AS A SONGWRITER, Neil Young's best lyrics are smoky and impressionistic, almost impossible to fully wrap your head around. One might expect his book to suffer from a similarly foggy approach, but it turns out Young's father, Scott Young, was a famed and prolific journalist—and it also turns out that the Canadian-born rocker has writing in his blood. Although the non-chronological, meandering Waging Heavy Peace often draws only the barest of sketches, Young's memoir is less scattershot and more illuminating than Bob Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One.

It starts off pretty clunky, though. Young rambles about anything and everything that crosses his mind. (And what's on his mind? He likes old cars and model trains. He really hates MP3s.) As a writer, Young opts for the first-take, best-take method of spontaneity that's served him well for most of his recording career—the book feels altogether untouched by an editor, or even a second draft.

But Young the writer gradually reveals himself; he's lived a full and interesting life, scaling the cocaine-dusted heights of rock stardom in the '70s and settling into family life in the '80s (both of his sons have cerebral palsy, to differing degrees). Young quit smoking weed while writing the book and reflects on his newfound sobriety, as well as the many friends who've died over the years—producer David Briggs, filmmaker Larry Johnson, and bandmate Danny Whitten. The result is a series of touching, uncensored recollections from a man whose love of rock 'n' roll (and cars) never diminished, even as age and family took root.