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143 of 170 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate American Success Story - Truthful well YES and NO - Five Stars for Arnold, October 1, 2012
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This review is from: Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story (Hardcover)
This is a fabulous story about a fabulous personality. Is it self-serving? Of course it is. Is it an honest portrayal about an American icon? How could it be, and do we as readers have a right to expect complete honesty in a book like this? The answer is probably not, the author is after all in the image making business. Since most of us have never met and will probably never meet the terminator, we only know of him through the media, and that in all instances is managed. Now we are given a 690 page narrative with pictures spread over 30 delicious chapters, and this reader feels it has been beautifully written, even if it isn't the whole deal.

First what are we dealing with here? This is an autobiography, so don't look for the reality of what this man's life and actions have truly been. You won't find it, nor do we probably have a right to find it, although there is still the expectation of candor. After all, an autobiography is an edited selection of the events of an individual's entire life. The author gets to portray himself however he wants to, putting in what he wants, how he wants, and leaving out what he doesn't want.

In this highly readable and fast going narrative, Arnold tells his story from his humble origins in Austria, to the dreams he gave himself growing up, and then the journey to America where he creates and fulfills a fantasy life that the rest of us can only maintain as a dream state. He talks about using steroids as a bodybuilder. He claims a lack of knowledge about them. Others in bodybuilding at the time knew the real deal, and knowledge was there if he had wanted it.

He is one of only three major bodybuilders to strike it rich through this profession. The other two are Steve Reeves, an extremely handsome man who went onto fame as Hercules in Hollywood. There was also Reg Park, another fabulous athlete who adorned Arnold's bedroom walls while he was growing up. Schwarzenegger mentions both of them on page 30 of the book but certainly does not give enough credit to them as the role models and the revolutionaries they were, that allowed him to stand on their shoulders and take bodybuilding so much higher than it had ever been before.

After winning Mr. Universe which is thoroughly covered in Chapter 4, the author talks about calling up Reg Park in South Africa and reminding him that Park had invited him to South Africa if and when Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Universe contest. Park was as good as his word, sending the young bodybuilder a ticket. Arnold spent several weeks with Park and his family and it was probably here that he realized his dreams as a child could be turned into realities. He saw a family life he never had, and success that he thought could be but had never seen a model for it before. He now had the model which was crucial to his attempt to make a reality out of the dream.

He put a plan into his own mind at that point. It included America, bigger things in bodybuilding, Hollywood, a family, wealth, and eventually politics. The rest of the book, some 550 pages more is the story of each aspect of his plan meticulously played out before our eyes. It all began with the model. It is always the revolutionary that matters, the first to do something is always excruciatingly difficult and for most seems impossible which is why it remains unfulfilled for so many years.

It took 2000 years for the first runner to run the four minute mile, than within 15 month, 12 others did it. Arnold had the model in Reg Park and Steve Reeves, but it was to his credit that he took the reality to such a much higher plane than anybody had ever thought possible.

Throughout the book you will laugh, you will reflect, and you will marvel that the American dream is still alive and worthwhile. Some people will be of the opinion that all it takes is a dream and access to America and yes it can all come through, if you simply work hard. In the book that appears to be the conclusion that Arnold draws for his own life (more about this later). The following chapters are glittering, enticing and very entertaining aspects of this philosophy.

* Chapter 10 - Stay Hungry

* Chapter 14 - What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

* Chapter 18 - Comic Timing

* Chapter 26 - The Comeback

* Chapter 30 - Arnold's Rules

You the reader must come to your own conclusions as to how much of the book is disingenuous and self-serving and perhaps an attempt to rehabilitate an image that was very much tarnished by the affair(s) that he had, and the birth of a child outside his marriage. The author goes through a lot of effort to make the story come out his way. As readers we shouldn't fault him for this effort, but simply keep it in mind as we search for entertainment and understanding as to what it took for him to succeed. We also get the sheer fantasy fulfillment of our own notions about what it would be like to lead the fantastic, unbelievable existence that is portrayed throughout this book.

It is probably true that the author has not led one life but many lives, and he has basically fulfilled most of his wishes in a life that is not yet complete. At one time or another he has journeyed to the top of the following worlds:

1) Bodybuilding

2) Hollywood

3) Politics

4) Business

5) Wealth

6) Celebrity

Only the author knows whether in the end it was all worth, was it a life worth living, and what does he do now with the time that is left? He must also balance it off with the affair that is explored in chapter 29 entitled "The Secret". You can't have all the above without also having to deal with this self-made star voluntarily destroying his family and his wife who is prominent in her own right, Maria Shriver.

We the readers are not aware of what occupies the author's mind during the moments when he is truly alone. Is it sadness, compassion, is there reflection, or does he simply remain on the ladder of success struggling for the next step on that ladder which is signified by "Arnold's Rules" explored in Chapter 30. This last chapter is worth the price of the book alone for in it, he tells you what he believes are the driving daily habits behind his success.


