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David Sheff

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David Sheff
Born (1955-12-23) December 23, 1955 (age 68)[1][2]
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley
Notable works

All We Are Saying: The Last Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Game Over
SpouseKaren Barbour
Children3, including Nic Sheff

David Sheff (born December 23, 1955) is an American author of the books Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction, Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy,[3] Game Over,[4][5] The Buddhist on Death Row[6] and All We Are Saying: The Last Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.[7]

He also writes for magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, Rolling Stone and other publications.

Early life and education[edit]

Sheff is originally from Boston, Massachusetts.[8] His family is of Russian Jewish descent.[9] He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley.[8]


Sheff, a journalist, wrote articles and conducted interviews for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune, and NPR's All Things Considered. His interview subjects have included John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Steve Jobs, Ai Weiwei, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Jack Nicholson, Ted Taylor, Carl Sagan, Betty Friedan, Barney Frank, and Fareed Zakaria, among others.

He has also been an editor of New West, California, and other magazines.[8]

Beautiful Boy was based on Sheff's article, "My Addicted Son", that first appeared in The New York Times Magazine.[10] In addition to Beautiful Boy, Sheff wrote the books Game Over, Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Crisis,[3] China Dawn, and All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

In January 2019, High: Everything You Want to Know About Drugs, Alcohol, and Addiction was published. A resource for middle school readers offering clear, direct information about the realities of drugs and alcohol, it is Sheff and his son Nic's first collaborative project.[11]

In 2019, Sheff founded the Beautiful Boy Fund, a charity devoted to making quality, evidence-based treatment for substance-use disorder accessible to those in need of treatment, and identifying and supporting research to further the field of addiction medicine.

Honors and awards[edit]

In 2009, Sheff was included in Time magazine's Time 100 and on the magazine's World's Most Influential People list.[12] Beautiful Boy won the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for nonfiction[13] and was one Amazon's Best Books of the Year in 2008.

He received media awards from College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), American Society of Addiction Medicine, the Partnership for Drug-free Kids, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), and was the first recipient of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) Arts and Literature Award.[citation needed]

Views on addiction[edit]

Sheff educates about addiction as a brain disease and is an advocate for putting addicts into therapy programs early.[14][15]

He believes life stresses and traumas are risk factors, and that therapy for these can help addiction prevention.[15][16] He is an advocate of life skills training to aid addiction prevention.[17][18]

Personal life[edit]

Sheff lives in Northern California with his wife, Karen Barbour, an artist, illustrator, and author of children's books. He has three children: Nic, Jasper, and Daisy Sheff. Nic Sheff, who has also written a memoir recounting his years of addiction in the book Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, is a writer for television and film.[19] Jasper Sheff is a Grammy Award-nominated[20] musician who has cowritten and produced songs[21] for Lil Nas X, Elton John,[22] Halsey and XXXTentacion. Daisy Sheff is an artist whose paintings have been exhibited at White Columns Gallery,[23] Ratio 3, Clearing Gallery,[24] Grimm Gallery[25] and elsewhere.

In popular culture[edit]

In 2018, Felix van Groeningen adapted Sheff's book Beautiful Boy into a feature film of the same name. In the film, Sheff is portrayed by Steve Carell, with Timothée Chalamet as his son, Nic. Actress Maura Tierney portrays David's wife, artist Karen Barbour, and Amy Ryan plays Nic's mother, Vicki.[26]


  1. ^ "Father and son memoirs". Entertainment Weekly.
  2. ^ Sheff, David (January 1981). "Playboy Interview: John Lennon and Yoko Ono". Playboy. Vol. 28, no. 1. p. 75. Retrieved December 20, 2020. The interview apparently depended on Yoko's interpretation of my horoscope, just as many of Lenons' business decisions are reportedly guide by the stars. I could imagine explaining to my Playboy editor, 'Sorry, but my moon is in Scorpio–the interview's off.' It was clearly out of my hands. I supplied the info: December 23, three P.M., Boston.
  3. ^ a b Sussman, Mick (April 19, 2013). "A Disease, Not a Crime". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (May 13, 1993). "Books of The Times; Taking the Frivolity of Games Seriously Indeed". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  5. ^ "Why Nintendo Rules (Fortune, 1993)". Fortune. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  6. ^ "An indelible portrait of an incarcerated man finding new life and purpose behind bars". Kirkus Reviews. March 1, 2020.
  7. ^ Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0312254643.
  8. ^ a b c David Sheff's home page Archived 2008-07-08 at the Wayback Machine Author's bio
  9. ^ Sheff, David (2009). Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 149. ISBN 978-0547347929.
  10. ^ Sheff, David (February 6, 2005). "My Addicted Son". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  11. ^ "The Marin Family Behind the Film Beautiful Boy". Marin Magazine. January 2019. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  12. ^ Velkow, Nora (April 30, 2009). "The 2009 Time 100". Time. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Archived from the original on May 3, 2009.
  13. ^ "Barnes & Noble: Discover Great New Writers Award". Archived from the original on March 28, 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2009.
  14. ^ "When My Son Became Addicted, I Thought It Was His Problem. But Addiction Is a Family Disease". Where Families Find Answers on Substance Use | Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
  15. ^ a b Sheff, David. "David Sheff On Addiction: Prevention, Treatment And Staying 'Clean'". NPR.org. NPR.
  16. ^ Winerman, Lea (June 2013). "Breaking free from addiction". American Psychological Association. Archived from the original on February 24, 2019. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  17. ^ "Author David Sheff Focuses on the War on Prevention". KLEAN Treatment Centers. August 1, 2013. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  18. ^ Training, Botvin LifeSkills. "Botvin LifeSkills Training Most Widely Used Evidence-Based Prevention Program in Elementary Schools". www.prnewswire.com (Press release).
  19. ^ McGrath, Charles (February 26, 2008). "A Twice-Told Tale of Addiction: By Father, by Son". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  20. ^ "2022 GRAMMYs Awards: Complete Nominations List". November 23, 2021.
  21. ^ "Jasper Sheff". Genius. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  22. ^ "Lil Nas X & Take a Daytrip Lead Hot 100 Songwriters & Producers Charts Thanks to 'Montero' Hits". Billboard. September 29, 2021. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  23. ^ "6 Art Gallery Shows to See Right Now". The New York Times. April 28, 2021. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  24. ^ Clearing Gallery
  25. ^ "Grimm Gallery | When We Said Break a Leg, We Meant It". Flaunt. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  26. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 15, 2018). "Steve Carell & Timothée Chalamet Title 'Beautiful Boy' Sets Fall Release". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 20, 2018.

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