Don’t describe Gov. Deval Patrick’s book, A Reason to Believe, as a political biography. He takes issue with both words: political and biography.

For a start, he argues, the book is not political in that it isn’t “directed towards a political end, a prelude to another campaign or settling old scores.”

And that’s generally true. The book dishes no dirt and canvasses no specific detail of policy positions. And Mr. Patrick has long promised he will not run again for his current job.

It is, however, infused with politics, more broadly defined. One example is Mr. Patrick’s view that the religious right represents “a faith based on intolerance, a faith without compassion.” And the whole book serves as an advertisement for educational inclusiveness and the kind of affirmative action from which he benefitted.

More questionably, Mr. Patrick also refuses the categorization “biography” for the book; he prefers to think of it, as he told the Gazette in a recent interview, “as a gesture of gratitude to teachers and family members and in some cases total strangers who made the optimist and the unrepentant idealist that I am. One of my friends described the book as a love story. To me that was the greatest possible compliment,” he said.

But the book is a biography, very much a psychological biography, of a man who seems to exemplify Edward R. Murrow’s observation that politicians, “with few notable exceptions . . . are simply men who want to be loved.”

A Reason to Believe certainly has the arc of a love story, starting with the emotionally-deprived little boy from the south side of Chicago, hungry for love.

“My earliest impressions of my parents were of a stern father who always seemed to be observing us critically and from a distance, and a mother who would lie in bed for hours, smoking silently and staring off in dark, deep thought,” he writes early in the book.

Then his father left — a scene he relates poignantly — leaving young Deval’s upbringing to his mother and grandparents.

“My grandparents and my mother were physically close but emotionally distant. They always had my best interests at heart, but their affections were circumscribed and conditional, preoccupied as they were by their own struggles and demons,” the governor writes.

In sixth grade, he won a regional essay writing contest on the subject of Father of the Year, although he wrote about his grandmother. He wrote a similar essay about his grandfather.

“I now realize I wrote to gain the attention of and approval from the adults who were the most remote, yet most important, in my life,” he says in the book.

Yet he adds, “What I craved most, consistent love and encouragement, I got from teachers.”

He names them. There was Mrs. Theet in third grade, who gave him special library privileges, but who once unfairly rebuked him.

“I was devastated, though I did learn how exposed you are by privilege. (I loved her anyway),” he writes.

There was Mrs. Quintance, in sixth grade, who “made achievement and urbanity seem natural for us poor, black South Siders. It was a gift I still cherish.”

In middle school, he was “meek, bookish bashful” and not black enough for the tough kids. But school became again a refuge, due to his seventh grade teacher, Darla Weissenberg, “a 22-year-old idealist who was committed to improving the world and making sure those of us on the South Side had a place in it.”

She encouraged him to apply for a scholarship from a foundation called A Better Chance. And through that he was accepted by Milton Academy in Massachusetts.

Everything there seemed foreign. He had never heard the word “summer” used as a verb. The dress code required boys to wear jackets and ties, and he thought his windbreaker qualified as a jacket, until he saw the other boys in blue blazers and tweed coats.

He struggled to straddle two worlds, but “once again I was saved by the love of adults,” he writes.

This time it was his freshman English teacher, A. O. Smith, who mentored him at school and even took him away for weekends with his own family.

On the very first weekend, Mr. Patrick recalls in the book: “A.O., having tucked his own, slightly younger children in on Friday night, told them ‘I love you.’

“He then said the very same words to me. It was the first time any man had ever told me he loved me. I never heard this from Poppy or my own father.”

Mr. Smith became a surrogate father. The mother of some other black students at Milton, June Elam, became a surrogate mother, “conspicuous with her love.

“What I had been missing! I drank it in,” he writes.

There is plenty more in this vein, as Patrick recounts the people who loved him or inspired him all the way to Harvard, a high-flying legal career, corporate success, his appointment by President Bill Clinton as Assistant Attorney General for the civil rights division of the Department of Justice, the governorship of Massachusetts and to becoming a confidante of Barack Obama.

In parts the book is movingly frank, as about his relationship with his father and their ultimate reconciliation, and about the mental health issues experienced by his wife, Diane, under the pressure of being spouse to the governor.

But through it all, Mr. Patrick is relentlessly positive and sincere in his belief in the better angels of human nature.

“What I’m trying to get across,” he explained in the recent interview, no less earnest in conversation, “is that for me these things were transformative lessons taught by various people I describe.

“There are teachers who gave me reason to believe in a brighter future and family members and strangers who gave me reason to believe in the power of kindness. Voters who gave me reason to believe in the politics of conviction.

“It turns out it’s within any of us to have that kind of impact on other people.”

He takes some credit for helping imbue the presidential campaign of Barack Obama with that sense of possibility, here on the Vineyard, back at a time when few people were taking Obama’s candidacy seriously.

In 2007, after a dinner at the Oak Bluffs home of Mr. Obama’s close friend and advisor, Valerie Jarrett, Mr. Patrick decided to endorse Mr. Obama. He also took it upon himself to offer some campaigning advice — three points which he had scribbled on a piece of paper.

“One was to run as if he was willing to lose,” by which Mr. Patrick meant that Mr. Obama should bring “a sense of conviction to the race.”

“Second was trust the grass roots. I think respect is shown by getting out and inviting them to become part of it.

“The third was a riff that I had used when people came at me, as I knew they would, saying, he can give a good speech but that’s it.

“I offered him the response I had used in my first run for governor. He ultimately used it in is own campaign and that stirred up controversy, with people saying he had plagiarized me. In fact I had given it to him.”

That riff consisted of quoting from great speeches of American politics, speeches by the likes of Franklin Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson, to show that “the right words, spoken with conviction, from the heart, are a call to action. They are not just words.

“I’m honored he took the advice, even took the scrap of paper and put it in his pocket and used it,” Mr. Patrick said.

In the years since Deval Patrick helped Brack Obama develop his weapon of mass idealism, both men have had to make a lot of pragmatic decisions in government.

But this book is not about government. It is about the process of forming the governor, an “improbable” journey, as he repeatedly reminds us.

“I am hardly the only product of Chicago’s South Side to have gone on to better things or the only kid from a hardscrabble background to have had a measure of success,” he writes.

“That rags-to-riches story is distinctly American, and though it is not told often enough, it is still told more often in this country than anywhere else on earth.

“In my own case I knew that my circumstances, however difficult, need not be permanent; I could shape my own destiny.”

Actually the book serves as a strong example not of shaping one’s own destiny, but of having one’s destiny determined by social context. Whatever his natural gifts, Deval Patrick’s success is, by his own accounting, due in large measure to a random collection of others.

And that’s a bit challenging, if one believes, as this country always fervently has, that we are all captains of our fate.

So perhaps the book is political after all. In the debate between the individualists, the I-did-it-my-way people and the more collectivist it-takes-a-village crowd, A Reason to Believe is a case study.

No one makes it alone, the book says.