have” and “Celebrities I Have Met.” It’s a sometimes-insightful, more-than-occasionally self-pleasuring recollection of interesting facts and tidbits about Patterson’s life.

Unfortunately, like a lot of his books, James Patterson is short on substance. It has its moments, particularly when Patterson shows his passion for children’s literature and spends time talking about his collaborations with Chris Grabenstein and others, but it mostly treats readers to TMZ-level superficiality and leaves unanswered some of the most pressing questions I had about his writing career.

Patterson is also guarded about his personal life (though I don’t blame him here). There are some poignant moments drawn from his childhood and he obviously loves his wife and son deeply. Seeing that his movement into children’s literature came about because his son didn’t feel excited about reading is a beautiful example of a father’s love and using his position to make a change. 

Overall, I would have liked to have seen Patterson go deeper, to reflect on his success and methodologies, to address common criticisms that pop up about him only writing for the money or just slapping his name on work he didn’t really write. Patterson changed his whole writing style from his early novels to the present and understanding how he made that change would have been enlightening. I also would have liked to have gotten more insight into the publishing process and how that works for him, how coauthors are selected, and so on. It’s a superficial, easily-readable, entertaining, but not all that substantive memoir. In other words, James Patterson by James Patterson is written in a textbook James Patterson style.
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Mad man made good
August 18, 2022, the Times Literary Supplement, UK


In James Patterson’s thriller Jack and Jill (1996), a madman stalking a child in a branch of Toys “R” Us pauses to reflect on the in-store Muzak:

The overhead speakers were playing the chain’s irritating and moronic theme song: “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid.” Over and over and over, the kind of mindless repetition that kids loved … I don’t want to grow up either, he said to himself. I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid killer.

Patterson wrote that jingle while working at the advertising firm of J. Walter Thompson North America. He became its CEO while still in his thirties, retiring in 1996 to concentrate on his writing. By the 2000s he was the world’s bestselling living author. More than 450 million copies of his books are in print.

Yet his impressive literary career is less a second act than an extension of his first profession. To the more genteel world of publishing he brought an aggressive marketing ethos, and he recreated himself as a lucrative brand name. Even the title of his autobiography – James Patterson by James Patterson: The stories of my life (by James Patterson) – evinces the “mindless repetition” of that Toys “R” Us ditty. Autobiographies tend to be artful self-presentations, but this one is the work of a master salesman. One approaches it with a combination of curiosity and scepticism.

The author presents himself as a hard-working, family-oriented individual from a blue-collar community, a folksy figure calculated to appeal to the average Joe and Josephine. His “least favorite word” is “elicit” and he is unimpressed by status; he has rejected the “fancy-pants” country-club set. (Fortunately, he’s still willing to share stories of golfing with three presidents, co-writing novels with Bill Clinton and Dolly Parton, and meeting celebrities.) At times Patterson echoes the anti-intellectual bias of mainstream American culture: he finds “the inner world of literary people [to be] borderline crazy and completely overrated.” This homespun persona, however, exists in tension with a more complex figure glimpsed between the lines, someone a mystery writer possibly intended to conceal in plain sight. Despite the brief, anecdotal chapters, he advises “not to skim too much”: his book is as much an essay on “the craft of storytelling” as it is “this ego biography that you’re reading”.

He was born in 1947 in Newburgh, New York. Although he describes himself as “kind of a working-class storyteller”, his family were middle-class. His father, “a quiet but tough man”, sold insurance while his mother taught. Both parents were readers, but Patterson didn’t develop a feeling for literature until after he left high school. He was an achiever, nevertheless, gifted with a “goofy-high IQ” and the determination “to be number one in, well, everything“. His strong work ethic derived in part from attending Catholic schools through college, where rigour and discipline were enforced by corporal punishment, but the drive to succeed stemmed primarily from his desire to please a demanding father. He has since undergone counseling for “anger issues” related to his upbringing and come to accept himself less for his achievements than for being “a reasonably nice person who mostly tries to do the right thing”.

