My life

by Bill Clinton

Hardcover, 2004




New York : Knopf, 2004.


The former president looks back on his life and career, discussing his youth and education, his early public service, his years as governor of Arkansas, and his accomplishments during two terms in the White House.

Media reviews

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.
3 more
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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member pbirch01
I can wholeheartedly agree with the other reviews that this is a slow book. However, that does not mean that it should not be read. This book took me several months to finish and I had to repeatedly renew it from the library. Clinton's attention to detail is impressive which is one reason why it can take such a long time to finish this book. He seems to mention almost everyone he knows including the guy who cut his hair when he was twelve. His literary style can often be described as rambling as he jumps around occasionally and has varying syntax. Although this may be frustrating from a literary standpoint, it also gives us an insight into the mind of a great politician as it allows us to see how he relates to the world around him. It also gives a unique and candid view of some famous world leaders some of us know only from the news. His optimism throughout his personal and public struggles are best seen in his somewhat rambling writing style.… (more)
LibraryThing member gopfolk
Well that was an interesting read...
I will never claim to be a fan of Bill Clinton and his politics but I do have to say that this biography was well written and kept me reading. The stories related to the international affairs alone were worth reading this book. There are many aspects of the presidency (of either party) that the public simply does not see or do not pay close attention too...Clinton lays many of these things out in fascinating stories.
There are aspects of the political policy (in my opinion) that he exaggerated his support.
The book kept me entertained and I came back time and again to get this HUGE book read.
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LibraryThing member Bestine
This 'thank you' to everybody who ever did anything for President Clinton is The Ultimate Primer on how to succeed in politics. Yeah, it's long. Yeah, it's probably way too detailed for most readers. But it's a gold-mine for political junkies interested in 'the process.'
LibraryThing member mms
Good read from a sorely missed and literate president.
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
Political memoirs are notorious for being ponderous exercises in self-gratification. It's hard to find a book that isn't like this - Bill's book is guilty of it - but far less than many others have been.

On the contrary - it is a piercing and interesting book about the nature of the presidency. It has become more interesting with the benefit of hindsight. Having a friendly debate with Newt Gingrich? Trying to pass health care reform? Preventing the stagnation of the economy? All of these issues are too relevant to the modern discourse. The political wranglings then have only become worse now, and many can rightfully yearn for the peaceful days of the 1990s.

I am impressed by his strong memory, attention to detail, his descriptions of events of every nature, his dealings with all characters. Any president has to do some superhuman effort in order to even get elected.

Of course, no president is flawless. He does gloss over some of his most unsavory affairs. But if you can survive these shortcomings, as well as the vast length of the book, you can find a truly interesting portrait of a past era.
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LibraryThing member Fledgist
An interesting, and surprisingly straightforward, memoir.
LibraryThing member WillowOne
The biography of William Jefferson Clinton our 42nd President of the United States is a very fact full book. If you ever wanted to know anything about Bill Clinton it is probably chronicled somewhere in this book. Although interesting and insight gaining you must wade through, sometimes, too much information. It doesn't always flow and you can get bogged down by the day to day flow of information. This is truly a book that is all encompassing of his life from childhood through manhood, schooling, parental shaping, family, dating, marriage, values, politics, mistakes, love, adultery, fatherhood and so much more. A hard read in my opinion but, insightful.… (more)
LibraryThing member mramos
'My Life' is a long and detailed autobiography of William Jefferson Clinton, the forty-second president of the United States of America. Though this book is very long, approximately one thousand pages, it was entertaining enough to read the whole thing. It is obvious that he kept a detailed diary his whole life.

Pres. Clinton's book is not the normal biography. It is written in chronological order starting with his boyhood. Though as you read it you will find yourself jumping all over time. He does this whenever he feels he has to defend his actions. And I felt the whole book is about trying to defend his legacy and set the record straight. The book seems very self-serving and he seems more concerned about what we think of him, instead of just writing what transpired.

Though I did find his book very easy to read. I did feel as if he I was sitting on a covered front porch with a class of ice tea and listening as Pres. Clinton spins an interesting tale. I had no problem reading the entire book and did find it enjoyable despite his agenda. He does share some of his shortcomings and how he overcame them. This is also a story of a boy making good in America. He comes from rural state and used every opportunity America offers each and every one of us. And that message is worth sharing.

