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Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 4, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


"This is a good book in the literal sense which, if everyone who read it took the author's advice, would almost certainly make the world a better place." The Guardian "Clinton's message of individual social responsibility is appealing" FT Magazine "An inspiring look at how each of us can change the world" Edition magazine "His book tells, in an extraordinary way, a truly heartening story of American democracy" -- Peter Jay Evening Standard "Bill Clinton has given an unprecedented story of a White House life and the roads that led to it" -- Peter Stothard The Times --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From The Washington Post

Reviewed by Peter Baker

Bookstore shelves are crammed with offerings by presidential candidates, but now we have the first book of the season by a candidate for first spouse. Bill Clinton titles his thin volume Giving because it extols the virtues of volunteering time and money to worthy causes. But it could just as well have been called Adjusting, as the former president seeks to define his new role while Hillary Rodham Clinton pursues his old office. "Now that we've switched places," he writes, it is his turn to influence events without government portfolio. And perhaps from a perch no man has ever occupied. In Giving, readers and voters in effect get a preview of what a Bill Clinton-run East Wing might look like -- focused on fighting poverty, disease and climate change around the world and rallying the mighty and the meek to noble goals.

The notion of Bill Clinton taking on a secondary role as his wife leads a presidential campaign and, at least potentially, the country, has always been hard to imagine. For a man who has spent his life at the center of his own comet, it must be an enormous challenge to find the right place as another streaks toward the sun. Watching him on the campaign trail or on his book tour in recent days, it's easy to see a certain restless quality that has yet to be fully harnessed. As he depicts it, Clinton since leaving office has transformed his life from "getting" to "giving." Politics, he writes, "is a 'getting' business" -- getting votes, support, contributions and so on. "To balance the scales," he says, he has devoted his post-presidency to giving (neatly skipping over the fact that he has spent a good part of the last six years getting $46 million in speaking fees). Mortality, he says, pushed him to this new goal. "After I narrowly escaped what could have been a fatal heart attack in 2004," he writes, "I felt that way even more strongly."

What he has produced in Giving is his own version of It Takes a Village, and with an initial print run of 750,000, Knopf clearly hopes to duplicate Hillary Clinton's publishing success. (An unspecified portion of the proceeds will go to the causes mentioned in the book.) But Giving is not so much a book as an extended public service announcement masquerading as a book. It is essentially a long laundry list of efforts funded by the Clinton Foundation or admired by its founder, punctuated by entreaties to the reader to follow their example. They're doing it, why can't you? To explore why people devote time, money and energy to public causes, the author turns to celebrity friends such as Oprah Winfrey, Andre Agassi and Warren Buffett for a few sentences about how they realized it was better to give than to receive. He also gives shout-outs to some of his favorite fundraising and business buddies, such as supermarket mogul Ron Burkle and Indian businessman Rajat Gupta. And he strokes some who might be helpful to his wife's campaign, lavishing praise, for instance, on his former vice president, Al Gore, who remains on the electoral sidelines with a potent following.

To be sure, Clinton recounts some truly inspiring stories, many of them already famous. There is Oseola McCarty, a retired cleaning lady in Mississippi who gave her life's savings to the University of Southern Mississippi for a scholarship fund for poor African Americans. There is Paul Farmer, who grew up living in a trailer park, a boat and even a tent but graduated from Harvard Medical School and went on to devote his life to fighting AIDS and tuberculosis in destitute places around the world. And there is, eventually, Bill Clinton. He resists for 186 pages before succumbing to the temptation to recite the accomplishments of his (first?) eight years in the White House: a numbers-laden litany of how many millions of Americans now get family leave, safer drinking water, patients' rights, college aid and immunization who wouldn't have gotten it had a guy named Clinton not been president. Then he helpfully rattles off a five-point platform for the next president -- whoever that might be -- centered on terrorism, climate change, economic inequality, health care and energy. Yet if readers hope to learn more about Clinton's own inner world in this fascinating time of political dynasty-building and gender reversal -- and let's face it, Knopf wouldn't print three-quarters of a million copies if the name on the cover were John Smith -- they will have to look elsewhere.

Beyond the stump speech, Clinton keeps his attention on his subjects and offers little in the way of personal introspection. In the end, one thing Giving doesn't give us is enough insight into its author.

Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307266745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307266743
  • ASIN: B0026IBXEQ
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,432,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States. Under his leadership, the country enjoyed the strongest economy in a generation and the longest economic expansion in United States history. President Clinton's core values of building community, creating opportunity, and demanding responsibility resulted in unprecedented progress for America, including moving the nation from record deficits to record surpluses; the creation of over 22 million jobs--more than any other administration; low levels of unemployment, poverty, and crime; and the highest home ownership and college enrollment rates in history. After leaving the White House, President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation with the mission to strengthen the capacity of people in the United States and throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence. His Clinton Global Initiative brings together global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing issues. He served as the UN Envoy for Tsunami Recovery and is now the UN Special Envoy to Haiti.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

128 of 144 people found the following review helpful By Julie Neal VINE VOICE on September 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Even conservatives will like this book. It's interesting, inspiring, clearly written, not at all political and, believe it or not, only a tad self-centered. Filled with dozens, maybe hundreds, of specific examples of charitable individuals and successful grassroots programs, it argues -- in fact, proves -- that you don't have to be a big shot to make the world a better place. Clinton clearly believes in what he writes; the book is passionate and powerful on topics that, in other hands, would be detached and dull.

Besides the subject matter, what I liked best about the book is its organization. Written so you don't have to read it all at once, it breaks down philanthropy into six different categories, and gives each its own chapter. Those are:

* Giving time
* Giving things
* Giving skills
* Giving "gifts of reconciliation and new beginnings" (citing everything from the efforts of Nelson Mandela to PeacePlayers International, a group that sets up basketball leagues in the Middle East)
* Giving gifts that keep on giving (such as the work of Heifer International, which gives millions of poor farmers free cows -- as long as they agree to donate one its first offspring to someone else)
* Giving to good ideas

Clinton also includes descriptions of some successful charitable programs that are easy to use as model strategies for your own ideas, illustrates how businesses can make money out of acting in the public interest, and explains his views on what roles governments (not just Washington, but cities and states) can play.
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59 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on September 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Over sixty years ago, Harry Truman resurrected the failed presidency of Herbert Hoover in order to have Hoover help out in the distribution of aid to Europe after the end of the the Second World War. In like manner, many former presidents since then have made global contributions, most notably Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. Not to be overlooked is Bill Clinton, who has offered a candid and reasonable look at people who have made a difference on a large scale. "Giving" is a good book, but not a great read. Information abounds, but the narrative is flat. If only he had written this book the way he speaks on the campaign trail, this book would have taken off, for sure.

I applaud Mr. Clinton for bringing to our attention vast areas of need around the world. His teaming up with former President Bush is the height of bipartisan co-operation, something sorely lacking these days. I mean, how good does it get, for instance, when two former presidents work together to try to solve the problems in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Yet, although there is much litany and less practical involvement to get absorbed in "Giving", I do give President Clinton high marks for laying out many cases which need our focus. "Giving" is a short but important book and one that I hope everyone who reads it takes seriously.
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72 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Jai Ho on December 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I agree with most all the 1 star reviews here. I'm very liberal and still felt that the book was a long list of statistics and descriptions of big money charitable efforts as well as efforts by those without big money. The reading just gets very tedious about a third of the way through. I also agree with other reviewers that I get a feeling a staff of researchers and editors put this book together rather than Bill.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on October 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World" is an inspirational book that details the power each and every person has to make a difference. Bill Clinton focuses on two things in this book (which, by the way, is much, MUCH shorter than his autobiography, "My Life"). First, the former president provides countless examples of people and organizations that have taken on projects that have had a positive impact on the world. Second, the book demonstrates the many different ways people can give back, either by volunteering, organizing, or making monetary donations.

I was extremely impressed by the scope of this book. I thought the whole focus of "Giving" would be on the work the Clinton Foundation has done over the past six years. Although Clinton does use some of his personal experiences as examples, most of the stories in this book are about outside individuals and other non-governmental organizations that are doing amazing things. Clinton praises a wide variety of people for their good works, ranging from Bill and Melinda Gates to a young girl who organized regular garbage pick-ups at a local beach. I recognized a lot of the names and organizations mentioned in this book, but many of them were unfamiliar to me, and it was great to learn about the different things people are doing.

So many people (myself included) tend to focus on the negative aspects of the world we live in. We complain about the government, the economy, taxes, etc., but the reality is that there is a lot of good in the world that goes unnoticed. Reading this book was very inspirational because it illustrated how many people care enough to try to make the world a better place. I know that sounds kind of hokey, but it's the truth...and people really do make an enormous difference!
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