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Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  231 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
National bestseller: In this brilliantly readable book, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist chronicles the Reagan decade, when America fell from dominant world power to struggling debtor nation and when optimism turned to foreboding. In human terms and living case histories, Haynes Johnson captures the drama and tragedy of an era nurtured by greed and a morality that found ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published June 17th 2003 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1991)
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May 20, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haynes Johnson does a thorough job of documenting and trying to make sense of a decade that was in many respects the ultimate reaction against the Sixties, the pay-back decade, as it were, when conservatism made its successful push to retake the political and moral stage. His sketches of the major players, from Arthur Laffer (whose infamous "Laffer Curve" did so much to persuade so many of the efficacy of supply side economics) to Reagan himself, reveal a pattern of thinking and rearrangement of ...more
Nov 25, 2007 Lauri rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Wow. This book took me a while to get through, but it was worth it. This book covers a lot of territory (the prominence of television, the S&L scandal, the Iran-Contra hearings, Reagan's campaign, etc.) so the author doesn't go into great detail on every topic. However, he gives enough background on America in the 70s and 80s so that the reader is able to understand how and why Reagan was elected in the first place and how such an unchecked president still remained (remains) so popular. A re ...more
Mike Cook
Mar 13, 2013 Mike Cook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-us
I'm finally finished reading this weighty tome. It took me 4 months to wade through it, and I started and finished 12 other books while trying to stay awake through more than 5 pages of this college-level chronicle of the destruction of the US government and economy at the hands of President "do-nothing-see-nothing" Reagan. The country would have been much better off if that assassin's bullet had found its mark. If George Bush 1 had ascended to the presidency sooner, the trail of damage left beh ...more
Don Garvey
Dec 17, 2012 Don Garvey rated it really liked it
Well written history of the 80s. Anyone watching the current beatification of Ronald Reagan should appreciate this injection of reality.
A. Bowdoin Van Riper
Sleepwalking Through History presents itself as a first-draft history of America in the 1980s. In fact, it’s something subtly but significantly different. Haynes Johnson is a political reporter, and Sleepwalking is a political book. The material that’s not overtly about politics gets tied to political themes (the high-technology boom), glossed over (MTV), or ignored altogether. It might have been better subtitled: The Reagan Administration and what it did to America.

It is, in Johnson’s eyes, ver
Oct 08, 2007 Kate rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: neoconservatives
There is something seriously wrong with the conservative psyche that, here it is, how many years later, and the anti-regulatory disasters of the Reagan administration are coming thick and fast--Enron, the S & L scandal, the Great Mortgage Robbery, etc. etc. etc., and still the Conservagelicals--the Evangicons--whatever you want to call them--march on. this book is about the nation drinking Conservative Koolaid, which makes it relevant for today. How much Koolaid can the right wing drink befo ...more
Jim Razinha
Aug 04, 2011 Jim Razinha rated it really liked it
Less an indictment of Reagan than that of the US at the time (hence the subtitle), Johnson presents a different look than the nostalgic "we miss Reagan" fans remember. This is the Reagan *I* remember: the teflon coated abuser of power who surrounded himself with more crooks than Nixon. Now to read "Tear Down the Myth" by Will Bunch.
Jun 10, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Text book for class, was well done and informative in a time before Google.
Doug Wells
Jun 10, 2008 Doug Wells rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
During the dark Bush years, it's too easy to look back on the Reagan years with rose-colored glasses. Johnson masterfully captures the dysfunction and divisiveness of the Reagan years.
Apr 23, 2010 Nicholas rated it really liked it
A good primer. You're going to have to go elsewhere to get in depth on any of the subjects but this is pretty good overview.
Ian Divertie
Jan 18, 2016 Ian Divertie rated it really liked it
Well, all it reminds me of is how we got to the mess we are curently in in 2016. Five times since 1960 the Republican party has been caught doing things that weren't merely the usual bribery and graft of politics but treasonous. Three of those times they were legally caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and for reasons that baffle me, the Democrats would not carrry through to the kill or incarceration of the guilty parties. Why? This book centers mostly on the extreme excesses of wealth an ...more
Oct 03, 2012 Albert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an excellent overview of the Reagan era and many of the key aspects that were introduced that plague the effectiveness of our government and a delusional right-wing electorate to this day. Thanks to this journalist's extensive coverage of the Reagan presidency, the reader gets first hand reporting mixed with the author's assessment only a few years after the events had concluded. Some overviews of the cultural aspects that existed in the Reagan era are a bit glossed over, but they a ...more
Zach Rasey
Feb 06, 2017 Zach Rasey rated it really liked it
Excellent review of Reagan's political career and the handlers that made him "Americas Anchorman" and master entertainer. This is essential for any political science student wanting to understand how the culture machine influences elections--particularly in the age of untruth and the current occupier of the executive branch.
Mark Fitz
Mar 31, 2012 Mark Fitz rated it it was amazing
This was the first political book I ever read. I read it in college doing research for a paper in Intermediate Macroeconomics. We had to choose an era of growth or recession in the post WWII era and were required four specific sources from different perspectives of what policy defined it. Haynes Johnson's book was not a flattering portrait of Reagan's presidency but juxtaposed against Robert Bartlett's Seven Fat Years and Allen Blinder's Heard Heads and Soft Hearts I began to really understand e ...more
Grindy Stone
The Eighties and the Reagan Administration are tough to survey in just 475 pages, though Johnson takes a crack at it. Too much is devoted to Iran-Contra at the expense of other trends and events, though Johnson was writing from a 1990s perspective and the affair loomed larger then than it does now.
Bruce Emmerling
Jul 05, 2010 Bruce Emmerling rated it it was amazing
A great history of the 1980s and the ramifications of the policies on our current decade. The author portrays a clear but sometimes disturbing picture of the decade and takes a part many of the myths of the era.
Mary Kay
Aug 07, 2016 Mary Kay rated it really liked it
Overview of shifts that took place during the 80s. Informative for me, because I was too busy working and raising my children to follow closely what was happening in the world at the time.
Dec 19, 2007 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly interesting book. I read it for grad school, but if you dislike Ronald Reagan's presidency at all, put it on your to-read list now!
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 Frederick Bingham rated it did not like it
I lost interest in this book about halfway through.
Kevin rated it liked it
Jul 11, 2012
Chris Stutts
Chris Stutts rated it really liked it
Apr 21, 2014
Randall rated it it was amazing
Mar 07, 2014
Dan rated it did not like it
Apr 04, 2015
Amy Lettick
Amy Lettick rated it it was amazing
Sep 02, 2012
Ankit rated it really liked it
Jan 22, 2016
Kim rated it it was amazing
May 09, 2009
Margo rated it it was amazing
Oct 31, 2012
Leslie Posnock
Leslie Posnock rated it it was amazing
Feb 24, 2013
Timothy McCluskey
Timothy McCluskey rated it really liked it
May 12, 2009
Debbie Darwine
Debbie Darwine rated it liked it
Apr 13, 2011
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In his four decades in journalism, Mr. Johnson was widely esteemed for his coverage of domestic affairs in general and of the capital in particular.

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