I am very much a child of the eighties and grew up watching the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, although due to my age and the ratings on most of their films I only saw the 'comedies' they made at the cinema.
I relied on my VHS copies of films such as Running Man, Predator, Commando and Totall Recall on an almost daily basis and literally wore them out.
Even though Arnold Schwarzenegger is still undoubtedly one of the more famous celebrities in the world, he has some how managed to keep a great deal of his private life out of the public forum, and so it came as quite a surprise to a great many people when stories of the big mans numerous extramarital affairs and began breaking in the news over the last year or so.
Now with the release of this book it leaves me thinking of the chicken and the egg.
Which came first here?
The scandals in the press, so Arnie decides to cut his losses and release a autobiography on the back of it?
Or a decision to 'release' these stories to drum up publicity for this new book?
To be honest having read this book, and therefore having a better understanding of what a determined, intelligent, driven and calculated man Arnold Schwarzenegger is, I am inclined to believe the latter.
Its a big book, just under 700 pages spread across 30 chapters, and there are lots of really good photographs, some instantly recognisable but some I assume must be from his private collection because I have never seen them reproduced previously.
The book starts right at the beginning and tells of his youth in Austria, these bits are really well written and from an early age you get a real sense of how he was forming a plan for the rest of his life.
He talks in great detail about his body building and admits the steroid use, something that led to serious health problems later on in his lfe, and illustrates how an unbelievable amount of hard work and dedication enabled him to win Mr Universe.
What follows then is a perfect example of the 'American Dream', it really is amazing when you read what Arnold came to America with and what he has achieved in that time.
Is it inspiring?
Yes most definitely, but unfortunately the world has changed a great deal since Arnie started out and for an individual to do now what he achieved would be quite a different matter in my opinion.
One thing that surprised me about the book was the lack of 'surprises'!
I really thought this book would be a warts and all book, but to be honest all the major revelations are already out there and all this book does is give more detail, unfortunately it is very much from the authors side of things and I fear he doesn't always accept as much responsibility for his mistakes that I would have liked.
The book is very funny in places and I definitely got a sense of a man with a quick wit and a wicked sense of humour, it has some great stories about the worlds of bodybuilding, Hollywood and politics.
With regards to the latter, politics, the book does go into considerable detail, and so it should, Arnold Schwarzenegger governed the state of California for nearly a decade at a time when it went through huge upheaval, many consider him to have been very sucessful and this is yet another remarkable achievement in a remarkable career by a remarkable man.
It is definitely not as salacious as the hype has suggested it may be, infact it probably is more of an attempt to rebuild a tarnished reputation and make a lot of money at the same time, it is ultimately another example of what this man has done best throughout his career; refuse to be beaten, control his image, come out on top, and gain financially.
Does this matter?
Not to me!
I grew up loving the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I am really excited that he is back in the movies, and this book lived up to my expectations.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and definitely know far more about the author than beforehand, I also have far more of a respect for what he has achieved considering what humble beginnings he came from.
on 25 February 2013
The vast majority who pick up this book will be Arnie fans, and they shouldn't be disappointed. Yes, there aren't as many revelatory moments as they may have hoped, but having the opportunity to read about his hugely inspirational life is a privilege nonetheless.
Due to his 80's action hero persona, funny accent, quick to laugh nature, and penchant for cheesy lines, there will be those who doubt his actual talent. He isn't the best actor ever. He isn't the funniest man ever. BUT there are some very genuine life lessons that people can take from book.
i) Reps - he talks about this constantly. He was also pragmatic with his hard work, knowing what areas needed attention depending on his career, and he threw himself into the job. He would also surround himself by the 'pro's' when trying to learn their craft. This was evident from him starting out his gym work, his movie career, then his foray into comedy and most recently politics. He worked hard AND smart.
ii) He did everything with a smile on his face - a key passage that stuck out for me was one of his friends saying how surprised he was to see Arnie and his gym buddies all smiling and having fun whilst at the gym, having presumed they would be quite moody. But Arnie answered why? They were putting in the hard work to get where they wanted to go, so be happy, not stressed. That's such an important point for people everywhere, especially in this day of huge ambition and competitiveness, and I have certainly been guilty of it in the past - focussing too much on the outcome whether it be your studies and wanting to get top marks, or training to get yourself fitter, or searching for the job of your dreams... As long as you're doing all you can, then try to relax and enjoy the ride. A very important lesson.
iii) Charm - Arnie is a very charming guy. He's fun loving, has great energy and a giving spirit. This got him very far indeed, as his book demonstrates. At key moments in his life he was helped by those around him, such as the loan from his mentor to buy his first block of flats. That's clearly because they had a close relationship, but also because of Arnie's great manner. Then there is also the first-time-meets where he made huge impressions on people and found many new friends, such as that when he met Maria Shriver and her family.
