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Reagan's America Hardcover – December 16, 1986

3.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ambitious and insightful, this study examines aspects of Ronald Reagan's life and career that account for his extraordinary popularity with the American public. Wills, author of Nixon Agonistes and Inventing America, portrays a Reagan whose optimistic personality is in harmony with the deep instincts of Americans. The President, he maintains, embodies the country's values and its collective dreams and memories. In his show-business years, Reagan was "the voice of midwestern baseball" and "the plain-spoken hero of horse epics"; later, as Hollywood union leader and California governor, he was the complete "company man." As President, his simple answers in the face of troubling complexities have let Americans feel positive about themselves. While sometimes overdetailed, Wills's study succeeds admirably in isolating the sources of Reagan's appeal. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC, QPBC and History Book Club alternate.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Wills has written the first major social biography about Ronald Reagan. He focuses largely on the institutions that have molded the man rather than on Reagan himself. Parents, alma mater Eureka College, and the industries that provided employmentjournalism, radio, and motion pituresinstilled in Reagan views about life both real and stereotypical. According to Wills, roiling institutional contradictions have molded Reagan into a believing and believable bearer of modern myths. In turn, Wills explodes many of the myths that pervade the Reagan persona, including his evocations of an idyllic childhood, the virtues of the Wild West, and his distrust of government. As eloquent and provocative as the author's Nixon Agonistes , Reagan's America will receive a wide readership. Highly recommended. BOMC, Quality Paperback Book Club, and History Book Club alternates.Karl Helicher, Wolfsohn Memorial Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (December 16, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385182864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385182867
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
COvering much of the same ground as Edmund Morris in his authorized biography, "Dutch," Garry Wills' "Reagan's America: Innocents at Home" is a much more successful look at the institutions and country that shaped the 40th President.
With his usual incisive analysis and beautiful use of the English language, Wills does what Morris found impossible: the discovery of Reagan's soul.
To Wills, Reagan is the logical product of the American heartland and of the institutions of the heartland: community service (he was a lifeguard first), small town media (he was a Des Moines, IA, radio announcer). Reagan is also shaped by the institutions of coastal America that are marketed to the heartland: movies and big business (when Reagan made the final turn toward conservatism, he was the national spokesman for General Electric). Finally, Reagan is also the product of a dysfunctional family, with some of the same logical results: a withholding from others, a love of the abstract and of fantasy.
At the end of Wills' study, the reader gains a clear impression of the forces that created Ronald Reagan and bonded him to the American people. It is true that Reagan, as Morris argues, is enigmatic. But he is not impossible to begin to understand. Wills is the essential guide to the Reagan who was fully formed long before he reached the White House.
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Format: Paperback
I have read many books by Gary Wills, and this is one of his best. It is an astonishing work of history and cultural analysis, impressive in the breadth of his learning and the depth of his insight. Mr. Wills writes knowledgeably and skillfully about a wealth of topics: the America of Mark Twain ... religious fundamentalism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ... the Great Depression ... history of Hollywood, including labor politics ... California politics ... the John Birch Society ... Cold War strategy, nuclear deterrance, and the "Star Wars" defense system ... relations with Latin America, the World Court, and the United Nations ... "supply-side economics," the Laffer Curve, and Reagonomics ... and much, much more, all to create the context in which to understand Reagan's success and his appeal to his constituencies.

Uncritical Reagan enthusiasts will not be happy with the way Wills dissects the contradictions inherent in Reagan the politician, but Wills's analysis is cogent and persuasive. Wills discusses at length the gap between word and deed in Reagan's career. Of Reagan as Governor of California, Wills writes: "Thus, the candidate who had run against big spenders quickly became the governor who asked for and got the highest tax raise in the history of California (or any other state)...." And of Reagan's first term as President, Wills writes: "In 1982, unemployment rose to 10.7 percent, higher than it had been since the Great Depression, along with the greatest number of bank failures since 1940. Record bankruptcies and farm closures were occurring....
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By A Customer on October 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Wills dissects Ronald Reagan's career with a sharp scalpel calling attention to the man's ignorance, naivete and disingenuous story telling, all coexisting with personal charm and an optimistic nature. He ties in Reagan's notion of an innocent past and glorious future with American mythology. Reagan's appeal as the first amiable conservative (W would seem to be the second) stood him in good stead with the public. What were we thinking? This is not a hatchet job but a carefully reasoned and most thoughtful assessment of the man whose fanciful economic policies led the country into deep debt and tragically slowed social progress.
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Format: Paperback
Gary Wills book on Reagan is an even handed portrayal of a great American figure. President Reagan's conservative vision and his strident anti-communist views changed the way America works and changed the way the world looks at us. As a liberal, I often disagreed with his views, his policies and his actions. However, one cannot be an objective viewer of history with giving him his due. He did indeed bring a level of pride and hopefulness about America that had been missing since the early days of the Kennedy presidency. For that, I will be forever grateful to him. Gary Wills book provides a window in to how Ronald Reagan changed from Roosevelt democrat to conservative republican. An excellent book that should belong to anyone's collection of political histories and biographies.
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Format: Paperback
Garry Wills has written nothing but scholarly, top-of-the-shelf books for quite some time now. He's a classicist, an historian and just a great writer with an independent perspective. This book presents a New Deal-worshipping sports journalist who was raised in an area spurred by the actions of Big Government, who goes on to Hollywood stardom and union membership. And of course this fellow goes on to be an "anti-elitist", New Deal-hating, anti-union conservative who doesn't always remember things they way they really happened. How can you make this stuff up? Who will ever need fiction again as long as writers like Garry Wills are around to interpret actual people and events? If you don't like this book,then you need to look for propaganda from the pens of hired gunmen who are so numerous these days. Wills is one of our greatest treasures, who would probably be our most famous living writer if he'd just go on TV and talk. But he's apparently a shy and retiring fellow who shuns the limelight. But I highly suggest reading anything by him you can get your hands on. He's always unpredictable, incisive, and provides a historic perspective. (This would have earned a 5-star rating, but he does seem to go off on some rather technical and questionable tangents occasionally.)
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