My Life

My Life

4.1 129
by Bill Clinton

View All Available Formats & Editions


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

…  See more details below



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, ...

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Larry McMurtry
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.
The New York Times
Walter Isaacson
[Clinton's] life is too fascinating, his mind too brilliant, his desire to charm too strong to permit him to produce a boring book. The combination of analytic and emotional intelligence that made him a great politician now makes him a compelling raconteur.
The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"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.... And he can write.” —Larry McMurtry, The New York Times Book Review

My Life is, without question, the best written U.S. presidential tome of all time.”  —Douglas Brinkley, Financial Times

“A hell of a good story.” —Frank McCourt, Entertainment Weekly

“It’s an almost voluptuous pleasure to read Clinton when he’s recounting and analyzing a political race or a legislative battle, whether it’s one of his own or somebody else’s.” —The New Yorker

“Consistently fascinating.” —The Seattle Times

“Clinton talks with disarming frankness [and] writes with grace and fluidity. . . . He is also a born storyteller.” The New Republic

“Might just be the perfect representation of the man himself.” —The Plain Dealer

“Clinton has many tales to tell, particularly a rich, sometimes moving account of his years before the public life, fit for future analytical historians and biographers. . . . The personal and the political are intertwined. . . . Clinton’s story very much reflects the man we know.” —The Nation

“He manages to create the distinct impression that he is sitting in the living room talking to the reader. . . . Anyone who is geninely interested in American politics will find his insights and anecdotes fascinating. . . . The book helps to elucidate the question of ‘how he did it.’ ” —Deseret Morning News

“It’s a saga worthy of Cecil B. DeMille, a rags-to-riches tale full of the stuff of human frailty, with a cast of hundreds, complete with low-life villians and high-minded heroes and, as such stories require, an upbeat ending. . . . The 1990s come to life once again as a time of uncommon tumult and riveting personalities. . . . The personalities on parade are as vivid as the events.” —Newark Star-Ledger

“ Tremendously interesting and entertaining. . . . Clinton’s is a truly American story to which the average person can relate. . . . Future politicians will find it a must-read, and average Americans will identify with the highs and lows we all experience as we make our way through life.” —Chattanooga Times Free Press

“Takes readers through a strong account of the achievements and failures of his administrattion. . . . No other presidential memoir is likely to be so lively. . . . Bill Clinton is hard to dismiss, and so is an account of his extraordinary life.” — The Tennessean

“A reading of MyLife is a necessity for lovers of good autobiograpy. It reads like a down-home history of a life and, thus, anchors Clinton as a superb storyteller. . . . Candid. . . . Honest. . . . Stimulating.” —Huntsville Times

Read More

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.17(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One:

Early on the morning of August 19, 1946, I was born under a clear sky after a violent summer storm to a widowed mother in the Julia
Chester Hospital in Hope, a town of about six thousand in southwest Arkansas, thirty-three miles east of the Texas border at Texarkana. My mother named me William Jefferson Blythe III after my father, William Jefferson Blythe Jr., one of nine children of a poor farmer in Sherman, Texas, who died when my father was seventeen. According to his sisters, my father always tried to take care of them, and he grew up to be a handsome, hardworking, fun-loving man. He met my mother at Tri-State Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1943, when she was training to be a nurse. Many times when I was growing up, I asked Mother to tell me the story of their meeting, courting, and marriage. He brought a date with some kind of medical emergency into the ward where she was working, and they talked and flirted while the other woman was being treated. On his way out of the hospital, he touched the finger on which she was wearing her boyfriend’s ring and asked her if she was married. She stammered “no”—she was single. The next day he sent the other woman flowers and her heart sank. Then he called Mother for a date, explaining that he always sent flowers when he ended a relationship.

Two months later, they were married and he was off to war. He served in a motor pool in the invasion of Italy, repairing jeeps and tanks. After the war, he returned to Hope for Mother and they moved to Chicago, where he got back his old job as a salesman for the Manbee Equipment Company. They bought a little house in the suburb of Forest Park but couldn’t move in for a couple of months, and since Mother was pregnant with me, they decided she should go home to Hope until they could get into the new house. On May 17, 1946, after moving their furniture into their new home, my father was driving from Chicago to Hope to fetch his wife. Late at night on Highway 60 outside of Sikeston, Missouri, he lost control of his car, a 1942 Buick, when the right front tire blew out on a wet road. He was thrown clear of the car but landed in, or crawled into, a drainage ditch dug to reclaim swampland. The ditch held three feet of water. When he was found, after a two-hour search, his hand was grasping a branch above the waterline. He had tried but failed to pull himself out. He drowned, only twenty-eight years old, married two years and eight months, only seven months of which he had spent with Mother.

