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My Life (2004)

by Bill Clinton

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,171562,365 (3.44)82
President Bill Clinton's My Life is the strikingly candid portrait of a global leader who decided early in life to devote his intellectual and political gifts, and his extraordinary capacity for hard work, to serving the public. It shows us the progress of a remarkable American, who, through his own enormous energies and efforts, made the unlikely journey from Hope, Arkansas, to the White House--a journey fueled by an impassioned interest in the political process which manifested itself at every stage of his life: in college, working as an intern for Senator William Fulbright; at Oxford, becoming part of the Vietnam War protest movement; at Yale Law School, campaigning on the grassroots level for Democratic candidates; back in Arkansas, running for Congress, attorney general, and governor. We see his career shaped by his resolute determination to improve the life of his fellow citizens, an unfaltering commitment to civil rights, and an exceptional understanding of the practicalities of political life. We come to understand the emotional pressures of his youth--born after his father's death; caught in the dysfunctional relationship between his feisty, nurturing mother and his abusive stepfather, whom he never ceased to love and whose name he took; drawn to the brilliant, compelling Hillary Rodham, whom he was determined to marry; passionately devoted, from her infancy, to their daughter, Chelsea, and to the entire experience of fatherhood; slowly and painfully beginning to comprehend how his early denial of pain led him at times into damaging patterns of behavior. President Clinton's book is also the fullest, most concretely detailed, most nuanced account of a presidency ever written--encompassing not only the high points and crises but the way the presidency actually works: the day-to-day bombardment of problems, personalities, conflicts, setbacks, achievements. It is a testament to the positive impact on America and on the world of his work and his ideals. It is the gripping account of a president under concerted and unrelenting assault orchestrated by his enemies on the Far Right, and how he survived and prevailed. It is a treasury of moments caught alive, among them: * The ten-year-old boy watching the national political conventions on his family's new (and first) television set. * The young candidate looking for votes in the Arkansas hills and the local seer who tells him, "Anybody who would campaign at a beer joint in Joiner at midnight on Saturday night deserves to carry one box. . . . You'll win here. But it'll be the only damn place you win in this county." (He was right on both counts.) * The roller-coaster ride of the 1992 campaign. * The extraordinarily frank exchanges with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole. * The delicate manipulation needed to convince Rabin and Arafat to shake hands for the camera while keeping Arafat from kissing Rabin. * The cost, both public and private, of the scandal that threatened the presidency. Here is the life of a great national and international figure, revealed with all his talents and contradictions, told openly, directly, in his own completely recognizable voice. A unique book by a unique American.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
In the epilogue to his autobiography My Life Bill Clinton states that he "wrote this book to tell [his] story, and to tell the story of America in the last half of the twentieth century". And this is exactly what he did. On about 1,000 pages Clinton describes events in his life starting from his childhood in Arkansas and ending with him leaving the White House after his second term as President. While there are many personal anecdotes in there, the book is mainly about his political life, politics and policies.

I picked up this book because I wanted to get a more detailed view on Clinton's presidency, especially his achievements for prosperity as well as NAFTA. Plus, I wanted to read his point of view on more personal matters such as Whitewater and his affair with Monica Lewinsky. As can be expected from an autobiography the reader probably gets a somewhat biased view on those issues. Generally, Clinton does not omit to remind us of his achievements in politics and he provides a slightly tamped-down perspective on the Lewinsky affair and the impeachment process.

Finishing the book took me roughly one and a half years, although I have to say that I read most of it in a period of three months. At over 1,000 pages the autobiography is certainly daunting. However, I still found it quite readable. Depending on your interests, you will find certain passages less interesting than others and the book is obviously not a page-turner. At certain moments I found insights or questions that stuck with me for a while and, apart from the aspects that I wanted to read about, made the book more interesting to me. It is especially when Clinton reflects his behavior or that of others or the status quo of the world and where it is going when I was most interested. 3.5 stars for a daunting endeavor. ( )
  OscarWilde87 | Apr 14, 2022 |
The name Bill Clinton evokes several reactions among people, each with its own emotional subtext: economic prosperity, partisan conflict, sexual misconduct, and international peacemaking. In a long history of American presidential memoirs, Clinton adds his to the list in this book. It is lengthy, thoughtful, and carefully crafted. He attempts to provide insight into himself and his leadership while advocating for the policies his administration enacted during his presidency.

I was a Republican teenager from a Republican home during the Clinton years. This book evoked memories of loyal opposition. However, Clinton’s successes – combined with W’s relative failures and Obama’s relative successes – have moved me to consistently vote as a Democrat today. Clinton’s memories in this account allowed me to reimagine the history around me. His clear voice provides persuasive explanations for his policies.

The first half of this book is devoted to his life before the presidency. To me, this formed the most interesting part – how exactly he overcame many challenges to rise to the height of political power. Much of the second half (his eight-year presidency) was embroiled with tensions with Republicans and thus was not as enjoyable. However, his passionate advocacy for international peacemaking came through clearly, from Northern Ireland and Africa to North Korea and Israel/Palestine. Providing this rationale for foreign policies is perhaps the most valuable from a historical perspective, specifically how the personalities of the involved characters shaped the failure to find lasting Middle East peace.

