Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton” as Want to Read:
First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  1,181 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
Who exactly is Bill Clinton, and why was he, of all the brilliant and ambitious men in his generation, the first in his class to reach the White House? Drawing on hundreds of letters, documents, and interviews, David Maraniss explores the evolution of the personality of our forty-second president from his youth in Arkansas to his 1991 announcement that he would run for the ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published February 8th 1996 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1995)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about First in His Class, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about First in His Class

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 01, 2011 John rated it it was amazing
I really tore through this, it was fascinating and readable and I highly recommend it. It really seems like Bill was shooting for the presidency from about age twelve. He seems to have been sorta like Lyndon Johnson; from what I gathered from reading this and a bio of LBJ, both of these guys were born to be politicians, always working the room and keeping tabs on people and figuring out how they are going to run the next campaign. One bonus about this book is that it also serves as a partial bio ...more
Oct 14, 2007 Prateek rated it it was amazing
I find Bill Clinton endlessly fascinating. Much of my fascination comes from the character that emerges from this biography. From the first sentences, we're invited into a life that has no parallel in modern American history. His father dead, raised by a young free-spirited mother, Bill seems destined to follow the path of so many other poor southern boy. Raised amidst domestic violence (much more harrowing than reported), Bill Clinton develops into a bright, eager-to-please man on the make. The ...more
Mar 17, 2008 Po rated it it was ok
Okay, the only reason this is on here is that Nate made me read it-in the 7th grade!!-b/c he didn't want to waste his time on it if it wasn't any good. So I did; I hauled it to Study Hall every day. It's now a running family joke.
Nov 13, 2016 Pooch rated it it was amazing
Jan 19, 2017 estar* rated it liked it
The amount of research and detail in Maraniss' biographies is staggering and wonderful to read.
Jan 17, 2008 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Keith Rackley
Aug 13, 2010 Keith Rackley rated it really liked it
Maraniss documents, in rich detail, the genesis and life of a complex, gifted, and flawed individual. There is balance in his presentation. He portrays Clinton as extraordinarily gifted, with IQ and EQ, making him the perfect politician; Clinton demonstrates an amazing ability to connect with every person he meets and still be a policy wonk. Despite Clinton's amazing gifts leading to Oxford and Yale success, as well as his early life political conquests, the seeds of the most difficult chapters ...more
May 16, 2011 Patricia rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
After reading a biography of Obama, I started researching biographies on other Presidents. I downloaded several to my Kindle, and this is the first one I'm reading. While the writing is no where near the quality of that of David Remnick's in The Bridge, I am nevertheless fascinated. Since Clinton is only a two years older than me, the historical context is real and vivid. Since he grew up in the South as did my ex-husband, I can't help but notice parallels there as well. The writing is clunky, b ...more
Oct 17, 2011 Diener rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, politics
In 1992, I was a college freshman voting for the first time. I initially supported Perot because he was from my hometown of Dallas (not a good reason I guess), but switched to Clinton after Perot dropped out for a few weeks. The 90s represent a most excellent time in my life and because Bill was president during that time I associate him with all of the things that made my 90s so good - Nirvana, three Super Bowl wins for the Cowboys, living out my dream of becoming a sportswriter, traveling abro ...more
This is a fascinating read and take on the Force that is Bill Clinton. The most interesting part of the book to me was a surprise: it was reliving the Vietnam years and their effect on Clinton and his peer group (to which I belong). Maraniss's recounting of the frustration we felt made me relive the entire rotten time--his narrative was a true and effective recounting of that time. The most surprising part of the book to me was that Clinton knew and advertised from such an early age that he inte ...more
Clinton's life up to running for president: here, you have the Rhodes scholar, the law student, law teacher, his first campaigns, and other chapters. Hillary also gets good coverage, especially in contrast with Bill (Hillary is the harder, financial minded one, while Bill is portrayed as softer). This is also about the Baby Boomer generation: that's the "class" in the title, so there is a focus on Clinton's life as representative of the challenges faced by the generation that was drafted to go t ...more
Oct 15, 2014 Tim rated it really liked it
Read this one back in 2004.

Before reading this book, I thought nothing but ill of Bill. I was amazed by Clinton’s life: impressed by his early religion (Southern Baptist), envious of his his education and travels, and thoroughly astonished by his resiliency, personal and political. Maraniss actually has me thinking there are ways I need to be more like Bill Clinton, especially his attention to details of others’ lives. There's plenty more to say of Bill's life, and Maraniss does not get into the
Jul 20, 2013 Jeff rated it liked it
This was good. It complimented the Autobiography of Bill Clinton (My Life) I recently completed as part of my growing collection of bio's and auto-bio's of the Presidents.

