Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “My American Journey” as Want to Read:
My American Journey
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

My American Journey

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  5,717 ratings  ·  244 reviews
Colin Powell is the embodiment of the American dream. He was born in Harlem to immigrant parents from Jamaica. He knew the rough life of the streets. He overcame a barely average start at school. Then he joined the Army. The rest is history—Vietnam, the Pentagon, Panama, Desert Storm—but a history that until now has been known only on the surface.

Here, for the first time,
Paperback, 656 pages
Published March 4th 2003 by Ballantine Books (first published September 1995)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,717 ratings  ·  244 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of My American Journey
Diane Wallace
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wonderful read! about his leadership,experience,honor,army and public life...well written (paperback!)
Hai Quan
May 15, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
East never meet West concept is true in the case of this book .While almost all reviewers, mostly Westerners gave it a very good to good rating, being an Easterner I am going to give it a C minus !
Here is the reason : The Chinese - Viet-Namese concept of The NOBLEST WARRIOR ( loosely translate the word QUAN TU ) is HE WHO DOES NOT ATTRACT TO WEALTH, DOES NOT CHANGE WHEN BEING DESTITUTE, and DOES NOT submit TO OVERWHELMING physical POWER ( Phu quy bat nang dam, ban tien bat nang di,uy vu ba
Sep 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Back in March 2007, I had the opportunity to attend breakfast of the International Housewares Association. It was here that I was an arms length from Colin Powell as he gave his speech. As he provided short glimpses of events and accomplishments in his life I recall that I had to read his autobiography. Now a little over three years later I finally accomplished that by reading “My American Journey” by Colin Powell.

I found it fascinating the story of how Mr. Powell’s life twisted from
Apr 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This autobiography was highly recommended to me by my cousin, who is herself a war veteran. I half expected to be in over my head in military jargon, but I was pleasantly surprised. His writing is insightful and reflective, and I am walking away with the sense that I have a true picture of Powell's value system and basic personality. I also appreciated the fact that he doesn't take himself or his circumstances too seriously. He's actually got a great sense of humor, which is evident throughout t ...more
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read this years ago when it was first published and thought it was great!
Zohar -
May 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read this book in chunks, and could not put it down, every moment I had free, that book was in my hand. General Powell is a very admirable person, someone who defeated the odds, and have endured a lot. This book should be required reading in schools, not because of the great story, but because it shows a small part of the bureaucratic machine in Washington, and how big decisions are made. Which I found fascinating.
I loved the little stories that are shared with the reader, the stories yo
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. Lot of great leadership advice.
W. Don
Mar 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this an interesting insight into a man who I have come to respect a great deal. General Powell takes us from his humble beginnings in a poorer section of New York, to the years immediately following his retirement from the Army in the mid-90s.

I found his candor refreshing, his opinions presented fairly and graciously, and his insight "behind the scenes of power" through many dramatic geopolitical changes over the last 20 or so years to be interesting.

I didn't rea
Marcie Lovett
This is an extremely long book. I think it could have been more tightly edited and shorter. Colin Powell fills his memoir with historical significance, which made it even more interesting to me. I have to question how he remembers details from 40 years ago, though. Did he document all his conversations and keep a daily journal?

