Though calling this an autobiography, Simon, the former US senator from Illinois, really offers a political coming-of-age story and an opinionated guide through a gallery of major 20th-century events, issues, and ringleaders. He records a life entrenched in American politics: years of service in state government, a decade in the House of Representatives, 12 years in the Senate. The first three chapters tell breezily of Simon's Pacific Northwest childhood, followed by his days as the young publisher of a small-town newspaper. Though nostalgic at some points, his narrative mostly moves swiftly, with little time given to reflection or fancy prose. Commenting on hitchhiking between Portland and Eugene, Oregon, for instance, he explains that this"" provided cheap transportation and a chance to meet interesting people,"" and then proceeds to the next point without batting an eye. While crediting his parents with the formation of his political consciousness, Simon seems less concerned with detailing his political education than with chronicling the picturesque details of a simpler era. His story becomes more vital when he begins his political career. As a government insider and firsthand witness to many of the defining moments of American history for the past 40 years, he claims a rich store of entertaining anecdotes. His encounters with some of the world's renowned public figures (e.g., Eleanor Roosevelt) are nicely told, even touching. But sometimes Simon sounds as if he's still on the campaign trial: ""During all these legislative years I also championed the causes of the poor, the people who too often are voiceless."" Though quick to volunteer an opinion, he is also curiously opaque about his reasoning and motivation. A not uninteresting document from an experienced public servant, but not terribly insightful or illuminating.