Bruce Lee: A Life

Title: “Bruce Lee: A Life”
  Matthew Polly
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Subject:  Biography
Year: 2018


“Bruce Lee: A Life”, is a full biography on Bruce Lee; not part of his life, or focusing on training and films like so many other Bruce Lee books both in and out of print – this is a full on proper biography.

Launched this month, “Bruce Lee: A Life” is now available at most bookshops and online retailers. You can also purchase a downloadable version if you like reading on electronic devices, and an audio version if you’re into the growing audiobook trend.


Matthew Polly has put in years’ of painstaking research and dedication, including spending hours interviewing several people who had both big and small parts in Bruce’s life, to put together the most authoritative, in-depth biography yet on one of the most exceptional men to walk the planet.

The physical presence of the book alone oozes class, at over an inch thick and almost a kilo in weight. (A great close up of Bruce takes up the whole of the cover, his eyes meeting yours when you look at it.)

It begins with a short prologue on both of Bruce Lee’s funerals and it’s here that you get your first taste of how informative and thoughtful the book will be.

The biography then starts painting the picture of the world Bruce was coming into, his family, their country, and the politics and wars that had shaped the environment which lead to him being born in America.

We then have the first half of the book documenting Bruce Lee’s life, from his first films as a child (in fact, his first was as a baby), his time at school, passion for learning, enthusiasm for the arts and movement and the trouble that led him to travel back to America and onwards.

The second half of the book concentrates on his time in the entertainment industry, building up connections and breaking his way into superstardom. It covers his untimely passing, one the best documentations of the inquest I have ever read and a fascinating, yet simple explanation of what may have really happened to Bruce.

Polly starts to close out the book with a compelling epilogue, a lovely short afterword, a graph showing Bruce Lee’s paternal family tree, his filmography, copious notes and finally a bibliography and index.


Considering Bruce Lee is an iconic, time-transcending world-famous figure; a man who has forged unity between races and creeds with his philosophy, helping both educate and entertain millions, this book has been an awful longtime coming.  There have been many other books and biographies about Bruce’s training, his charisma and his impact, but none as comprehensive and thorough as “Bruce Lee: A Life” which covers his entire life along with the key people that featured in it.

Polly is a great writer and although his previous works (“American Shaolin” and “Tapped Out”) are excellent, I think this book represents Polly at his best. It’s not the personal story that his other books are, however, his engaging yet informative style gives this book its power; I found it hard to put down at times, eager to turn to the next page and then the next to explore further. It succeeds in drawing you into Bruce’s life.

“Bruce Lee: A Life” is deep, detailed, serious yet entertaining. It’s an easy book to read, yet delivers so much worthwhile content making it a superbly satisfying volume that honours and preserves Bruce Lee’s legacy and family with the respect they deserve.

If you hadn’t already guessed, I thoroughly enjoyed this book so “Bruce Lee: A Life” comes with my hearty recommendation and should definitely be among the top of your list of books to get. It would also make the perfect gift for any of your friends that revere the ‘King of Kung Fu’. Yep, it’s official, this book dazzles and it’s been worth the wait.

Favourite Quotes

  • “After Sunday morning classes, Bruce would take a group of students out for a long, joyous Chinese lunch. “Bruce used to make me laugh till I hurt”, Linda recalls. Food was frequently followed by a film, usually a samurai movie. “All the while Bruce would provide a running commentary about the action.”  – Linda Lee
  • “One weekend Bruce thrilled the group by taking them to see his final film, The Orphan (1960). None of them knew Bruce had been a child star in Hong Kong. As they entered the theater, Bruce just offhandedly said, “Oh yeah, I’m in the movie.” [Bruce may have played it off like it was no big deal, but the experience bowled Linda over] “Seeing him on the screen in a theater in Seattle’s Chinatown made me realize there was more to this man than I thought.”  – Linda Lee
  • “The second half of the two hour classes was spent on hard sparring. It was always intense and combative. During breaks, he would show his students 16mm films of classic boxing matches, slowing it down during key moments.” – Richard Bustillo
  • ‘But being the real deal is not enough. Plenty of great martial artists have bombed on-screen. What is effective in the ring is rarely exciting on film. Bruce made his bones in Hollywood as a fight choreographer and he knew how to make his particular skill set look spectacular on celluloid.’
  • ‘Realizing how valuable the stunt crew was to the success of the movie, Lee was exceedingly loyal and solicitous, continuing his tradition of eating a box lunch with them every day instead of dining in the hotel restaurant with the Americans. It was a kindness remembered by the dozens of stunt boys who worked on the movie.’

Book Rating: 10/10

“Bruce Lee: A Life” published by Simon and Schuster is now available from book stores and online retailers. You can still enter our exclusive book giveaway for your chance to win a copy of this 600+ page heavyweight signed by Matthew himself – HURRY though, CLOSES AT MIDNIGHT TONIGHT!

Which other legendary martial artist biographies would you definitely want to see, buy and own? Let us know in the comments below; LIKE, and share this with your friends, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on TwitterInstagram. (Are you an aspiring King of Kung Fu? Then these exclusives, flix n’ kicks are for you!)

Stuart Grimes

Stuart Grimes is a fan of all martial arts. He has studied Shotokan Karate for a few years as a teenager and also taken classes in Judo, boxing and Kickboxing. His children have inherited his love of martial arts and currently train over 12 hours a week, incorporating Chin Woo Kung Fu, Gymnastics and Sport Karate. His eldest two children compete regularly and either hold or have held English, British or European titles in the WTKA, WKU, ISKA, WKKC, WMO, WMKF and WKC, as well as a Unity International Games title.

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