Do not pick up this book looking for dark details of his life. You will not find it. But I did learn much about how he saw himself and his view on affairs that affected or touched his life. I do recommend reading this book.
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LibraryThing member dushuhui
A long, 900 pages long, but full of information and good stories. If you are a Clinton fan, read it.
LibraryThing member JBreedlove
Bill Clinton's life and presidency in his own words. A passionate telling of his life. A truly dynamic individual.
LibraryThing member joyriders
I started reading this and got up until he got a scholarship to college. I want to continue reading it but I'm really not in the mood for a biography right now.
LibraryThing member Angelic55blonde
This is very long but it gives the reader a great deal of insight into a great American President. If you are a Clinton fan, you definitely should read this.
LibraryThing member Tipton_Renwick
Close to 1000 pages of Bill Clinton explaining to the American people how great he is and what a great presidency he had. I thought it focused too much on his early years. Die-hard Clintonistas might like it. Politics buffs should read the second half to get an insider's acocunt on how Washington, in its most vitriolic form, works. For anyone else, this is a good book to skim and just read the interesting bits.… (more)
LibraryThing member labelleaurore
A very slow read... not my kind of book. It could have been done with more passion and love.
LibraryThing member Tahlil77
A very long read, but worth it for the extraordinary insight. Since I'm such a detail oriented individual, I could understand the long and sometimes tedious nature of the book, but I could also understand some peoples frustrations with me at times. Took me a while to complete, and I also have the audio book (read by Clinton himself) to help me "re-read" some particular points. I also had the fortune of meeting Bill Clinton in Manhattan for a signing during the initail release of the book. The chance to meet him, shake his hand, and comment on the writing was worth the 4 hour wait.… (more)
LibraryThing member rybie2
Despite being heavily edited from what is a very substantial book, the abridged audio version of My Life manages to cover the major features of Bill Clinton's life, in a time span of 6.5 hrs of tape. What's more, it is read by the author, Pres. Clinton himself. The latter fact is but one of the features that makes this audio book unprecedented. The other is the level of detail that characterizes this revealing and deeply personal memoir.

The audio book begins with his childhood in Arkansas; covers his years of schooling and difficult home life; his education at George Wasington University and then Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar; his struggles over the military service issue; his years in law school and his early relationship with Hillary; his move back to Arkansas and marriage; his entry into politics, culminating in the governoship; his successful run for national office; and the eight years of his presidency.

Mr. Clinton is passionate on the political issues (including the heavily- financed and well- coordinated attempt by the Republicans to force him from office), and is at times unsparing in his self-criticism when it comes to the personal failings that armed his bitter political enemies. Love him or not, this is one of the most extraordinary politicians in US history, a powerful personality of prodigious talents. Listening to the story being read by the man who wrote it and lived it is an opportunity not to be missed by anyone interested in Bill Clinton and the times he helped to shape.
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LibraryThing member madamejeanie
Yayyy! I finally finished this book! It's huge and full of detail. It's
good but in some places (the excruciating detail of the various peace talks
for example) I found my eyes crossing and had to lay it down for a while.

I have to say that one of three things must be true of Bill Clinton. Either
a) he kept copious journals from about the age of 2 year onward, b) he has a
photographic memory, or c) he was making this up as he went along. He
included the most minute details of his formative years, every campaign he
ever ran, nearly every hand he ever shook. But for all that, he left out
details of certain episodes we all know took place in the Oval Office with a
certain intern. Actually, he did refer to that and even devoted about
half a chapter to it, but even with all his words, he didn't really tell us
anything we didn't already know in lurid detail from the Starr report that
went to Congress and got posted on the Internet. The insights he did give
into the whys and wherefores of the Starr investigation into the most
private details of his (and many others as well) life were interesting.

I enjoyed this book because it gave me another point of view for a lot of
things and explained the odd relationship between Clinton and Newt
Gingrinch, Clinton's love for his family and his home state of Arkansas, a
little behind the scenes explanations for some of the mistakes Gore made in
the 2000 campaign and a myriad of other things. If you enjoy biographies
and politics, you'll enjoy this book. Clinton has a very friendly writing
style and tells the stories of his life well. I do think, though, that he
would have benefited from some editing. There were a lot of details that
seemed to drag on and on forever. So it is for that reason that I will give
the book a 4, though it should have been a 5 with better editing.
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LibraryThing member briansf
This is an interesting review of his life and his personal struggles. I particularly like the personal stories of his political battles while he was President and the inside stories during that time. It is an eye opener of how and why things happen the way they do in Washington, D.C.
LibraryThing member ktsbentley
A very long book that is well worth reading. This is a remarkable account of not only Bill Clinton's history, but of the history of the United States during that time. It was fascinating to read this book after reading Hillary Clinton's biography. There is something fascinating about reading about the same event from two different perspectives. I have a great deal of respect for Bill Clinton's presidency, and now I have even more respect for his life in general and for the commitments that Bill and Hillary have made together.… (more)
LibraryThing member Pferdina
I really enjoyed this autobiography. I learned a lot about Bill Clinton's presidency and all the things that were going on in the world during those eight years. My favorite parts of the book were the stories of his growing up in Arkansas and the things he did while in school. The book weighs a ton, and it is 957 pages long, but I did not get tired of it at all.… (more)
LibraryThing member thebooky
Wow, what an ego.
LibraryThing member red.yardbird
I liked it, but it was way to long and way to much "i did this, then i did that..."
LibraryThing member foof2you
What is great about this book is the stories he tells about family, friends and neighbors. I liked learning about the books he read throughout his life. I learned that many of the people he met throughout his life would play apart later in his life. He did a lot of networking. A lot of stories.
LibraryThing member ohernaes
-Grew in a partly quite unstable family environment.
-Vietnam story important to him. Probably even more so because of criticism faced later as a draft dodger.
-the nasty tone of Newt Gingrichs’s Republican party is striking, but maybe above all its certainty. A lengthy quote from Clinton: “Even though I was intrigued by Gingrich and impressed by his political skills, I didn’t think much of his claim that his politics represented America’s best values. I had been raised not to look down on anyone and not to blame others for my own problems or shortcomings. That’s exactly what the “New Right” message did. But it had enormous political appeal because it offered both psychological certainty and escape from responsibility: “they” were always right, “we” were always wrong; “we” were responsible for all the problems, even though “they” had controlled the presidency for all but six of the last twenty-six years. All of us are vulnerable to arguments that let us off the hook, and in the 1994 election, in an America where hardworking middle-class families felt economic anxiety and were upset by the pervasiveness of crime, drugs, and family dysfunction, there was an audience for the Gingrich message, especially when we didn’t offer a competing one.
Gingrich and the Republican right had brought us back to the 1960s again; Newt said that America had been a great country until the sixties, when the Democrats took over and replaced absolute notions of right and wrong with more relativistic values. He pledged to take us back to the morality of the 1950s, in order to “renew American civilization.”
Of course there were political and personal excesses in the 1960s, but the decade and
the movements it spawned also produced advances in civil rights, women’s rights, a clean
environment, workplace safety, and opportunities for the poor. The Democrats believed
in and worked for those things. So did a lot of traditional Republicans, including many of
the governors I’d served with in the late 1970s and 1980s. In focusing only on the
excesses of the 1960s, the New Right reminded me a lot of the carping that white
southerners did against Reconstruction for a century after the Civil War. When I was
growing up, we were still being taught how mean the Northern forces were to us during
Reconstruction, and how noble the South was, even in defeat. There was something to it,
but the loudest complaints always overlooked the good done by Lincoln and the national
Republicans in ending slavery and preserving the Union. On the big issues, slavery and
the Union, the South was wrong.
Now it was happening again, as the right wing used the excesses of the sixties to
obscure the good done in civil rights and other areas.”
This many seem to have retained.
-Clinton offers Republican Senator Alan Simpson’s view of the Whitewater affair and the press generally: “I was genuinely confused by the mainstream press coverage of Whitewater; it seemed inconsistent with the more careful and balanced approach the press had taken on other issues, at least since the Republicans won the Congress in 1994. One day, after one of our budget meetings in October, I asked Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming to stay a moment to talk. Simpson was a conservative Republican, but we had a pretty good relationship because of the friendship we had in common with his governor, Mike Sullivan. I asked Alan if he thought Hillary and I had done anything wrong in Whitewater. “Of course not,” he said. “That’s not what this is about. This is about making the public think you did something wrong. Anybody who looked at the evidence would see that you did'nt.” Simpson laughed at how willing the “elitist” press was to swallow anything negative about small, rural places like Wyoming or Arkansas and made an interesting observation: “You know, before you were elected, we Republicans believed the press was liberal. Now we have a more sophisticated view. They are liberal in a way. Most of them voted for you, but they think more like your right-wing critics do, and that’s much more important.” When I asked him to explain, he said, “Democrats like you and Sullivan get into government to help people. The right-wing extremists don’t think government can do much to improve on human nature, but they do like power. So does the press. And since you’re President, they both get power the same way, by hurting you.” I appreciated Simpson’s candor and I thought about what he said for months. For a long time, whenever I was angry about the Whitewater press coverage I would tell people about Simpson’s analysis. When I finally just accepted his insight as accurate, it was liberating, and it cleared my head for the fight.”
-It should not be forgotten how scandalous the stealing of the Bush-Gore election was, where the conservative majority in the Supreme Court decided not to recount the votes.
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LibraryThing member ShavonJones
Bill Clinton is impossible not to like. He seems genuinely honored by the support of others and he is always finding ways to be of service. The book is long, but few can tell a story the way Bill can so I finished it and enjoyed it.



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