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The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  9,012 Ratings  ·  985 Reviews
In this luminous memoir, a true American icon looks back on his celebrated life and career.  His body of work is arguable the most morally significant in cinematic history, and the power and influence of that work are indicative of the character of the man behind the many storied roles. Here, Sidney Poitier explores these elements of character and personal values to take h ...more
Paperback, 243 pages
Published January 26th 2007 by HarperOne (first published 2000)
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Marie
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
This novel, published when Poitier was 73, is a philosophical reflection of his life, his accomplishments, and what makes for a life well lived in his opinion.  It is also about race, integrity, grit and perseverance.

Poitier was born on Cat Island, a tiny island in the Bahamas.  He was not aware of the color of his skin or what significance this would have on his life while on Cat Island.  Indeed, there was not even a piece of glass that would have showed him his reflection in his childhood home
...more
Carla
Jun 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
I went into this book with the highest of hopes and an open mind. My mother LOVES Potier and said she really enjoyed it and we tend to agree on most books. But part way through, I felt frustrated and a bit annoyed with him.

A recommendation on the jacket says that reading this book is like having a conversation with a vanerable older relative, and I agree. There are moments when his insights on life and sprirtual aspects are interesting, and I found myself wanting to remember quotes for future us
...more
SunnyD
i am cheating and listening to the audiobook, not reading this. but trust me when i tell you, reading it is not the way to go. and this comes from someone who never does audiobooks. but the book is written like it's just what SP was saying in a conversation with a ghostwriter (who would've/should've then turned around and put it into a much easier to read format!). it's hard to follow and doesn't flow.

but the audiobook is great. SP's voice is so soothing and wonderful. such lilt and timbre. i lo
...more
Nancy
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
I had the good fortune to listen to Poitier speak a few years ago at a conference. He was a last minute stand-in for someone who probably was considered more "current." How lucky we were to have gotten to hear him speak instead. He moved a room of hundreds to tears, recalling "snapshots" of his life in the Bahamas, Miami and New York.

His talk inspired me to check out this audiobook, which was equally moving. Many of those "snapshots" can be heard in extended form in this book. Poitier's voice i
...more
Evan
In summation, the wise old actor tells us: Life is hard and full of contradictions and you gotta have hope.

There. I've just saved you some time and possibly money.

I realize that saying anything bad about Sidney Poitier and what he might have to tell us in this book is probably tantamount to pissing on apple pie, so before I do that -- and assuming you do like your pie sans urine -- I want to say what's good about the book because there are quite a few things that are.

The book is a fast read, ple
...more
Melanie Mole
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
Sidney Poitier is one of my favourite actors because of his integrity as a person first and foremost. This book tells the reader about the struggles he had on his way to his acting career, of which there were many. Throughout this book his manners, ethics and integrity shine through. He shows us how men think, and how they can choose to overcome any obstacle put in front of them. This reminds me of times gone by which is also one of the reasons that I like it. Thank you for this book Sidney!
Stacy
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was kind of surprised by this book. After I learned that this had won the Grammy for the spoken word recording in 2001 (I think that was the year) , I was even more intrigued. I had always liked Mr. Poitier as a talented actor, and I was looking forward to reading his own thoughts. The book was not so much about his Hollywood career (I guess there is a previous book he had written that delves more into that), though he occasionally touched on some aspect of that when he deemed relevant, but mo ...more
Kate Padilla
Sidney Poitier performs magic in The Measure of a Man. Only true nobility can write the personal history and experiences of a 70-something black man from the Bahamas with such power to speak profoundly to a 22-year old white girl from Grand Rapids. The same page will draw the reader to tears both from laughter and from sorrow. At 243 pages, Measure is not difficult, which makes reading from cover to cover relatively easy in one sitting.

What's most powerful about Poitier's "spiritual autobiograp
...more
Julia Grundling
May 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
i've been wanting to read this book for many years. i saw an interview with sidney poitier on oprah once, and he made such an impression on me.

and wow - what a book - and what a man. from humble beginnings to hollywood - and he's still humble. one of those books that will leave you thinking ...

i absolutely love this quote:

“we're all somewhat courageous, and we're all considerably cowardly. we're all imperfect, and life is simply a perpetual, unending struggle against those imperfections.”
Pamela
Sidney Poitier is sooo smooth...I just love him...especially in the old movies he used to be in - "To Sir With Love," "A Piece of the Action," and "Uptown Saturday Night." He's one of my best actors - hands down, and it was great to hear his autobiography.
Shannon
Sep 27, 2016 rated it liked it
About two pages in I realized that this book is the kind where you will want to use a pencil as a bookmark because there are so many passages that you'll want to remember and find again. I love Poitier. Scratch that. I adore him. He does have the unfortunate habit of rambling on sometimes, and there were times when (gasp) I wanted to skip over sections, but on the whole, this is a man full of wisdom and light with the voice I could listen to all day long. So I forgive him. How could I not?
La Tonya  Jordan
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody
Recommended to La Tonya by: Circle of Friends Book Club
Shelves: good-read
Money vs. Integrity which should I choice. Should I choice the conviction of the soul – my integrity. Should I choice the oxygen of man – money. Should I choice the will of strength – my integrity. Should I choice the status of the world – money. Should I choice the love of my heavenly father – integrity or should I choice the root of all evil – money. I would say that sometimes convictions firmly held can cost more than we’re willing to pay. And irrevocable change occurs when we’re not up to pa ...more
Marsha
Mar 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Actor Sidney Poitier was very famous when I was a child. He stood out as he was one of the few famous talented black actors in the 1950s and 1960s, who had great respect by Hollywood and in general the white community. Sidney was born to a poor black family in Cat Island in the Bahamas. There was no electricity, no plumbing and no indoor toilets. However, since everyone in the neighborhood was black and poor, Sidney knew no difference. He had a strict, quiet, loving mother and father. Sidney fel ...more
Carol
Feb 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Sidney Poitier takes us back to a distant time and place: Cat Island in the Bahamas in the 1920s. It was the place of his early boyhood, the time of his formation, where he lived a simple rural life. He was the son of a tomato farmer, dirt-poor, yet rich in love. The tiny island gave him a universe to explore, of beaches and trees, paths and rocks, and seemingly endless days of sun and grace. His imagination was as fertile as the soil. It was a time of deep fulfillment, nurturance, and well-bein ...more
Betty
Jan 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
This is not the first autobiography by Sidney Poitier, but it is a powerful one. It is a story of wholeness, of working to achieve the best within himself. The story begins on a small piece of isolated land, Cat Island, in the Bahamas, untouched by the outside world without even the most rudimentary of what most would call necessities, so untouched the locals don’t even know there are necessities, and they may be right. The true essential is family and that they do have.

In this autobiography, Si
...more
Michelle Margaret
Jan 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended. This is an honest, eloquent memoir. I want to watch more of his movies now, especially To Sir with Love and Lilies of the Field. My favorite quote is from Chapter 9, Stargazing: "I simply believe that there's a very organic, immeasurable consciousness of which we're a part. I believe that this consciousness is a force so powerful that I'm incapable of comprehending its power through the puny instrument of my human mind. And yet I believe that this consciousness is so unimagin ...more
Sundry
Sep 11, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
It’s with some sadness that I have to report that I can’t recommend this book. Sigh. It might be more interesting as an audiobook. I mean, hearing Sidney Poitier read a phone book for a few hours might be worth investing some time in.

It’s like they sat him down with a tape recorder and let him talk and never bothered to edit it. At all. Bits and pieces are interesting and it would have been great if an editor had pressed him to explore his thoughts in more depth. He touches on being put down by
...more
Kp
Feb 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Although I enjoyed hearing Sidney Poitier's story, I found this book somewhat rambling. It seemed like he spoke into a recorder, and then it was transcribed into a book. It WAS fun to hear his voice as the narrator. I listened to the book and also had the Kindle version. At times I followed the print and the audio, and I found that he was speaking words that weren't in the Kindle version! The two version didn't always match, in other words. That convinced me that somehow the editing/writing was ...more
Paula Dembeck
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
This is Poitier’s second book, a memoir charting his personal journey to become a man rather than his career in Hollywood which he wrote about in his 1980 autobiography, “This Life”.

The book opens on Cat Island in the Bahamas where Poitier grew up in poverty but enjoyed a simple life without radios or TV, flushing toilets, telephones or electricity. It was a quiet life during which he spent hours exploring the woods, crawling on rocks, adventuring up streams and swimming on the beach. Poitier c
...more
Mj
I quite enjoyed The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Poitier. It was a rather reflective memoir about what makes Poitier tick. It reinforced much of what I had sensed about him as a person and also introduced me to his history and to new aspects of him I hadn’t expected.

I chose to read this particular autobiography before his other autobiography This Life because it has been written more recently when Poitier, like many is older and wiser. I also thought that a spiritual au
...more
Meghan
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Meghan by: Sera
This is why I don't read memoirs. I would first like to preface this review by saying I am a huge Sidney Poitier fan. I believe he is not only a fine actor but also a fine man. He is, to me, the epitomy of integrity.