This is one reader who loved this book. It was a fabulous read, comical and entertaining too. One felt that you really got to know the author well, that you may have been in touch with his core at different points. It is also ture that the book was very clearly written on his terms. You can take him for what he says, you can disagree, but you cannot deny that this immigrant from Austria has lived and continues to live a bigger than life story, and is the personification, warts and all of the American dream of success. To this reader it is clearly NOT true that all you need is a vision of success, a willingness to work hard, and the ability to executive the vision and then you too can become a success like the author.

Many people, no matter how hard they work, for many reasons never make it, and it is not their fault that they fail. What is important at the end of one's life is that when you look back at YOUR life, you are able to say that I did the things I wanted to do, and I have NO REGRETS. Hopefully the author can say this about his life, although for the rest of us, it and he remain what appears to be an incredible life played out on many of the public stages of the world. You should take the time to read this book, and perhaps you will love it too as did this reader, and thank you for reading this review.

Richard Stoyeck
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 1, 2012 5:42:06 PM PDT
Excellent, well-thought, well-written review, Richard. Thanks.

Posted on Oct 1, 2012 9:59:17 PM PDT
Alisha S. says:
What a fantastic review. Thank you so much for sharing; you've sold me on the book!

Posted on Oct 4, 2012 8:42:05 PM PDT
Sigil says:
Thanks for your insightful review.

Posted on Oct 21, 2012 3:32:02 PM PDT
Richard, perhaps I could give more credence to your reviews if they all weren't "five stars! Great read!"... not every book is a "knocked out of the park!"...

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2012 3:45:26 PM PDT
Mr. Laplante,
I understand your point completely. Now please take a moment and look at from my perspective. I average about a book a day, and I have done that for about 40 years of adult life. It is thousands of books. Some people follow baseball, and pour their lives into it. I follow books. I basically edit much of what I read before I read it. In other words, life is short, and I won't waste an evening going through a book unless I believe it is a five star for me to begin with. Rarely, I make a mistake and a book is something less than that. Most of the time I know enough about the author and the read to know if I am going to love it.

As you know, life is short. I don't think anybody should spend anytime doing anything or reading anything unless they know that it is going to be a blast. That is why the vast majority of what I review is five stars. Most of the works that I get into are less than five stars, and a huge portion of those, I won't even bother to review for Amazon. There just isn't time in the day to spend an hour to review something for others that is less than five stars, and I refuse to write just one paragraph for something that is three stars or four stars. It's just not worth the time.

I am not saying that I am right in my opinion, but like money, one never has enough money no matter how wealthy you are. There's not enough time to review lesser books in my opinion, and since those books are covered by others, there are still worthwhile objective opinions available on those. I currently have 30 to 35 books in front of me, read in the last 4 or 5 weeks, and I don't think I have written up more than 6 or 7 of them. The others are 3 stars, it's just not worth it.

Thank you for your thoughts and good luck with your reading habits. If you have the names of a handful of books that you really love, please mention them. I am always looking for fabulous books that I know nothing about. Thanks again.

Richard Stoyeck

Posted on Jan 18, 2013 7:35:04 PM PST
The Thinker says:
I like your description of what we can realistically and reasonably expect from an autobiography. Some readers may have unreasonable or unrealistic expectations and compare the book to the imaginary book they wanted. I think the purpose of an autobiography is to let us know the person as if you interacted with the person personally. It's unreasonable to expect anyone to fully disclose everything they thought and did in their life in an unbiased manner. I suspect a biography tends to be more "objective" than an autobiography. Arnold has been so obviously self-serving in things he has said in the past that it's not reasonable to expect this book to be entirely different.

Thanks for this thoughtful and reasonable review.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 21, 2013 11:25:46 PM PST
Dear Thinker,

Thank you for your kind words. I agree with everything you say about the nature of autobiography and I think much of it applies to biography as well. Sometimes if I can pick up just one really thougtful idea in an entire book, it makes the reading of the entire narrative worthwhile. So much of autobiography however is selfserving, and a reader should attempt to be on the lookout for it. Thanks again.

Richard Stoyeck

Posted on Aug 24, 2014 10:47:44 PM PDT
Though thoroughly informed, I refer to a sentence in your last paragraph. I think that more modern thinkers believe that it is ok to have regrets because they allow us to make adjustments. If I'm wrong, then I'd be in trouble indeed

Posted on Mar 1, 2015 1:55:28 PM PST
Ryan Baker says:

I too enjoyed your review of this book. I experienced it in much the same way that you did and derived value from similar aspects, it seems. I wanted to ask you, as an avid reader, what are some other books that come to mind that are similar in mindset/nature/tone to this one? I'd love to read more "success" stories like this...

Thanks again!


Posted on Jul 27, 2016 7:18:02 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 27, 2016 7:18:35 AM PDT
Jimeo722 says:
Truthful - yes and no?

Well, the title itself promises to confuse the issue of truth or non-truth. His story is, we are told "unbelievably true." Well if it's both unbelievable and true, should we believe it or not?
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