Review: ‘The Secretary’ by Kim Ghattas

by Kim on April 30, 2014 · 6 comments

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Title: The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power
Author: Kim Ghattas
Genre: Nonfiction
Year: 2013
Publisher: Picador
Acquired: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★★

Note: Seeds of this post originally appeared on Book Riot as a contribution to the Best Books We Read in March.

Review: When Hillary Clinton agreed to work for her former rival, President Barack Obama, as secretary of state, her first priority was to repair America’s image around the world. Over Clinton’s tenure, BBC foreign correspondent Kim Ghattas had a front row seat to see how Clinton shaped America’s foreign policy and, to a lesser extent, her own image as a politician and diplomat. The Secretary chronicles that period and explores the role of a diplomat in a rapidly changing world.

Ghattas, who grew up in Lebanon, brings an interesting insider/outsider perspective that I thought made this book stand out from other books on Clinton or on American foreign policy more generally. Ghattas grew up seeing the impact that policy decisions have on average citizens in foreign countries. She’s able to bring that experience and knowledge into her analysis of Clinton’s decisions and approach to the role of secretary of state.

The Secretary is also great because Ghattas makes it more than just a book about Hillary Clinton. The Secretary is a book that explores how American power (and even more, the perception of American power) has changed over the last decade. The book is really smart in exploring the tensions between what foreign groups want (or don’t want) from the American government and what outcomes politicians can and cannot guarantee. It’s a more pragmatic look at America’s status as a foreign power than I was expecting, but I thought it was persuasive.

On a mostly unrelated note, reading this book also reminded me about Texts from Hillary, which is as funny today as it was two years ago.

I started reading this book the day it arrived in the mail and could not put it down until I turned the last page. Ghattas is an engaging and skilled journalist who offers a new perspective on foreign policy. If you are a political junkie of any kind, I highly recommend this book.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Meg April 30, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Sounds like an interesting and compelling book. I haven’t read much that delves into American politics, but I hope to do so someday soon!

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Words for Worms April 30, 2014 at 8:19 pm

LOL, ah thank you for reminding me of Texts from Hilary. Good times.

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Kim April 30, 2014 at 8:20 pm

That site is so great. I also love that they settled it before it jumped the shark.

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Katie @ Doing Dewey May 2, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Wow, this sounds incredibly well done. I love the idea of reading a biography of such an important woman and the fact that it sounds like a reasonably unbiased biography which looks at the bigger pictures just makes it that much more awesome.

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Melinda @ The Book Musings May 8, 2014 at 6:33 am

I like that it focuses on American politics as well as the woman. I don’t read many non-fiction books, or books about politics, but it does sound like an interesting read.

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