My Rating – If you are looking for something
Level – Easy, short (just over 200 pages), but a little slow
This isn’t a book about his presidency, he almost spends the least amount of time on that (his shortest chapter, by one page, is about his entire political career leading up the presidency). It is quite an autobiography either, because it isn’t comprehensive enough, though it is obviously written in the first person perspective. Mostly, it seems to be just a few thoughts on most of the major events in his life.
The book is broken into eight chapters – Archery & the Race Issue, this is the town in which he grew up, with additional thoughts on race at the time (and now to some extent); Navy Years, about his time in Annapolis and in the Navy including the first nuclear submarine, up until his father dies; Back to Georgia, leaving the Navy, taking over the family farm, foray in to politics; Atlanta to Washington, from running for Governor to running for President; Life in the White House; Issues Mostly Resolved, major political issues that he considered mostly complete/accomplished; Problems Still Pending, the issues that were not resolved; Back Home, post presidency, including his work with the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity.
I generally enjoyed this book. It is written well enough, but it can be a little slow. In some ways, it feels like talking with an old man, the stories are a little long winded, and some don’t seem to have a point. I didn’t mind this too much, it reminded me of talking with my granddads (both of which passed away last summer). They were from Georgia and South Alabama, both born a few months after Jimmy, and both served in the Navy. The one from Georgia, also named James, likewise taught Sunday School in a Southern Baptist Church for decades. So, for me, there was some very familiar about his life stories (except political office aspects).
Carter was out of office four years before I was born, and up until a few years ago, all I really knew about him was ‘stagflation’, ‘malaise’, and that yankees (especially Kennedys) didn’t like him. Granted, by his own admission, these are his views of events, but it does make me want to go find his official biography of his presidency. I didn’t know that he created the Departments of Energy and Education, that he was a proponent of Universal Healthcare, or supported decriminalizing weed. It is honestly a little depressing that we are still having these debates more than 40 years later with little to no progress.
The other thing everyone knows about Carter is that he is the ‘greatest ex-president ever.’ This certainly shows in the book, as he was in his early 50s when he was out of office, he felt he had a lot to do, and didn’t want to ‘just’ have a museum or library. That is why the Carter Center exists, he wanted a place to work, and it has done a great deal of good, especially as it pivoted to tropical diseases over the past few decades.
The two issues chapters were some of the most interesting, especially to see a politician state such clear positions, and to see how many are unfortunately still issues today. I don’t agree with all of his politics, but I appreciate his articulation and reasons behind it. If you have interest in Jimmy Carter, this alone probable makes the book worth it. A little slow, but short and easy to read, he gives us something between a diary and an autobiography. Overall, I think it is one worth putting on your list.