An American Life by Ronald Reagan
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Synopsis

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.
 

About Ronald Reagan

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Douglas Brinkley is professor of history and Baker Institute Fellow at Rice University. He is the author of numerous bestselling books including The Unfinished Presidency, The Boys of Pointe du Hoc, and The Great Deluge. A contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the in-house historian for CBS News, he divides his time between Austin and Houston, Texas.
 
Published November 15, 1990 by Simon & Schuster. 752 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Humor & Entertainment, War. Non-fiction

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The clips, including several portions of fawning interviews over the years with Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, show Reagan in his white Stetson, on his Rancho del Cielo, staring soulfully into First Lady Nancy’s eyes, and doing the political job he always did best: making speeches to adoring audienc...

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Publishers Weekly

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Reagan presents anecdotes about his family, details his ideology, tells of his presidential candidacy and describes his eight years in the White House. Photos. (Jan.)

Jan 01 1992 | Read Full Review of An American Life: An Enhanced...

Publishers Weekly

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Reagan presents anecdotes about his family, details his ideology, tells of his presidential candidacy and describes his eight years in the White House.

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London Review of Books

He continues to claim that reports of the large-scale killing of babies removed by or on the orders of Iraqi security forces are ‘entirely untrue’ and that Amnesty International ‘swallowed whole’ an account to this effect by one Red Crescent doctor.

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