I have to agree with many of the other reviewers: this was a book to keep me awake at night and delay the progress of many seemingly more imperative things in my life! At risk of repeating that which has been stated already, this is quite simply an incredibly detailed account of the life of Michael Jackson from his birth up until 2004. It covers his childhood living in an impossibly cramped house by any standards, alongside his siblings and parents amid the grime and gangs of Gary, Indiana; his later accession to fame as a member of the Jackson 5, helped by the tenaciousness of his father in getting the brothers first signed up at Motown; his painful experiences which later led to his seemingly interminable succession of changes of personal appearance; and his breakaway and independence as a successful solo artist beyond, through the Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad eras. As Taraborrelli quite fairly puts it, "to describe Jackson as having staggeringly succeeded would be to state the obvious".
As for what kind of experience you derive from this book aside from sheer accessibility to such obvious subject areas, albeit in so gloriously heavy detail, there were, of course, some discrepancies between what I expected prior to reading, and what information and impression of Jackson's life Taraborrelli goes on to furnish us with. I'd never quite gathered previous to my reading of this book, for example, just how fundamental and lingering an influence in MJ's adult life had continued to be his brothers and family (particularly the other members of the Jackson 5 and Joseph, whose insistence and seemingly ever-adamant faith it was that Michael would surely one day rejoin them to tour after 1984's Victory Tour, such to the point that this apparently remained on MJ's conscience whenever they otherwise attempted to lend their thus unwanted periodic public support to him during such troublesome times as the two instances of child sexual abuse accusations). Such ordeals into which he was dragged include the La Toya/Jack Gordon scenario and the Jackson/Moonies reunion project, eventually aborted, the latter of which I have certainly never read of either before or since.
Elsewhere, I was also initially a little surprised at Taraborrelli's squeezing of three of MJ's later albums (HIStory, Blood on the Dance Floor and Invincible) into one short chapter, only really briefly touching in any way on the artistic process involved within them and their videos - particularly noticeable given his seeming tendency during the Jackson 5/Motown section of the book to devote a chapter each to every little minutiae of development on such events as their decision to leave that label. In this later stage of the book, you do get the impression that he is either simply reduced to commenting from afar on the basis of a lack of later contact with Jackson, or otherwise presumably not terribly enthused by MJ's later work (there isn't even a section devoted specifically to any of Dangerous, the album; only the accompanying tour is really talked of during the phase where he is principally interested in discussing the Jordie Chandler situation which was erupting at that same time). Basically all of 1991 is missed out in his eagerness to transfer between the excellently documented run-up to the release of Dangerous when MJ fired manager Frank DiLeo, left John Branca and came under the influence of David Geffen. Whatever, maybe I'm just nitpicking here, given how much I adore the whole book, but it would have been nice nonetheless to hear more thoughts on MJ's artistic approach to his later music, for those of us who grew up following the MJ of the 1990s and early 2000s, as I did. Nonetheless, he doesn't let up on the overall detail during this period of MJ's life, as per the rest of the book, covering his marriages to Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe, the HIStory World Tour, the Martin Bashir documentary and all its fallout and, of course, his later realignment of his biggest priority in his life from show business to his children, a surprising development catalyzed by the sheer trauma of the Chandler ordeal.
Taraborrelli speculates, albeit insightfully, on the lack of wisdom on the MJ team's part of planting such outlandish media stories in the later 1980s (concerning the hyperbaric chamber and Joseph Merrick's bones, most famously) designed to promote a `wacky' image for Jackson; this policy later led to the previous careful manipulation of his image spinning precariously out of control as, in contradiction to MJ's own initial conclusion of an ability of his to "control the media", news outlets seized the initiative to weave all manner of their own pernicious tales. Comparable treatment is afforded to such claims made by MJ and his team as his outlandish Neverland lifestyle from 1988 effectively being a compensation for his `lost childhood'; Taraborrelli points out that even if this were true, as of 2004 (the date of the book's publication) this would have meant that MJ would have effectively compensated twice over; instead, he suggests that perhaps MJ simply missed his childhood, more than he ever actually missed out. He contemplates MJ's apparent continued immaturity and lack of awareness, reflected in his mistakes, and openly ponders why he doesn't seem to understand the world's less positive responses to his actions, or, associated with that, feel any real willingness to `grow up' or become more rational. All in all, the book's tone is objective, showing as much fascination in MJ as any star-struck fan or the most repulsed or outraged critic, while never really expressing as extreme a sentiment as either entity, instead reasoning so constantly and serenely as to lead you to believe even his more speculative observations of MJ's life to be probably true.
This is quite possibly the mostly rawly readable book I have read in my life. I devoured it in a week. It is to be absolutely, unhesitatingly recommended.