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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling biographer Bob Spitz, a full and rich biography of an epic American life, capturing what made Ronald Reagan both so beloved and so transformational.

More than five years in the making, based on hundreds of interviews and access to previously unavailable documents, and infused with irresistible storytelling charm, Bob Spitz's Reagan stands fair to be the first truly post-partisan biography of our 40th president, and thus a balm for our own bitterly divided times.

It is the quintessential American triumph, brought to life with cinematic vividness: A young man is born into poverty and raised in a series of flyspeck towns in the Midwest by a pious mother and a reckless, alcoholic, largely absent father. Severely near-sighted, the boy lives in his own world, a world of the popular books of the day, and finds his first brush with popularity, even fame, as a young lifeguard. Thanks to his first great love, he imagines a way out, and makes the extraordinary leap to go to college, a modest school by national standards, but an audacious presumption in the context of his family's station. From there, the path is only very dimly lit, but it leads him, thanks to his great charm and greater luck, to a solid career as a radio sportscaster, and then, astonishingly, fatefully, to Hollywood. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Bob Spitz's Reagan is an absorbing, richly detailed, even revelatory chronicle of the full arc of Ronald Reagan's epic life - giving full weight to the Hollywood years, his transition to politics, and rocky, but ultimately successful, run as California governor, and ultimately, of course, his iconic presidency, filled with storm and stress but climaxing with his peace talks with the Soviet Union that would serve as his greatest legacy. It is filled with fresh assessments and shrewd judgments and doesn't flinch from a full reckoning with the man's strengths and limitations. This is no hagiography: Reagan was never a brilliant student of anything, and his disinterest in hard-nosed political scheming, while admirable, meant that this side of things was left to the other people in his orbit, not least his wife, Nancy; sometimes this delegation could lead to chaos and worse. But what emerges as a powerful signal through all the noise is an honest inherent sweetness, a gentleness of nature and willingness to see the good in people and in this country, that proved to be a tonic for America in his time and still is in ours. Created with love and irony, which in a great biography is arguably the same thing, Bob Spitz's masterpiece will give no comfort to partisans at either extreme; for the rest of us, it is cause for celebration.

©2018 Bob Spitz (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“A significant contribution to the Reagan literature.” (The National Review)

“This comprehensive examination of America’s 40th president represents presidential biography at its best. Noted biographer Bob Spitz (previous subjects have included The Beatles and Julia Child) researches like a historian, writes like a novelist, does the hard work of providing ample and intelligent context, and remains able to take an evenhanded approach to his subject.” (Christian Science Monitor, 10 Best Books of October)

“Publication of Bob Spitz’s massive biography of Ronald Reagan couldn’t have been more timely… a significant marker against which to measure our current politics and political leadership.” (LA Times)

What listeners say about Reagan

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Pretty obvious this was written by a Democrat

This book is almost more about the people who surrounded Ronald Reagan than the man himself. This book is focused on trying to reduce Reagan's incredible legacy to the work of those who surrounded him, focuses relentlessly on unconfirmed rumors about Reagan's youth, character, and administration. Would recommend any other Regan biography over this book.

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32 Hours and I Still Want More

One of the best listens ever. Just a magnificent, epic story. Love him or hate him, you've got to admire Ronald Reagan's journey. The author never gets in the way of the story, just presents the facts and the timeline. Staggering all along the way.

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Would have liked a more balanced biography

The best part of this book was the narration by Paul Michael. I would listen to Paul read a dictionary, he's that good. I was disappointed the coverage of Reagan's political career was so unbalanced (imagine CNN/MSNBC writing this period of Regan's life). I was also surprised that Reagan's relationship with Margaret Thatcher was portrayed as acrimonious. The focus on every misstep and scandal with little or no coverage of his successes was very one-sided.

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Informative yet heartfelt!

Facts and personality conveyed throughout. I found it intriguing and endearing. Recommend it to all!

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Wow. Fantastic book on Reagan!

I’ve read close to 25 to 30 different books on Ronald Reagan and this is the definitive number one book for anyone who wants to know about his whole life to the very end. I learned so many new things. from this book that I never knew early on about the life of Ronald Reagan. Highly recommend

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very uneven

I sometimes wondered if this was written by two different people. The first part before the presidency was pretty even it brought out the flaws in the strengths of the man. The part during his presidency made you think that he was the weakest most useless president the United States has ever had. Then the part after the presidency almost Sanctified him as one of the greatest presidents we ever had.

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Great book

Terrific audio book about a great man. One of the best books I’ve ever listened to. Highly recommend!!

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Excellent, flowing story

What an excellent President, and quite a balanced biography. The narrator is very good, and the story flows. I highly recommend it.

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Long but good story

A long story, need much patience to go thru the whole book. Worth to listen to

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A Great Personal Biography but not an Amazing Political Or Economic Contribution

I really enjoyed all of this biography up until Reagan’s presidency; his childhood, early years sports commentating, the Hollywood years were fascinating, perhaps because it was mostly new to me. Although Im not on either side of the political divide as I am not an American, I just felt the presidential period was a bit one dimensional and overly focused on the Iranian/Nicaragua scandal. Given how seminal Reaganomics has become in modern conservative economic canon, this biography really just skimmed over it.

Unlike some other posts here, I did think that the author’s analysis of the post-presidency and legacy in American history struck the right tone. Overall, I think it’s an enjoyable listen but I will definitely supplement Reagan’s presidency with some further reading.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-26-19

Gripping Reagan biography

I thought this was a well researched, thoroughly interesting and utterly compelling story of President Reagan’s life. I really enjoyed it. Thank you to the author and the narrator for bringing this story to life.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-10-19

Change of heart

Hi since reading this book. , I disagree with his politics but here’s a man who put 24 hours effort each day of his life , he would have succeeded in any field

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  • Alison
  • 12-19-20

thorough biography

a very thorough and detailed account of the life of Ronald Reagan. well researched. in my view too much detail regarding his early life. the detailed and personal account of his presidency was insightful.
the biography seemed to be a very fair account of the man. exposing errors and missteps as well as his many positive achievements. recommended for an honest account of Reagan.