The details make the stories interesting; however, his references to the people he quotes grow tiresome and the story would flow as well without so many of them.
Arlene Starr
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I like how Colin Powell describes this book and will include a quote by him, “Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx and somehow rose to become the national Security Advisor to the President of the United States and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Is is mostly a story of hard work and good luck, of occasional rough times, but mostly good times. It is a story of service and soldiering. It is a st ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. It reads like a novel - engrossing and tough to put down. Powell and Persico (sp?) are great storytellers, and you get a true sense for the experiences that shaped Powell's perspective on leadership, the military, race relations, etc. I didn't love the brief asides on "leadership principles I took from this experience" - felt a little patronizing - but those were relatively infrequent and probably actually helpful. I was also surprised to really understand the extent to ...more
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I particularly enjoy biography and autobiography, and this is an outstanding one. Powell did so much -- from his career in the military to his service on the National Security Council -- and brilliantly recalls his close up and personal experiences with presidents and senior officials of the U.S. Government. I met him several times when he was Secretary of State (which period is not covered in the memoir), and never ceased being impressed by his ability to connect, to inspire and to set an examp ...more
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Who can't like Colin Powell. He's almost too good to be true. Too bad he went with the wrong party (Republicans) who sent him out to the UN to disgrace himself about weapons of mass destruction. What a shame to end his career that way. This book was written in 1995 and does not deal with that issue. It's a little odd to hear mention of President Bush and realize Mr. Powell is speaking about the competent President Bush, the father.
Andrew Breslin
Nov 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I read the updated edition of this book, the one with the surprise twist at the end. The one where the hero of the story, a man full of integrity, intelligence, sound judgement, clarity of thought, a passion for justice, and just a cornucopia of admirable qualities, foists a mishmash of lies and half-truths before the United Nations to justify going to war.

I can't think of another book that I enjoyed so much, up until the very last part, and then wanted to hurl against the wall, filled with dis
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book nearly ten years ago, and his experience of seeing a Vietnamese monk perform a self-immolation in front of the US embassy still confounds me.

-In Service to Community Cooperation for All Humanity,
MEOW Date: Monday, May 20. 12014 H.E. (Holocene Era)
Feb 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
I absolutely love this man. If he were to run for President, I would vote for him in a heartbeat. The best part of this book is the part where he CLEARLY states the pronunciation of his name, which is Cah-lin, not Coh-lin as so many people think.
Sep 06, 2019 added it
Shelves: biography
Read years ago,found it rather boring.
Aug 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Again, I'm going to try and keep this short and sweet.

This book was a bit outside my usual reading habits, but Tony Blauer had it on his list of recommendations, so I thought it would be worth checking out. And I was right. It was worth it.

As the title implies, My American Journey is the story of how Colin Powell went from sub-average school student of Jamaican immigrants in the Bronx to being the commander of the one of the most powerful militaries in the world. It is a
Dec 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed. This one is worth highlighting and tabbing. Like books of other prominent warriors, it seems oddly thin on the mechanics and tactics of being a warrior. However, it does include a handy list of his principles at the end.

One dislike is his falling into the trap of "too nice to be a Republican" generalities. These are generally (no puns intended) toward the end of the book and don't distract too much. You sense he's a warm personality whom you would like.

Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
After watching Powell announce his support of Barack Obama on Meet The Press, I wanted to know if the criticism he received for doing so was appropriate. I wanted to know how this man climbed the ranks of the military so quickly and how all this intersected with his racial identity.

The criticism (being called a traitor) wasn't appropriate. He believes in fiscal responsibilty and that is the only match I see with the republican party. He served Reagan and Bush because it was his duty. His strong
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Although I love well-written biographies and autobiographies, they are fairly difficult to come by. It is a tricky art to balance describing someone's value system and learnings while telling a compelling story (I thought Ed Catmull's Creativity Inc, for example, became too preachy at times, although it is a great book too). Colin Powell manages this well - My American Journey was one of the best autobiographies I have read in a while. Parts of it were so good that I broke one of my cardinal rul ...more
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
80% of success is showing up. CP showed up & I give him 4 of 5 stars.
The writing isn't great but it shows up, ie it is good enough to keep you going if the subject itself interests you.