I could go on, as there were many more subtleties which struck me in his book, but these were the main three. The first point is for everyone to see, but if you read the book after my little review, keep an eye out for demonstrations of the second and third ones.
Schwarzenegger may not be to everyone's tastes, but there is absolutely no doubting he's a legend. And there are key lessons everyone can learn from him and his journey.
on 16 October 2012
I was weaned on the giants of the `80s action movies: Stallone, Seagal, Van Damme, Lundgren and of course, Schwarzenegger. I can in fact remember the first time I saw an Arnie film, when my babysitter decided to put on The Terminator and at a pre-school age, I was confronted with the sight of this behemoth of a man, carving a path of carnage through LA. From then on in, I was a fan.
When Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger landed on my doormat, I felt like a kid at Christmas!
The life story of Arnold Schwarzenegger is truly remarkable. In his own words, "...what are the odds... for an Austrian farm boy to come to America and become the greatest bodybuilding champion of all time, to get in the movie business, marry a Kennedy, and then get elected governor of the biggest state of the United States..."
From that brief quotation, the reader can see there is certainly plenty of material for him to cover and this is demonstrated by the fact that you're halfway through the book before any real discussion of The Terminator: a movie that was made almost 30 years ago.
At times, I was laughing uncontrollably at some of the stories in this book and most of the time, I couldn't help but read it and hear his voice in your head! Although much of what is narrated in the book is already well-known, getting Schwarzenegger's version of events is compelling, hearing about his childhood in Austria, his will to succeed in bodybuilding, how Conan the Barbarian brought him international stardom, how he was determined to succeed as Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports; and many other tales that leave you wondering how one man at the age of 65 years old could fit so much into one lifetime.
Arnold comes across as incredibly driven, highly competitive and quite calculating, sometimes to the point where I found myself losing a bit of respect for him. His psychological toying with other athletes on and off the stage were not what I would expect from a modern athlete but then again, Schwarzenegger really was a game-changer as far as the bodybuilding world was concerned.
As the book progressed, I was worried that he would simply ignore the subject of his lovechild but in fact, my fears were allayed late on in the book. Despite this, he skirts over his own failings and misdemeanours such as affairs, alleged sexual harassment, drug use and steroid abuse. This may be understandable, given that Arnold is still a high profile individual, a role model to many and a man who still hopes that he can save his marriage to Maria Shriver.
The section on Arnie's time in politics will not be to everyone's taste, especially those who are more interested in his bodybuilding and/or movie career. At times, it can be very dry and overly-descriptive about political processes; but it is also not without its highpoints and is peppered with references and anecdotes about famous politicians and celebrities alike. Schwarzenegger freely admits many of the mistakes he made while in office as the Governor of California but is keen to point out that he gave it his absolute all, just like every other career decision he has made.
For me, as a fan, I don't regret reading this book. Much of the information contained therein is already common knowledge but the facts and circumstances that are already known are brought to life with Schwarzenegger's own stories and thoughts on events. The title of the book however, is only partly true; the latter half being correct in that yes, it is indeed an "unbelievably true life story"; but the title "Total Recall" is quite the misnomer, since I cannot help but feel much has been omitted deliberately from this book.
Ultimately, this book is much like the man himself: entertaining, larger than life, charismatic and unforgettable; but not without its flaws.
on 1 September 2013
This was a book club choice. Never, ever would I have picked this book up left to my own devices. I groaned when we agreed to do it and thought it was going to be 600 odd pages of tough going which would need some skim-reading to survive. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I found the book completely engrossing. I sat reading it all day one weekend and spent the rest of the week racing to bed to carry on.
Pre-reading the book, I was utterly dismissive of this man. Post-reading it, I am uplifted and inspired and a total admirer. It is an inspirational book on all levels.
