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Ronald Reagan’s autobiography is a work of major historical importance. Here, in his own words, is the story of his life—public and private—told in a book both frank and compellingly readable. Few presidents have accomplished more, or been so effective in changing the direction of government in ways that are both fundamental and lasting, than Ronald Reagan. Certainly no pr Ronald Reagan’s autobiography is a work of major historical importance. Here, in his own words, is the story of his life—public and private—told in a book both frank and compellingly readable. Few presidents have accomplished more, or been so effective in changing the direction of government in ways that are both fundamental and lasting, than Ronald Reagan. Certainly no president has more dramatically raised the American spirit, or done so much to restore national strength and self-confidence. Here, then, is a truly American success story—a great and inspiring one. From modest beginnings as the son of a shoe salesman in Tampico, Illinois, Ronald Reagan achieved first a distinguished career in Hollywood and then, as governor of California and as president of the most powerful nation in the world, a career of public service unique in our history. Ronald Reagan’s account of that rise is told here with all the uncompromising candor, modesty, and wit that made him perhaps the most able communicator ever to occupy the White House, and also with the sense of drama of a gifted natural storyteller. He tells us, with warmth and pride, of his early years and of the elements that made him, in later life, a leader of such stubborn integrity, courage, and clear-minded optimism. Reading the account of this childhood, we understand how his parents, struggling to make ends meet despite family problems and the rigors of the Depression, shaped his belief in the virtues of American life—the need to help others, the desire to get ahead and to get things done, the deep trust in the basic goodness, values, and sense of justice of the American people—virtues that few presidents have expressed more eloquently than Ronald Reagan. With absolute authority and a keen eye for the details and the anecdotes that humanize history, Ronald Reagan takes the reader behind the scenes of his extraordinary career, from his first political experiences as president of the Screen Actors Guild (including his first meeting with a beautiful young actress who was later to become Nancy Reagan) to such high points of his presidency as the November 1985 Geneva meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, during which Reagan invited the Soviet leader outside for a breath of fresh air and then took him off for a walk and a man-to-man chat, without aides, that set the course for arms reduction and charted the end of the Cold War. Here he reveals what went on behind his decision to enter politics and run for the governorship of California, the speech nominating Barry Goldwater that first made Reagan a national political figure, his race for the presidency, his relations with the members of his own cabinet, and his frustrations with Congress. He gives us the details of the great themes and dramatic crises of his eight years in office, from Lebanon to Grenada, from the struggle to achieve arms control to tax reform, from Iran-Contra to the visits abroad that did so much to reestablish the United States in the eyes of the world as a friendly and peaceful power. His narrative is full of insights, from the unseen dangers of Gorbachev’s first visit to the United States to Reagan’s own personal correspondence with major foreign leaders, as well as his innermost feelings about life in the White House, the assassination attempt, his family—and the enduring love between himself and Mrs. Reagan. An American Life is a warm, richly detailed, and deeply human book, a brilliant self-portrait, a significant work of history.


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Ronald Reagan’s autobiography is a work of major historical importance. Here, in his own words, is the story of his life—public and private—told in a book both frank and compellingly readable. Few presidents have accomplished more, or been so effective in changing the direction of government in ways that are both fundamental and lasting, than Ronald Reagan. Certainly no pr Ronald Reagan’s autobiography is a work of major historical importance. Here, in his own words, is the story of his life—public and private—told in a book both frank and compellingly readable. Few presidents have accomplished more, or been so effective in changing the direction of government in ways that are both fundamental and lasting, than Ronald Reagan. Certainly no president has more dramatically raised the American spirit, or done so much to restore national strength and self-confidence. Here, then, is a truly American success story—a great and inspiring one. From modest beginnings as the son of a shoe salesman in Tampico, Illinois, Ronald Reagan achieved first a distinguished career in Hollywood and then, as governor of California and as president of the most powerful nation in the world, a career of public service unique in our history. Ronald Reagan’s account of that rise is told here with all the uncompromising candor, modesty, and wit that made him perhaps the most able communicator ever to occupy the White House, and also with the sense of drama of a gifted natural storyteller. He tells us, with warmth and pride, of his early years and of the elements that made him, in later life, a leader of such stubborn integrity, courage, and clear-minded optimism. Reading the account of this childhood, we understand how his parents, struggling to make ends meet despite family problems and the rigors of the Depression, shaped his belief in the virtues of American life—the need to help others, the desire to get ahead and to get things done, the deep trust in the basic goodness, values, and sense of justice of the American people—virtues that few presidents have expressed more eloquently than Ronald Reagan. With absolute authority and a keen eye for the details and the anecdotes that humanize history, Ronald Reagan takes the reader behind the scenes of his extraordinary career, from his first political experiences as president of the Screen Actors Guild (including his first meeting with a beautiful young actress who was later to become Nancy Reagan) to such high points of his presidency as the November 1985 Geneva meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, during which Reagan invited the Soviet leader outside for a breath of fresh air and then took him off for a walk and a man-to-man chat, without aides, that set the course for arms reduction and charted the end of the Cold War. Here he reveals what went on behind his decision to enter politics and run for the governorship of California, the speech nominating Barry Goldwater that first made Reagan a national political figure, his race for the presidency, his relations with the members of his own cabinet, and his frustrations with Congress. He gives us the details of the great themes and dramatic crises of his eight years in office, from Lebanon to Grenada, from the struggle to achieve arms control to tax reform, from Iran-Contra to the visits abroad that did so much to reestablish the United States in the eyes of the world as a friendly and peaceful power. His narrative is full of insights, from the unseen dangers of Gorbachev’s first visit to the United States to Reagan’s own personal correspondence with major foreign leaders, as well as his innermost feelings about life in the White House, the assassination attempt, his family—and the enduring love between himself and Mrs. Reagan. An American Life is a warm, richly detailed, and deeply human book, a brilliant self-portrait, a significant work of history.

