My Life

My Life

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, including his dedication to educational and economic reform, his war against a "vast right-wing operation" determined to destroy him, and the "morally indefensible" acts for which he was nearly impeached. My Life is autobiography as therapy--a personal history written by a man trying to face and banish his private demons.

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 Durham

Title:My Life
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781400030033
Format Type:
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    My Life Reviews

  • Will Byrnes

    There is much that is good about the book. There is much that is annoying. I most enjoyed his descriptions of dealings with foreign leaders. We get the skinny on who was really in favor of what, who w...

  • Kelly (TheWellReadRedhead)

    Make sure you are interested in politics if you're going to read this. Don't just read it for the Lewinsky scandal because it's barely mentioned! Clinton is a brilliant political mind and it shows in ...

  • aPriL does feral sometimes

    Whatever opinions people may have of current or past American Presidents, it struck me quite forcibly in reading Bill Clinton’s ‘My Life’ how important are the qualities of sanity and of being g...

  • Billy

    I put this book under the fiction bookshelf for a reason. I read this book for a class on Bill Clinton's foreign policy (ok, most of the book. I skipped over all the personal stuff because frankly, I ...

  • Bart Breen

    I don't particularly like Bill Clinton ....I don't particularly like Bill Clinton on many levels. I have read many Presidential biographies and autobiographies and so I felt I should read this one, an...

  • Joshua

    Okay, first, I have to confess I listened to the abridged audio edition of this book, and that's what I'm basing my review on. I listened to the whole thing on the drive from my home to seminary (6 ho...

  • Melissa

    I listened to this abridged audio but I liked it so much, I'm thinking of reading the much longer unabridged book! Bill Clinton was awesome, despite his brushing over his welfare reform, which was the...

  • Becky

    At nearly 1000 pages, this book is not for the faint of heart. The beginning is slow, as it seems that Clinton is mentioning every single person that passed through his childhood and adolescence. The ...

  • Emilia

    I was already a Bill Clinton fan, but his memoir just solidified my reasons. Very moving account of his life, especially his childhood/young adulthood. He is such an intelligent, self-made man. His de...

  • Jeremy Perron

    William Jefferson Clinton is my first president. Well, not really, I was born on July 3, 1981 so my first president was actually Ronald Reagan. The first presidential election that I remember is the 1...