Jacki: Bill Clinton

My Life, by Bill Clinton

I cut it down to the wire on this one even though I started early in the month. It took me two and a half weeks to read this. Two and a half weeks. I can’t remember a time that a book has taken me that long. This was 1000 pages of dense, tiny little type. I felt like I deserved a metal when I got to the last page.

Now that I got out of the way: I loved this. I mean, I just loved it. This was the first autobiography that I’ve read during the course of the presidential challenge (although I plan to read W’s as well.) and I didn’t know how I would feel about it because obviously it would be really one sided- but the thing is, all the books about the more modern presidents are super one sided anyway, so I figured I should at least hear it from his lips if that makes sense? It totally does to me.

The thing is, through this whole challenge part of my interest has been seeing the people that make these men that are just larger than life- to get to who they really are and how the presidency fit them or didn’t fit them. I feel like Bill Clinton exposed that so well here that I just walked away feeling really satisfied. I think that he was really blunt and honest- he obviously knows what he is great at and knows where he falters and I didn’t feel like he pulled back from that much.

I loved hearing about his upbringing and seeing these little puzzle pieces that fit together to make him this civil rights loving, peace loving boy from the deep south. That was an extreme rarity back then and it just seems like Bill Clinton’s family and circumstances came together perfectly to make this guy who was just so suited to stand up in these areas. I also loved hearing about his genuine love for Hillary. I’ve always wondered what their marriage looks like on the inside and while I’m sure that there was  a lot left out here (although he found himself on the couch quite a few times during the book), I just admire that come hell or high water they are standing behind each other. I don’t care what your political leanings are, you have to respect that.

I have vague memories of Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky and all of that mess. I knew that the president had messed up and it involved a girl but I was too young to have a solid grasp on it. I had no idea what Whitewater really was although, again, I was familiar with the word and that it meant bad news for Clinton. There was a lot of good stuff here but I feel like the real ins and outs of that whole thing were my biggest take away- I felt like I picked up a little piece of American history that was a blank spot in my brain.

I do, in fact, recognize that there were times that Clinton glossed over areas that were less flattering for him. You could almost hear his charming voice sweeping stuff under the rug, but if we’re being real if I were writing my life story that I knew people would read in 100 years, I may sweep some stuff under the rug too.

I super loved this and it gave me a good taste for autobiographies. I’m 99% sure that’s what I’ll be doing for my final two as well, so I’ll let you know what I think!

Jennie: William McKinley

William McKinley (The American Presidents #25) by Kevin Phillips

This book was so very dry, and while only 150ish pages, it was so very long. I prefer biographies that dive both into the political world of the president and the personal world. This biography really only focused on politics, mentioning McKinley’s personal life only when it directly impacted his professional life. (His wife’s illness, etc)

It was a slightly bent in the pro-McKinley camp, but overall I felt I read a mostly general overview of is political life and how he impacted the Republican party. However, possibly the thing I was most upset about was that there wasn’t any details on his assassination. Just commentary on what he might have done better, had he not been assassinated.

I picked this biography because it was the cheapest of the options, but I wish I’d maybe gone for one of the others now knowing how it skipped the personal aspects of his life. If someone wants a great detail of his politics, this is certainly a good book to pick up. I finished it feeling like I didn’t know much about McKinley outside of that arena.