|Published 7 July 2015.|
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:
- 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.