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Reagan: A Life In Letters Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 23, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

Many books have been written about Ronald Reagan, but this collection of his letters must certainly be among the most varied and revealing about every aspect of the man. Organized by themes such as "Old Friends," "Running for Office," "Core Beliefs," "The Critics," and "Foreign Leaders," the book contains over 1,000 letters stretching from 1922 to 1994. Whether discussing economic policy with a political foe, dispensing marital advice, or sharing a joke with a pen pal, Reagan comes across as gracious, caring, and inquisitive. Even when responding to blistering criticism, he remained fair and thoughtful. As one would expect, many of the letters are addressed to world leaders, well-known American politicians, pundits, and journalists, and these are certainly interesting for their historical relevance and insights into Reagan's diplomatic style. Among the more fascinating notes, however, are those sent to private citizens, some of which are quite long and detailed. That Reagan would spend the time, as both governor of California and President, to respond to the concerns and inquiries of constituents reveals that he never forgot how he got to his positions of leadership in the first place. He even went so far on occasions to help make business connections for people he had never met in person. He also sent many letters to children. In one, he encouraged a young student to turn off the TV and grab a book instead: "Reading is a magic carpet and you can never be lonely if you learn to enjoy a good book." Taken as a whole, these revealing, well-written, and entertaining letters trace the story of Reagan's life and times as well as any standard biography. They also offer further proof of why he was dubbed "The Great Communicator." --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

Hoover Institution fellows Skinner and the Andersons (all editors of the bestselling Reagan, in His Own Hand) use a carefully arranged and astutely annotated sampling from Reagan's lifetime of correspondence to narrate the arc of "the great communicator" 's life. Always charming, always unassuming, always genuine, Reagan's letters tell the story of his family, his health, his Hollywood and political careers, and his evolution as a political thinker with an authority (and a charm) no other documents can. Reagan regularly corresponded with friends, movie business colleagues, fellow politicians and conservative allies, as well as with simple fans. To William Buckley in 1984: "the Middle East is a complicated place-well not really a place, it's more a state of mind." To Mickey Rooney, from the Oval Office, in 1985: "I'll bet you don't remember the first time we met. The year was 1937... I was new in Hollywood living in the Montecito apartments. Someone had run over a dog in the street outside. You came in to look for a phone book so you could find the nearest veterinarian and take the dog.... I figured this had to be a nice guy." The book includes more than 1,000 letters (some to unknowns, others to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, George Bush Sr., Dr. Spock, Joseph Coors, Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher), fewer than 25 of them previously published. Taken together, they provide remarkable and otherwise unobtainable insight into a singularly important and fascinating American life: "Dutch" up close and personal.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 934 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (September 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074321966X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743219662
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Patrick A. Hayden on October 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'll admit off the bat that I love Ronald Reagan. I think he was a fantastic President. I really do. However, I've found that biographies of the man, and his own memoirs, have only shown us a little of who he was. "An American Life", his post White House memoir, offered little in the way of great stories. It wasn't all together self-serving(that wasn't Reagan's way), but it had that same, kinda dull quality that seems to haunt all presidential memoirs. I get upset at Booth all over again when I think about what Lincoln's memoirs would have been like. Here though, in his own words, Reagan comes off as human. Flawed as any other person on this Earth, but with that absoute sense of right and wrong that galvanized his supporters and infuriated his critics. A previous reviewer who gave the book just one star obviously did not read the book, as Reagan's letters answer critics of Iran-Contra and address the Beiruit bombing. Whether you believe Reagan is up to you. That he addresses his critics in this book is a fact.
The book gives a very interesting portrait of Reagan. It starts with his earliest correspondence as a boy, and moves throughhis midwest years to his Hollywood years and into the governors mansion. It follows Reagan's travels on the campaign trail, and the sheer volume of letters is staggering. The man, who many on the left portray as an empty vessell, clearly had a lot to say, and he believed in what he talked about a wrote. The book features Reagans fair-mindedness, as he responds to letters from citizens that impune his character, his motives, and his upbringing. He treats each writer with a respect and affords them the dignity they denied him. It's clear that he was a master of the written word.
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58 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Rick S. Geiger on September 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
No one can read this book and be honest and then continue the myth that Ronald Reagan was not brilliant and insightful.
Certainly, President Reagan was not only the most personally insightful person on the national stage about the world around him of any of our presidents in the last 100 years, but clearly he is the best writer since Abraham Lincoln. Read this book and you will understand why President Reagan was re-elected by the largest margin since Franklin Roosevelt.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By bookscdsdvdsandcoolstuff VINE VOICE on June 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Whatever one's opinions of Reagan's domestic and foriegn policy may be, it is hard to overestimate the effect of Ronald Reagan on the world around him. This outstanding book is not narrative, nor is it a history. Rather, it is simply a collection of his letters to constituents, fellow policy makers, critics, and friends. It is quite possible that Ronald Reagan will be the last president to leave us this amount of correspondence. As the art of letter writing dies, replaced with e-mail and with the telephone, this traditionally rich source for historians will likely diminish in importance.
Not so for Reagan. He was a product of his generation; and he wrote. Letter after letter reveals the real Ronald Reagan on these pages. This book and its counterpart "Reagan in His Own Hand," which focuses on the develpment of his philosophy and resulting policy positions, are both indespensible in helping us understand his legacy. Highly recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Matt Papuchis on January 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Many Americans will agree that letter writing is truly a lost art. With chat rooms and emails and instant messages, who has the time to sit down and write a letter? Reagan, who has been called the "Great Communicator," reminds us just how great letter writing can be.

Anyone can write a boring biography of a president, but this book is different. Through Reagan's own words - with his letters to everyone from prolific world leaders to entertainers such as Sammy Davis Jr.- we become privy to a side of our 40th president that many of us did not know. It is truly a great read - not the kind of book you will want to sit down and read cover to cover in one sitting - but the kind of read that you will pick up off the book shelf from time to time and be glad every time you did.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By political idiot on June 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The 40th President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan, died today June 5, 2004. I remember buying and reading this book some time ago and felt I needed to submit a review in honor of President Reagan. Kiron K. Skinner did an excellent job profiling Reagan through his written works. This book provides excellent insight into this very interesting man --a man so different from the man the leftist media would have you believe him to be.

I was in high school when he was elected to his first term. As a radical Libertarian I was never a huge Reagan fan because I thought he was too soft on domestic policy and government spending. Also, I was fed a constant diet of leftist pablum from the major media. However, books like this and personal growth helped me realize the error of my ways and I have since developed a great appreciation for the man.

Faced with tremendous government failure during the seventies --especially during the Carter administration, Reagan tried to make the Goldwater dream a reality. I much admire his eight year effort even if it was tainted by issues like Iran-Contra and the wacky antics associated with his astrology obsession.

Nevertheless, Reagan gave us a purpose again --to fight the ultimate evil, Communism. He was one of the few in Government to realize that the red scare was just a paper tiger so he called the Soviet bluff and won. For this alone he will go down in history as one of the great Presidents.

I now realize that Reagan was the closest to a Libertarian president we will ever have and I credit him for turning the cost cutting machine on even if it is very slow to show return. His accomplishments were unequaled by any modern president. History will prove to be very kind to this great leader. RIP President Reagan.
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