Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Full Life: Book Review

Published 7 July 2015.
Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, has a breadth of experience spanning 90 years.

Carter has written more than two dozen books over the last four decades, but A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety (2015) has the broadest scope.

Even though much of the subject matter of this memoir has been covered in more detail in previous book, this telling stitches together an entire life's worth of memories.

It's the perfect book to read first for readers unfamiliar with Carter. It covers his life before, during and after serving in the White House.

Readers can then choose which of his other books to read for great detail and analysis.

Here are the chapter titles for A Full Life:

  • Introduction
  • Archery and the Race Issue
  • Navy Years
  • Back to Georgia
  • Atlanta to Washington
  • Life in the White House
  • Issues Mostly Resolved
  • Problems Still Pending
  • Back Home
  • Acknowledgments / Index
Most interesting to me were the details about Carter's rural childhood, his initially uncomplicated interaction with black families in his home town, his years in the navy, his time as governor, and his presidential campaign. 

I read the first half of the book more slowly, enjoying seeing the experiences that shaped Carter.  

When Carter was the president, I was a teen and followed current events only casually. "Peanut farmer" was all I really knew about him. His experience is much broader. 

Carter worked on nuclear submarines, he owned a warehouse and was a major supplier to farmers in Georgia, he experienced almost literally hand-to-hand combat regarding voter fraud in Georgia, and he did a lot of grass roots campaigning. 

His years in the White House were less interesting to me, perhaps because I felt the need to research the historical events completely.  A Full Life is a trim 272 pages for 90 years of living.  I was not interested in pouring over a quick digest he provides to complex issues.  

Again, it's a good preview for anyone who decides to read other books addressing the same historical events in more depth and diversity of viewpoints: namely, I felt compelled to read those single topic books by Carter as well as by a variety of authors offering alternative interpretation of events.

Carter's activities after leaving the White House also interested me enough to read the last few sections more carefully.  Carter and Rosalynn have worked to improve education, housing, voting rights and health care her and globally.  

I cried while reading about his work with Habitat for Humanity. People might debate the significance of Carter's time in the White House, but there is less room for interpretation when determining whether or not building a home has value.   

Whether or not you agree with Carter's politics, A Full Life is a wonderful overview of a person who has worked for decades to develop a variety of practical skills which he then put to use to improve the quality of life for others.   I hope to achieve a measure of such service to others during my life time. Carter inspires me. 



  1. I remember hearing my parent say how intelligent Jimmy Carter is while I was growing up. In recent days, he has shown such a postive attitude and desire to still travel despite his recent cancer diagnosis.

    1. He's working really hard with others to help diminish -- if not eradicate -- a handful of horrible tropic diseases. He's hoping that the last guinea worm dies before he does. That's a great vocation for a person of any age to adopt!

  2. A few years ago, I was reading an article about the Carters in a magazine. There were photos of the interior of their family home, and I was blown away by their humble surroundings. I remember thinking, "How ironic...this former president and first lady are out building homes for the needy, yet their own home is straight out of the 60s!" They have served this country and the less fortunate for decades. God bless them!

    1. I haven't seen photos of the interior of their home. That's interesting. Thanks for passing on the information.

  3. I think it can be very liberating to be an ex-president or ex-First Lady of the US. Eleanor Roosevelt comes to mind as well as a person who used the time after their time in the White House in a most significant way for the betterment of humankind. The verdict is still out on the Clintons and so far, I'm pretty unimpressed with George W. Bush's post presidential activities.

    1. Yes, Eleanor Roosevelt gave her time and attention to many good causes. When I was a teen, I read about her a great deal. I should pick up a biography about her and observe her work from midlife. I'm sure that would be insightful. Thanks for the reminder about her.

  4. Carter was always one of my favorites. Was so sorry to hear about his diagnosis. We all wish him the very best.