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Extra Resources And A Discount For U2: A Love Story

Contributed by Brian Johnston, Ph.D, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Media, Journalism & Film, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

As co-author of U2: A Love Story, I invite you to visit our website for the book. My favorite pages on the site are “The Mix Tape” and the “Classroom.” The “Themes” page explains how we understand “Myth,” “Love,” and “Liminality.”

I also want to invite you to name your own price for the book if its cost is too high for you right now. I have copies to sell and and if you email me, I’d be happy to accept what you can afford. My contact page is here.

Our study of U2 is unique. It’s from the perspective of love, specifically agape, amor, and eros. Susan Mackey-Kallis and I are both fans of the band, and rather than hiding this we embrace it and work that into our study of U2’s ongoing popularity. We also see a profoundly mythic journey in U2’s career, co-constructed by the band and its fans, that makes sense in hindsight but was not really visible from the start — which is precisely how mythic journeys play out.

One final point about the book that helped me understand my own fandom more clearly, as well as my personal journey and struggle with spirituality and faith, is how love is made into a force unto itself bigger than the band, more encompassing than a mere personal experience. And the central message, over time, seems to be Tat tvam asi — the Hindu expression in Sanskrit meaning “thou art that” — which we U2 fans have long understood as “One, but not the same” or “No them, there’s only us.”

We understand that the Spirit throes itself out to us through whatever medium it chooses, no matter where we are, who we are, or what we think we are about. But then it takes real work, real community, and at times painful lessons (culturally) or transformations (personally) to realize its full potential. Our study of U2, its fans and the mythic journey they’ve been on as such is one we hope you’ll enjoy.

If you’re interested in our book, want to talk more or need some help buying a copy, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Bono Bios For Young Readers

Are your young kids now “stuck in a moment” at home, looking for more to read? Why not introduce them to your favorite rock star activist? And if you’re doing the homeschooling, with this mini-library of seven choices you could even create a whole lesson unit on Bono for young readers.

  • Tell someone three things you learned about Bono from this book.
  • Compare and contrast two biographies of Bono. Which one did you like better and why?
  • What makes Bono want to help people who are hungry, sick, or treated unfairly?
  • Try writing a song about something you can do to help someone else.
  • You get the idea …

If your child reads one of these books and wants to write a super short book report, I’d love to publish it on this site for others to read. Really! Contact me if you are interested.

All of these books are still in print and available for order online. They are listed below with complete bibliographic details. They are also listed on the U2 Studies Bibliography, along with 100+ resources for fans, students, and scholars of U2.

If you are looking for a high school reading level book on Bono or U2, I suggest the two books by David Kootnikoff on the bibliography. (However, there are very few pictures in those books!)

An excellent, well-researched introduction to U2 for an adult reader is Timothy D. Neufeld’s U2: Rock ‘n’ Roll to Change the World.

Seven Bono Biographies for Young Readers

Ditchfield, Christin. Bono. Life Skills Biographies. Ann Arbor, MI: Cherry Lake Publishing, 2008. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 43 pages.) Bono (Life Skills Biographies) (9781602790667 ...

Helme, Deborah. A Powerful Voice: The Story of Bono from U2. The Faith In Action Series. Norwich, Norfolk: RMEP, 2004. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 24 pages.)

9781851753215: A Powerful Voice (Faith in Action) - AbeBooks ...

Huston, Jennifer L. U2: Changing the World Through Rock ‘n’ Roll. Legends of Rock Series. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2015. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 29 pages.) U2: Changing the World Through Rock 'n' Roll (Legends ...

Kamberg, Mary-Lane. Bono: Fighting World Hunger and Poverty. Celebrity Activists Series. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing, 2008. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 112 pages.) Bono: Fighting World Hunger and Poverty (Celebrity ...

Trachtenberg, Martha. Bono: Rock Star Activist. Berkley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2008. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 110 pages.) Bono: Rock Star Activist (People to Know Today ...

Washburn, Kim. Breaking Through by Grace: The Bono Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderkidz/Zondervan, 2010. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 93 pages.)

