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.
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