Will by Will Smith

Book Review Jul 26, 2022

My review

4/5 stars

NOTE: I read this book before the Oscars incident earlier in the year, so I won't be referencing it in my review.

Everyone knows Will Smith, and I've yet to meet a person from my generation who can't sing The Fresh Prince of Bel Air word for word, so I was intrigued by the idea of the man's autobiography.

I chose to listen to the audiobook version, as read by the author himself, and I'm really glad I did. It felt more like a performance piece than a book being read aloud. Every story was imbued with character and emotion. He acted, he sang, he went the whole nine yards to make it a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

The writing style was very eloquent and intelligent. The man clearly knows who he is and is confident in relaying that to other people. I was disappointed to find out that the book had been co-written, as it did a really good job of portraying a deeper man behind the bravado that he often displays in person; while I'm sure this is still true, it feels less impactful knowing that the words are not entirely his own. I also struggled with the tone a little throughout, hence the 4 stars instead of 5; while the author has certainly worked hard enough in his career to earn the right to sing his own praises, at times it crossed the line into cocky and was challenging to listen to and truly enjoy.

In spite of that sporadic cockiness, the book felt very candid and thorough. The author gave a 'no-holds barred' insight into his life and career, showing the good, the bad and the ugly without shame. I found the early chapters about his childhood particularly fascinating, as it gave insight into just how many challenges he had to overcome to gain his position as one of the most successful stars in the world. I also enjoyed the detail given on his career as a rap star, as I was only really familiar with Will Smith, the actor, before this book.

The last few chapters were a somewhat confusing shift in tone, moving into a very spiritual and slightly weird place. It was jarring, given that the rest of the book had been so gritty and blunt, but I suppose it gave an accurate reflection of where the author was in his life and in his head at the time of writing the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was very reflective and moving, and definitely entertaining. It served to make a global superstar more relatable, as there is something in there that almost everyone could recognise in their own life, even if it felt a tad self-indulgent at times.

Book blurb

One of the most dynamic and globally recognized entertainment forces of our time opens up fully about his life, in a brave and inspiring book that traces his learning curve to a place where outer success, inner happiness, and human connection are aligned. Along the way, Will tells the story in full of one of the most amazing rides through the worlds of music and film that anyone has ever had.

Will Smith's transformation from a fearful child in a tense West Philadelphia home to one of the biggest rap stars of his era and then one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history, with a string of box office successes that will likely never be broken, is an epic tale of inner transformation and outer triumph, and Will tells it astonishingly well. But it's only half the story.

Will Smith thought, with good reason, that he had won at life: not only was his own success unparalleled, his whole family was at the pinnacle of the entertainment world. Only they didn't see it that way: they felt more like star performers in his circus, a seven-days-a-week job they hadn't signed up for. It turned out Will Smith's education wasn't nearly over.

This memoir is the product of a profound journey of self-knowledge, a reckoning with all that your will can get you and all that it can leave behind. Written with the help of Mark Manson, author of the multi-million-copy bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Will is the story of how one exceptional man mastered his own emotions, written in a way that can help everyone else do the same. Few of us will know the pressure of performing on the world's biggest stages for the highest of stakes, but we can all understand that the fuel that works for one stage of our journey might have to be changed if we want to make it all the way home. The combination of genuine wisdom of universal value and a life story that is preposterously entertaining, even astonishing, puts Will the book, like its author, in a category by itself.


You can buy the book here now. It was published by Penguin Press.

For more on the author, you can head to his website or follow him on Instagram.