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An American Life

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,842 ratings  ·  147 reviews
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.
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 w
Paperback, 752 pages
Published October 1st 1999 by Gallery Books (first published 1990)
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Average rating 4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,842 ratings  ·  147 reviews

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Jason Navallo
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great book detailing the life of one of America's greatest Presidents! ...more
Aug 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Alex MacMillan
May 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
"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
Eric Jakubik
Sep 27, 2014 rated it liked it
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!
Ryan Paige
Jul 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
This was a good laugh. It was required college reading.
Alison Whiteman
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Meh. Not my kind of politician.
Robert Vincent
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Kevin Findley
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A solid autobiography, but I do wish President Reagan had used additional sources to show exactly what was going on around him and how the press and his political enemies were shading the truth and even out and out lying.

For the most part, I believe he was being truthful, but when it came to the Middle East, he was bordering on being willfully naïve when it came to dealing with Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Still, it is a very interesting story, and one that everybody with an interest in the office
Chase Bertoldo
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Panda Incognito
It's not every day that you reach the end of a 752-page book assigned for school and think, "I don't want this to end!" However, that is exactly how I felt when I hit the epilogue of this presidential autobiography.

This book is incredibly entertaining, and even though it covers a lot of political and social issues in great depth and with appropriate seriousness, I laughed out loud countless times because of Reagan's shining personality and humor. He shares lots of hilarious anecdotes from his l
Jan 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jim Bowen
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
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jeri Vick
Jul 24, 2016 rated it liked it
I picked up this book while joining my son's class field trip to the Reagan Library, I believe that the sorry state of U.S. politics prompted me to read this and yearn for a time that was filled with hope and promise.

Although his story is a remarkable one set at a pivotal moment in modern history, autobiographies tend to ask the reader to overlook amateur writing in favor of catching a glimpse into the mind of an interesting person. The latter made 726 pages tough to get through, but some may en
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A lot has been written about college students and other young people who rebelled against society during the 1960s. But there was another, quieter revolution sweeping across the land during the same decade. It was a rebellion of ordinary people. A generation of middle-class Americans who had worked hard to make something of their lives was growing mistrustful of a government that took an average of thirty-seven cents of every dollar they earned and still plunged deeper into debt every day. Ther ...more
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 21, 2015 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
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 prepa
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 02, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jun 04, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Jake Danishevsky
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-politics, own
I loved this book. Listened to the book narrated by President Ronald W Reagan himself and it is one of the most amazing books that I had a privilege to enjoy. Thanks to my lovely wife for getting me a copy to listen to on the way to a business trip.
Dec 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The greatest book about the greatest man to ever hold the office of President of the United States of America.
Mar 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it. Gave me a new perspective on the Republican party.
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What an interesting recap of a fascinating life in his own words.
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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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