I always looked at body-building as rather pointless and body-builders as having very ugly bodies. I was not interested. His description of that world and his part in it was fascinating and I have now bought 'Pumping Iron' to learn more.
I dismissed out of hand, Conan the Barbarian as a joke. Under no circumstances would I have considered seeing it back in the 80s or now. Reading the chapter about its making changed my mind. I have just bought the DVD because the film sounds fascinating and ground-breaking - (maybe not his acting though!). I am also considering getting some more of his films to view as well. (I have seen very few of them.) What a turn-around! This man is a salesman par excellance!
I think what I found so appealing about this book is that to my mind Arnie presents a very honest (al beit sanitized) view of himself. Ok it is, as one reviewer here says, short on salacious detail but I kind of think that is because Arnie as a personality does not dwell on things. He is very clear that he is a very optimistic, positive thinker. He makes mistakes and he moves on. Because of this trait, in his acknowledgements, he also is very clear that he had forgotten lots and needed the help of many people to remember again. I believed him. I also think that he avoided salacious detail because he did not want to hurt other people and wanted to respect their right to privacy too and I can respect that.
Arnie is quite clear about being machine-like in pursuing his goals. He will also do whatever it takes to win. And yet while he is clearly ruthless, he also comes across as a man of high intelligence, a man of principles, and of clear vision. He is very clear about how he became successful: what attributes he had and what mechanisms he put in place to achieve what he achieved. The overriding message was, set a goal, learn everything you need to learn to achieve what you want to do and then work hard to do it ('reps reps reps'). No magic formulae, or luck. This man worked for what he got and he does not pretend otherwise.
The other thing that surprised me about this book was just how important family was to Arnie. For someone so grounded in himself, and without dwelling on it, one got the sense of a man who really loves his family. For me, I would also call this book a love story. He clearly loves Maria, and I finished the book feeling very, very sad and let down that they broke up. I am with Arnie in very much hoping they get back together again, because the way Arnie writes about their relationship, they were a wonderful team and for me, it felt like a tragic end to a very special relationship. Of course that is his view, maybe Maria would say her years with him were terrible, and she was often alone, and resented the affairs. But I looked at the family photos and they all seemed so very happy together. I could not understand how she could walk away from such an extraordinary man with so much vision and so many worthwhile principles that he was willing to work for.
Another reviewer on this site said this book was overlong and needed editing particularly the political bits. I cannot disagree more. I found Arnie's period as governor to be fascinating. I had no idea about the problems of the political system in the US. It was fascinating to read about his courage in fighting for the things he believed in and his determination against all odds to bring change to California in every sphere of public need. Gosh! His energy was infectious, his ability to choose great people to work with him said much for his perceptiveness and wisdom about people, his lack of respect for partisan politics was inspiring and the only responsible way to be. If I were an American I would beg him to run for presidency and I would vote for him!
Fabulous, fabulous read. I will be telling anyone I know that they need to read this book. I wish some of our polis would also pick it up. I wonder now what is left for Arnie. I can imagine fixing on the next goal after achieving so much must be a huge question in his mind.
Arnold Schwarzenneger has always been a self-confident player in the media, business and political world. From his Austrian origins and his journey to America, he has played his cards with hard work and ambition. His 'Education of a Bodybulder' (1977), reveals his goals. "Strength and confidence , plus a firsthand knowledge of the rewards of hard work and persistence, can help you attain a new and better life". Never better summarised regarding Arnold's approach.The epitomy of America. If you want it enough it is achievable. From 'Mr Olympia', unbeatable body builder (under Ben Weider's guidance, despite controversy ), his Kennedy connections, Governor of California , a lucrative film career, he has had it in the palms of his hands as if a 200kg barbell. Most know him for his incredibly successful film output. Exciting and entertaining.
His book is informative and humorous, yet reveals the calculating side of his personality. Arnold has charisma and a cold charm allied to his appearance, physique, dialect, (can't help seeing and hearing him whilst reading this), all adding to the attraction. His marketing has been handled expertly. Even his rumoured affairs have come to light. With spin they have been largely surfed over. His ego matched the size of his biceps. Failure was never an option. His movies presented him to the world stage never to look back. Revealing so much of his life in the present day and other sporting revelations is admirable but leads the reader to decide 'Who Is The Real Arnold?'.