Winckelmann, Thom, and Lynn Abushanab. Bono: Rock Star & Humanitarian. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing, 2010. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 94 pages.)

Bono: Rock Star and Humanitarian by Thom Winckelmann, Lynn ...

U2 Studies Alert | New Journal Article: “‘A Table in the Presence of My Enemies’: ‘Songs of Descent’ from Psalm 23 to U2’s Pop.”

Congratulations to Richard S. Briggs, who contacted the U2 Studies Network to let us know a paper he first presented at the 2018 U2 Conference in Belfast was published in the current issue of Glass, the journal of the Christian Literary Studies Group at Oxford University.

His article, “‘A Table in the Presence of My Enemies’: ‘Songs of Descent’ from Psalm 23 to U2’s Pop,” is available at the moment only to subscribers of Glass. However, when the next issue of Glass is published, selected articles from previous issues become available for free as a PDF here. We hope Briggs’ article will be available later this year for free, and if it is we’ll let you know.

The abstract for Briggs’ article is:

U2’s 1997 Pop album has been compared to aspects of the book of Psalms, with its inclusion of key moments of lament and complaint in the presence of God. It can be read as a series of ‘poems’ that explore the world ‘in the presence of (my) enemies’, as Psalm 23 puts it. One question raised by this reading is: who are Pop’s enemies? I suggest that the album lacks focus on this issue, and blurs the line between focusing on God’s enemies (classically: sin, death and the devil, as per the final song ‘Wake Up Dead Man’), and focusing on the various ways in which evil is manifest in human life and relationships instead. The result is an album that represents a descent into the problems of the world with no clear path marked out for a corresponding ascent.

The U2 Studies Bibliography has been updated with this entry:

Briggs, Richard S. “‘A Table in the Presence of My Enemies’: ‘Songs of Descent’ from Psalm 23 to U2’s Pop.” Glass 32 (2020), 50-55.

The Rev. Dr. Richard Briggs is Lecturer in Old Testament, Director of Biblical Studies, Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College, Durham University, Durham, England.

Bono One Of 50 “Stand-Up Guys” In New Book For Young Readers

In Interview, Authors Say Bono Has Been “Willing To Do What It Takes” To Advance God’s Work

Kate Etue and Caroline Siegrist selected Bono as one of their Stand-Up Guys: 50 Christian Men Who Changed the World. Their new book is out today from the Zonderkidz imprint of Zondervan.

Bono is in the company of a global list of men drawn from the past and present. They are notable for practicing their Christian faith with unique acts of kindness, with some going as far as sacrificing his own life. Each of the 50 men has a one-page description of what makes them a world-changer, followed by a few questions to inspire readers.

For Bono, the authors explained he experienced personal loss as a teenager and later became aware of violence and injustice in Ireland. He turned to music to help him with his grief and anger, instead of turning to others things that wouldn’t have been good for him.

After finding some success with his friends in a band, “Bono’s faith told him that just being a ‘good voice’ wasn’t enough. God wanted him to go out and see what he was doing around the world, so Bono could get involved in God’s work. So Bono and his wife, Ali, traveled to Ethiopia to volunteer at an orphanage.”

I spoke with Kate Etue by email to learn more about why she and her co-author picked Bono as one of their top 50 “Stand-Up” guys. I also learned Etue and Siegrist are already working on their next book, tentatively titled Fierce Faith: 50 Christian Women Who Changed the World.

U2 Studies Network: Bono’s not the only rock-star activist out there, but he’s the only one in your book. Why did you pick him?

Kate Etue: I have followed Bono’s work for years, particularly his focus on eliminating extreme poverty and AIDS in Africa. He’s long been a hero of mine for his passionate response to God’s call to care for the poor, and that’s why we picked him. There are so many people doing great things in the world, but Bono’s long track record in this area made him rise to the top of our list.

Were you or your publisher concerned about any pushback from some Christian readers who might wonder why Bono is on your list?

Not at all! We really wanted to choose people who were interesting, honest, and authentic in their work. We steered away from those who tried to present a squeaky-clean image and focused on those who are willing to do what it takes—sometimes hard, unpopular things—to advance God’s kingdom around the planet. We’ve chosen climate change activists, vegans, disability advocates, and immigrant-rights activists who may rub some people the wrong way, but we believe they’re all doing God’s work by loving others in Jesus’s name.

Are you a U2 fan as well, or more a fan of just Bono?

I grew up in a pretty conservative home when it came to entertainment, so I wasn’t exposed to much U2 other than their huge hits until college. But I became a big fan quickly, especially of their songs about political activism and faith. It was a dream of mine to get to work with them in some way, so when I had the chance to collaborate with DATA (the pre-cursor to the One Campaign) to include Bono’s essay and photos in a book I co-compiled called The aWAKE Project: Uniting Against the African AIDS Crisis, and then later on his original book On the Move, it was a dream come true. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few of their concerts, and it’s always an amazing experience.

Do you have a favorite U2 song? Maybe one that represents the qualities you are celebrating by including Bono in your book?

The song “Crumbs From Your Table comes to mind, which really calls out those people who talk a good talk but don’t actually do anything to effect change. And “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a classic, where Bono’s lamenting how long mothers, sisters, brothers and children will have to be torn apart. Although he’s specifically talking about the violence in Northern Ireland in that song, I think it applies across generations, countries, and conflicts. His passion always comes through in his performance, and I believe that along with his faith and family is a huge part of what drives his work.

© Calhoun / The U2 Studies Network, 2020

U2 Studies Alert | U2: Der er fans og så er der superfans [ There are fans and then there are superfans] / Brent Gringer

U2 fan, academic and journalist Brent Gringer published “U2: Der er fans og så er der superfans,” on December 6, 2019, in the online popular journal POV.

Gringer’s amazing longread essay of over 11,000 words is partly an informal study and partly a personal comment written in Danish on U2 fan behavior, focusing primarily on the motivations and strategies a segment of the U2 fandom have for seeing U2 live. He offers comments on the academic study of U2 and its fans as well.

Please help spread Gringer’s essay to U2 fans and academics reading Danish!

For an unofficial translation of Gringer’s essay in English, here is a PDF. If you know of someone who can supply a better translation, please contact us, as we’d like to offer the best translation possible in English of Gringer’s work.

U2 Studies Alert |New Conference CFPs on Celebrity Culture & Listening to Popular Music / Five Papers Newly Added to the U2 Studies Bibliography

U2 Studies Alerts share opportunities for research, writing, learning, and participation in projects and events related to U2 and topics associated with U2 that might be of interest to fans, students and scholars. Alerts are collected from a variety of sources and archived and distributed by Search this site for “U2 Studies Alert” to find more.

All needed details for each alert should be in the body text, but
contact if you need more information or have an item to share for a future alert.

Regarding conference Call for Papers: Consider submitting proposals to these conferences on a topic that interests you about U2’s music, work, influence or fandom culture which would also fit within the framework of these conference topics.



Transformations in Celebrity Culture: The Fifth International Celebrity Studies Conference

June 18 – 20, 2020
University of Winchester, UK
Sponsored by the Culture-Media-Text Research Centre, Faculty of Arts, University of Winchester.

Deadline for proposals is October 1, 2019. Full CFP here.

Keynote speakers (confirmed):
●       Dr. Nandana Bose, FLAME University, India
●       Dr. Anthea Taylor, University of Sydney, Australia
●       Prof. Brenda R. Weber, Indiana University Bloomington, USA
●       Dr. Milly Williamson, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

More details about the conference here.


Home - Universität Innsbruck

Listening to (Mainstream) Popular Music in 2020: Sounds and Practices
May 21-22, 2020 
Department of Music, University of Innsbruck, Austria

Deadline for proposals: October 25, 2019. More conference details and a full CFP here.

These four new papers are now listed along with 100+ more items on the U2 Studies Bibliography.

1. Côté, Thierry. “Popular Musicians and Their Songs as Threats to National Security: A World Perspective.” The Journal of Popular Culture 44.4 (2011): 732-754. Free to download with a free account.