That brief sketch is about all I ever really knew about my father. All my life I have been hungry to fill in the blanks, clinging eagerly to every photo or story or scrap of paper that would tell me more of the man who gave me life.

When I was about twelve, sitting on my uncle Buddy’s porch in Hope, a man walked up the steps, looked at me, and said, “You’re Bill Blythe’s son. You look just like him.” I beamed for days.

In 1974, I was running for Congress. It was my first race and the local paper did a feature story on my mother. She was at her regular coffee shop early in the morning discussing the article with a lawyer friend when one of the breakfast regulars she knew only casually came up to her and said, “I was there, I was the first one at the wreck that night.” He then told Mother what he had seen, including the fact that my father had retained enough consciousness or survival instinct to try to claw himself up and out of the water before he died. Mother thanked him, went out to her car and cried, then dried her tears and went to work.

In 1993, on Father’s Day, my first as President, the Washington Post ran a long investigative story on my father, which was followed over the next two months by other investigative pieces by the Associated Press and many smaller papers. The stories confirmed the things my mother and I knew. They also turned up a lot we didn’t know, including the fact that my father had probably been married three times before he met Mother, and apparently had at least two more children.

My father’s other son was identified as Leon Ritzenthaler, a retired owner of a janitorial service, from northern California. In the article, he said he had written me during the ‘92 campaign but had received no reply. I don’t remember hearing about his letter, and considering all the other bullets we were dodging then, it’s possible that my staff kept it from me. Or maybe the letter was just misplaced in the mountains of mail we were receiving. Anyway, when I read about Leon, I got in touch with him and later met him and his wife, Judy, during one of my stops in northern California. We had a happy visit and since then we’ve corresponded in holiday seasons. He and I look alike, his birth certificate says his father was mine, and I wish I’d known about him a long time ago.

Somewhere around this time, I also received information confirming news stories about a daughter, Sharon Pettijohn, born Sharon Lee Blythe in Kansas City in 1941, to a woman my father later divorced. She sent copies of her birth certificate, her parents’ marriage license, a photo of my father, and a letter to her mother from my father asking about “our baby” to Betsey Wright, my former chief of staff in the governor’s office. I’m sorry to say that, for whatever reason, I’ve never met her.

This news breaking in 1993 came as a shock to Mother, who by then had been battling cancer for some time, but she took it all in stride. She said young people did a lot of things during the Depression and the war that people in another time might disapprove of. What mattered was that my father was the love of her life and she had no doubt of his love for her. Whatever the facts, that’s all she needed to know as her own life moved toward its end. As for me, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it all, but given the life I’ve led, I could hardly be surprised that my father was more complicated than the idealized pictures I had lived with for nearly half a century.

In 1994, as we headed for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of D-day, several newspapers published a story on my father’s war record, with a snapshot of him in uniform. Shortly afterward, I received a letter from Umberto Baron of Netcong, New Jersey, recounting his own experiences during the war and after. He said that he was a young boy in Italy when the Americans arrived, and that he loved to go to their camp, where one soldier in particular befriended him, giving him candy and showing him how engines worked and how to repair them. He knew him only as Bill. After the war, Baron came to the United States, and, inspired by what he had learned from the soldier who called him “Little GI Joe,” he opened his own garage and started a family. He told me he had lived the American dream, with a thriving business and three children. He said he owed so much of his success in life to that young soldier, but hadn’t had the opportunity to say good-bye then, and had often wondered what had happened to him. Then, he said, “On Memorial Day of this year, I was thumbing through a copy of the New York Daily News with my morning coffee when suddenly I felt as if I was struck by lightning. There in the lower left-hand corner of the paper was a photo of Bill. I felt chills to learn that Bill was none other than the father of the President of the United States.”

In 1996, the children of one of my father’s sisters came for the first time to our annual family Christmas party at the White House and brought me a gift: the condolence letter my aunt had received from her congressman, the great Sam Rayburn, after my father died. It’s just a short form letter and appears to have been signed with the autopen of the day, but I hugged that letter with all the glee of a six-year-old boy getting his first train set from Santa Claus. I hung it in my private office on the second floor of the White House, and looked at it every night.

Shortly after I left the White House, I was boarding the USAir shuttle in Washington for New York when an airline employee stopped me to say that his stepfather had just told him he had served in the war with my father and had liked him very much. I asked for the old vet’s phone number and address, and the man said he didn’t have it but would get it to me. I’m still waiting, hoping there will be one more human connection to my father.