Of course, this book was written well before the “Me Too” movement, and the power dynamics of sexual relationships do not make Clinton look good. He acknowledges missteps, both with Monica Lewinsky and with vaguely described earlier mistakes, but he spares readers gaudy details. He talks about personal growth that impeachment and marital/family rifts evoked. He never seems to fully grasp that a leader’s private life always comes out in the public portrait. I took this overarching lesson from events in the 1990s and hold onto it still.

Overall, this memoir is certainly needed to fill out the historical record. Some might criticize him for being too lengthy and thought-out, but isn’t this the job of a president, to care for her/his own country? Frankly, Clinton’s vision for the world is beautiful and good. If one is willing to think through the policy details with him, this book can be beneficial for dreaming the world’s “tomorrow.” Like the Clinton presidency itself, shortcomings in this portrayal’s self-awareness remain, but this frankly can be said for any of us. ( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 9, 2022 |
Boring, tedious, doesn't talk about what you want it to talk about. ( )
  bishnu83 | Apr 6, 2021 |
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
I listened to this book read by President Clinton. He skirts a few issues regarding women, but admits to Monica Lewinsky. Interesting.
  taurus27 | Feb 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
There are at least two good reasons to read Bill Clinton's imaginatively titled new memoir, "My Life." For one thing, you're probably in it somewhere. Everybody else is, from Hank Aaron to Gennady Zyuganov to the guy designing dioramas for Clinton's presidential library.

Another reason to read "My Life" is that it's a genuinely good and useful book.
 
Mr. Clinton's book is a double flop: Either stake your claim to join the guys on Mount Rushmore or embrace your destiny as a guy who rushes to mount more. The president does neither and winds up with a book that reads like the world's biggest Rolodex punctuated by self-doubt.
 
The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull -- the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.
 
Like its author, Bill Clinton's autobiography My Life is a big, sprawling jumble. Parts of it, as a waspish television commentator observed, read like a press-cutting book, or one of those school magazines in which everyone in the class has to be mentioned.
 
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To my mother, who gave me a love of life

To Hillary, who gave me a life of love

To Chelsea, who gave joy and meaning to it all

And to the memory of my grandfather, who taught me to look up to people others looked down on, because we're not so different after all
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When I was a young man just out of law school and eager to get on with my life, on a whim I briefly put aside my reading preference for fiction and history and bought one of those how-to books: How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein.
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President Bill Clinton's My Life is the strikingly candid portrait of a global leader who decided early in life to devote his intellectual and political gifts, and his extraordinary capacity for hard work, to serving the public. It shows us the progress of a remarkable American, who, through his own enormous energies and efforts, made the unlikely journey from Hope, Arkansas, to the White House--a journey fueled by an impassioned interest in the political process which manifested itself at every stage of his life: in college, working as an intern for Senator William Fulbright; at Oxford, becoming part of the Vietnam War protest movement; at Yale Law School, campaigning on the grassroots level for Democratic candidates; back in Arkansas, running for Congress, attorney general, and governor. We see his career shaped by his resolute determination to improve the life of his fellow citizens, an unfaltering commitment to civil rights, and an exceptional understanding of the practicalities of political life. We come to understand the emotional pressures of his youth--born after his father's death; caught in the dysfunctional relationship between his feisty, nurturing mother and his abusive stepfather, whom he never ceased to love and whose name he took; drawn to the brilliant, compelling Hillary Rodham, whom he was determined to marry; passionately devoted, from her infancy, to their daughter, Chelsea, and to the entire experience of fatherhood; slowly and painfully beginning to comprehend how his early denial of pain led him at times into damaging patterns of behavior. President Clinton's book is also the fullest, most concretely detailed, most nuanced account of a presidency ever written--encompassing not only the high points and crises but the way the presidency actually works: the day-to-day bombardment of problems, personalities, conflicts, setbacks, achievements. It is a testament to the positive impact on America and on the world of his work and his ideals. It is the gripping account of a president under concerted and unrelenting assault orchestrated by his enemies on the Far Right, and how he survived and prevailed. It is a treasury of moments caught alive, among them: * The ten-year-old boy watching the national political conventions on his family's new (and first) television set. * The young candidate looking for votes in the Arkansas hills and the local seer who tells him, "Anybody who would campaign at a beer joint in Joiner at midnight on Saturday night deserves to carry one box. . . . You'll win here. But it'll be the only damn place you win in this county." (He was right on both counts.) * The roller-coaster ride of the 1992 campaign. * The extraordinarily frank exchanges with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole. * The delicate manipulation needed to convince Rabin and Arafat to shake hands for the camera while keeping Arafat from kissing Rabin. * The cost, both public and private, of the scandal that threatened the presidency. Here is the life of a great national and international figure, revealed with all his talents and contradictions, told openly, directly, in his own completely recognizable voice. A unique book by a unique American.

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