It puts together much that I knew from following his career through the sixties and beyond. His ambition was,and presumably still is, one of tremendous drive to be the best. With Arnold you only know one thing. Whatever he does, he is an achiever, manipulator, through his and the media promotion. 'Total Recall' is an interesting summary and synopsis of the man. I have great admiration for his achievements despite the spectre of underhand help. He has admitted well-known aspects of his past and played the rest close to his chest. If you want to dig into Arnold's psyche, this is an entertaining place to start. I'm sure he'll be back in some format or other. In the book, 'Pumping Iron', (1974), he describes his body 'like a sculpture' that can be improved. In the film 'Pumping Iron' his muscular back is described 'like a Christmas tree' with 'total definition'. I wouldn't want to be in front of it. There is a lot more not revealed. I think this reflects his attitude to his life. Why he writes a book now is suspiciously like a firework about to go off with another cracker to come.
on 15 July 2013
A look at the life of a man who's pushed himself harder and strove to achieve more than most of us ever even imagine.
A fantastic & gripping read as Arnold Schwarzenegger tells of his life, from his beginnings as a young boy in post-war Austria, to his monumental achievements in bodybuilding which not only turned him into the greatest bodybuilder ever known, but propelled the sport to never before imagined heights.
From there he tells of his work getting into movies, meeting Maria Kennedy, and eventually getting into government; all along detailing what happened along the way, such as how he drove himself ever harder, starting his own businesses and studying for various things at college.
Was held by this book the moment I started reading, & have to say it gives a fantastic look into the lives of what has to be one of the most incredible men of the century. If you have any interests in anything the man's done with his life (& that would be a lot!) then I definitely recommend this to you ...
Overall, an absolutely fantastic read!
on 7 November 2012
I have to agree with some of the other reviews here, Arnie's story is truely an amazing one but I feel that obviously he had final say on what was included and how the information was laid out and this has been to the detriment of what the reader would probably like.
The book starts off well with his very basic childhood in 1950's Austria and tells how he got into weightlifting and against huge odds turned his ambitious dreams of emulating his idols like Steve Reeves into reality by becoming a champion bodybuilder and leaving Austria and national service to seek fame and fortune in the west.
There is some good coverage of his bodybuilding career but I felt it lacked the details about his training regime that many would be interested in. The issue of steriods is admitted but its also quickly brushed over.
However you do get to realise just how much he put into his life and how little credit he has probably got for his success.
Far from being just a musclebound meathead with a career in action movies you discover he's also a highly intelligent businessman and his success has been carefully planned rather than just happening by chance. Reading about the extent of his endeavours when he first arrived in the U.S you have to wonder how he could fit so much into the day. For instance as well as being the worlds #1 bodybuilder he was also a student and working in construction whilst dabbling in the property business and trying to start his acting career. Infact it was through property rather than acting or bodybuilding that he made his first million.
However its the 2nd half of the book that seems to drag, going too deeply into politics it seems that Arnie felt the need to justify and give his view on seemingly every single policy he ever made. There is also alot about his marriage and the Shriver/Kennedy family. And that little issue of fathering a child by the nanny is like the steroids admitted but quickly brushed over.
In summary I have to say that the story itself is fascinating enough to warrant buying the book and there plenty of good photos also. But it could have been edited to make it a more enjoyable read.
on 10 November 2012
This is a fascinating book from a truly remarkable guy , the only downside to this book is it really makes you feel crappy about how little you're doing with your life! This guy has the best work-ethic Ive ever seen and hes dominated every field hes set his mind too. Also filled with funny anecdotes and insights into the emotional journey hes taken, would highly reccomend!
on 18 March 2015
From such humble beginnings, and with a lot of help along the way, it is amazing to see what one man can achieve. This book explains how Arnie managed to become the greatest body-builder of all time, a box-office topping mega-star and Governor of one of the largest economies in the world. Along the way he helped to elevate body-building to the world stage and changed the face of Hollywood action films, perhaps forever.
It is an incredible story, written in a down-to-earth style and containing numerous inspiring stories and philosophies. Arnold is clearly a hugely intelligent person and it is amazing to see just how clever his approach has been towards all of the goals in his life. This could almost be a self help book, with a simple philosophy behind it: work hard (put in the reps), surround yourself with experts, always be prepared to learn and be a person that others want to be around.