2. Galbraith, Deane. “Meeting God in the Sound: The Seductive Dimension of U2’s Future Hymns.” Chapter in: The Counter-Narratives of Radical Theology and Rock’n’Roll: Songs of Fear and Trembling. Ed. Mike Grimshaw. Radical Theologies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 119-135. Free to download with a free account.

3. Kearney, David. “‘I Can’t Believe the News Today’: Music and the Politics of Change.” Chimera 24 (2009): 122–140. Available online here.

4. Van den Berg, Jan Albert. “The Gospel According to Bono and U2? Worship in the New Millennium.” Chapter in: A Faithful Witness. Essays in Honour of Malan Nel. Edited by H. Pieterse and C. Thesnaar. Wellington: Bible Media, 2009. 197-208. Free to download with a free account.

5. Welch, Marshall J. “We Get To Carry Each Other: Using the Musical Activism of U2 As A Framework for an Engaged Spirituality & Community Engagement Course.” Engaging Pedagogies in Catholic Higher Education 1.1 (2015): 1-10. Free to download with a free account.

Furthering the field of U2 Studies with Myth, Fan Culture, and the Popular Appeal of Liminality in the Music of U2

Looking for some back to school U2 studies reading? Here’s a newish book by Brian Johnston and Susan Mackey-kallis. More info at the book’s site and here’s a back-to-school sale flyer for a 30% discount on orders through Nov. 11, 2019.

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Brian Johnston is visiting assistant professor in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film at Miami University.

Susan Mackey-Kallis is associate professor in the Department of Communication at Villanova University.

U2 Studies Alert |”U2 and Jewish Thought” available / Paperback edition of U2 and the Religious Impulse / CFP: Researching Live Music: Gigs, Tours, Concerts and Festivals

U2 Studies Alerts share opportunities for research, writing, learning, and participation in projects and events related to U2 and topics associated with U2 that might be of interest to fans, students and scholars. Alerts are collected from a variety of sources and archived and distributed by Search this site for “U2 Studies Alert” to find more.

All needed details for each alert should be in the body text, but
contact if you need more information or have an item to share for a future alert.

U2 studies scholar Naomi Dinnen recently made her paper “You don’t see me but you will: Jewish thought and U2” free to download as a PDF. Dinnen is a PhD candidate researching U2 and religion at The Australian National University School of Music. We’re all looking forward to reading her dissertation on U2 when she completes her studies.

Naomi Dinnen’s paper “You don’t see me but you will: Jewish thought and U2” was first published in U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher, edited by Scott Calhoun (Bloomsbury, 2018). A paperback edition of this collection of thirteen original essays on U2 scholarship will be available in late August 2019, and is available for pre-order now.

Call for Chapter Proposals
Researching Live Music: Gigs, Tours, Concerts and Festivals
(under contract with Taylor & Francis/Routledge)

Hurry! Deadline is in two-days, but perhaps you can ask the editors for a short extension. My apologies for the late notice. – SC

Edited by:
Chris Anderton (Solent University, Southampton, UK)
Sergio Pisfil (University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)

We would like to encourage scholars from all disciplines to present chapter proposals for research that relates to one of three broad areas of the live music ecology. First, research that reconsiders the role of technology in the production of music events. Second, research that examines the complex set of industries and issues that surround the promotion and business of live music. Finally, research that explores the social issues and factors involved in the consumption of live music performances. Our objective is to bring together solid methodological and theoretical positions to provide a critical resource that casts new light on the practices of live music – past or present, and from any part of the world. 

Potential contributors are asked to propose chapters related to the following themes and suggested topics:

Producing live music. Topics may include but are not confined to:
Audio production, Lighting, Staging, Touring, Venues (problems facing venues; importance of local venues for artist and audience development), Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality (from the production side), Accessibility (disability), Health & well-being, Environmental sustainability.

Promoting live music. Topics may include but are not confined to:
Concert and event management, Booking agents, Concert & event marketing & PR, Branding and sponsorship, Ticketing / secondary ticketing, Corporatisation and mediatisation, Policy initiatives (e.g. music cities, gentrification), Heritage and nostalgia, Data management.

Consuming live music. Topics may include but are not confined to:
Social media integration, Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality (from the consumer side), Virtual live music communities, Bootlegging and tape-trading, Venues/festivals as music communities (could also be related to the problems of venues closing), Carnivalesque expectations (drugs, alcohol, sexual assault issues), Changing audiences (aging, gender etc), Ways of listening.

Submission Procedure:
Researchers are invited to send an abstract of no more than 300 words, together with a short biography to by July 26th 2019. Any questions concerning possible contributions can be addressed to the same e-mail.

Authors will be notified of the outcome of their proposals by late summer 2019.

Successful authors should subsequently submit completed chapters of between 5,000 and 6,000 words (inclusive of bibliography and endnotes) by July 24th, 2020.

U2 Studies Alert | New book studying U2 and its fans on the JPMS list of New Books in Popular Music Studies (June 2019)

U2 Studies Alerts share opportunities for research, writing, learning, and participation in projects and events related to U2 and topics associated with U2 that might be of interest to fans, students and scholars. Alerts are collected from a variety of sources and archived and distributed by Search this site for “U2 Studies Alert” to find more.

All needed details for each alert should be in the body text, but
contact if you need more information or have an item to share for a future alert.

The Journal of Popular Music Studies‘ guide to notable new music books is posted quarterly and the second installment is available here. The first installment (March 2019) is here.

The list is developed by the editors of the JPMS and announced prior to publication on the homepage for the International Association of Popular Music Studies-United States.

One new book studying U2 and its fans is on the June 2019 list:

Brian Johnston is visiting assistant professor in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film at Miami University.

Susan Mackey-Kallis is associate professor in the Department of Communication at Villanova University.

Several other books on the JPMS list might also be of interest to those working in the area of U2 Studies.

Excerpts From “Introduction: U2’s Sacrament of Sound,” Scott Calhoun

Excerpts From:

“Introduction: U2’s Sacrament of Sound,” Scott Calhoun, pp. 1-8.

U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher. Ed. Scott Calhoun
© (Bloomsbury, 2018)

More information here on the book and a Table of Contents.

