Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hard Choices - Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hard Choices
Title: Hard Choices
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Publication Date: 6/10/14
Pages: 635
Genre: Political / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: The author has been in the press a bit lately
Date Completed: 11/12/15

Summary: Clinton discusses her work as Secretary of State during President Obama's first term.

What I Thought: Let me say up front, I recognize Clinton is a current candidate for president at the time of this review and public opinion about her is divided. Whichever camp you fall in regard to her candidacy or her as a person, be willing to open your mind and think critically for yourself. I tell it to my students all the time: don't blindly accept what any one source tells you. Read, research, explore, and be informed! Only then are you qualified to add to the discussion.

That being said, reading Hard Choices is part of my effort to become increasingly informed. There are many things in this world about which we, the public, will never have the full story or truly know the motives and actions of others. Still, it is our responsibility to learn all we can and listen to both sides of a story before we draw any conclusions. The most obvious example in this instance is the attack on our diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. I'll get to that.

I'll start, however, with some general impressions of the book. I learned a lot about Clinton's background when I read Living History a few years back. Going in to this book, I am far more aware of her accomplishments and ambitions than previously. Additionally, the years she covers here are years in which I was engaged with the political process and current events around the world, far more so than during my elementary years, which are covered in her previous memoir. Picking up the book with some previously formed opinions and ideas about the topics she covers certainly allowed me to be more clear-headed and logical. That's always a good thing when you are reading about controversial events. 

As I was with her previous work, I found myself very impressed with her writing. She covers topics that many people would find try, but she still manages to use a largely conversational, though professional tone. You get at least a small sense of who she is as a person (or who she wants you to think she is) while still fully recognizing her professional and political persona. To whatever extent she is using a ghost writer, and I must believe she did on some level or another, the book is well written. 

Clinton breaks the book into sections focused on events in each part of the world, rather than a strictly chronological narrative. I think this was a great decision, as it allows readers to follow the  cause and effect story line of each region more efficiently. Even though I am a fairly avid follower of world events, I learned a lot about both public events and what was happening behind the scenes.

The main draw of the book, for many, will consistently Clinton's narrative regarding the attacks in Benghazi. If you are expecting to find a balanced perspective on the events, you'll obviously need to seek out more sources than this one alone. I fully recognize that Clinton has plenty of political motivation to offered a slanted story, so I take her words with a grain of salt. Still, I found it valuable to read Clinton's presentation of how things went down.

I really enjoyed this book. I do not see it as a gospel account of everything which happened in Clinton's  years as Secretary of State; I know better than that. Yet, I do appreciate reading this version of events, as the media is often wont to give a more sensationalized account of events. I really do respect her work over the years and, whatever your opinion of her may be, you cannot deny her experience. If you are considering voting for Ms. Clinton, as I am (no political judgements please, this is a book-loving neutral zone!), or even if you are not, I strongly recommend reading the book. If nothing else, you will benefit from hearing her story from the source. We hear so much about this woman second-hand, third-hand, or from completely uninformed sources. Doesn't she deserve a chance to speak for herself? 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Unlikely
If You Liked This Try: Reading Lolita in Tehran / I Am Malala / Daring
Other Books By Hillary Rodham Clinton: Living History / An Invitation to the White House

A Reduced Review: It's always worthwhile to allow someone to speak for themselves. I enjoyed this book greatly, though I took its content with the obligatory grain of political salt. 

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