30 review for An American Life: An Enhanced eBook with CBS Video: The Autobiography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason Navallo

    Great book detailing the life of one of America's greatest Presidents!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    This book almost brings a tear to my eye. In his own words, one of Americas greatest presidents describes how his love for his country and his fellow man led him to run for the California Governorship and later the Presidency. If you are a patriot, a conservative, or just all around sensible, this book will sadden you. To see how quickly the progress made by the Reagan administration has been trampled over and discarded is painful. The America Ronald Reagan once helped shape is quickly being repl This book almost brings a tear to my eye. In his own words, one of Americas greatest presidents describes how his love for his country and his fellow man led him to run for the California Governorship and later the Presidency. If you are a patriot, a conservative, or just all around sensible, this book will sadden you. To see how quickly the progress made by the Reagan administration has been trampled over and discarded is painful. The America Ronald Reagan once helped shape is quickly being replaced by the tumorous growth of a beaurocracy that can not possibly sustain itself lest the American people continue to vote their freedom away - squandering any chance that their grandchildren will live free. Kinda makes you want to run outside and punch a hippie.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Travis McClain

    I had barely turned two years of age when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the fortieth President of the United States. He will always be my standard for what a president should look and sound like, because he was the first one I had. Still, I am a moderate-liberal and have many criticisms of Mr. Reagan's domestic policies. Here are the pros, cons and final assessment of this fascinating memoirs. The Pros Mr. Reagan earned his moniker, "The Great Communicator." He is a natural storyteller, and the I had barely turned two years of age when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the fortieth President of the United States. He will always be my standard for what a president should look and sound like, because he was the first one I had. Still, I am a moderate-liberal and have many criticisms of Mr. Reagan's domestic policies. Here are the pros, cons and final assessment of this fascinating memoirs. The Pros Mr. Reagan earned his moniker, "The Great Communicator." He is a natural storyteller, and there were many passages I read where I could practically hear him reading to me. The pace is quick and, unlike Bill Clinton's My Life, Reagan wisely refrains from name-checking everyone whose hand he ever shook on the campaign trail. An American Life is organized thematically rather than chronologically, meaning it's fairly simple to follow any one subject through from its origins to either its conclusion or, at least, its state as of the writing of this book. Given the sporadic nature of diplomatic progress, a purely chronological account would have been a nightmare to read. Reagan's language is very simple and accessible, and he frequently cites his own expansive journal entries, as well as letters written to and from Mikhail Gorbachev (among others). The most successful part of the book is that Reagan, in his own words, makes a legitimate argument for his perspective on things. As a child of the 80s, I saw the world very differently than did my president. It was nice to read for myself why he felt the way he did about certain issues, and what his intentions were. The Cons The book feels comprehensive--unless you pay enough attention, or happen to have knowledge of events outside the scope of the book. The first 200-plus pages are dedicated to Mr. Reagan's life prior to becoming president. They often touch on his family, but it appears that by the time he was convinced to run for governor of California, his family all but disappears from the narration. It very subtly suggests an image of a man who became increasingly insulated from the rest of the world; everyone except the First Lady and his Secretary of State. I would have liked to read him at least acknowledge some of the unintended negative consequences of his policies (such as the reduction of funding to help mentally and emotionally disturbed poor stay in treatment centers), and this is absent entirely. In fact, Reagan does not seem interested in, or perhaps even capable of, admitting to anything negative--how else could the man who was president at the time of the first identified case of HIV/AIDS go an entire 726 pages and not mention it at all? As a Democrat, I was also disappointed to read Mr. Reagan's characterization of my side of the political spectrum. For a man whose legacy is built on his ability to relate to opponents as people, and to work on building support through emphasizing humanity, it is remarkable to read the absolute disdain he held for his political opposition in Washington. He mentions Democrats several times, but never does he discuss any kind of effort at cooperating with them. He doesn't even try to suggest that they rebuffed his overtures--they're simply working entirely to defeat his every, well-intentioned act as president, and he takes his case to the people to put enough pressure on them to get his way. How could the same man that dedicated himself to establishing historic arms reduction agreements with the U.S.S.R. not do more to get along with his own government? The Bottom Line I have come away from An American Life feeling that I better understand Mr. Reagan's motives as president. I no longer regard him as uncaring, hiding anti-poor/racist/rich, old white man-ism behind the rhetoric of conservatism and states's rights. I believe now that he did not intend any of the at-times cruel consequences of his presidency. For those who were already fans of Mr. Reagan, this book is a given. For those like me, who were not, I still recommend taking the opportunity to read his side of things. I haven't abandoned my ideals, but I have asked new questions of them--and that is the essence of An American Life.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Reagan is a great storyteller so this book is easy to read. I was a little annoyed in the first part of the book by how he just dismissed various Democratic leaders as "just another tax and spend liberal." I find these kinds of labels (from both parties) to be unhelpful and would have appreciated his unique insight into people's personalities. The discussion of foreign leaders, particularly the different Soviet leaders, and the thinking and strategy as it related to the growing terrorist threat Reagan is a great storyteller so this book is easy to read. I was a little annoyed in the first part of the book by how he just dismissed various Democratic leaders as "just another tax and spend liberal." I find these kinds of labels (from both parties) to be unhelpful and would have appreciated his unique insight into people's personalities. The discussion of foreign leaders, particularly the different Soviet leaders, and the thinking and strategy as it related to the growing terrorist threat and nuclear disarmament was very interesting.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Big 752 page book- Reagan's autobiography written after two terms as California Governor, and two as US President (plus sports caster and actor). I never understood people writing autobiographies in mid life... One reason I read this is that I've always felt bad about dissing Ron and Nancy in an essay I wrote while living in Africa - some insipid little comment about Nancy consulting a horoscope... So part of my reason was to approach this President's book as a mea culpa exercise. I'm glad I did Big 752 page book- Reagan's autobiography written after two terms as California Governor, and two as US President (plus sports caster and actor). I never understood people writing autobiographies in mid life... One reason I read this is that I've always felt bad about dissing Ron and Nancy in an essay I wrote while living in Africa - some insipid little comment about Nancy consulting a horoscope... So part of my reason was to approach this President's book as a mea culpa exercise. I'm glad I did - I find that I typically regret making what appeared to be "sharp, witty" ascerbic comments about leaders at a given time, only to regret them later, while any time I've been able to express mercy, understanding, tolerance, and openness, I've not regretted those stances even if disappointed later. Right off the bat, I found Reagan's style of speaking coming through again in his writing. No doubt, he had much help writing or editing, but I can clearly hear his voice from TV and radio back in the 80's contained within his writing: warm, inviting, with conviction, yet conversational. Second, I was struck how humbly he wrote of his many, many, many experiences, and contented or philosophically content perhaps as he looked back. He wrote from this contented standpoint in that he tried as hard as he could to act consistently with his principles. And even when he failed, he could write honestly of disappointment and with apologies. In either case, success or failure or more often he repeatedly talked about shades of success and failure mixed in various proportions, it was always in such a way that the reader could tell Reagan did not believe that the whole world rose or fell according to his actions - more realistically that he was a player on a much larger journey that continues as actors come and go. Surprises: He came across with much more Christian views of faith than I remember publicly, and that in his most forceful criticism of the book, he was still angry with the actions of Israel led by Begin, and General Ariel Sharon back in the early 80s when he believed there was opportunity for middle east peace. Indeed, his recurring encounters with middle east conflicts and turmoil left him with a broad sorrow that more could not be accomplished - Anwar Sadat of Egypt was one he greatly admired. Reagan gave an honest, or at least coherent accounting of the Iran Contra affair - helpful for me to get the details more clear at any rate. And of course, Reagan provided his thoughts on many controversial aspects of his administration - especially those involving Central America conflicts and US support or resistance... Reagan spent several chapters on the rearming of America, and its subsequent economic pressure put on the Soviet Union, his negotiations with at least three, if not 4 Soviet leaders - they kept dying on him, - ending with Gorbachev, and arms reductions. This really seemed like Reagan's most important contribution in his mind, was the path he helped create to reduce nuclear arms significantly, and the complexity and sensitive negotiation dynamics we probably under-appreciate 20 years later. SDI, star wars defenses, cruise missile deployment in Europe, etc - all were in Reagan's mind part of a chess match to move away from an even great idiocy - Mutual Assured Destruction - as a strategic foundation. I'm the first to realize Reagan was and is a controversial President and public figure, in that he was both effective and very clear on his perspective of government vs private enterprise, of good and evil, and personal responsibility vs social oppression, all of which were affronts to sizable segments of America and the world. But that is the point, I suspect, of why he looms large still - a leader whether one agreed with him or not! The book is another of those, "I thought I knew him/the issue, but I found that I didn't know or remember nearly as much as I thought."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    The Great Communicator has done it again! "An American Life" takes the reader from his birth in Tampico, Illinois to the return to California with mission accomplished. Ronald Reagan earned the moniker "The Great Communicator" for his ability to reach an audience. "An American Life" proves that he could do it in ink too. His writing is direct, easy to follow and engaging. The theme of the book is the optimistic world view of the Reagan we knew. There is little introspection. Reagan knew what he The Great Communicator has done it again! "An American Life" takes the reader from his birth in Tampico, Illinois to the return to California with mission accomplished. Ronald Reagan earned the moniker "The Great Communicator" for his ability to reach an audience. "An American Life" proves that he could do it in ink too. His writing is direct, easy to follow and engaging. The theme of the book is the optimistic world view of the Reagan we knew. There is little introspection. Reagan knew what he believed and told it with gusto! Many of the stories are ones with which we are familiar. This book is the Gipper's exposition of his belief in family values and the individual. The readers are drawn into the issues which defined the Reagan Administration. As a frequent traveler in Reagan's native region in Northern Illinois, I found the narratives of his youth in Galesburg and Dixon and his years at Eureka College to be particularly interesting. The reader follows Reagan to Iowa and on to California. The sections on Reagan's years in Hollywood give the reader an insight into the movie world. The chapters on Reagan's involvement with the Screen Actors' Guild focus on his opposition to Communist domination of the industry. Reagan's years in California politics are related with may of the stories we have heard, such as the student protesters who entered his office to tell him that his generation could not understand them because he did not grow up with the modern conveniences, to which he replied that his generation had invented them. Reagan tells of his conversion, which began with the General Electric tour in the 1950s, from a liberal Democrat to a conservative Republican and from a reluctant candidate to an enthusiastic agent of destiny. From a reluctant governor, Reagan matured to a candidate who sought the presidency, not to be somebody, but to do something. In the sections on his presidential years, Reagan goes through the issues, such as tax reductions, the military buildup, Supreme Court appointments, Middle Eastern diplomacy and Soviet relations. The exhilaration of the return of hostages contrasts with the pain of the return of bodies and disasters, such as the Challenger. Reagan's dealings with the Soviets pulled his car up and down the roller coaster of emotions. Other than that, this was a slow and tediuos read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alex MacMillan