I had recently just finished reading The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, and one of the major complaints about that book is that Moore doesn't seem to understand why his life turned out the way it did and the "Other Wes" turned out differently, even though there seemed to be a
...more
Kellie
I'm on Chapter 2 but I have to say, I am very impressed with Sidney's writing. He has incredible insight on his life and what influenced him as a child. He has an amazing way with words. He talks about "emotional intelligence" "It is a capacity that's nutured by silence and by intimacy, and by the freedom to roam." I have read a lot of autobiographies lately and this one is unique in the fact that Poitier digs deep into the reason he became the man he became. Beginning with his childhood in the ...more
Matt
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
The stereotype of an actor would suggest a shallow person, but Poitier probes deeply into his life for meaning. He's very vulnerable at times and always humble about his character.
What I found most fascinating was his idea of the actor not as presenting something fake, but rather someone who takes a real part of him- or herself and then puts it out for others to see.
I enjoyed the stories of his struggles growing up, especially the sudden shock of racism he experienced moving from Cat Island to t
...more
Sugarpop
Dec 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes autobiographies
I had wanted to read this book for quite awhile. I finally had the opportunity and it is a quick read. I was also quite ready to be finished with the book.

There were several sections that I found quite interesting because he lived through these events. I think that anyone who is interested in the Hollywood blacklist would get something from his experience.

I also liked what he thought of the characters that he played or had been offered. Raisin in the Sun is my favorite all time movie. I saw th
...more
Mme.
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Sidney Poitier is my hero. He have proven time after time his revered acting skills, his strong convictions, bravery and grace. Sidney is an amazing man that I admire deeply. In this book, he draws attention upon the perspective and wisdom gained from his memories as a poor boy in the Bahamas, his experiences of racism coming to the US, falling in love and raising a family. He shares breaking the race barrier in theatre and film during the Civil Rights era, achieving stardom and success in Holly ...more
Rosemary
Dec 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: recently
I listened to the audio book, for which Sidney Poitier won a Grammy award.

Some of the story telling was beautiful, especially in the first third of the book. It was personal, colorful, real, and very different from my experiences. That's where SP excelled.

I didn't like most of the book very much. When SP shares an anecdote, he is at his best. When he makes generalizations (about society, racism, who he is as a person, etc.), he gets long-winded.

His voice is amazing. I love hearing him speak. But
...more
Monica
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
"The unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates
Sidney Poitier examines events, locations and eras that shaped him as a human and an actor. He wrote an earlier autobiography that detailed his career, but this autobiography is more of an exploration of some of the important events in his life that changed and shaped him. From his earliest days on Cat Island in the Bahamas, to Nassau, to Miami, to New York City, changes in his situation and the need for survival helped him to adapt to new sur
...more
Jill
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Well-written and with a lot of insightful profound looks at human nature. I was captivated by his story. I loved hearing the "behind the scenes" stories about many of his movies, almost all of which I've seen several times and know well. I was surprised by his spiel on people's "dark side" as well as his refusal to name the Higher Power he believes in. I did not care for the continual profanity. I always thought of Sidney Poitier as much classier than that. I still think he's fantastic, but I wa ...more
Kate
Jan 23, 2009 added it
Reading this book is like having a conversation with Sydney Poitier. At least you will appreciate it more if you read it that way. The writing is certainly not poetic, but the content in itself is interesting. I found Poitier to be incredibly honest about his triumphs and shortcomings, and about race relations in the movie business in the early years. It's quite remarkable how much he overcame while managing to keep his integrity intact. (He certainly has my admiration for his courage and tenaci ...more
Rachel
Aug 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I was disappointed in this book - it was good but not as good as I thought it would be. I didn't find it to really be a spiritual biography, more just selected parts of his life. I agree with his basic point that children are overindulged these days and don't learn to appreciate the little things in life, but I disagree that whipping your children (like his parents did to him and his siblings) is a good way to command their respect. Much of the book seemed to be meandering stream of consciousnes ...more
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In 1964, Poitier became the first Bahamian to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role in Lilies of the Field. Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
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“A person doesn't have to change who he is to become better.” 56 likes
“I don't mean to be like some old guy from the olden days who says, "I walked thirty miles to school every morning, so you kids should too." That's a statement born of envy and resentment. What I'm saying is something quite different. What I'm saying is that by having very little, I had it good. Children need a sense of pulling their own weight, of contributing to the family in some way, and some sense of the family's interdependence. They take pride in knowing that they're contributing. They learn responsibility and discipline through meaningful work. The values developed within a family that operates on those principles then extend to the society at large. By not being quite so indulged and "protected" from reality by overflowing abundance, children see the bonds that connect them to others.” 46 likes
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