Patterson presents convincing evidence that he can be kind and compassionate. But “kindness” becomes a refrain, almost as if it were another jingle for the sensitivity he wishes to impress on his female demographic. “My wife, Sue, says that sometimes I’m too kind”, he admits, and Sue duly provides a guest-written chapter, testingifying directly that he is “sweet and thoughtful”. He insists that caring authors like Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Wolfe are his role models, and that he was hired to work at a psychiatric hospital after high school (despite a lack of qualifications) “because I have empathy for people. You be the judge of that.”

Empathy – or the canny manipulation of emotion – has helped make him a global phenomenon. While his thrillers eschew nuance and at times credibility, they expertly exploit primal feelings. (In their focus on propulsive plots, simple English and exaggerated characters, they somewhat resemble interwar pulp fiction: Patterson has recently rebooted 1930s stalwarts the Shadow and Doc Savage.) But he’s not all sweetness and light, as those “anger issues” attest. A non-skimming reader will discern more than a little passive-aggressive score-settling. The writer Jimmy Breslin was brusque to him once: “I figured he wasn’t really a bad person… but what a prick”. And don’t get him started on Stephen King, who called him a “terrible writer”. Patterson disagrees, branding his style “colloquial”. He discusses a controversy concerning one of his titles, The Murder of Stephen King – “A cool story with Stephen King as the damn hero” – in some detail. King’s representatives asked that he withdraw the book; Patterson acceded “out of respect”. He complains that this gesture was never acknowledged: “I still enjoy King’s scary novels … but I guess he has trouble with thank-you notes.”

The part-time stint at the psychiatric hospital was formative. There, Patterson filled the slack hours at night with second-hand paperbacks and, to his surprise, discovered a passion for literary fiction: “I started reading like a man possessed during those long, dark nights of other people’s souls.” He movingly describes how writers such as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet freed his mind and inspired him to be a writer. After college he attended graduate school, hoping to write “the Pretty Good American Novel”. He fell under the sway of modernism, invested in style rather than plot and disdained commercial fiction.

But graduate school was a dead end, in part because Patterson felt (and feels) ambivalent about academia, and because he needed to support his writing habit. He drifted into advertising, started to enjoy thrillers and ceased to be a “literary snob”. He also perceived a new opportunity: realizing he wouldn’t win stars as a modernist, he decided he could write bestselling thrillers. His first mystery, The Thomas Berryman Number (1976), was rejected thirty-one times before it landed at Little, Brown. The book had literary pretensions, starting with the title: “Thomas” was a tribute to the novelist Thomas McGuane, “Berryman” a nod to the poet John Berryman. It won a prestigious Edgar award for best first novel, but sold modestly. The art of the bestseller had yet to be mastered.

And yet, as Patterson tells it, his breakout book, Along Came a Spider (1993), almost happened by accident. He’d written a “full-length outline” of several hundred pages before realizing that the outline itself, with its short chapters and minimal detail, was the finished novel, “keeping [it] bright and hot”. Readers agreed, and the book climbed to number two on the New York Times charts. Revealingly, Patterson doesn’t mention the vital role played by advertising. When he insisted that Little, Brown run television spots for the book, they demurred, so he created one himself. The publisher reluctantly agreed to split the cost; once the ads ran, sales sold.

Patterson continued to refashion Publishers’ Row in the likeness of Madison Avenue. Once established as a thriller writer, he proposed writing a romance. His publisher objected that this would hurt his “brand”; again the prevailed authored, and the book (Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, 2001) was a success. He then produced books in multiple genres – fantasy, science fiction, children’s, young adult, nonfiction – at a clip, mostly by hiring (openly credited) co-writers. Patterson designs the plots and provides his collaborators with detailed outlines, revising their chapters as needed. His name graces 400 or so titles to date.

He is a fiction factory and cheerfully admits it. But at the same time he wants his craft to be acknowledged, and he has wider philanthropic aims. The former altar boy is on a crusade against childhood illiteracy, donating millions of dollars to the teaching profession, school libraries and independent bookstores. He considers his works for children “the best books that I write”, although his adult books can be instructive as well. The early novels featuring detective Alex Cross are laced with allusions to books by accessible and recondite authors alike. “Teaching is in my blood.”

