Top positive review
Thorough and thoroughly engaging
Reviewed in the United States on May 12, 2017
Disclaimer: I am a life-long democrat who never voted for Reagan and actively campaigned against him. I believe that his policies have led to the current state of uncontrollable deficits and the focus of "me" over "we" has done irreparable harm to our social fabric.
That said, I have long recognized his success as president and have continually admired his sunny optimism and his uncanny ability to disarm his critics with a witty anecdote or self-deprecating wisecrack. While Obama may have coined the phrase "disagree without being disagreeable", it is Reagan who embodied that principle. Conservative but pragmatic, Reagan knew how to accept half a loaf and call it a victory (a lesson seemingly lost on today's political leaders).
These qualities are all on display in Brands' masterful biography. Thoroughly engaging, Brands tracks Reagan from a young poor boy in Illinois through his presidency and beyond. While the book is long, it succeeds by not focusing on unimportant minutiae of Reagan's life (mercifully we don't get a mini-biography of his grand-parents at the start). Instead, each inclusion serves to build on the story of Reagan the man so that by the end the reader feels like he was a member of the family. Yes, there are details of important chapters of Reagan's presidency: the summits with Gorbachev, Iran/contra, the air traffic controllers, budgets & tax cuts, and many more. These, for better and worse, serve to remind us of Reagan's lasting impact on the US and the world. But they also serve to remind us of the strengths and weaknesses of Reagan the man.
One of the best presidential biography's available; Reagan the Life is recommended for anyone wanting to understand this most remarkable of men.