The autobiography itself starts with a brief intro his childhood but gets into the swing of things when we get to his body-building days. This is by far the best part of the book, you really get a sense of the excitement that he had during those early days, his boundless energy and his openness to meeting new people and taking on new opportunities. It is beyond inspiring, when you read those chapters it makes you want to leap up and start building something. As the book goes on though, and moves into the movie phase of his career, it becomes more diffuse, and it becomes apparent that the latter part of the book is tackling events that are perhaps too recent in history to allow Arnold to give the full story. Or perhaps it is the case that they involve people who may still be useful to Arnold and he doesn't want to annoy them!
At the very end, it becomes increasing clear that this book, just like other parts of Arnold's life, is being carefully managed to dodge the issues that he doesn't want to talk about (steroid abuse and womanising have but fleeting mentions in these pages). That is of course fine, it is his autobiography as all, but don't come into this book expecting a warts and all tale. This is a heavily edited life story, written by someone who doubtlessly still has major life goals to achieve and an agenda to push. The body building section covers a period in his life that is perhaps far enough away that he can talk about people who are long gone, be more candid, and blame the younger, more silly Arnold, but the later we get into his life the more careful the autobiography becomes. The political section reads as a run-down of every measure passed, with credit given to every single person who helped and as a result the last 1/8 of the book becomes very dull very quickly. I understand that Arnold is probably talking about people who still have a large bearing on his current life and future aims, but it doesn't make for a good read. Similarly his affairs and the situation with his secret son are mentioned, but they are written so delicately, as if the whole section is written with the knowledge that his ex-wife may be reading. Again this is totally understandable as Arnold clearly wanted to get back together with her at the time of the book being written, however just be aware that the further you get into this book, the less it is an autobiography and the more it becomes a tool for Arnold.
All of this said though, these are issues which blight any auto-biography and the first half of the book more than makes up for the eventual descent into self-service. The important thing here is whether it is any good as a whole and whether it is worth a read. To both of those questions I can give an emphatic yes, the first half of this book is perhaps the most engaging and inspiring autobiography I have ever read and the second half is entertaining enough!
on 11 August 2014
I enjoyed this book much much more than I thought I would. The mark of a good autobiography is if biographer lives up the hype, a great autobiography makes the read a bigger fan than when they begun. This is how I felt after reading this book. I admit Arnold was a distant 3rd action hero for in the 80s, behind Stallone and Van Damn. However even though I enjoyed their movies more than Arnold's, neither they nor many people have excelled outside the movie industry the way Arnold has. If you have seen him flexing his muscles, it is easy to forget that he had also been blessed with an incredible mind and an iron will. If there is one word I would use to describe Arnold Schwarzenegger it is driven. He has always had a vision of where he's wanted to be, and he has done everything in his power to make it happen.
True there is nothing in this book that is not already reported about Arnold, but it is great to have his whole life story laid out all in one. Being quite a guarded person he mentions things about his personal life but foes not go into too much detail. He is completely open about his work life and accomplishments, for his early days of training, to innovative methods of training today, that have become standard in most athletes today. He does mention steroid use once but does not do into detail about it. In fairness he does say at the time taking steroids was the same as taking a vitamin shot. As no research had been done at the time to find the long term side effects of their use. In fact they had not even been made illegal at the time. He talks about the mental aspects of training and competing to win rather than just another face in the competition.
The next aspect of his life is using the money and notoriety he gained from body building and investing he money in a number of his own business, and projects in order to as he says stay wealthy providing security base for future projects. This allowed him to be financially secure enough to be able to turn down roles in films till he got the leading man roles he was after. Then his personal and work life intersect where he and marries into the Kennedy/Shriver family. Here he learned and created all the networking connection he needed later on to become governor. I would not be surprised if in a few years he became president.
The last third of the book deals with political career, he tries his best to make it sound good, by talking about what he wanted to do, and what he did manage to do, but he was continually tied up in legislation. This is the part I do not believe for one second, he made no money for the 7 years he was governor. He takes the line he is a public servant doing the best for the public. I am sure he is but I cannot believe he did not get paid or have the benefits outweigh the rigours of the job, or there would be no politicians at all. Unfortunately the book finishes on a low personal note for him but, with media and social networking becoming more widespread it is easier to keep up with how this develops. A very good book. A monstrous 624+ pages a real steal for the price. I am sure there is still much more to come.