    "Mr. Reagan, then, is a somewhat different political leader from the bumbling idiot of liberal myth — in private a kind and gentle man, in politics a charming Machiavellian, economical in his use of power, manipulative in his use of people, and modest when it comes to sharing out the credit. In short, a master politician. The problem of this book is that memoirs are a form of taking the credit and Mr. Reagan simply can't do it. A lifetime of not fully showing his hand has bred in him a style of a "Mr. Reagan, then, is a somewhat different political leader from the bumbling idiot of liberal myth — in private a kind and gentle man, in politics a charming Machiavellian, economical in his use of power, manipulative in his use of people, and modest when it comes to sharing out the credit. In short, a master politician. The problem of this book is that memoirs are a form of taking the credit and Mr. Reagan simply can't do it. A lifetime of not fully showing his hand has bred in him a style of amiable discretion that he simply can't shake. His talented ghostwriter, Mr. Robert Lindsey, captures his tone of voice perfectly. But the effect is a kind of literary muzak in which the harsh edges of the last decade's political battles are softened in recollection." - John O'Sullivan's book review reflects my thoughts exactly. I think reading Steven F. Hayward's two part "Age of Reagan" series will provide me the friendly but fair introspection on a monumental political career that I hoped for from this memoir but failed to receive.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eric Jakubik

