My Life (Clinton autobiography)

My Life is a 2004 autobiography written by former President of the United States Bill Clinton, who left office on January 20, 2001. It was released on June 22, 2004. The book was published by the Knopf Publishing Group and became a bestseller; the book sold in excess of 2,250,000 copies. Clinton had received what was at the time the world's highest book advance fee, $15 million (equivalent to $20 million in 2018).[1]

My Life
First edition cover
AuthorBill Clinton Autobiography
Cover artistBob McNeely (photograph)
Carol Devine Carson (design)
CountryUnited States
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group (Random House)
Publication date
June 22, 2004 (hardback)
973.929/092 B 22
LC ClassE886 .A3 2004
Preceded byBetween Hope and History 
Followed byGiving 

Summary and themes

In My Life, Clinton covered his life chronologically, beginning with his early years in Hope, Arkansas, and his family's move to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he attended school and learned the tenor saxophone. It later had a peripheral role in his political public appearances. He had an early interest in politics, which he pursued in college. He eventually ran for and won the Governorship of Arkansas, and later, the Presidency of the United States. Along the way, Clinton offers anecdotes of ordinary people he had interacted with over the years.

Early in Clinton's life, he recalls listening to his family's stories of others and learning

that no one is perfect but most people are good; that people can't be judged by their worst or weakest moments; that harsh judgments can make hypocrites of us all; that a lot of life is just showing up and hanging on; that laughter is often the best, and sometimes the only, response to pain.

Following his defeat for second term as governor, Clinton remarks, "the system can only absorb so much change at once; no one can beat all the entrenched interests at the same time; and if people think you've stopped listening, you're sunk."

In a political battle, he said that one should wait for an attack from his opponent, then counterpunch as strong and as fast as possible. Early gaffes in Clinton's political career were a result, he believed, of taking too long to respond to attacks.

Writing process

Clinton spent about two and a half years on the book. He gathered material for four months, wrote an outline, and spent two years and two months writing the book. The book's editor was Justin Cooper. "I wrote it out long hand, left blanks for research, he'd do the research, put it in the computer, print it out, and then we'd edit it," Clinton said. "Every page in this book has probably been gone over somewhere between three and nine times." The original draft for the book was written completely in long-hand. "[There were] 22 big, thick notebooks."[2]


At 1,008 pages, the memoir was chided for its length, with comedian Jon Stewart joking, "I have to confess, I did not finish the entire book; I'm on ... page 12,000."[3] President George W. Bush joked that it was "10,000 pages long."[4]

In 2007 Teletext carried out a survey of British readers, the results of which revealed that of the respondents who had purchased or borrowed My Life, 30 percent had either not read it, or had begun to read it but had not finished it.[5]

Clinton's former advisor Dick Morris wrote a rebuttal named Because He Could (2004), criticizing My Life. In his own book, Morris presented what he believed to be factual inaccuracies of different events Clinton depicted in My Life.[6]

White House intern Monica Lewinsky was highly critical of the autobiography, declaring that she had thought he would correct the false statements he made when he was trying to protect the Presidency.[7]

Clinton earned US$30 million as of April 2008 from the sales of My Life and his follow-up book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.[8]


In addition to the full-volume hardback that was initially released, several other editions followed, including: a limited deluxe edition that was numbered, slipcased, and autographed (ISBN 978-1400044504); trade paperback; audio (read by Bill Clinton); and a mass market paperback edition separated into two volumes. The audiobook edition, read by Clinton and published by Random House Audio, won the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.

This was the second time Clinton had won the award; in February 2004, Clinton (along with former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and actress Sophia Loren) won the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children. They were narrators for the Russian National Orchestra's album Peter and the Wolf/Wolf Tracks.

See also


  1. McIntire, Mike (5 April 2008). "Clintons made $109 Million in Last 8 Years". The New York Times.
  2. Clinton, Bill. The Late Show with David Letterman, CBS, 3 August 2004.
  3. Bill Clinton Part 2, The Daily Show, Comedy Central.
  4. President Bush Makes Fun of Himself (really)
  5. "Harry Potter book 'often unread'". BBC News Online. 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
  6. Suellentrop, Chris (26 December 2004). "His So-Called Life". The Washington Post.
  7. "Lewinsky: Clinton lies about relationship in his new book". USA Today. Associated Press. June 25, 2006. Retrieved December 18, 2006.
  8. "Clintons' earnings exceed $100m". BBC News. 5 April 2008. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
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