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An American Life

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,822 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Ronald Reagan is an American success story. From modest beginnings in a small midwestern town to a distinguished career in films and television, he lived the American dream; as governor of California and as the century's most popular president, he embodied and revitalized the American spirit.

Now in this dramatic and revealing memoir, Ronald Reagan recounts both his life

Hardcover, 748 pages
Published November 15th 1990 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1990)
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Aug 13, 2008 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Patriots, Conservatives, Barak Obama
Recommended to Matthew by: self search
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
Travis McClain
Jan 22, 2011 Travis McClain rated it really liked it
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
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
May 08, 2012 Jerome rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
May 19, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 31, 2012 Jose rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Feb 13, 2016 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were times when I felt like I was plodding though the end of this book. In the end I was pleased that I stuck with it. I especially found the first section of the book of interest; although President Reagan was born in the same year as my mother I feel a connection since I was born in the same town where Reagan grew up and went to school - Dixon, Illinois. My family left when I was two but I still feel a connection and have an understanding of years growing up in rural Illinois. This secti ...more
Chase Bertoldo
Feb 05, 2015 Chase Bertoldo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jun 24, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Jan 13, 2015 Ru rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 27, 2012 Kein rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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!
Nov 29, 2015 Phillip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Robert Vincent
Oct 21, 2015 Robert Vincent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 11, 2014 Dana rated it liked it
Shelves: re-reads
Very lengthy read- I'll admit I started skimming chapters towards the end- but I enjoyed reading some of his views on politics and national government.
Jan 18, 2016 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: overdrive
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 ...more
Alison Whiteman
Meh. Not my kind of politician.
Sep 24, 2015 Mmiller400m rated it really liked it
Shelves: presidents
Reagan. There are many who use his name with almost religious zeal on the Republican side. In my quest to read backwards through the presidents I was really looking forward to learning more about Dutch. I was born during his presidency and certainly don't remember any of it so it's supremely interesting to me to revisit some of this history. The two most interesting sections of the book to me were the Iran Contra affair and the Russian negotiations over nuclear arms reduction.

Iran Contra struck
May 25, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2009 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Nov 22, 2015 Bekah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Keith Bell
Nov 22, 2014 Keith Bell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason, his life fascinates me. I wouldn't consider myself a staunch Republican so it' isn't that. I believe it is just that he was a simple man that happened to find his place in history. His Character (per Peggy Noonan) was king.

As I study for my American citizenship, I realize that much of his political philosophy is driven directly by what the founders of this country felt were valuable. Love him or hate him, it's still a great read.
Aug 23, 2011 Tbloxham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 10, 2012 Shelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 prepar
Dj Wells
Jul 24, 2012 Dj Wells rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An awesome autobiography about one of the greatest Presidents the United States has had the honor of having. A country boy at heart on his ranch in California and an outstanding orator. The book leads the reader from life in Dixon, IL to Hollywood, the Governorship of CA, and finally the Presidency of the United States. We see the efforts put forth during the Cold War with Gorbechav and the attempts to create arms treaties to reduce the nuclear threat. His frustration with the partisan congress ...more
Geoffrey Hazelton
Jan 23, 2016 Geoffrey Hazelton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It reads just like he used to talk. It's a good review of recent history and a good read. I would have enjoyed more detail on the decision making process.
Paul Horstmann
Oct 26, 2015 Paul Horstmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this "autobiography" to be very readable and conversational. Enjoyed finding out more details about his life and times.
Burt Schoeppe
Feb 28, 2014 Burt Schoeppe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very unique. Reagan definitely lives up to the great communicator title. He had quite the life before politics. The book was probably the least political of the presidential bios I have read, mostly for the better but definitely leaves me interested in reading a thrird party bio.
Feb 07, 2016 Alex rated it liked it
It is good to get Reagan's own perspective on his life, but there are no big revelations here. I'm giving the book only three stars, but I'll give five to the man himself. :-)
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Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989) and the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975). Born in Illinois, Reagan moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s, where he became an actor, president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and a spokesman for General Electric. Reagan became involved in politics during his work for G.E. and switched from the Democratic Party to the ...more
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