    A strong 3 stars with points off due to the length of the book and some repetition. Overall a good primer on historic events which I was too young to follow as they were happening. The direct excerpts from letters and notes does help extend the credibility. Reagan Smash!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Paige

    This was a good laugh. It was required college reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alison Whiteman

    Meh. Not my kind of politician.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robert Vincent

    This reading of Ronald Reagan’s autobiography is the second time for me. I read it the first time in 2009 when I was very disappointed in the political climate. This time I was prompted to read it again when I had become even more discouraged and wanted to think back to a better time and way. As one might guess I am an advocate of a more conservative direction for America moving forward in a nation deteriorating morally and economically. And seeing our nation falling into a very vulnerable positi This reading of Ronald Reagan’s autobiography is the second time for me. I read it the first time in 2009 when I was very disappointed in the political climate. This time I was prompted to read it again when I had become even more discouraged and wanted to think back to a better time and way. As one might guess I am an advocate of a more conservative direction for America moving forward in a nation deteriorating morally and economically. And seeing our nation falling into a very vulnerable position with Islamic terror threatening us at home and even in the now not so distant Middle East, I am concerned. As I read An American Life, I above all, observed the patriotism and love of freedom that Ron Reagan brought to the highest office and advocated for all Americans. I never see that in our leadership today. Anyone who lived during the era or who have studied history knows well that Ronald Reagan was against big government and an advocate for what Thomas Jefferson proclaimed: “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned—this is the sum of good government.” Reagan early in his move from being a Democrat to being convinced that he held Republican ideals summed it up this way, “By 1960, I realized the real enemy wasn’t big business, it was big government.” Contrast Reagan’s thoughts on national health care to what has happened to health care today in America. Here is an early quote: “When a lot of the nation’s most prominent Democrats got behind socialized medicine, I started speaking out against it. If we didn’t head it off, I said, ‘one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children what it once was like in America when men were free.” Ronald Reagan did not only speak about economic recovery in the time the nation was experiencing one of the greatest recessions, he propelled one of the greatest recoveries in history, even with Democrat majorities in both houses. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 while not having all that he had proposed gave way to more prosperity for all. The tax cuts proved beneficial to middle income and lower income citizens. Here is a quote to show that realization: “Knowing they could now keep seventy percent of what they earned instead of paying seventy percent of it to the government, the most affluent Americans invested in new projects and new ideas; but contrary to what some of the tax-and-spend liberals have said, tax reform didn’t create a windfall for the rich at the expense of the poor; instead, it was the other way around.” This recovery, by and large, created jobs during the expansion that were “good” jobs; more than ninety percent were full-time jobs and paid well. Today the government is looking to raise minimum wages so that people employed in these entry positions, often times with work hours below securing benefits, can be counted as career jobs so they could be added to the workforce numbers. Now we know that today the economic and political climate is different, however the principle is the same. Private sector job creation encouraged by lower taxation creates prosperity. That is what Ronald Reagan believed. I know that there are perhaps reasonable arguments contrary to these conservative principles, but for Reagan and his economic expansion it all worked until torn apart by a persistence of liberal big government pressures. Concerning international affairs and in particular those of the Middle East, Reagan faced much of the same threats as we do today, albeit at a much smaller scope. Just think of the Syria, Russia and Iranian alliance forming now. Hear this from Reagan from his book: “Under President Hafez el-Assad, Syria had become virtually a Soviet satellite in the Middle East, its army supplied and trained by the Soviets, Russian money, arms, and influence were showing up throughout the region.” Does this all sound familiar? Well it goes further: “During the 1970s and early 1980s, the rapid spread in Iran and elsewhere of the most fanatical varieties of Islamic fundamentalism, with their goal of toppling secular governments and replacing them with theocracies modeled after Iran’s, made the Middle East even more unpredictable, giving the Soviets new opportunities to exploit the instability there. In a region whose oil exports were essential to the West, Soviet meddling was something the United States could not tolerate, and all our presidents since World War II, including me, felt an obligation to help reduce the instability and bring about peace.” It doesn’t seem that we have the same priorities today and have learned little from history. I don’t believe that our present administration even know this history; certainly Vladimir Putin does. One word concerning our relationship with Israel during Ronald Reagan’s administration is given in this quote from his book: “I’ve believed many things in my life, but no conviction I’ve ever held has been stronger than my belief that the United States must ensure the survival of Israel.” And concerning the Palestinian situation Reagan had a right understanding that, “any long-term solution must require, first of all, that the Arab world acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and must provide adequate guarantees of Israel’s security and the integrity of its borders.” Do you think that President Reagan would enter into a nuclear deal with the Iranians who vow “death to America” and “death to Israel”? Do you think that Benjamin Netanyahu would be pleased to have President Reagan as a trusted ally? It would take much writing to give a complete accounting of the life of Ronald Reagan in a review such as this. He appears to have been an honest man with the best interests of others in mind at every stage of his life. As a young man in college, as an actor and president of the actor’s union, as Governor of California and as President of the United States he has made good decisions affecting the lives of those entrusted to him. Of course, I read about the man from his own perspective in his autobiography. There were indeed troubles including the Iran-Contra Affair in which he denied any wrongdoing. I know there was also much on the dark side of his life in which I have been told is chronicled in Bill O’Reilly’s book, “Killing Reagan”. I intend to read Bill’s book soon. But Ronald Reagan’s accomplishments are numerous and very much significant. He made things happen and will be remembered for great achievements. To name a few, he was instrumental in ending the cold war, in his “peace through strength” policy he kept the US safe, he gave momentum to the tearing down of the Berlin wall, he lead in bringing about one of the most effective economic recoveries America has ever experienced and on and on…It would be good for present day leaders to emulate him. I admire a leader as was Ronald Reagan who acknowledges God, was bold to say he prays to God and loves Jesus Christ. That is refreshing and would be welcomed by many today in spite of the political correctness so pervasive in Washington today. And finally Reagan’s national security advisor, Colin Powell in his last national security briefing commended the outgoing president when he said, “Mr. President, the world is quiet today.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Findley