At the end of my presidency, I picked a few special places to say goodbye and thanks to the American people. One of them was Chicago, where Hillary was born; where I all but clinched the Democratic nomination on St. Patrick’s Day 1992; where many of my most ardent supporters live and many of my most important domestic initiatives in crime, welfare, and education were proved effective; and, of course, where my parents went to live after the war. I used to joke with Hillary that if my father hadn’t lost his life on that rainy Missouri highway, I would have grown up a few miles from her and we probably never would have met. My last event was in the Palmer House Hotel, scene of the only photo I have of my parents together, taken just before Mother came back to Hope in 1946. After the speech and the good-byes, I went into a small room where I met a woman, Mary Etta Rees, and her two daughters. She told me she had grown up and gone to high school with my mother, then had gone north to Indiana to work in a war industry, married, stayed, and raised her children. Then she gave me another precious gift: the letter my twenty-three-year-old mother had written on her birthday to her friend, three weeks after my father’s death, more than fifty-four years earlier. It was vintage Mother. In her beautiful hand, she wrote of her heartbreak and her determination to carry on: “It seemed almost unbelievable at the time but you see I am six months pregnant and the thought of our baby keeps me going and really gives me the whole world before me.”

My mother left me the wedding ring she gave my father, a few moving stories, and the sure knowledge that she was loving me for him too.

My father left me with the feeling that I had to live for two people, and that if I did it well enough, somehow I could make up for the life he should have had. And his memory infused me, at a younger age than most, with a sense of my own mortality. The knowledge that I, too, could die young drove me both to try to drain the most out of every moment of life and to get on with the next big challenge. Even when I wasn’t sure where I was going, I was always in a hurry.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

My Life 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 127 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't know what to expect when I first began to listen to this book. At the end I realized just how much I didn't know and wished I had about President Clinton. His life is proof that you can make of your life whatever you wish. He shows that making mistakes, even for someone in the public eye, doesn't make you unforgivable - it makes us human.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful read! He is human.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You can't put this book down
tylermaire More than 1 year ago
This book was a wonderful read. The book is a little long but well worth it. It will give you a good idea why he believes in the polices that he does or a glance into his and Hillary's personal life. The part of this book that stood out to me, that shows why he believes in the polices that he does is the story of his grandfathers grocery store. His grandfather would black out the receipts of the customers who couldn't pay because his grandfather believed that if you're trying to feed your family and can't afford to, you need a break. Bill went on to say this is why he believed in food stamps. But what I think is the crux of the book is when he was elected to governor. A man who was on PCP had gotten a railroad tie and knocked down the door to the governors mansion. It took 3 very large secret service members to seduce the crazed man. I love this book and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good read. There were a few parts of the book weren't that well written. A good chunk of the book is filler. They are very bland and boring parts that are just there to fill the book. There are parts of the book that are just back and forth between him and someone he knows. This I a very well written and interesting book that gives a glimpse into this political and private life. If you liked this book you would also like the book written by his wife Hillary Clinton or our current president Barack Obama's book.
Nondas_Bellos More than 1 year ago
My Life by Bill Clinton (957 pages) is immensely enjoyable - it would have been a great read even if it wasn't written by a former President of the United States. Besides the glimpses it offers into the Presidency and Mr Clinton's private life, it offers a guide for success: Start early, stay committed, rise above yourself and your circumstances, and persevere. The book is lucid, well written, and instructive. Mr Clinton, for example, discusses some of the people and lists several of the books that have been influential in his life, including Red Star Over China (Edgar Snow) and You Can't Go Home Again (Thomas Wolfe). He also serves to remind us that life consists of both successes and failures. For the former President, a balanced federal budget is a particularly relevant success story given the current climate of economic uncertainty, while the failure to broker successful negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians continues to breed instability and human suffering. My Life is a gold mine of political ideas and personal lessons.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
former president bill clinton tells a true american story. he reveals a side of himself that was closed off to the public his entire eight years in office. he tells his story with enthusiasm and his own unforgetable charm. he leaves nothing unsaid in his journey coming from a middle class family in hope, arkansas to being presidant of the united states.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This Auto-biography is a must have for anyone interested in politics or the presidency.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really good read this is how a book should be done
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
<3 this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
lriz1959 More than 1 year ago
Very interesting, and definitely did not end up being boring!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like it storm cloud
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I lov it. Wher will the next chapter b?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved review January 11, 2006 exactly how I feel about that president of ours! What a fraud he is!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this great book, it told me a lot about the man, i loved it very much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago