Reagan: Book summary and reviews of Reagan by Bob Spitz

Reagan

An American Journey

by Bob Spitz

Reagan by Bob Spitz X
Reagan by Bob Spitz
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2018
    880 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

From New York Times bestselling biographer Bob Spitz, a full and rich biography of an epic American life, capturing what made Ronald Reagan both so beloved and so transformational.

More than five years in the making, based on hundreds of interviews and access to previously unavailable documents, and infused with irresistible storytelling charm, Bob Spitz's Reagan stands fair to be the first truly post-partisan biography of our 40th President, and thus a balm for our own bitterly divided times.

It is the quintessential American triumph, brought to life with cinematic vividness: a young man is born into poverty and raised in a series of flyspeck towns in the Midwest by a pious mother and a reckless, alcoholic, largely absent father. Severely near-sighted, the boy lives in his own world, a world of the popular books of the day, and finds his first brush with popularity, even fame, as a young lifeguard. Thanks to his first great love, he imagines a way out, and makes the extraordinary leap to go to college, a modest school by national standards, but an audacious presumption in the context of his family's station. From there, the path is only very dimly lit, but it leads him, thanks to his great charm and greater luck, to a solid career as a radio sportscaster, and then, astonishingly, fatefully, to Hollywood. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Bob Spitz's Reagan is an absorbing, richly detailed, even revelatory chronicle of the full arc of Ronald Reagan's epic life - giving full weight to the Hollywood years, his transition to politics and rocky but ultimately successful run as California governor, and ultimately, of course, his iconic presidency, filled with storm and stress but climaxing with his peace talks with the Soviet Union that would serve as his greatest legacy.

It is filled with fresh assessments and shrewd judgments, and doesn't flinch from a full reckoning with the man's strengths and limitations. This is no hagiography: Reagan was never a brilliant student, of anything, and his disinterest in hard-nosed political scheming, while admirable, meant that this side of things was left to the other people in his orbit, not least his wife Nancy; sometimes this delegation could lead to chaos, and worse. But what emerges as a powerful signal through all the noise is an honest inherent sweetness, a gentleness of nature and willingness to see the good in people and in this country, that proved to be a tonic for America in his time, and still is in ours. It was famously said that FDR had a first-rate disposition and a second-rate intellect.

Perhaps it is no accident that only FDR had as high a public approval rating leaving office as Reagan did, or that in the years since Reagan has been closing in on FDR on rankings of Presidential greatness. Written with love and irony, which in a great biography is arguably the same thing, Bob Spitz's masterpiece will give no comfort to partisans at either extreme; for the rest of us, it is cause for celebration.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Readers need not be Reagan fans or Republicans to enjoy this outstanding biography." - Publishers Weekly

"A solid entry in the realm of presidential biography." - Kirkus

"This is the book so many of us have been waiting for: an epic life of one of the most significant presidents in the history of the Republic. In Bob Spitz's graceful and absorbing narrative, Ronald Reagan emerges in all his complexity and charm, a warm yet enigmatic man who did so much to shape the way we live now." - Jon Meacham, #1 New York Times bestselling Presidential historian, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of The Soul of America

"Bob Spitz's Reagan is a masterfully written and well-researched biography of America's 40th President. All the crescendos and diminuendos of Reagan's vibrant Hollywood and political careers are judiciously investigated. Truly engrossing and monumental!" - Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and editor of The Reagan Diaries

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Author Information

Bob Spitz

Bob Spitz is the award-winning author of the biographies Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child and The Beatles, both New York Times bestsellers, as well as six other nonfiction books and a screenplay. He has represented Bruce Springsteen and Elton John in several capacities. His articles appear regularly in magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times Magazine and The Washington Post, among others.

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