    A solid autobiography, but I do wish President Reagan had used additional sources to show exactly what was going on around him and how the press and his political enemies were shading the truth and even out and out lying. For the most part, I believe he was being truthful, but when it came to the Middle East, he was bordering on being willfully naïve when it came to dealing with Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Still, it is a very interesting story, and one that everybody with an interest in the office A solid autobiography, but I do wish President Reagan had used additional sources to show exactly what was going on around him and how the press and his political enemies were shading the truth and even out and out lying. For the most part, I believe he was being truthful, but when it came to the Middle East, he was bordering on being willfully naïve when it came to dealing with Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Still, it is a very interesting story, and one that everybody with an interest in the office of the President should read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chase Bertoldo

    Ronald Reagan's An American life inspired me with its in depth details of all the challenges President Reagan had to over come. This book will take you through the whole life of this incredible man. You will go through the struggles he had in his teen life. Along with the struggles he had in his presidency. All the while making you feel like all the decisions he had too make, whether being teen or president, one of the most important decisions of his life. I see this as one of the best books I h Ronald Reagan's An American life inspired me with its in depth details of all the challenges President Reagan had to over come. This book will take you through the whole life of this incredible man. You will go through the struggles he had in his teen life. Along with the struggles he had in his presidency. All the while making you feel like all the decisions he had too make, whether being teen or president, one of the most important decisions of his life. I see this as one of the best books I have read, because of how well President Reagan was able to embody the incredibly strenuous job of being President. The overall theme I would take from this book is that no matter where you start you can become something great if you work as hard as you can. I say this because off with him in a low income family and struggling with money. Often times their dinner would not be considered a dinner by normal standards, along with that his father had an alcohol addiction. You can really see all this happening because his writing style is so detail and realistic. Everything he says is generally very serious. When he finds his dad passed out in front of his house because he was drunk you can see him struggle to help his dad inside and make sure that he is alright. He is also able to make every character so connected to you. When he talks about his high school lover you feel as if you know who she was, and when she left him you felt just as bad as him. Even when you only meet a character for short time you become attached. When he brought his cousin to California to become his assistant you felt like you could see him. When he died I was actually quite sad because President Reagan was helping him out with his addictions and President Reagan was able to make me feel like I was there along with the ride helping him too. He also managed to do the same with settings. When he got his ranch I could see this little ranch at the top of the hill. When he was working for the military in WW2 I could imagine him at his station doing voice overs for films to teach bomber pilots. All of this does not come close to the plot of the story. This is by far the strong point of the story. This is the first book that I had no questions about and kept me compelled to read more. If you want to know about his childhood then you will enjoy this book. You will learn about his first jobs that payed almost nothing. If you want to know about his college years you will also enjoy it. He walks you through the struggles of trying to make the first string of the football team and stay there. If you want to know about his acting career. Again you will love it. You are shown the inner politics of the actors guild and how everything works along with having to fight communism in Hollywood and nearly getting killed by acid. You get to see him have to work through all his B-movies to finally get into the big budget films that he always dreams about being in. If you wanted to know about his difficult presidency then you will be in love with this book. You get to know about all of the domestic and international struggles he had to go through. You get to see him try to struggle with the democrats about trying pass a tax reform. Also you go through the struggles he had with negotiating a peace deal to stop nuclear warheads from being produced in the U.S.A and Russia. Overall I would give this book a 4.5/5. I would give it this high of a rating because it does everything you want from an autobiography. I was left asking no questions about what happened in his life. Although very few there were shorts bursts of the book that were boring and turned me off. Overall this has been one of my favorite books I have read and would recommend it to anybody who is interested in learning about the life of Ronald Reagan.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ru

    The amazing life and autobiography of Ronald Reagan, detailing eight prosperous years as President of the United States, but also his life from childhood and careers embarked upon long before politics were a glimmer in his eye. The tenure of President Reagan represents some of the most remarkable times of any generation, and as lengthy as this book is, I found myself captivated by this first-person account. As President Reagan was the oldest president to take office, there tends to be a memory pe The amazing life and autobiography of Ronald Reagan, detailing eight prosperous years as President of the United States, but also his life from childhood and careers embarked upon long before politics were a glimmer in his eye. The tenure of President Reagan represents some of the most remarkable times of any generation, and as lengthy as this book is, I found myself captivated by this first-person account. As President Reagan was the oldest president to take office, there tends to be a memory perpetuated of him as this charismatic grandfatherly figure, of weathered appearance, and later afflicted by Alzheimer's disease long after his second term had ended. While these are representations of him, his youth as an athlete in small-town humble beginnings gives you more of the measure of the man to come. He is often remembered as an unlikely actor who was thought to be an even unlikelier candidate for the highest office in the land, but before he was either of those things, he was a sportscaster simply working hard to make a living. You get a strong sense of his work ethic and it was genuinely exciting to follow the rise of this young man. Once politics enters into this book, it is as relentless as the passion exhibited by Ronald Reagan to become Governor of California. Reagan actually started out his career as a Democrat, which may surprise people, and it wasn't until his examination of Democratic policies and the influence of his older brother did he change his allegiances. As reluctant as Reagan was to embrace politics, officially, at first, he takes the bull by the horns to enact changes he believes in that are for the betterment of his constituency. Family plays a strong role in Reagan's life, and his devotion to Nancy is beautiful and admirable. Strangely, his first marriage to Jane Wyman is barely mentioned by him - no more than a sentence, I believe, despite producing two children. I believe President Reagan remains the only man to hold that office as a divorcee, if I'm not mistaken. Regardless, it is comforting to hear him discuss his family and the bond they all share as his incredible career unfolds. Two areas of this autobiography gripped me like something out of a spy thriller. The first being the 1981 attempted assassination by the deranged John Hinckley Jr. I recall fairly vividly the news accounts of this occurring, but to actually read in his own words what it was like was positively chilling. Reagan's relationship with the Soviet Union is also fascinating, particularly as it pertains to nuclear disarmament, and programs such as the Strategic Defense Initiative, a.k.a. the "Star Wars" program. The Cold War was in full swing during the Reagan Presidency and there are so many great letters exchanged between Reagan, and Andropov and Gorbachev. There is a palpable sense of frustration on the part of all leaders. President Reagan, essentially, defeated Communism. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" will never, ever be forgotten. Reagan in his own words in this book represents a form of outstanding leadership the likes of which has never been seen since he left office, and is particularly relevant today, in lieu of the utter lack of leadership and questionable motives of the current administration. Furthermore, this book is a terrific lesson in leadership in general. President Reagan has a tenacity and admirable fervor that allowed him to get things done. While this is largely a treatise on the life and politics of the 40th President of the United States, it is so much more than that overall, and is more of the measure of a great man. Highly recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Panda Incognito