However, spending 70 pages (or more!) on Clinton's draft dodging really bogged down the middle of the book.

It also, as a side note, made Hilary look like an even weaker person than she is known to be, as it discussed Bill's rampant cheating and womanizing.
Oliver Bateman
Aug 13, 2013 Oliver Bateman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A monumental "warts and all" study of a complicated subject. First in His Class is far superior to Maraniss' When Pride Still Mattered, perhaps because the author has a better command of politics than he does of football. It's slow going in many points, but ultimately quite revealing and intimate. I'm not a fan of these projects, and I rarely read them absent a host of recommendations from colleagues, but this work ranks among the best of its kind.
May 24, 2013 Colleen rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I enjoyed it- I frequently found myself wondering why he did the things he did- an intelligent man-albeit a lawyer- saying it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is, in some ways this book clarifies the roots of his character
Chris Appel
Jul 29, 2016 Chris Appel rated it really liked it
To truly understand Clinton, reading Maraniss's account of his youth and pre-presidency is helpful. Similar to his more recent book on Obama, there are details upon details (the author clearly did a lot of research).
Shaka Mitchell
Nov 18, 2011 Shaka Mitchell rated it really liked it
Very well-written and researched regardless of what you think of the subject matter. Maraniss paints a remarkably unbiased picture of the future president. This book captures the years before the presidency but in many ways those are the most telling years of his life.
Bonnie E.
Jul 17, 2011 Bonnie E. rated it it was amazing
Very well written book which doesn't attempt to flatter or demonize Clinton, but instead, provides an amazingly balanced portrait of the man. Recommended for anyone who is a student of history.
Jun 26, 2008 David rated it really liked it
Interesting, but written before Monica. But if you want to know everything that made Bill, Bill (and Hill, too), this is a great start.
Ryan Olson
Jun 30, 2008 Ryan Olson rated it really liked it
A great book about the former President; although, I disagree with Mr. Clinton's policies and morals I gained a softness for his personality.
Kerry Kenney
Jun 20, 2008 Kerry Kenney rated it it was amazing
Best bio of Bill Clinton that I have read so far. Mariniss gets inside the head of the charismatic, complex, brilliant and flawed man.
Jon Deal
Jul 26, 2007 Jon Deal rated it it was amazing
I think this is the definitive bio of President Bill Clinton. Meticulously research and balanced. Unapologetic, yet you can tell Manniss is impressed by Clinton.

Good read.
Sep 04, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing
Wonderful biography of Bill Clinton. Both deeply researched and well-written. Boy, was Bill ambitious.
Jun 08, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
Outstanding and detailed biography. It gets into the character and background of Bill Clinton and explains a lot.
Amy Hillis
Sep 07, 2009 Amy Hillis rated it it was ok
Eh. I struggled plowing through it, and that's a shame - because with Bill Clinton, just telling his story simply is pretty well scandaliciously-good-enough to keep most anyone reading.
Regardless of political views, you can see he is very talented. I was impressed by his networking abilities.
Rich rated it really liked it
Mar 27, 2014
Duffy Pratt
Duffy Pratt rated it liked it
Apr 27, 2010
Nana rated it it was amazing
Apr 15, 2013
New user
New user rated it it was amazing
Dec 05, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • George H. W. Bush (The American Presidents, #41)
  • The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House
  • Warren G. Harding (The American Presidents, #29)
  • Herbert Hoover (The American Presidents, #31)
  • Gerald R. Ford (The American Presidents, #38)
  • Jimmy Carter (The American Presidents, #39)
  • Chester Alan Arthur (The American Presidents, #21)
  • The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton
  • President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime
  • All The Best, George Bush: My Life and Other Writings
  • Coolidge: An American Enigma
  • Grover Cleveland (The American Presidents, #22, #24)
  • Rutherford B. Hayes (The American Presidents, #19)
  • Man of the House: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O'Neill .
  • Martin Van Buren
  • Zachary Taylor
  • Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time
  • All Too Human
David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post and the author of four critically acclaimed and bestselling books, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton, They Marched Into Sunlight War and Peace, Vietnam and America October 1967, and Clemente The Passion and Grace of Baseballs Last Hero. He is also the author of The Clinto ...more
More about David Maraniss...

Share This Book