I was fired up to listen to this audiobook. The premise seemed great --- harrowing stories of survival with insights into why certain people (not necessarily the ones you would expect) make it out alive. Sadly the book didn't live up to my expectations. My two main issues were:
1. The author has some serious father issues which he feels compelled to weave into the narrative. His Dad sounds like an amazing guy but really we don't need to hear about how awesome he is for hours on end. We get it.
2. The structure of the book is very disjointed. Stories stop and start and take meandering detours into pop psychology. At a couple of points (during the motorcycle chapter, for example) the author goes into a Finnegan's Wake-esque ramble about Hell's Angels, religion, motorcycles and survival. Quite bizarre.
It's not all bad though. There are some fascinating stories in the book and it did get me thinking about how one should behave (or try to behave) in a survival situation. Overall it was just about worth a credit.
OK I admit, I am squarely in the target demographic for this book: I love working out, love action movies, and don't know much about politics (I guess some people might say that describes Arnold too!). That being said, this book exceeded my expectations and I loved every minute of it.
What really struck me was the sheer amount of *stuff* Schwarzenegger has experienced in his life: the Austrian army, hardcore competitive bodybuilding, building a real-estate empire, cavorting with the Hollywood elite, and then (why not?) being Governor of California. He includes a lot of amusing anecdotes especially from his younger years when he first came to the USA. From the tone of the book it seemed like he enjoyed those years of his life much more than his time in office.
One thing did give me pause: it is pretty clear that this is not the whole story of his life. He relegates his well-known affair to a throwaway sentence, though he does discuss its impact a bit more later on. I guess we will have to wait for his biography rather than autobiography for any other details.
Stephen Lang did a good job narrating, and as an added bonus Schwarzenegger himself reads the first and last chapters. Overall, inspiring and highly recommended.
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