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A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him Hardcover – Oct 19 2010

4 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (Oct. 19 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030012130X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300121308
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 885 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #896,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A valuable document. . . [and] also timely. . . . [A Complicated Man] is fair and balanced. . . . When dealing with someone as inspiring and infuriating as the 42nd president, that is no small feat."—Christian Science Monitor
(Christian Science Monitor)

"This volume is an outstanding accomplishment. The Clinton that emerges is remarkably rich and three-dimensional: a protean and mercurial figure as likely to dazzle as he is to disappoint; his own worst enemy and his own best resource; a man of extraordinarily intense emotional need and extraordinarily impressive intellect and commitment. A historic contribution to the biographical record which will stand for generations."—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
(Rick Perlstein)

"This book is perfectly titled. Bill Clinton was and is, indeed, 'a complicated man,' one of the three greatest natural politicians among twentieth-century presidents, along with FDR and LBJ, but also strangely flawed. These testimonies by people who knew him well throughout his life and career delve into both the strengths and weaknesses of this fascinating figure."—John Milton Cooper, author of The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
(John Milton Cooper)

"Packed with fascinating personal perspective and testimony, Michael Takiff's A Complicated Man wholly justifies its title. The book is far more than a kaleidoscopic oral biography of President Bill Clinton. Aspect by aspect, it guides us through the struggles of postmodern America, as the most ambitious baby boomer of his generation seeks to modernize the Democratic Party—and, as in a Greek drama, is fated to be destroyed. Veritably, an all-American saga, with a cast of thousands—favorable and unfavorable."—Nigel Hamilton, author of American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush
(Nigel Hamilton)

“This is an ambitious and impressive work. Takiff has taken on a daunting subject and done very well with it.”—Lewis L. Gould, University of Texas at Austin
(Lewis L. Gould)

“There is a tradition of solid oral history books on Presidents and the Presidency, but nothing comes close to Michael Takiff’s A Complicated Man.  This is one of the best efforts on Clinton’s life in years, and it is the best oral history book ever written about a President of the United States.”—Anthony Bergen, Dead Presidents Blog
(Anthony Bergen Dead Presidents Blog)

“What Takiff delivers is an astonishing collection of 171 interviews, collectively offering an intimate portrait of former president Bill Clinton.”—Booklist, A Top 10 Biography of 2011

Won Honorable Mention in 2011 New York Book Festival in the Biography/Autobiography
(Biography/Autobiograpy Honorable Mention New York Book Festival)

"Takiff claims a certain objectivity and points to the fact that he interviewed 171 people who had commerce with Clinton."—Dave Wood, Anoka County Union
(Dave Wood Anoka County Union)

About the Author

Michael Takiff is an independent scholar and oral historian whose writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Post, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Salon. He is the author of Brave Men, Gentle Heroes: American Fathers and Sons in World War II and Vietnam.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a political junkie and I've always been a big fan of President Bill Clinton. In my opinion he was the smartest and most charismatic Commander in Chief the U.S. ever had. I've read many books about this man and have a nice collection of memorabilia. At first I was a little disappointed in this book, but on reading further, really enjoyed it. The last few chapters, in my opinion, were really excellent and let me in on many aspects of this man that I didn't know, even after reading so many books. A little gossip - he was touted as a world class genius at crosswords!

I certainly recommend this book to Clinton enthusiasts.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xaa24e228) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xaa21eda4) out of 5 stars Extraordinarily Well Written Oral History of Bill Clinton - A Real Page Turner !!!! Nov. 28 2010
By Richard of Connecticut - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I loved it. I couldn't put it done. I didn't want to put it down. Let me help you decide if you want to read A Complicated Man. The book is 496 pages long of which 434 are dedicated to narrative. It is beautifully written in chronological order from the beginning of his life, to his post administration period. It even includes a few pages about Hillary running for President. There were over 171 individuals interviewed for this oral biography.

The accomplished author Michael Takiff takes us on a whirlwind tour of Bill Clinton's life concentrating on his Presidency since that is what most readers will find the most interesting. It is possible to move through different sections of the book without starting at the beginning. What happens is that the author will cover a period, and weave the interviews into the chapter setting. This avoids the author inflicting us with his own personal biases except at certain endpoints at the conclusion of each chapter. You will appreciate the effort Takiff took to keep this book interesting.

