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The Reagan Diaries Paperback – May 12, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The diaries our 40th president kept while in office—edited and abridged by historian Brinkley (The Great Deluge)—are largely a straightforward political chronicle. Reagan describes meetings with heads of state and antiabortion leaders, reflects on legislative strategy and worries about leaks to the press. He often used his diary to vigorously defend his polices: for example, after a 1984 visit with South African archbishop Desmond Tutu (whom Reagan calls "naïve"), the president explained why his approach to apartheid—"quiet diplomacy"—was preferable to sanctions. Reagan sometimes seems uncomfortable with dissent, as when he is irked by a high school student who presents a petition advocating a nuclear freeze. And he often sees the media as a "lynch mob," trying to drum up scandal where there is none. Reagan's geniality shines through in his more quotidian comments: he muses regularly about how much he appreciates Nancy, and his complaints about hating Monday mornings make him seem quite like everyone else. Brinkley doesn't weigh down the text with extensive annotation; this makes for smooth reading, but those who don't remember the major political events of the 1980s will want to refer to the glossary of names. Reagan's diaries are revealing, and Brinkley has done historians and the broad public a great service by editing them for publication. (May 22)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


'Amusing and enlightening...I quite simply couldn't put them down.' Sunday Times 'What emerges from these pages is the remarkable character of Ronald Reagan himself. He was what he seemed to be, so fundamentally decent and sunny that it is hard to figure how the American political system could have produced such a genial leader.' Sunday Telegraph 'Reagan's handwritten summary of almost every day of his 1981-89 presidency shows more clearly than ever before the way his mind worked...On the whole, it worked pretty well - especially in his cold-war policy.' The Economist --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 Reprint edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061558338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061558337
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (298 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

213 of 233 people found the following review helpful By William J. Bennett on May 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have not finished reading this yet, but I can't put this one down. You get an incredible insight to President Reagan's thoughts and hopes for the country as well as an understanding of how deeply he loved his wife.

I have also come to realize how humble a man he really was. For example he seemed shocked that whenever he went someplace (even if just for a short trip in D.C.) there was a change of clothes waiting for him. He was also amazed that when one of his children was on TV one evening the staff video taped it for him.

The most enjoyable entries to read are the ones where he talks about simple things like setting his clocks ahead in the sping, or riding a horse at Quantico.

There are also more serious entries where he writes about the Russians and his hopes for peace in the middle east.

The amazing thing is because this is a personal diary, it was never intended to be published. You get (I feel) the real thought and feelings of one of our greatest Presidents.

One reviewer gave this book only one star and his review is less a review of the book and more an attack on the former President. I do not think you need to be conservative to enjoy this book. You just need to want to see the daily thoughts of the man.
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96 of 107 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on May 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This edited volume of President Reagan's diaries is memorable more for preserving the distinctive voice of this fundamentally decent man than for any momentous new insights into his eight years in highest office. The first three years of entries mainly log his daily activities, but on January 18, 1984, Reagan decides he is doing "wrong" because "those schedules are all in the archives." At this point, the president makes more of an effort to include analysis and opinions. However, the tenor of the entries remains matter-of-fact and schedule-driven.

Here is a scattering of comments this reader mentally asterisked:

-- As early as March 19, 1981, Reagan already worries about Secretary of State Alexander Haig: "Al told me he felt he was being undercut by other agencies etc. I worry he has something of a complex about this."

-- When the air traffic controllers struck, Reagan notes he gave them "48 hrs. in which to return & if they don't they are separated from the service." He reminded them of their oath "'that he or she will not strike against the U.S. govt. or any of its agencies.'"

-- Referring to the memorial services for the American troops killed in the Lebanon suicide bombing, Reagan writes on Friday, November 4, 1983: "One little boy, 8 or 9, politely handed me a manila folder saying it was something he'd written about his father. Later when I read it I found it was a poem entitled 'Loneliness.'"

-- During his April '84 trip to China, Reagan comments on his meeting with Deng Xiaoping: "...he really waded in critical of our mid-east policy, our treatment of the developing nations etc. & our disarmament failure. He touched a nerve -- when it was my turn I corrected him with facts and figures & I meant it.
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Format: Hardcover
The Reagan Diaries were written in the White House every evening that Ronald Wilson Reagan occupied the office of President. Reagan writes his innermost thoughts in a clear, concise and closely observed witness to history. Only a few presidents such as John Quincy Adams; James Knox Polk and Rutherford B. Hayes took the time to keep diaries of their tenure in the most powerful office in the free world.

Anyone interested in American history; the US Presidency; the life or Reagan or how modern power politics will benefit for the hours it takes to read these many pages (the book is 700 pages). The diaries have been edited by noted historian Douglas Brinkley of the University of New Orleans. A later two volume edition of the unedited diaries is planned for the future. Brinkly gives concise notes on all the activites Reagan enaged in on a particular day. He has done an excellent job in his editing work. He did so with the cooperation of Nancy and the Reagan family.

In my perusing of these diaries my estimation of Ronald Wilson as a patriotic American seeking to do the best for his nation and freedom has risen several notches on the Richter scale! Reagan will be known for such historical benchmarks as:

1. Reaching detene with the Soviets and standing up to Soviet negotiators. He handled Gorbachev with strength and dignity. His foreign policy with the Soviets will live forever in American memory.

2. In the last few years of his second term Reagan got into deep trouble over the Iran-Contra snafu.

3. Reagan sought to lower taxes and raise the profile of the military. During his term their was the invasion of Granada; the murder of the Marines in Lebanon and continuing conflict in the Middle East.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Mcmillon on May 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What a humble man! I have been a huge Reagan fan. The book is a great insight to a wonderfully, warm, loving and humble man that puts God, his wife, his country and his family before himself. His daily thoughts and take on things is refreshing and a far cry from what we have seen in recent years. President Regan makes me proud to be an American with his words and patriotism. This book is a great insight into the mind of a Great President. The book is an easy read and a great history lesson. I love the way his mind works. He had a very smart but yet simple way of looking at life and situations. He had a great deal of compassion and respect for the sick, the disabled and even for those who wronged him. Recommended read. I have loved every page.
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