Tomorrow is Primary Day here in Pennsylvania, finally. Normally during a presidential election PA is so late in the primary schedule that the candidate is basically already decided and it feels like it doesn’t matter who I vote for. That’s not the case with this election and in the last couple months I have found myself going back and forth on which candidate I would choose. I think I have finally made a decision in the last couple weeks, but I still thought it would be interesting to read a memoir/autobiography by each candidate before the primary.
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Title: Living History
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Publication Date: June 9, 2003
Rating: 4 stars
Hillary Rodham Clinton is known to hundreds of millions of people around the world. Yet few beyond her close friends and family have ever heard her account of her extraordinary journey. She writes with candor, humor and passion about her upbringing in suburban, middle-class America in the 1950s and her transformation from Goldwater Girl to student activist to controversial First Lady.
Living History is her revealing memoir of life through the White House years. It is also her chronicle of living history with Bill Clinton, a thirty-year adventure in love and politics that survives personal betrayal, relentless partisan investigations and constant public scrutiny. (Goodreads)
This book had been on my summer reading list for last summer, but I just never got to it. I decided I was definitely reading it now. Clinton is a very eloquent writer and while I usually prefer humorous memoirs, I found this one just as intriguing. I don’t pretend to know a lot about politics, but a lot of Clinton’s own personality and voice really shone through in this memoir, making it that much more interesting.
I grew up with a very conservative family during the Clinton administration, so it was interesting to read this book and learn about these events all over again, this time without seeing them through a conservative lens. I also really appreciated Clinton’s candor when speaking of her husband’s affair and the struggle their marriage went through at that time.
This book made Hillary Clinton – indeed, the entire Clinton family – seem more human to me, and it helped me understand her in a way I hadn’t before.
Outsider in the White House by Bernie Sanders, with Hank Gutman
Title: Outsider in the White House
Author: Bernie Sanders, with Hank Gutman
Publication Date: October 6, 2015 (original 1996)
Rating: 3 stars
Bernie Sanders’s campaign for the presidency of the United States has galvanized people all over the country, putting economic, racial, and social justice into the spotlight, and raising hopes that Americans can take their country back from the billionaires and change the course of history.
In this book, Sanders tells the story of a passionate and principled political life. He describes how, after cutting his teeth in the Civil Rights movement, he helped build a grassroots political movement in Vermont, making it possible for him to become the first independent elected to the US House of Representatives in forty years. The story continues into the US Senate and through the dramatic launch of his presidential campaign. (Goodreads)
Perhaps it was because I was reading this simultaneously with Living History, but Sanders’ autobiography left me disappointed. Not because the writing style wasn’t as eloquent (it wasn’t, but it was straight forward and easy to read) but because it focused solely on Sanders’ political campaigns and voting history. As I stated above, I know very little about politics I had read this book hoping to learn more about Bernie the man, and only learned about his campaigns. This book didn’t humanize Sanders for me the way Living History did Clinton. That’s not technically the book’s fault – I didn’t realize how little of Sanders’s actual life would be found in those pages.
Another aspect I found disappointing was the lack of information about his record since 1996. I knew when I started the book it had been originally published 10 years earlier, but I thought with the update it would contain more information about what Bernie has been up to in the last decade. Instead, there is just an Afterward by a third party giving a quick overview of the past decade and what Sanders hopes to accomplish as president. I had hoped Sanders might have taken at least a little bit of time to update the book himeslf, but that was not the case.
Overall, though this book was interesting and did help me learn a lot about Sanders as a politician, it didn’t help me learn anything more about who he is as a human and I was somewhat disappointed.