Knopf. 957 pages. $35.
NY Times Book Review
… 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." Larry McMurtry
San Francisco Chronicle
"[T]his record-setting best-seller isn’t just a blockbuster. It’s a filibuster. … a panoramic, richly informative account of the first president in years to embody the myth of America as a country where anyone can grow up to be president—and, if we’re not careful, the last." David Kipen
"…My Life may be uneven, but it’s consistently fascinating, with more detail than a Breughel canvas. … My Life, too, reads like a double book: the opening chapters telling in colorful detail about his childhood, and the majority of the book reading like an expanded diary that recounts his later political successes and failures month by month." Melinda Bargreen
"His life is too fascinating, his mind too brilliant, his desire to charm too strong to permit him to produce a boring book. … But in his rush to meet his publication deadline, Clinton seems to have sacrificed a more thoughtful historical analysis in favor of pouring every meeting, meal and travelogue into print." Walter Isaacson
"Regrettably, Clinton’s oratorical talents don’t readily translate to his writing skills. … This is a book that in many ways mirrors the best and worst of a complicated leader, a lightning rod of his time." Michael D. Langan
Los Angeles Times
"There are flashes of incisive brilliance and numbing stretches of tedious self-absorption." Tim Rutten
New York Times
"… 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. … For the most part, the self-portrait that emerges from this book is not all that different a Bill Clinton from the one the public has already come to know: tireless, driven, boyish, self-absorbed and optimistic, someone riven by contradictions but adept at compartmentalizing different parts of his life." Michiko Kakutani
Wall Street Journal
"If you read only one book on Mr. Clinton up close and personal, I’d make it Monica’s, the only one… in which Bill displays any of his much vaunted passion …. 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." Mark Steyn
"It sure is a good story," Clinton writes in his prologue. Really, it is. You just need to wade through the myriad names, dates, and details of this "big puffy plum cake of an autobiography" to make sense of his panoramic story (New York Times Book Review). As The New York Times points out, My Life is "part policy primer, part 12-step confessional, part stump speech and part presidential archive." Despite his serious lack of focus, Clinton is characteristically charming and fascinating throughout. Critics agree that the best parts center on his poignant descriptions of his Arkansas childhood, sympathetic look at his alcoholic stepfather, and controversial treatment of the "character issue." As for Monica? You’ll just have to wait and see.
The Critics Compared
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant | Ulysses S. Grant (1885-86): "My family is American, and has been for generations, in all its branches, direct and collateral." Thus opens Grant’s two-volume memoir, edited by Mark Twain during the last months of the president’s life. Considered one of the best military memoirs and autobiographies of an American president.