Patterson dislikes dogmatism. He wishes more people displayed the open-mindedness literature cultivates. “My entire life”, he says, “I honestly have had no idea who the hell I am … [I’ve] no particular identity, [I’m] just another lost soul.” That existential self vies with the constructed persona of James Patterson by James Patterson, of course, but it is not a unique struggle. His autobiography reveals as much about the nature of being human as it does about the consequences of becoming a brand name.

Michael Saler is Professor of History at the University of California, Davis. He is writing a history of modern fantasy

Browse the books from this week’s edition of the TLS at the TLS Shop

The post Mad man made good appeared first on TLS.
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Loved learning how he became a best selling author.  I was confused by how he jumped topics or time periods
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Oh my goodness, where to start! If there's one person I'd like to have coffee with, it would be this man. Narrated by the man himself, it felt like we were simply having coffee--it's more of a conversation than a narration of his words. Quick, entertaining prose has you riveted throughout the entire book. He has a compelling and interesting story. Patterson's autobiography is one that I personally relate to, but it's a slice of life that anyone would enjoy and be fully entertained. This is an instant handseller, for sure!
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Leave it to James Patterson to create an autobiography that was not your typical autobiography.  Yes he tells the story of his life but not the I was born on this date and place and went to this elementary school etc.  No he shares small snapshots of his life told in sometimes humorous stories. He goes behind the scenes of how he got started and an ad writer. He gives us the scoop on how he can publish so many books in a year and the different collaborations that comes up with, Dolly being one of the most unique.  A heartwarming book that makes you feel that you are spending time with a close friend.
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A wonderful book about how one of the most famous writers today became who he is.

The short chapters made for a quick, easy read (like all his books). The stories were funny, sad, inspiring, and most of all, entertaining.

A wonderful book whether you are a James Patterson fan, or not. If not, you will become one after reading this. His life is as interesting as his novels.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the advanced copy to review.
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I hoped this memoir answers all of the questions I've gathered over the years while reading Patterson's fitty-lem published mysteries immediately upon release. My expectations are high. I need this memoir to share what the MasterClass did not. I need to meet the real Nana Mama. Untold stories in his colloquial writing style. The inner workings of his creative mind to have come up with the most famous jingle ever. The tables he sat at, the meals he shared, the places he traveled and a clue to his political beliefs. I want the stories of his life in the form of his signature short chapters. I want this signed deckle edge hardcover to be a page-turner and to eHighlight many quotes in the galley.

I came away with some of those answers. Such as what inspired his writing style of concise chapters with irony and wit, his successful ad career, famous neighbors and acquaintances. Actually there is a whole ass section name-dropping that was annoying but I soldiered through. 🙄

I have taken my time reading this memoir but finished on a quiet Saturday. JPxJP is very easy to read and much like his writing style. Short chapters. Straight-to-the-point stories. Easy to skip around since not told in chronological order. And speaking of books, I am like publisher Little, Brown with my little spreadsheet too. Hence my reading challenge: Keeping Up with Patterson. I know without fail there will be one new novel per year in each series: Alex Cross, Women's Murder Club and Michael Bennett. Now he is mastering nonfiction. Hate all you want but the man knows how to market, feeds and breeds readers, gives debut writers a chance to see their name in print and changed the publishing game on you heauxs.

I see what you did here, JP, and I respect it. The power of stories!

~LiteraryMarie (Full Live Read Available on site).
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Summary:
The famous and beloved writer gives you glimpses into his life- before, during and after becoming one of the best selling writers of our time. 

I have to admit to not knowing much about James Patterson before reading this book. It's really why I was so drawn to it. I've read several of his books- like millions of others. I've read an interview of his, but I didn't know his story. And let me tell you, there was far more to it than I ever thought there was. 

Within these pages, you will learn about the raw deal he got in school. He takes you through his high school years and how he, and numerous other fellow students, were manipulated into changing their college plans. 

Another thing I had no clue about was Patterson's highly successful career in advertising- before his successful writing career. He even tells you some of the campaigns he worked on that you may have heard of. 