    It's not every day that you reach the end of a 752-page book assigned for school and think, "I don't want this to end!" However, that is exactly how I felt when I hit the epilogue of this presidential autobiography. This book is incredibly entertaining, and even though it covers a lot of political and social issues in great depth and with appropriate seriousness, I laughed out loud countless times because of Reagan's shining personality and humor. He shares lots of hilarious anecdotes from his l It's not every day that you reach the end of a 752-page book assigned for school and think, "I don't want this to end!" However, that is exactly how I felt when I hit the epilogue of this presidential autobiography. This book is incredibly entertaining, and even though it covers a lot of political and social issues in great depth and with appropriate seriousness, I laughed out loud countless times because of Reagan's shining personality and humor. He shares lots of hilarious anecdotes from his life, covering the types of details that no academic biographer would ever bother to include, and I have added a wealth of new historical stories to my repertoire. Recently, I had my whole family in stitches as I talked about how in one chapter, Reagan transitions directly from reflections about the first summit with Gorbachev to an anecdote about the death of a goldfish that he was responsible for feeding at the house where he was staying. "The PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES was responsible for feeding their goldfish?!" my mom cried. "Yes! And he was like, 'I don't know if I fed it too much, or if I fed it too little, but it died on my watch, and I felt terrible!'" During my class, in addition to reading this, I also read selected chapters from scholarly works that complemented it and provided an academic perspective on the different stages and issues of Reagan's political career. They were great sources, and they went to show how accurate Reagan was in his portrayals of events, but none of them would have ever mentioned the goldfish! I LOVED getting to read Reagan's personal, entertaining take on his life and presidency, and now understand why people of my parents' generation still love him so much. Sure, he had his faults and tripled the federal deficit, but he was basically the equivalent of a Fred Rogers in the White House. This book puts all of his charm, humor, humility, and kindness on display, and it also serves to fact-check the obnoxious myths that circulate about him. For example, even though Reagan was sometimes tone-deaf to racial issues, he assigned more blacks and Hispanics to significant positions during his tenure as California's governor than all of the state's previous governors combined, and also promoted women's careers. Soundbite histories that try to paint Reagan as a horrible Eighties White Male don't bother to mention these things, and it was interesting to learn that despite Reagan's occasional policy missteps, he cared passionately about racial equality and was raised to believe that racial and religious prejudice were the worst sins someone could commit. The further I got into this book, the more disgusted I became with narrative-over-facts assessments of Reagan's presidency that I have come across in the past several years. This is why I'm a history major! I don't trust people to represent the past accurately, so I study it myself. This book is one of my favorites that I have read this year, and I am very glad that I decided to take the history elective that required it. Even though this book requires a significant time commitment, I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in studying this period of American history or shares my affection for hilarious historical anecdotes.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    This was a great book. As one might imagine, it was A LOT of politics. I've read at least one biography before on Reagan, but have wanted to read his autobiography for a long time and glad I finally did. It's 85 chapters and 726 pages and most of it is politics, so not necessarily a "pool side" read. But I found it fascinating. The focus of the book is much more regarding politics than his personal life and I would have liked him to recount a little more on his personal life. Nevertheless, it wa This was a great book. As one might imagine, it was A LOT of politics. I've read at least one biography before on Reagan, but have wanted to read his autobiography for a long time and glad I finally did. It's 85 chapters and 726 pages and most of it is politics, so not necessarily a "pool side" read. But I found it fascinating. The focus of the book is much more regarding politics than his personal life and I would have liked him to recount a little more on his personal life. Nevertheless, it was so insightful to read so much of his communication with Gorbachev during the Cold War and such. Here are a few excerpts that I loved: "There probably isn't any undertaking on earth short of assuring the national security that can't be handled more efficiently by the forces of private enterprise than by the federal government." In regards to Nancy... "If ever God gave me evidence that He had a plan for me, it was the night He brought Nanacy into my life. I have spent many hours of my life giving speeches and expressing my opinions. But it is almost impossible for me to express fully how deeply I love Nancy and how much she has filled my life....Coming home to her is like coming out of the cold into a warm, firelit room. I miss her if she just steps out of the room." In regards to socialized medicine.... (and he said this when he was still a registered Democrat) "When a lot of the nation's most prominent Democrats got behind socialized medicine, I started speaking out against it. If we didn't head it off, I said, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like when men were free." "Spending for government "entitlement" programs accounts for 48% of federal spending. To many members of Congress, this money is off-limits forever: Once a program gets started, it's virtually impossible to reduce or stop it. Every one of these programs develops a powerful constituency in Congress, and a bureaucracy that is dedicated to preserving it. The tendency of government and its programs to grow are about the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth." And finally.... he outlines 3 things he feels most strongly about for our government to be successful. 1) "We need more discipline on spending in Congress. 2) We need a constitutional amendment REQUIRING Congress to balance the budget. And 3) we need to give our presidents a line-item veto in order to cut unnecessary spending. He also said that Congressional redistricting (which is done to basically secure the re-election of a particular Congressman/woman) "has becomes a national disgrace and needs to be cleaned up." Anyway, I learned a ton and would highly recommend this book. Wish we had a President like him today....

