Part I

An epic, shoot-for-the-moon band like U2 — with a lead singer who actually believes that rock ’n’ roll can, if not save the world, then at least change it for the better — deserves a book as dense with detail and insight as Matt McGee’s.

Picking up the story in 1950, when Bono’s parents, Bob Hewson and Iris Rankin, get married, “U2 — A Diary” follows the band from its humble beginnings — including the talent contest the band won even though Doves guitarist Fran Kennedy remembers being “... dumbfounded when they won, because truly, they were awful” — all the way through its ascendance to rock royalty.

No stone is unturned here, as McGee, through his painstaking research — conducted through a blog he set up that allowed fans and others to help him nail down the facts — digs out the truth behind just about every U2-related story ever told. It tells the inside story of U2’s connections to an Evangelical Christian group in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It reveals much about a trip Bono made to Central America and the impact events in his life around that time had on the making of The Joshua Tree.

And that’s just a small taste of what lies in store for anyone who picks up “U2 — A Diary.” The timeline McGee sets up and the way he strings together quotes from U2 insiders makes for an easy, compelling read, and the book is full of superb black-and-white images — some of them rarely seen before — that only serve to enhance McGee’s exhaustive history of a band that still matters.