While he's giving you the tour of his past, he opens up about a devastating loss. He introduces you to his first love and walks you through what it was like losing her, and the blow it was when it finally happened. It really brought out a side of him I wasn't expecting, but really enjoyed reading about. Some of my favorite books of his aren't his crime/thrillers, but the fiction ones. I was able to see where those beautiful stories came from. 

Patterson's humor is found throughout the entire book, which I loved. he didn't take anything too seriously and wasn't above poking fun at himself. I loved how he introduced you to his favorite cowriters. 

Fans of Patterson will enjoy hearing his story from his perspective. Those who only know him from his books will have the opportunity to get to know him. Long standing fans will get the feeling of hanging out with him over lunch while he talks about himself. You may not get the most detailed story of his life, but you enjoy what you do get.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an e ARC of this book.
What a delight! James Patterson as storyteller talks about his life. Short vignettes that jump all over the place but still make sense. I learned thing's I never knew. How could I have not known he was CEO at J. Walter Thompson? I really like the man far more than I expected to. Could have kept reading. Keep writing James. Love it all.
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James Patterson is a storyteller! While somewhat of an autobiography, this is really just more of a collection of short stories about his life. They aren’t necessarily in chronological order, and that makes it hard to follow the timeline sometimes. Overall, I really liked the stories James Patterson told. It is interesting to see where he came from and what he sees as important in life. Spoiler alert: it’s his wife, son, sisters, and helping kids learn to love to read. I know he gets criticism for various things, but I liked James Patterson by James Patterson and thought many of the stories were heartwarming. There were some really odd stories, too, but overall, it was a really interesting look at his life.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy.
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James Paterson by James Paterson is a quick and fun read by an author whose brief and to the point style does not spare any pertinent details.
Paterson has always been a writer and he supported his avocation by working at an advertising firm in New York City. Paterson called himself a MAD Man. Despite rising to the position of CEO in the AD. firm, Paterson's overall goal was to be a published writer; he has become wildly successful. I have read a couple of Paterson's books non mystery books and after adjusting to his style,  I enjoyed the stories.
Paterson's life has been interesting, and he has used his wealth to strongly encourage everyone to read!
The book includes a list of book recommendations!
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In the style of James Patterson, James Patterson writes about himself. That is a lot of James Patterson in "James Patterson by James Patterson".  Are you confused yet? In this fascinating book James Patterson, the acclaimed and highly published author tells his story, but he does it by telling stories, fascinating stories of his life. It begins with his experiences as an aid in a mental hospital and more stories about his time as an usher where he meets many of the great rockers of his time. It continues with his tenure in the advertising world where he begins to write. Patterson tells fascinating stories of his encounters with names we all know, from the world of music to the heights of presidential politics James Patterson encounters and writes with them all. In this fascinating autobiography from Patterson, you will hear of his loves, his co-writers and workers, his children, and most interestingly how he writes a novel. The master storyteller tells his own life in a series of stories. Fascinating and entertaining as are all his books, this one gives a bit of insight into the man himself. For his fans, this is a read you will enjoy. Thanks to #NetGalley#JamesPattersonbyJamesPatterson for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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James Patterson, my most read author personally, tells about his rise to fame in this autobiography. I have always wondered to myself, how does he keep putting  thriller after thriller out? I definitely enjoyed reading this book about James Patterson's life and getting to know him a little better. This is unlike any other autobiography I have every read though. 

I felt like James Patterson was in the room with me just answering some of my questions. This book is written in such a way that you get glimpses into his life but you also get to understand where he gets some of his writing technique from. I though it was really interesting to find out about Jame's life and where he got most of his style of writing from. 

I think anyone that is a fan of James Patterson will truly enjoy this read. Who doesn't like to find out more about their favorite author? 

I voluntarily read and reviewed this book and all opinions are my own. Thanks to the publisher, author and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book.
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I feel like a friend just wrote me a long news-filled letter. Hey, I don’t know the amazing author James Patterson, but I feel like I do after reading his memoir. Thank you, James Patterson, for sharing a bit of your fascinating life with me. It’s cliche, but I could not put this excellent book down.
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