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jim Bowen

    I grew up in the 1980s. My teenage years cover most of Reagan's presidency, and I was brought up in a family that was instinctively against Reagan's agenda. This said, I actually enjoyed the book. It looks at all aspects of this life (with a good chunk focusing on his pre-Presidential life, which was quite interesting), and after I read the book, I can see why they called Reagan the "Great Communicator." In short, the book was an interesting read. Having said I found it a good read, It didn't nece I grew up in the 1980s. My teenage years cover most of Reagan's presidency, and I was brought up in a family that was instinctively against Reagan's agenda. This said, I actually enjoyed the book. It looks at all aspects of this life (with a good chunk focusing on his pre-Presidential life, which was quite interesting), and after I read the book, I can see why they called Reagan the "Great Communicator." In short, the book was an interesting read. Having said I found it a good read, It didn't necessarily change my view of Reagan's policies. I found myself thinking "Ah yes but have you thought about..." a fair bit, but he was more effective at explaining his views (compared to a lot of other politicians I've read in their autobiographies), which suggests I have have underestimated the man. One thing Reagan did get me to think about, as I read the book, was the need to invest in the military. I'm aware there's a military-industrial complex, but the way his predecessors as President funded the armed forces, and the consequent level of morale made me think I'd have been a more "war-hawk" President, had I been in his position. My biggest complaints about the book focus on his avoidance of Iran-Contra affair, which could have been handled more fully, and his insistence on the need for a "Balanced Budget" amendment to the constitution. The former made me feel like he was unwilling to take the blame for things, while the latter is just wrong economically. A little bit of debt to fund things that help the economy grow are effective, and have been proven to be so, time and again. That he doesn't acknowledge this, makes me wonder if Reagan really grasps that issue.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    This "autobiograpy" was both telling and challenging - for one, given what we now know about President Reagan's "health" following his presidency, I have a hard time believing he wrote much of it, or how helpful he was in its creation. There are several moments throughout the book where the author strains to color the president's history, whether in his childhood, Hollywood career, or life in politics, with a political point that seems unnecessary -- Reagan's accomplishments speak for themselves This "autobiograpy" was both telling and challenging - for one, given what we now know about President Reagan's "health" following his presidency, I have a hard time believing he wrote much of it, or how helpful he was in its creation. There are several moments throughout the book where the author strains to color the president's history, whether in his childhood, Hollywood career, or life in politics, with a political point that seems unnecessary -- Reagan's accomplishments speak for themselves, any "lampshading" of an ideological point often detracts from it. However, the doesn't happen often enough to be distracting -- this tome does a great job of exploring all points of the president's life, devoting about 3/4ths of the book to his two terms in the White House. The book begins in a chronological telling, but once it hits the White House, it begins to skip into a thematic telling, which was jarring -- especially given the resignations of Cabinet officials, it's weird for them to pop up in the next chapter. Also, I think there are "blindsides" to this telling -- the most gross example is that Jane Wyman is LITERALLY given two sentences in this book. If you skip your entire first marriage, what else are you skipping? So all in all, I like other Reagan books, but you will certainly learn new things with this one -- including letters from the various Soviet leaders of the 1980s.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeri Vick

    I picked up this book while joining my son's class field trip to the Reagan Library, I believe that the sorry state of U.S. politics prompted me to read this and yearn for a time that was filled with hope and promise. Although his story is a remarkable one set at a pivotal moment in modern history, autobiographies tend to ask the reader to overlook amateur writing in favor of catching a glimpse into the mind of an interesting person. The latter made 726 pages tough to get through, but some may en I picked up this book while joining my son's class field trip to the Reagan Library, I believe that the sorry state of U.S. politics prompted me to read this and yearn for a time that was filled with hope and promise. Although his story is a remarkable one set at a pivotal moment in modern history, autobiographies tend to ask the reader to overlook amateur writing in favor of catching a glimpse into the mind of an interesting person. The latter made 726 pages tough to get through, but some may enjoy the very intimate view he offers into his life story. I was most struck by how many themes and challenges remain so in 2016. Threats of terrorism, immigration & trade issues, taxes & entitlements, etc. In many respects, the conversation was incredibly similar, but with a leader who genuinely believed in and loved his country. I wish we had such an option today. Perhaps the words of Imagine Dragons sum it up best. "And the walls kept tumbling down In the city that we love Great clouds roll over the hills Bringing darkness from above But if you close your eyes, Does it almost feel like Nothing changed at all? And if you close your eyes, Does it almost feel like You've been here before? How am I gonna be an optimist about this?" -Pompeii Lyrics | MetroLyrics Maybe I'll keep 'em closed until 2020.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    "A lot has been written about college students and other young people who rebelled against society during the 1960s. But there was another, quieter revolution sweeping across the land during the same decade. It was a rebellion of ordinary people. A generation of middle-class Americans who had worked hard to make something of their lives was growing mistrustful of a government that took an average of thirty-seven cents of every dollar they earned and still plunged deeper into debt every day. Ther "A lot has been written about college students and other young people who rebelled against society during the 1960s. But there was another, quieter revolution sweeping across the land during the same decade. It was a rebellion of ordinary people. A generation of middle-class Americans who had worked hard to make something of their lives was growing mistrustful of a government that took an average of thirty-seven cents of every dollar they earned and still plunged deeper into debt every day. There was a growing sense of helplessness and frustration across the country over a government that was becoming a separate force of its own, a master of the people, not the other way around. People were growing resentful of bureaucrats whose first mission in life seemed to be protecting their own jobs by keeping expensive programs alive long after their usefulness had expired. They were losing respect for politicians who kept voting for open-ended welfare programs riddled with fraud and inefficiency that kept generation after generation of families dependent on the dole. And they were growing mistrustful of the self-appointed intellectual elite back in Washington who claimed to know better than the people of America did how to run their lives, their businesses, and their communities. There was unrest in the country and it was spreading across the land like a prairie fire." Pos. 2257

