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Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times Hardcover – February 5, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780743290814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743290814
  • ASIN: 074329081X
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brown, [b]lack, urban, flamboyant, politically adroit, is part hardworking politician and part legend. A political career [had] never entered [his] mind, when the teenaged Texas country boy arrived in San Francisco in 1951. Thirty years later, Brown became Speaker of the California Assembly, a triply historic event: he won with bipartisan support, was the first African-American to do so and served longer than any else in the position; then from 1996 to 2003, he was San Francisco's mayor. Brown's autobiography is a candid and fascinating how-to-succeed-in-politics, crammed with down-to-earth reality tips not common in civics texts. He advises how to dress, work a party and manage one's own scandals. But Brown did not achieve political power by merely window dressing and shares his mastery of the finer and lesser points of political strategy. He revisits the major controversies of his reign in the assembly and the successes of which he is most proud. The real Slick Willie, Clinton called him; Brown says simply, I'm unique. His always lively and often self-serving account is a candid tutorial for aspiring politicians and ordinary folk who enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at how local (and sometimes national) government works. Illus. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Former mayor of San Francisco and speaker of the state assembly, Brown has had a long and colorful career. He takes readers on a whirlwind journey from his arrival in the Bay Area as a clueless teenage youth from Mineola, Texas, to the toast of the town, counseling visiting presidents and political hopefuls. Brash is an understatement of Brown’s recollection of political and sexual scandals, as well as political machinations and deal making, as he insists on telling nothing or telling the total truth. His personal philosophy: treat everyone with respect, always remain loyal, recognize luck and opportunity. He showed his mastery of seizing opportunity when he supported the gay rights movement as an extension of his civil rights law practice. As a larger-than-life political figure, Brown recalls the major political events of four decades—with himself at or near the center—and his relationships with political figures including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and George W. Bush. Throughout, Brown shows a commitment to personal principle and a love for his beloved state and city. --Vernon Ford

More About the Author

Willie L. Brown, Jr., has been at the center of California politics, government, and civic life for four decades. His career spans the American presidency from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush: he served in the California assembly for thirty years, fourteen-and-a-half of them as its speaker, and for two four-year terms (all that the law allows) as mayor of San Francisco. Today, he heads the Willie L. Brown Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service, where this acknowledged master of the art of politics shares his knowledge and skills with a new generation of California leaders.

Customer Reviews

This book is so fun and amazingly difficult to put down.
D. Marchini
This is a great read and gives a rare glimpse of how California Politics worked in the 80's.
Smiley
San Francisco during his reign as Mayor were some of the best years the city ever had.
Beth DeRoos

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Strati G. Vourakis on February 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
You will not find many people with political views more opposite from Willie Brown's than me.

However, regardless of your political views, this is an excellent book for anyone interested in politics at all levels - city, state and national. I sure have enjoyed it.

Willie Brown has clearly mastered the art of power. If you have read books like Robert Greene's "48 Laws of Power," then as you read Willie's book, you will recognize that Willie has mastered probably all 48 of those laws and then some that didn't make it into either book. As a master of the game of obtaining and exercising power, it would be very wise to listen to and learn from this man.

Willie also offers many fascinating stories about all sorts of incidents from recounting his experience the day George Moscone was shot to how he got Reagan to sign legislation legalizing abortion in CA. You get a really cool glimpse into some of what goes on behind the scenes.

Like him or not, he is a big part of California (and even national) history, and he has some great stories and advice. This book is particularly valuable for anyone looking to get into politics as he offers advice specifically for such folks.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but coming from an extremely politically conservative guy, I heartily recommend this book written by a pretty far-left man.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Beth DeRoos HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Maybe you have to be a Californian to truly appreciate the book and Willie Brown, but I hope not, because there is something so refreshing about a politician who walks his talk, owns his words and doesn't pretend to be something or someone he is not.

Yes, Da Mayor and former speaker of the California state government is flamboyant and classy and fun. Be he also never forgets where he came from and just how fortunate he is. And if I do say so he has some great advise or wisdom for those young people who are in public office or want to be, about being authentic, focused and not wishy washy.

San Francisco during his reign as Mayor were some of the best years the city ever had. He brought a vibrancy to the city and he brought much needed altruism and humanity to the city which is spelled out in the book.

Something the city and the state of California both dearly need again. And an example of why term limits aren't always good.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert on February 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Willie Brown, the unshakable Speaker of the House in California and then Mayor of San Francisco is one wild and crazy guy. I'm sure his off the cuff remarks and detailed recounting of political shenanigans will anger about as many as they amuse, but for the casual reader this is a very interesting glimpse into the world of politics. I'll never read coverage about the simple passage of a bill again without wondering what went on behind the scenes. Willie Brown was a gift to San Francisco who only expects everyone else to be as proud of the City as he is. PJ Corkerey has done a fine job of capturing Brown's energy and wit.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Steele on February 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Basic Brown is, without question, the most entertaining and engaging political autobiography I've ever read. Willie Brown is a political animal extraordinaire, and on every page he revels in the intrigue and dealmaking, the pomp and circumatance, and the sheer fun of big time politics. The book is loaded with many memorable antecdotes that not only place Willie Brown front and center in California politics of the last 40 years, but teach pithy lessons about the nature of modern politics. Throughout the narrative, Willie Brown is always right. He's always the most skilled, best dressed, most adroit politician in the room, whether it's in the backrooms and august chambers of the Capitol in Sacramento, or in San Francisco City Hall.

Willie Brown often refers to himself in the third person, and wears his massive political ego on his sleeve. But his prose never gets long winded or boring. And, through it all, the reader gets a behind the scenes glimpse into how a master of modern politics plays The Game. Willie Brown came to San Franscico as a poor, undereducated teenager from the segregated south. Through the sheer force of this personality, and his shrewd intelligence he made his way to Speaker of the California Assembly and, later, Mayor of San Francisco. Luckily for us, he has no qualms about sharing his insights, unfettered and unvarnished, so that the rest of us can learn from the Master. What a terrific book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. Troutman on April 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
When I asked a Sacramento lobbyist if there were any good books on how the California legislature really worked, the only one he recommended was this one. It is telling -- though I suspect term limits, by making the legislators permanent amateurs has had an impact -- and it is entertaining. It is also disconcerting. It's clear that Willie Brown loves two things above all: power and Willie Brown.

He says that, "When I was coming up, I wanted to be just like Phil Burton: ideologically committed and superskillful at the game of acquiring and securing power." While my own political views overlap a good deal with his, I can't say that I feel the slightest camaraderie. There's not a half a sentence in this autobiography that indicates he ever troubled much about moral issues. He seems to have simply ran with whatever he picked up subconsciously.

Indeed, for all his liberalism, there is definitely a streak of patriarchal brutality to him: he spends a chapter on how much he loves his family but then ends by casually mentioning that he made sure all the property was in his name and not his wife's so she couldn't do anything to embarrass him. Likewise, he expected unquestioning obedience from everyone below him, swiftly punishing (his word) those who displayed independence and expressing glee at the bad end of anyone who ever crossed him.

A conservative reading this book would likely have the typical reaction people had to JR from the Dallas tv show in the 1980s: he's the man they love to hate. Brown reminds me of a local GOP operative I once interviewed. He was a nasty piece of work, but every Republican wanted to be his friend. They thought he could give them power, so they overlooked his sociopathic traits.
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