A book review of Total Recall My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger

The book in 3 sentences

Arnold Schwarzenegger is recognised around the world for his various achievements in multiple fields, whatever you think you know about Arnold, this book will fill in the gaps between his many milestones. Arnold reflects on his entire diverse life, from his childhood in Graz Austria, his time in the Austrian army, bodybuilding, his business ventures, becoming a movie star, being governor of California and his marriage.


This book is incredibly vulnerable, Arnold exposes information that I wouldn't share. iI you are wondering, yes he does talk about his affair with the family maid and the illegitimate child that subsequently triggered his divorce.

"Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones"* This is a good book, I have read only a few celebrity books, generally it's a genre I avoid. "Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story" was recommended by a dear friend of mine. I have read too many books from celebrities who have lived a life not worthy of writing down, not because their lives are not interesting, but because their lives are very linear, Arnold's story is far from linear. You can't help but enjoy this story.

I love it every time Arnold uses "fuck", I don't think I have read a book with so many fucks, and each one is joyous.

The book is littered with famous name drops and humorous anecdotes that will reveal his age. Despite how long ago many of these events happened each story is told with vivid details.

Maria sounds like an amazing wife, I enjoyed how they handled their political differences and the countless stories of how supportive she was and is.

You can't help but reflect on the American dream while reading this book. I think many reviews of this book will point out Arnold's drive, focus and fondness for hard work, as it's a common theme to his success. But what might be overlooked is that his life is littered with happenstance, good fortune and luck. Due to his nature of taking risks and breaking rules so many times he has close calls with misfortune but each time he manages to succeed. Arnold also acknowledges the support of his family, wife and many mentors during his life.

From his arrival in America, he gravitated to the Republican party, he supported the political party throughout his career. His foray into politics is the bumpiest period, of his life, with some of the toughest challenges and greatest accomplishments. He achieved many things during his time as governor of California, I admire his work on Gerrymandering. His Bipartisanship was also admirable, ignoring party politics by hiring and working with the right people to get things done. he is a political centrist, that happens to be a republican. Despite the book being published in 2012, he forewarns us about growing polarising trends in politics, as political parties venture further left and right, causing gridlock in political systems, and failing to get stuff done. I get the impression Arnold was judged harshly during his time as governor, I think no political leader withstood the economic crash of 2008, lower tax revenues, growing deficits, force governments around the world to juggle increasing taxes and cut services.

Who should read the book

Anyone who has interacted with Arnold during his long career, as either a bodybuilder, movie star or those with a mild interest in him. I found myself rewatching his films again with a new context and understanding that enriched the film. I still love classic Arnold films, but I am now curious to watch some of the new films he mentions.

How has this story changed me

Arnold is very selective about his goals, then dives into them with gusto, this is demonstrated in his film roles and bodybuilding, this is something I would like to replicate.

Arnold takes learning very seriously and approaches situations with an open mind.

He has an incredibly astute businessman, I need to think about investing.

Arnold has large amounts of drive, which makes you question your attitude to the challenges, and how many challenges you currently have.

My top three quotes

“There are no shortcuts—everything is reps, reps, reps.”

“Have a vision, trust yourself, break some rules, ignore the naysayers, don’t be afraid to fail.”

*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

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