Gucci Mane's Inspirational Guide to Self-Improvement (in Prison) – New York Times
RAP SHEET: The idea of “desert island books” always makes me smile. For one thing, has anyone outside of Robinson Crusoe and the cast of the S.S. Minnow ever spent significant time on an uncharted desert isle? But O.K., fine, let’s say it happened to me: Would I really tackle the complete works of Shakespeare (as I once proclaimed), or would I just refresh my Twitter feed and scroll through the latest intimations of doom until either my battery died or I did?
Forget desert islands. If you’re going to make a reading list, you might as well make one for prison, where smartphones are contraband and a disconcerting number of people really do need ways to pass the years. One such person has been the prolific Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane, whose memoir — titled simply “The Autobiography of Gucci Mane” — hits the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 4. Gucci’s résumé includes drug charges, assault charges and weapons charges, all of which the book discusses. It also details his efforts at self-improvement: “Prison is time,” he writes. “I tried to use the time to better myself. I kept up with the exercise, taking part in the workout classes they offered. … I lost nearly 80 pounds in total.” And yes, he read books too: “A lot of self-help, inspirational stuff. Tony Robbins. Deepak Chopra. Malcolm Gladwell. James Allen. The biographies of Pimp C. and Jimi Hendrix. Mike Tyson’s autobiography.”
Whatever he did, it worked so well that after his release from federal prison in 2016, some fans had a hard time believing that this slimmed-down, clearheaded, clean and sober ex-con wasn’t an impostor — or a C.I.A. clone, as one conspiracy theory had it, sent to disrupt the Atlanta rap scene. Gucci doesn’t address these rumors in the book, which some readers may take as proof. The real Gucci Mane no doubt is on a desert island even now, drinking lean and reading Shakespeare.
SPECIAL FORCES: Dan Jones’s latest history, “The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors,” is new at No. 11 in hardcover nonfiction. The book sorts fact from legend regarding the Templar Knights, who were like a medieval Catholic version of the Special Forces, protecting pilgrims to the Middle East. One myth Jones has had to dispel — thanks in part to “The Da Vinci Code” — is that the group did not really dissolve in the 14th century. “The idea that they exist in the shadows today,” Jones told The Austin American-Statesman (“like a man trying hard to be polite,” according to the reporter), “it’s very fertile ground for the seeds of conspiracy.”
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