cover image Reagan: An American Journey

Reagan: An American Journey

Bob Spitz. Penguin Press, $35 (880p) ISBN 978-1-59420-531-6

This captivating and evenhanded biography of America’s first celebrity president, Ronald Reagan, reads like a novel but doesn’t skimp on the scholarship. Spitz (Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child) starts with a prologue about Reagan’s great-grandparents’ emigration to America in 1857 and then breaks Reagan’s life into four sections: “Dutch” (Midwest youth), “Ronnie” (the Hollywood years), “Governor” (of California), and “Mr. President.” Despite pacing that keeps things moving at a steady clip, evocative detail abounds throughout; Spitz recreates such episodes as Reagan’s 1976 presidential primary challenge and the 1981 assassination attempt in gripping and sometimes even amusing fashion. (As nurses cut off the “natty” clothes he was wearing when shot, Spitz writes, “ ‘You’re ruining my suit!’ the president protested.”) Impressive research, including numerous interviews with a wide array of Reagan cohorts, from 1930s movie star Olivia de Havilland to national security adviser Robert “Bud” McFarlane, undergirds the exceptional writing. Spitz synthesizes other scholars’ analyses, the firsthand memoirs of key players, original press coverage, and archival holdings. Readers need not be Reagan fans or Republicans to enjoy this outstanding biography. [em]Agent: Sloan Harris, International Creative Management. (Oct.) [/em]