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This was a terrific book, and one that came very close to 5 stars. Why? While the first third of the book was a customary "introduction" to Ronald Reagan, the last third of the book was a fascinating discourse of foreign policy with failures - Iran/Contra, and successes - ending the cold war. Reagan's defense of his Iran/Contra policy as not trading guns for hostages rings hollow, but his continued defense of his strategy as sound is fascinating to read. His admittance of continuing to pursue th This was a terrific book, and one that came very close to 5 stars. Why? While the first third of the book was a customary "introduction" to Ronald Reagan, the last third of the book was a fascinating discourse of foreign policy with failures - Iran/Contra, and successes - ending the cold war. Reagan's defense of his Iran/Contra policy as not trading guns for hostages rings hollow, but his continued defense of his strategy as sound is fascinating to read. His admittance of continuing to pursue the policy even against his staff's recommendations is pure political drama and stubbornness. Likewise his dealings with the Soviet Union leadership was fascinating and his single minded approach of dealing with the Soviets with strength is the key factor to ending the cold war. The exchanges documented between him and Gorbachev are stuff of legend and fascinating to read. On second thought, I'm giving this 5 stars, a book that describes the monumental shift in geopolitics in the 80s through correspondence with the main parties involved is a great read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bekah

    Although this book took me WAY longer than necessary to finish I throughly enjoyed this autobiography by President Regan. I agree that at times I struggled with a lot of the political details and his reasoning behind the different laws and political movements that Regan did during his office-and with all the names of his staff it was kind of hard to keep everyone straight; however, it was such a great eye opener into the life of this president. It is the first presidential autobiography that I h Although this book took me WAY longer than necessary to finish I throughly enjoyed this autobiography by President Regan. I agree that at times I struggled with a lot of the political details and his reasoning behind the different laws and political movements that Regan did during his office-and with all the names of his staff it was kind of hard to keep everyone straight; however, it was such a great eye opener into the life of this president. It is the first presidential autobiography that I have read and I hope to read more the future. What I truly loved about this book was the passion, love, and dedication that President Regan had for this country was clearly shown through his writing. He really really loved this country and he loved the people who live here. Loved the personal stories that he wrote about and there was quit a few humous stories as well. And I love the way he ended the book referring to his work not being completely over yet. That is a true president.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tbloxham

    I may disagree with much of what he did, but when looked at in a modern light other than his policies on many social issues Reagan is a solid pragmatist and bears more similarities to modern democrats than to modern republicans. His attitude of the 9-5 rivalry is absolutely excellent to read about, and it is interesting to hear why he did many of the things that he did. It was particularly amusing to read his own words about the debt ceiling during a time when the US was struggling with the same I may disagree with much of what he did, but when looked at in a modern light other than his policies on many social issues Reagan is a solid pragmatist and bears more similarities to modern democrats than to modern republicans. His attitude of the 9-5 rivalry is absolutely excellent to read about, and it is interesting to hear why he did many of the things that he did. It was particularly amusing to read his own words about the debt ceiling during a time when the US was struggling with the same issues he had! His statement that the debt ceiling had to be raised, and that anyone who said otherwise was simply a fool playing for their own political gain was what I'd have liked to have heard from Obama early on in the crisis. A book by a man I disagree with about many things, but whose attitude and ability to compromise I can respect. He also lived a very interesting life.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    After doing lots of family history, it felt a little weird to read about someone not related to me. The section where he's just starting to get politically active is fascinating. I would recommend the first half of this book to any American, especially those who weren't adults during the 80's. There were some fascinating facts about the state of our government and economy. It also made me appreciate how hard it would be to be President of the United States. I don't see how anyone could be prepa After doing lots of family history, it felt a little weird to read about someone not related to me. The section where he's just starting to get politically active is fascinating. I would recommend the first half of this book to any American, especially those who weren't adults during the 80's. There were some fascinating facts about the state of our government and economy. It also made me appreciate how hard it would be to be President of the United States. I don't see how anyone could be prepared or qualified to do a job as varied and as important as this one. The second half of the book is pretty boring for someone not terribly interested in Iran Contra or nuclear arms reduction. It was still informative, but not exactly a page-turner.

  25. 5 out of 5

    George

    Reagan's autobiography reads a little like his journals, its just cleaned up a little and moves pretty fast. Written just after he left the White House, there are a few glaring omissions--his movie career is glossed over, including the wild child portion, the first wife isn't even mentioned and his kids receive no coverage. So, this is mostly about his political career and the reader can understand it's the man seeking his legacy. He does talk about his successes and political failures and spend Reagan's autobiography reads a little like his journals, its just cleaned up a little and moves pretty fast. Written just after he left the White House, there are a few glaring omissions--his movie career is glossed over, including the wild child portion, the first wife isn't even mentioned and his kids receive no coverage. So, this is mostly about his political career and the reader can understand it's the man seeking his legacy. He does talk about his successes and political failures and spends a lot of time on Russia and little on Iran-Contra. Good primer on the political man and nicely supplemented a visit to the Reagan Library and Museum.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    Just finished reading this book. I found the first three parts of the book really engaging. President Reagan has a way of keeping you engaged through his narrative. The last part of the book became hard to read and dry as he published a lot of personal letters and speeches instead of his interpretation of the events. I wish he would have mentioned more (or anything) about his decision to grant amnesty to the undocumented immigrants- it is a subject I was intrigued about his reasonings as it is s Just finished reading this book. I found the first three parts of the book really engaging. President Reagan has a way of keeping you engaged through his narrative. The last part of the book became hard to read and dry as he published a lot of personal letters and speeches instead of his interpretation of the events. I wish he would have mentioned more (or anything) about his decision to grant amnesty to the undocumented immigrants- it is a subject I was intrigued about his reasonings as it is such a major topic of debate today.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kein

    Interesting on his rise to presidency, thoughts on his reforms and ideals followed by the unsightly stuff: Tons and tons of transcripts of presidential letters. I swear, politics has got to be one of the worst jobs ever, to read and write endless tons of this diplomatic flowery bull. The second half of this book took me two weeks, while the first half took less than a week. Go figure.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jake Danishevsky

    I loved this book. Listened to the book narrated by President Ronald W Reagan himself and it is one of the most amazing books that I had a privilege to enjoy. Thanks to my lovely wife for getting me a copy to listen to on the way to a business trip.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    The greatest book about the greatest man to ever hold the office of President of the United States of America.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    I enjoyed it. Gave me a new perspective on the Republican party.

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