As we know and the author points out, the Clinton Presidency was sandwiched between the end of the cold war and prior to the War on Terror. As such President Clinton did not have the opportunity to achieve the greatness that is usually accorded a President who must deal with war, and its aftermath. Takiff is completely accurate in naming this book, A Complicated Man. If there is any term particularly appropriate for this President it is that he is complex, and difficult to wrap your hands around from an historian's standpoint. This is a man who desperately wanted to be President of the United States since childhood, and then blew himself up voluntarily. Allow me to quote just three individuals in the book to show how interesting the author's technique is.

* Andrew Friendly tells us that Clinton was feeding directly into what they thought about him.

* Elaine Kamarck said that Clinton's second term was blown up because of Monica Lewinsky. There was no second term.

* Sam Donaldson felt that Bill Clinton was a man child in one body.

In a book like this you will always learn interesting tidbits of fascinating information that you just won't learn anywhere else. You will remember these stories forever, and therein lays the value of a book like this. Here are a couple of quick anecdotes to spur you on to reading this book.

1) After the election of 2000, but prior to the Supreme Court decision awarding the election to George W. Bush, Vice President Gore meets with President Clinton in the oval office. Both men have an in your face conversation. It is the first long face to face between the two men in 18 months. Gore slams the President by telling Clinton that his affair with Monica Lewinsky has cost him Gore the Presidency. Clinton fights back telling the VP that Gore should have leveraged the achievements of the Administration that he was a part of for 8 years. It is a conversation you will relish.

2) Senator Dole who is the Republican Senate leader has a sit down dinner with President and Mrs. Clinton in the White House to discuss health care in March of 1994. Dole tells us that he is expecting a call the next day, and then there will be a compromise on health care reform. The call NEVER COMES. Dole says, the Clintons dropped the ball, and we didn't help them pick it up.

3) Dale Bumpers served more than 20 years in the US Senate as a Democrat from Arkansas. He is an illustrious personality in his own right. When he describes Bill Clinton he speaks glowingly. He saw Clinton in the beginning of his career in two minutes give the finest speech in a small hall that Bumpers had ever witnessed. When Clinton speaks to you, at that moment, he is in love with you; you are the only person in the room.


Do you love political books? Are you a political junkie? This is the book for you. You won't put it down. You will read every page. If there is any issue I have with the book, it is that the author claims to be objective, and yet on pages 394 through 395, he gives you a pro and con of what a Gore Administration would have been like versus the reality of the Bush Administration. Such a comparison is completely unfair because we do not know what Gore's decisions would have really been. It is grossly unfair to attempt to fantasize such a comparison.

Let me simply say READ IT - Five Stars, and thank you for reading this review.

Richard C. Stoyeck
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xaa299528) out of 5 stars Disappointing March 13 2011
By David Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was disappointing to me as I had hoped to learn more of Clinton as a human being, not a politician. The work is a compilation of hundreds of statements by many different associates, friends, and neighbors, each statement dealing with a specific incident in Clinton's life and how he dealt with it. The problem is the lion's share of these incidents are plucked from his political career, not his personal life. I wanted to know who Bill Clinton is -- the real, down to earth Bill Clinton away from the cameras and advisors, the media and political cronies. What's he like when it's just him and his buddies? What kind of entertainment does he enjoy? Does he have hobbies, etc.? But, then, his political life is his life. And if you want more of that then this will be a winner! Just don't expect to learn much you don't already know.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xaa16048c) out of 5 stars A must read..... Oct. 17 2010
By Edith S. Taber, Ph.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"A Complicated Man", an engrossing read, is a major addition to Clinton lore. Seeing Clinton through the eyes of those who have interacted with him, we get a complete and penetrating view of this iconic figure. I give it a minimum of five stars.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xaa391588) out of 5 stars A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him Dec 22 2010
By Maria Sutton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one of those millions of Americans who continues to be intrigued by our 42nd President, I found Michael Takiff's compelling account of Bill Clinton's life to be exceptionally well-written, thought-provoking, and insightful. Having read many books about Clinton by researchers who hate him or love him, it was refreshing to get an unbiased version of our President's triumphs and foibles. Bill Clinton is, and will continue to be, a complicated man--most people achieving greatness are, and Michael Takiff has intelligently captured the essence of Bill Clinton, the man. This fascinating biography has earned five stars from me--it's a mesmerizing, page-turning book that helps answer some of our questions about the life and times of the man who was our President during what some Americans consider to be the Golden Age.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xaa1b8714) out of 5 stars An insightful examination of a complicated man Oct. 19 2010
By ReaderReader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Once again Michael Takiff takes the reader on fabulous journey drawn on the recollections of those who know the stories best. Takiff's interviewing style and writing honor both the teller and reader. The balanced interviews capture the essence of America's most fascinating tragic hero; Bill Clinton. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the man and every political junkie.