  • When listening to U2 fans talk about being U2 fans and what their fandom means to them, when I hear them express their reasons, their expectations and their experiences with U2’s music, what I hear from all fans, no matter their disagreements, is that the music moves them. I hear responses which, upon inspection, are foremost about experiencing music as music and the line running through all the individualistic statements of appreciation for U2’s music is much less about lyrics, or guitar solos or Bono’s performances, than it is about the total quality of encountering music.
  • U2’s music subdues us. We are overcome. We are cleansed, healed and empowered. We are lifted up and persuaded to do what we could not do before. We become what we could not have become otherwise apart from the music–we feel we are certain about this. We come to and receive U2’s music for its ability to connect the ordinary to the extraordinary. Some songs are better for a scourging, others cleanse, heal, and fortify one for what’s next. U2 has more songs that do all of the above—such as “One,” “With or Without You,” and “Moment of Surrender”—than perhaps all the other rock bands, which helps explain how U2 became U2 and why this book exists.
  • Bono’s long been a fan of the English hymn “Amazing Grace,” by Issac Newton, and after once telling Steve Turner he thought it was the greatest contribution to music the English have made, Turner was prompted to research and then write the biography of the song Amazing Grace: The Story of America’s Most Beloved Song. It seems Bono can’t get over the opening lines of the first verse especially: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” He’s often revealed his affection and gratitude for grace and its sound in interviews and song lyrics since, but for a short film called A Grand Madness (1997) he said “Amazing Grace” would be his pick for the last song he’d want to play for U2’s last concert ever. Why? “It’s a sound. How sweet the sound. I’ve never been able to figure that one out.”
  • In 2010, while convalescing from back surgery but anticipating U2’s appearance at the famed Glastonbury Festival, Bono told Rolling Stone’s David Fricke that “music is a sacrament for us.” In that interview, Bono explained U2’s new song, “Glastonbury,” was informed by the Christian legends surrounding the flowering white rose of Glastonbury, England, and that for Bono, a pilgrimage to Glastonbury was a more compelling reason to keep U2’s upcoming gig than the typical fun a music festival afforded.
  • In 2014, Bono elaborated on his continuing affirmation of the sacredness of music by implying it is worth a price and therefore Apple had to pay U2 for Songs of Innocence before Apple gave the album away for free: “I don’t believe in free music. Music is a sacrament.”
  • U2 fans with deep attachments to the music tend to respect it as a sacrament too, often ritualizing their listening and concert going experiences, and finding they receive a kind of blessing befitting a pilgrimage. … I find ample evidence for concluding U2 has intended for quite some time, perhaps from its first live performances in the late 1970s, to be more Bach than Bacchus, composing for a pattern and glory found in a higher realm, wanting to draw listeners into a grandeur no wine, dance or earthly sensuality can achieve. As sound, U2’s songs are transformative, as are the vibrations from Orpheus’ plucked lyre, pulsing through us, enchanting even the stones and the stoniest of hearts. We enact our feelings of loss and love with more courage because of this music, and we find that unseen powers seem more inclined in our direction. In return, devoted fans give U2 a high and holy place in their lives, a place typically reserved for an oracle or priest.
  • In thinking of U2’s music sacramentally, or as a pulse listeners seek as a means to an end that body alone cannot achieve, we wish to emphasize in this book the variability U2 offers its listeners who come for this pulse. The dial, whether turned down or turned up, emits good vibrations for its fans, who willingly place their seeking spirits to lesser or greater degrees in the way of the sound.
  • This book is not an attempt to reconcile the individual band member’s beliefs where they differ, nor is it especially interested in ascertaining their individual beliefs. … Reading across all of the chapters, one might detect there are disagreements between contributors as to what is the more important spiritual quotient in U2’s art and how one should best receive U2’s art.
  • How one receives art versus how one uses art is itself a fascinating and revealing study of human behavior, which I suspect is similar to the abiding interest the anthropologist has in religion. But the art U2 creates is intentional in its aim at the things of the spirit, and U2 attempts to voice the human experience in all its moods as it lives in bodily space and time. Bono sings laments and yearnings as willingly as he sings resolve, peace, and joy, and the band plays complementary tunings, chords, structures and tempos with equal integrity and artistry. U2’s “goal” for the soul “is elevation,” welcoming all who wish to journey to a higher place, but U2 will not rush the course or take short cuts along the way.
  • This interest of the fan approaching U2 in a way similar to how a seeker comes to a sacred text and then, perhaps, attends gatherings organized for inculcating the values and practices developed from that text with a desire to accomplish something the seeker feels unable to accomplish on her own is ­what we in this book examine as the religious impulse in U2 fans. U2 functions for these fans in a way that perhaps is best described as a totem, in the sense of Emile Durkheim’s conclusion of how an object or person functions in totemic religions, provoking an energy that loops back through it inflated and amplified by its followers.
  • This book, in contrast to the previous studies on U2 and religion, furthers the field of U2 studies by suggesting reasons based on more than theological analyses of lyrics for why the religious impulse in fans is so satisfyingly met by U2. Additionally, and uniquely in relation to previous studies, this book also examines why a broader group of religiously inclined fans are interested in U2. Two sections of chapters examine matters of sound and space, respectively, while two other sections explore the affective domains in fans who receive U2 and identify with religious elements found in its songs and performances.
  • The impulse for something structured and replicable that can elevate body and spirit is an impulse familiar enough to the human condition to not need much proof of its existence, yet understanding the impulse invites a host of disciplinary approaches. U2 has done very well at meeting its fans along the current of this impulse with its sacrament of music. And in doing so, it has become a myth itself for narrating this common but inscrutable truth: that music moves us, most mysteriously so.

The U2 Conference logo and site design by Beth Nabi.