I have a different take on this book than most of its readers because I'm of a later generation. Being born in 1976, I didn't live through any of these events. I grew up during the Reagan years, and have had to learn a little history to understand his appeal. While it's clear that Perlstein has a point of view, the narrative remains factual. In fact, as a relatively liberal reader, this book, as well as Nixonland, have done a great job of helping me understand the conservative concerns and motivations of the time. The portrayal of Reagan as "always aware of the gaze of others", as the eternal optimist, as a black and white thinker, and man who sees a "good vs evil" storyline in everything, does not come across to me as contemptuous. It actually does a lot to explain the appeal that he had at the time, and why he was such a polarizing figure. This book also helped me understand the decision by the Republican Party to abandon moderate positions that placate liberals and moderates, in favor of gaining the strong recognizable party identity that has served them fairly well ever since. Any book of this sort will have some bias in what information is included and excluded. The fact that Perlstein writes in a manner that makes his own point of view obvious makes his book honest and forthright, not biased or misleading. Perlstein doesn't shy away from including plenty of unflattering facts about the liberals of the time, either.
The narrator's voice is not my favorite, but I got used to it. He's clearly a trained professional, and he presented the material admirably.
The writing is engaging, and the details he chooses to include really paint a vivid picture that made me feel like I was living through the time period. This is probably the book's greatest strength. Still, I do agree with those who have said that the book is too long. While Nixonland was as gripping as a roller coaster ride from beginning to end, there are stretches where this book drags a bit. Perhaps the minute procedural details of the politics of the day are more interesting to those who lived through the time period than they were to me.
If I were to recommend one of Perlstein's books, it would certainly be Nixonland, but if you liked that one, The Invisible Bridge will be almost equally enjoyable.
This book is exactly what you would expect it to be. Easy listening. A nice little chunk on each president, and the occasional factoid about the office of the presidency. Nothing edgy or controversial, no strong opinions, just basically the general common wisdom on each one. Washington, Lincoln and FDR get top honors, as everyone would expect. James Buchanan and GWB get roasted. Reagan gets the predictable over rating, with Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton taking a backseat. Andrew Jackson is an excellent story line, but like Reagan he gets an A despite having plenty of downside. Still, these are pretty mainstream views and the author goes decidedly mainstream in his assessments. If you expect that going in, there will be no disappointments. Arthur Morey isn't a showy narrator, but the man has talent. He is a master of enunciation, emphasis, cadence, and clarity. Steady all the way, and never distracts. I've heard him narrate a ton of books and he's one of my very favorites. Overall, this material is excellent in the sense that it is accessible and well packaged. A sharp, professional production that is easy to listen to no matter what your politics are. Informative, but also fun.