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An American Life: The Autobiography by…

An American Life: The Autobiography (1990)

by Ronald Reagan

Other authors: Robert Lindsey

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634922,015 (4.08)9



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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. ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
This is the first (and likely only) autobiography read as part of my march through the bios of U.S. Presidents in chronological order. It works because, whether you agree with his politics or not, Reagan is a pretty affable guy, which comes through in the book. The stories from his youth and Hollywood days were most interesting to me. The White House years were a bit wonkish on policy, but give a glimpse into the thought process of a man sitting in the Oval Office, though handing off the chunks of the narrative to his diary entries at the time was a bit distracting. I’ll balance Reagan’s point of view with Richard Reeve’s The Triumph of Imagination before moving on to Bush 41. ( )
  mtbass | Dec 29, 2016 |
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. ( )
  buffalogr | Jan 18, 2016 |
A spectacular offering from one of America's greatest presidents. Ronald Reagan gives us his autobiography, written with humor, humbleness, and good old-fashioned American know-how. This is an excellent book. Reagan is completely honest with his readers, telling his highest point and his lowest point, mistakes he made, and victories he won. The section about Russia makes heavy use of his personal correspondence with Gorbachev. Anyone interested in American politics, world politics, or just a great autobiography should read this. ( )
  briandrewz | Jan 28, 2014 |
The sections about Iran, Communist in Hollywood unions, Qaddafi and the Soviet Union are the most interesting and very pertinent to today. ( )
  4bonasa | May 6, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ronald Reaganprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lindsey, Robertsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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To Nancy. She will always be my First Lady. I cannot imagine life without her.
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Nancy and I awoke early on the morning of November 19, 1985, and, at the first glimmer of daylight, we looked out from our bedroom at the long gray expanse of Lake Geneva.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671691988, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:12 -0400)

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The former president relates the story of his public and private life from his modest beginnings in the Midwest, through a distinguished film career, to a second career in politics.

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