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First In His Class : A Biography Of Bill Clinton Paperback – Bargain Price, February 8, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

Lots of people have put forth theories on what makes Bill Clinton tick, but the most trustworthy source may be David Maraniss of the Washington Post. Maraniss won a Pulitzer covering Clinton's campaign, and his book on the man is nonpareil; you simply can't understand Clinton without reading Maraniss's anaylsis of his past. When Bill Clinton is good, he is very, very good, and when he's bad, he's exactly like he has been all his life. Fair-minded but no apologist, Maraniss is essentially an inspiring reporter who, virtually alone among Americans, has troubled to interview Clinton's Oxford classmates and therefore knows that Clinton was, according to them, not lying when he said he "never inhaled"; his classmates devoted hours to teaching Bill to inhale, but he just couldn't do it. Maraniss also casts light on what Clinton did imbibe intellectually at Oxford; precisely what he did to elude the draft, and its moral significance; how Arkansas politics shaped his political style; and what his character and marriage might actually be like. Yes, Maraniss gives us a comic scene in which fiancée Hillary comes through the front door of the campaign headquarters while a young female staffer is hustled out the back--but more importantly, Maraniss puts such events in perspective. As he once observed in the Post, "The question of whether a president who cannot control his sexual appetite should not be president is a tough one. It might mean that most of our presidents should not have been presidents." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Steve Neal Chicago Sun-Times First in His Class is a triumph of American political biography.

Jonathan Alter The Washington Monthly This is a first-rate political biography. To understand why the shorthand on this man [Clinton] is so insufficient, this book is essential.

Joan Duffy The Commercial Appeal Finally, a real book on Bill Clinton. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Touchstone edition (February 8, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684818906
  • ASIN: B00034N1D6
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,876,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post. He is the winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and has been a Pulitzer finalist two other times for his journalism and again for They Marched Into Sunlight, a book about Vietnam and the sixties. The author also of bestselling works on Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, and Roberto Clemente, Maraniss is a fellow of the Society of American Historians. He and his wife, Linda, live in Washington, DC, and Madison, Wisconsin.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Brian K. Peterson on October 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have held on to this book since 1996. I was intent on reading it as soon as I received it, but I held off for one reason or another. I am glad I did. By waiting until the end of the Clinton presidency I have been able to keep in mind many of the personal details of Bill Clinton and am able to to keep into context all of the things that have happened since it was published in 1996.
Within everything else that has been supposed and predicted about Bill Clinton and his legacy, there will be no doubt that he is definitely one of the most enigmatic politicians in the history of the U.S. It will be history that will judge how relevant the Clinton legacy will be. Perhaps 100 years from now this decade will only be remembered for the economy and the boom in technology. Who knows? Bill Clinton may not even be remembered as being the president of this decade--much like now when people cannot tell you who presided in the White House during the Gilded Age.
Those fascinated with President Bill Clinton will be because of his incredible adeptible personality. Clinton is the hybrid of all politicians to come before him. He is insecure & he is confident; he is short-tempered & he is relaxed in public; he is brilliant & yet knows his intellectual limits. His approval rating is high, but people do not like the man. He is all things to all people--loved and reviled. And one of his criticisms has always been his willingness to compromise ideologies--conservative and liberal--to get things done. This tends to infuriate both sides. If for anything else, he is NOT boring. Whoever we get as president this next election, neither Bush nor Gore will be nearly as interesting in the news as Clinton has been.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By cp on December 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
David Maraniss has written a gripping account of Bill Clinton's rise to power. It is a testament to the quality of his work that there is no feeling of partisanship. The picture that emerges is one of a thoroughly determined, charming and intelligent individual. Maraniss examines also what kept him motivated and more precisely, who. Detailed accounts of his mother and stepfather, of Hillary and his peers are invaluable to help us understand this highly complex character. What I found most interesting about the book was the extreme emotions that I felt about Clinton. At first, one can only feel admiration and respect for the southern boy who made his way to Georgetown, Oxford and Yale Law with the brightest in the country. However, power corrupts and as Clinton starts his political ascension, he becomes less and less of a sympathetic character. I couldn't give this book five stars for a variety of reasons. While accounts of education and early life are undoubtedly useful guides, Maraniss should have focused more on Clinton's political career. It only starts roughly three quarters into the book... Finally, the book ends with Clinton announcing his candidacy for president in 1991. Surely, we could have gotten a glimpse of the toughest campaign of his life. Nonetheless, brilliant book which you should buy to understand the man who has presided over such prosperity and created such controversy.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Remington on October 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Above and beyond the demonization and canonization . . . before the scandals, successes and defeats . . . lay the strong personality possessed by a Falstaffian hunger for the love, acceptance, and power the celebrity of politics can provide.
Journalist Maraniss' possesses an uncanny ability to avoid all the hyberbole that has surrounded Clinton and cut to the facts and create a vibrant portrait of not just a man driven to succeed at all costs, but also of a generation seeking to find its place in history.
Maraniss' central thesis: that Clinton is the first representative of the Baby Boom Generation (and everything that statement implies) to enter the White House, forms a compelling historical tapestry on which to weave his narrative.
I've always valued in a biographical author, the ability to place the subject in the bigger picture and historical frame of reference and Maraniss proves most successful in this sense. He takes a great deal of time building the proper context in which to place the Clintons. Their collective rise to power is no accident. Neither is, in reading the book, their collective fall from Grace and relative political invincibility. They knew exactly how to tap into (and exploit) the collective unconsciousness of their generation.
First in His Class, also benefits from a most prudential editing. It really is tight in its narrative and commentary. Maraniss wastes very little in developing and defending his thesis. It is so refreshing to see an author remain so focused. Even his digressions develop his central vision.
This gets my vote as the best Clinton book thus far.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Graff on February 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
I purchased First in His Class over a year ago, but having read six other "Clinton" books I needed a break. And then the Lewinsky story broke. David Maraniss does a superb job here. He doesn't dwell or sensationalize. What he does is give the reader uncluttered, readable, reliable biography. And then the whole Clinton thing, the "why's" and "how comes" becomes "perfectly clear." It's a fascinating life and a fascinating book. And it proves that quality biography does not have to be 800 pages long.
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