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My Life (Hardcover) by Bill Clinton

Product Code: 9780375414572
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Publisher: Knopf; 1st Edition edition (June 22, 2004)   ISBN-10: 0375414576  ISBN-13: 978-0375414572

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 is the fullest, most concretely detailed, most nuanced account of a presidency ever written, and a testament to the positive impact on America and on the world of his work and his ideals.

Here is the life of a great national and international figure, revealed with all his talents and contradictions. Filled with fascinating moments and insights, it is told openly, directly, in President Clinton’s own completely recognizable voice.

An exhaustive, soul-searching memoir, Bill Clinton's My Life is a refreshingly candid look at the former president as a son, brother, teacher, father, husband, and public figure. Clinton painstakingly outlines the history behind his greatest successes and failures, More...

Clinton approaches the story of his youth with gusto, sharing tales of giant watermelons, nine-pound tumors, a charging ram, famous mobsters and jazz musicians, and a BB gun standoff. He offers an equally energetic portrait of American history, pop culture, and the evolving political landscape, covering the historical events that shaped his early years (namely the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK) and the events that shaped his presidency (Waco, Bosnia, Somalia). What makes My Life remarkable as a political memoir is how thoroughly it is infused with Clinton's unassuming, charmingly pithy voice:

I learned a lot from the stories my uncle, aunts, and grandparents told me: that no one is perfect but most people are good; that people can't be judged only by their worst or weakest moments; that harsh judgments can make hypocrites of us all; that a lot of life is just showing up and hanging on; that laughter is often the best, and sometimes the only, response to pain.

However, that same voice might tire readers as Clinton applies his penchant for minute details to a distractible laundry list of events, from his youth through the years of his presidency. Not wanting to forget a single detail that might help account for his actions, Clinton overdoes it--do we really need to know the name of his childhood barber? But when Clinton sticks to the meat of his story--recollections about Mother, his abusive stepfather, Hillary, the campaign trail, and Kenneth Starr--the veracity of emotion and Kitchen Confidential-type revelations about what it is like to be President make My Life impossible to put down.

To Clinton, politics is a contact sport, and while he claims that My Life is not intended to make excuses or assign blame, it does portray him as a fighter whose strategy is to take the first hit, then counterpunch as hard as I could. While My Life is primarily a stroll through Clinton's memories, it is also a scathing rebuke--a retaliation against his detractors, including Kenneth Starr, whose mindless search for scandal protected the guilty while persecuting the innocent and distracted his Administration from pressing international matters (including strikes on al Qaeda). Counterpunch indeed.

At its core, My Life is a charming and intriguing if flawed book by an equally intriguing and flawed man who had his worst failures and humiliations made public. Ultimately, the man who left office in the shadow of scandal offers an honest and open account of his life, allowing readers to witness his struggle to drain the most out of every moment while maintaining the character with which he was raised. It is a remarkably intimate, persuasive look at the boy he was, the President he became, and man he is today. --Daphne Durha

"William Jefferson Clinton's MY LIFE is, by a generous measure, the richest American presidential autobiography--no other book tells us as vividly or fully what it is like to be president of the United States for eight years. Clinton had the good sense to couple great smarts with a solid education; he arrived in Washington in 1964 and has been the nation's--or perhaps the world's--No. 1 politics junkie ever since. And he can write--as Reagan, Ford, Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson, to go no farther back, could not....But he's lonely, and in the quality of his loneliness lies much of his appeal. And he does have serious appeal. Nothing in this book becomes Clinton so much as his gentle, sympathetic treatment of his alcoholic, sometimes abusive stepfather, Roger Clinton, whose name he took and whom he calls Daddy...I happen to like long, smart, dense narratives and read MY LIFE straight through, happily. I may not know Bill Clinton any better than I did when I started, but I know recent history better, which surely can't hurt."

 

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