Reagan The life

H. W. Brands

Book - 2015

"From master storyteller and New York Times bestselling biographer H. W. Brands, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, comes the first full life of Ronald Reagan since his death. Ronald Reagan today is a conservative icon, celebrated for transforming the American domestic agenda and playing a crucial part in ending communism in the Soviet Union. In his masterful new biography, H. W. Brands argues that Reagan, along with FDR, was the most consequential president of the twentieth century. ...Reagan took office at a time when the public sector, after a half century of New Deal liberalism, was widely perceived as bloated and inefficient, an impediment to personal liberty. Reagan sought to restore democracy by bolstering capitalism. In Brands's telling, how Reagan, who voted four times for FDR, engineered a conservative transformation of American politics is both a riveting personal journey and the story of America in the modern era. Brands follows Reagan as his ambition for ever larger stages compelled him from a troubled childhood in small-town Illinois to become a radio announcer and then the quintessential public figure of modern America, a movie star. In Hollywood, Reagan edged closer to public service as the president of the Screen Actors' Guild, before a stalled film career led to his unlikely reinvention as the voice of General Electric and a spokesman for corporate America. Reagan follows its subject on his improbable political rise, from the 1960s, when he was first elected governor of California, to his triumphant election in 1980 as president of the United States. Brands employs archival sources not available to previous biographers and dozens of interviews with surviving members of the administration. The result is an exciting narrative and a fresh understanding of a crucially important president and his era"--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Doubleday [2015]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
805 pages, 16 pages of unnumbered plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780385536394
0385536399
Main Author
H. W. Brands (-)
  • Prairie Idyll: 1911-1934
  • The Golden West: 1935-1962
  • A Time for Choosing: 1962-1980
  • Heroic Dreams: 1980-1983
  • A Worthy Adversary: 1984-1986
  • The Frosty Iceland Air: 1986-1988
  • A Ranch in the Sky: 1989-2004.
Review by Booklist Reviews

A has-been actor turned GE spokesman, Reagan was tapped by Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential campaign to introduce him during a campaign event. That was Reagan's big break into politics. Three years later, he was elected governor of California. His charm and affability put a friendlier face on conservatism, and his knack for storytelling helped him reduce complex political issues into understandable emotions. Brands recounts Reagan's career in Hollywood, his metamorphosis from liberal to conservative, and his long journey to the presidency. Drawing on interviews with Reagan colleagues, Brands examines Reagan's relationships with alleged handlers, from Nancy Reagan to powerful administration figures Alexander Haig, Ed Meese, and Jim Baker. Like any president, Reagan had his triumphs and stumbles, including the Iran-Contra scandal, but is likely best remembered for his relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his powerful demand to tear down the Berlin Wall. Brand compares Reagan to Roosevelt for his impact on his party's ideals and on American politics. This is a detailed look at a president who sparked much controversy and affection and it belongs in most collections of presidential biography. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Ronald Reagan remains a subject of endless fascination.  He is generally considered the icon of the Republican Party in much the way that Franklin D. Roosevelt is the icon of the Democratic Party.  Brands (Texas), author of biographies of Andrew Jackson (CH, Apr'06, 43-4856), Theodore Roosevelt (CH, May'98, 35-5250), and Franklin D. Roosevelt, now adds this biography of Reagan.  Too often, Reagan is seen as a polarizing figure.  For some, he was a warmonger who rolled back some of the liberal gains of the 1960s through deregulation and tax cuts; for others, Reagan offered a refreshing change from the stale Carter era.  Refreshingly, Brands takes Reagan seriously as a leader and is quick to commend his leadership skills yet offers criticism when warranted.  For instance, despite his "Star Wars" anti-ballistic missile shield program, Reagan proved flexible when Gorbachev extended an offer of peace.  On the other hand, Reagan strapped the country with massive debt and, either through intent or neglect, distanced himself from his own troubles, such as the Iran-Contra Affair, to the point that Brands argues Reagan would have been fired had he been a senior manager of a company.  In conclusion, Brands offers another rounded portrait of Reagan, who, in the end, remains a somewhat elusive figure. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. Copyright 2016 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

A New York Times best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Brands is both a serious academic (Univ. of Texas at Austin) and one of our more popular storytellers. Here, he draws on recently available material to chronicle Ronald Reagan's life. Not a lot of straightforward Reagan biography out there. [Page 66]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In this dense biography, Pulitzer finalist Brands (The First American) focuses on the life of Ronald Reagan (1911–2004), moving chronologically through the diverse phases and careers of the popular yet controversial president. There is rarely much background or context for anyone else around Reagan (such as his wife, Nancy, Richard Nixon, or Barry Goldwater), which is at once a strength and weakness of the work. Readers seeking a broader account may consider Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge, which investigates an era when Reagan transformed from an unknown into a political force through his persuasive communication abilities and shrewd strategy. What Brands's chronicle does better than similar texts is demonstrate the evolution of the man, from the son of an alcoholic to the Great Communicator, by shining light on aspects of Reagan's achievements and personality that prove him to be somewhat awkward (shown in funny, lonely letters to friends while an actor), solitary (demonstrated in ranch sojourns), and mysterious. The author fantastically depicts a man who was alone in a crowd while maintaining a magnetic charisma. Analysis of Reagan's political decisions tends toward the favorable. VERDICT While the narrative ends with Reagan's death, his decisions and policies continue to be divisive topics among historians, economists, and political analysts. For fans of Reagan as well as readers of American history, biography, presidential history, political science, and communication. [See Prepub Alert, 11/25/14.]—Benjamin Brudner, Curry Coll. Lib., Milton, MA [Page 93]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

This biography by Brands (The Man Who Saved the Union), a historian at the University of Texas at Austin, is a reminder of how difficult it is to construct a clear historical portrait of Ronald Reagan and his wide-ranging career. Reagan remains an extremely polarizing figure; sympathetic authors tend to soften his rough edges, while others willfully ignore his successes or vilify him outright. Brands generally falls in the former camp. He admirably summarizes Reagan's life and times; the writing is clear and the progression of events moves swiftly. Worth noting is how Reagan, "a radio man himself," learned from F.D.R.'s fireside chats. As governor of California, Reagan effectively employed divisive language in dealing with student protesters—"cowardly little bums"—and, as president, successfully wrangled with both Mikhail Gorbachev and the White House press corps. But Brands's apologetic tone can muddy the issues at hand. For instance, when addressing the film industry's blackballing of those who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he writes that "creative work suffered when fear ruled. But the risk was worth taking, for the good of the country." Is this Brands's opinion, or that of his subject? This is a thorough overview, but it adds little to the existing narrative of Reagan. (June) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"From master storyteller and New York Times bestselling biographer H. W. Brands, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, comes the first full life of Ronald Reagan since his death. Ronald Reagan today is a conservative icon, celebrated for transformingthe American domestic agenda and playing a crucial part in ending communism in the Soviet Union. In his masterful new biography, H. W. Brands argues that Reagan, along with FDR, was the most consequential president of the twentieth century. Reagan took office at a time when the public sector, after a half century of New Deal liberalism, was widely perceived as bloated and inefficient, an impediment to personal liberty. Reagan sought to restore democracy by bolstering capitalism. In Brands's telling, how Reagan, who voted four times for FDR, engineered a conservative transformation of American politics is both a riveting personal journey and the story of America in the modern era. Brands follows Reagan as his ambition for ever larger stages compelled himfrom a troubled childhood in small-town Illinois to become a radio announcer and then the quintessential public figure of modern America, a movie star. In Hollywood, Reagan edged closer to public service as the president of the Screen Actors' Guild, before a stalled film career led to his unlikely reinvention as the voice of General Electric and a spokesman for corporate America. Reagan follows its subject on his improbable political rise, from the 1960s, when he was first elected governor of California,to his triumphant election in 1980 as president of the United States. Brands employs archival sources not available to previous biographers and dozens of interviews with surviving members of the administration. The result is an exciting narrative and a fresh understanding of a crucially important president and his era"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and author of Traitor to His Class explores the 40th president's indelible role in preserving democracy and shaping present-day America, detailing his early life, improbable rise and presidential achievements.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Explores the fortieth president's indelible role in preserving democracy and shaping present-day America, detailing his early life, improbable rise, and presidential achievements.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From master storyteller and New York Times bestselling Historian H. W. Brands comes the definitive biography of a visionary and transformative president In his magisterial new biography, H. W. Brands brilliantly establishes Ronald Reagan as one of the two great presidents of the twentieth century, a true peer to Franklin Roosevelt. Reagan conveys with sweep and vigor how the confident force of Reagan’s personality and the unwavering nature of his beliefs enabled him to engineer a conservative revolution in American politics and play a crucial role in ending communism in the Soviet Union. Reagan shut down the age of liberalism, Brands shows, and ushered in the age of Reagan, whose defining principles are still powerfully felt today.     Reagan follows young Ronald Reagan as his ambition for ever larger stages compelled him to leave behind small-town Illinois to become first a radio announcer and then that quintessential public figure of modern America, a movie star. When his acting career stalled, his reinvention as the voice of The General Electric Theater on television made him an unlikely spokesman for corporate America. Then began Reagan’s improbable political ascension, starting in the 1960s, when he was first elected governor of California, and culminating in his election in 1980 as president of the United States.     Employing archival sources not available to previous biographers and drawing on dozens of interviews with surviving members of Reagan’s administration, Brands has crafted a richly detailed and fascinating narrative of the presidential years. He offers new insights into Reagan’s remote management style and fractious West Wing staff, his deft handling of public sentiment to transform the tax code, and his deeply misunderstood relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, on which nothing less than the fate of the world turned.      Reagan is a storytelling triumph, an irresistible portrait of an underestimated politician whose pragmatic leadership and steadfast vision transformed the nation.