It wasn't entirely clear WHY he was so successful, but CP was always willing to show up & I guess CP's other 20% included accomplishing the mission, taking care of the people below him, taking care of the people above him, being effective but also somewhat vanilla, as in not controversial
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rodney by: A High School Friend, and roomate
In reading this book I am so inspired by the hard work and determination that General Powell, Security Advisor Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and yes Secretary of State Powell.
This man has beat all the odds and has become an American Icon for many who seek the goals and dreams of an American dream and Hero. While his affiliation with the republican party has somewhat dampened my political views he has, yet his amazing journey has inspired me to call him and American Hereo, and yes I dare
Edwin Martin
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I rated and reviewed this earlier, but it didn't save on my smart phone? Anyway, This is the best, most readable first person account I've read about the behind the scenes workings, (when things did seem to work a bit better than today) of Washington, D.C. Other famous Americans have interesting biographies of their earlier life as does Gen. Powell, but he still kept me interested when the setting was inside the Pentgagon or the White House where he was not in charge and spent time "gr ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Colin Powell is one of my heroes. I know he has his detractors left and right. Those on the left bristle that he served in the Reagan and both Bush administrations and blame him for the Iraq War. Those on the right that he endorsed Obama. I guess it tips my hat as to which team I root for, but no, I'm not particularly happy about the second, though I don't really blame him for what went pears up on the first. But however I felt about that, what he accomplished, especially given his background is ...more
Gali Valiente
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Although this book started rather slow with Powell's early days as a cadet and his early military career in Vietnam and the cold war era, the later chapters made up for it. His days going through the ranks up to becoming Joint Chief of Staff is described in detail that only an insider and major decision maker can go through. He reveals his thoughts in his dealings with Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, other world leaders. Not only he shares their discussions but what Powell thinks of these worl ...more
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most profoundly inspiring books on leadership ever. Wonderfully written, it covers the life story of one of the most inspiring leaders of our time. He retraces his military career and gives an inside look at some of the major events of the end of the 20th century. He also outlines his famous 13 Rules of Leadership - which is a must-have for anyone leading anything as small as a guide pack to a multi-continent military operation.

One of his most famous quotations ... "when d
This book deepened my already substantial respect for General Colin Powell. I did set the book down a couple of times in the beginning (it is very heavy). As he started writing about events I lived through, I gained new perspectives and became totally immersed in this reader-friendly memoir. I found I finished the last 2/3 of the book in a reading marathon.

This book has a lot of gentle humor woven in and out. Couldn't help grinning how Colin addressed the claims Dan Quayle made concerning his r
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was published over 20 years ago which makes it very much like watching a West Wing Re-Run or a Newsroom Episode on Amazon Prime: you can see the world with 20/20 hindsight. For me that made the last third of this book which was about Operation Desert Storm even more interesting. Maybe comparing it to two televisions shows isn't right. It is more of a mix of My Beloved by Sonia Sotomayor and It Doesn't Take a Her by H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

The truth is that Colin Powell has le
I read often a half dozen books at a time and in this cycle from that group includes three biographies. This one was finished first simply because it was the most captivating. The story of course covers the personal story of Colin Powell, but covers not only his rise in the military, but his rise as a political figure and trusted confident. His oersonal and family values are clear, his honesty is unquestioned and his story of his rise from the neighborhoods of New York City in an era when a man ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • It Doesn't Take a Hero: The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
  • American Soldier
  • Man of the House: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O'Neill .
  • The Commanders
  • An American Requiem: God, My Father & the War That Came Between Us
  • In Search of History
  • Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life
  • Jefferson the President: First Term, 1801-1805
  • All The Best, George Bush: My Life and Other Writings
  • Counsel to the President: A Memoir
  • A Reporter's Life
  • A General's Life: An Autobiography
  • Leadership
  • They Called Him Stonewall
  • Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir
  • This Just in: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV
  • All Too Human
  • Write It When I'm Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations With Gerald R. Ford
See similar books…
General Colin Luther Powell, United States Army (Ret.) KCB (Honorary) is an American politician. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005), serving under President George W. Bush. He was the first Jamaican American appointed to that position. As a General in the United States Army, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of ...more
“If you get the dirty end of the stick, sharpen it and turn it into a useful tool.” 21 likes
“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” 2 likes
More quotes…