Angry, difficult, uncompromising - but successful. There's a lot to be learned from those who are unafraid to get hot under the collar (and the face) in the pursuit of excellence.
Click the gallery below to read Sam Rowe's round-up of the most inspiring reads about borderline psychopaths
Leading - Sir Alex Ferguson (2015)
If there’s one thing this Scot knows better than his way around a pack of Wrigley, it’s galvanising a football squad. His 49 trophies across 38 years in management testify to that. While the Class Of ’92 and the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo may have helped, Sir Alex owes his legacy to one thing: a brilliant mind. Less combative than My Autobiography, here Fergie lays bare his gospel of leadership.
Ultimate life lesson: Instil belief, not (just) fear
“Harsh outbursts and temper tantrums can, when used sparingly, have an effect, but it’s a negative and corrosive way to run anything. It’s far better to give people a belief in themselves, and faith in the direction of their organisation, than rule like Attila The Hun.”
Lee: A Romance - Pamela Marvin (1997)
If there was ever a book that’d be infinitely better read aloud by its husky-baritoned subject, it’s this. Written by Marvin’s widow, this touching read paints a different shade of the hard-as-nails actor. Marvin was an ardent fisherman, husband and father, and nearly 30 years since his death, no one’s topped his brooding intensity.
Ultimate life lesson: Find a passion you love more than work
[Marvin on fishing] “The magic of Moby-Dick. Big game fishing is a challenge on three levels, physical, intellectual and emotional… acting is only a challenge intellectually.”
How To Win At the Sport of Business - Mark Cuban (2011)
With a business portfolio that includes an NBA team, film studio and TV channel, it stands to reason that Mark Cuban’s boardroom bible is just 71 pages long. Time is money, right? The humble beginnings of this self-made mogul are dealt with early doors, leaving ample space for Cuban’s un-sugared advice for budding CEOs. “An espresso machine?” says his list of start-up tips. “Are you kidding me? Shoot yourself before you spend money on an espresso machine.”
Ultimate life lesson: Don’t wimp out of taking risks
“This is something a blackjack dealer once told me when I asked him if I should hit or stick… Once you are prepared and you think you have every angle of preparation covered, you have to go for it. No balls, no babies.”
Robert Mitchum: ’Baby, I Don’t Care’ - Lee Server (2001)
If the barbed term of ‘underrated’ is levied at Robert Mitchum’s career – and it usually is – just read his biography’s title for his thoughts on the matter. A drifter and boxer before he arrived in Hollywood, the film noir antihero paired indifference with ability, a fierce work ethic with a laissez-faire attitude. But that’s not to say the moral of Robert Mitchum is to absolve all effort; it’s of being comfortable in your own skin.
Ultimate life lesson: Generosity is king
[On Mitchum’s visit to Vietnam in 1966] “They trudged over to the local clubhouse… Mitchum asked what they charged for a drink, then asked how much it would be to buy the whole bar… Mitchum took a fat roll of bills from his pocket. It cost him a couple of hundred to buy the bar. The troopers drank free, on his tab, for months.”
Seven Deadly Sins - Corey Taylor (2011)
With a writing style that makes William S Burroughs seem coherent, the Slipknot frontman takes down religion, sexuality and celebrity culture. Surprisingly valuable wisdom, from the man that once brought us Slipknot’s People = Shit.
Ultimate life lesson: Life’s a learning curve
“Well, hell, we all make mistakes… It’s how we move from innocence to resounding wisdom… It is how everyone keeps from shitting themselves in public and on each other.”
More Lives Than One: The Extraordinary Life of Felix Dennis - Fergus Byrne (2015)
A rockstar publisher, Felix Dennis served time for printing a cartoon of Rupert The Bear with a giant penis, launched lads’ magazine Maxim and was the first person to use the C word on British TV, while amassing a £750m empire. This book would serve as a cautionary tale – detailing Dennis’s dalliances with crack and prostitutes – if only he wasn’t so damn productive; with music, poetry, philanthropy and best-selling books adorning his CV.
Ultimate life lesson: Morale is vital
“Without ever having had a management lesson in his life Felix had grasped a firm understanding of the need to keep people happy.”
Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King - Philippe Auclair (2009)
In the age of over-saturated, social-media obsessed footballers, the myth of Eric Cantona, one of the beautiful game’s true mavericks, grows stronger. This book does not interview the man himself, but does speak with more than 200 people who have come into contact with this modern day renaissance man, as the author unpacks the art, the acting, the on-pitch magic, of the man they call King Eric.
Ultimate life lesson: Don’t chase approval
[Cantona] “It wasn’t necessary for my father to tell me I was good, I could see it in his eyes. It’s better if it’s not said, but shown in other ways.”
If They Move… Kill ’Em!: The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah - David Weddle (2000)
A fitting tribute to a trailblazer – without whom there’d likely be no Scorsese, Tarantino or De Palma – this 578-page tome encapsulates the genius of Sam Peckinpah, known for The Wild Bunch.
Ultimate life lesson: Be meticulous
[On shooting The Wild Bunch] “Sam insisted on squibbing the actors on the front and back to achieve the visceral impact of a bullet… Sam was chasing a ghost: the haunting image of the first deer he shot in the foothills of Sierra Nevada, its blood blossoming out with the bullet across a patch of white snow.”
From the Eye of the Hurricane: My Story - Alex Higgins (2007)
Booze. Gambling. Affairs. Bankruptcy. Headbutting an official who suggested a drug test. Threatening to have a rival player shot. These are the ‘antics’ of Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, and they injected an shot of drama into snooker – a sport even lifelong fans will attest is a cure for insomnia. Penned three years before his death in 2010, Higgins’ autobiography offers a frank account of his chaotic life.
Ultimate life lesson: Live life without regrets
“There were times when I was very ill, and really didn’t think I was going to make it, that I looked back on my life. I realised I’d messed some things up… But even as I lay there, perhaps dying, I thought it had all been worth it.”