By Jimmy McDonough

With his sourpuss voice, flannel shirts and crusty attitude, Neil Young is the bridge from Woodstock to Kurt Cobain. This 700-plus-page authorized bio, named after one of Young's musical aliases, does a good job retracing that span.

Born in Toronto, Young struggled with polio and epilepsy: During one 1966 gig he was hauled offstage on a stretcher after a seizure. Young's passions show up everywhere, from his model-train hobby to the school for severely impaired kids he helped create in tribute to his two cerebral-palsy-stricken sons. Exhaustively researched (for 10 years), impressively detailed and at times frustratingly meandering, Shakey portrays Young as introspective and frail but with an iron will to create music. The long passages in which McDonough steps aside to let Young talk are the most revealing.

"One week I'm a jerk," Young says, in a barb aimed at music critics. "The next week I'm a genius." This book argues artfully for the latter. (Random House, $29.95)

Bottom Line: Rich harvest

  • Contributors:
  • Kim Hubbard,
  • Allen Salkin,
  • Samantha Miller,
  • Alec Foege,
  • Peter Hyman,
  • Sean Gannon.