June 7, 2004

June 7, 2004 | Commentary on

Books On Ronald Reagan

A single book cannot capture Ronald Reagan's life-Reagan himself wrote his autobiography twice. Yet with all the books available about Reagan by historians, journalists, and political aides, readers might not know where to start. Here are some of the books that belong in the library of anyone interested in Reagan's life, presidency, and legacy:

An American Life by Ronald Reagan: Written after completing his second presidential term, Reagan recounts his journey to the White House, starting as the son of a shoe salesman in Tampico, Ill. He then reviews the major events of his presidency, both good and bad, from his view. The "Great Communicator" in his own words.

President Reagan: The Role of A Lifetime by Lou Cannon: This book, based on hundreds of interviews with Reagan, first lady Nancy Reagan and leading administration figures, is a good primer on Reagan's life and presidency. Cannon, called a "reporter's reporter" by George Will, had covered Reagan since California and also wrote two previous books about Reagan.

The Quotable Ronald Reagan by Peter Hannaford: Hannaford, who wrote two other Reagan books, started this 1998 volume after learning that Bartlett's Quotations had only three obscure quotes from Reagan. The holder of senior speechwriting and communications positions during Reagan's 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns, Hannaford takes quotes from throughout Reagan's public life and includes sections from famous addresses such as the "evil empire" speech, and of course, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Reagan: In His Own Hand edited by Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson. Released in 2001, this book published hundreds of radio essays and speeches written by Reagan in the 1970s before he ran for president. They cover every topic imaginable: from labor policy to the nature of communism, from World War II to the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, from the future of Africa and East Asia to that of the United States and the world. A must-have volume for any serious student of Reagan or modern conservatism.

Revolution by Martin Anderson: Anderson, who served as Reagan's chief domestic and economic policy adviser, writes about the roots of the Reagan Revolution, which started with Barry Goldwater's presidential run, rose and fell with President Nixon and rose for a third time under Reagan. Anderson also gives an insider's view of the Reagan White House with anecdotes and personality sketches.

Ronald Reagan: A Political Biography by Lee Edwards: Edwards, a Heritage Senior Fellow, wrote this book in 1981 when Reagan started his first term as president. It covers Reagan's life as a politician up until he won the presidency. Edwards explains why Reagan won the presidential nomination against formidable odds, and even predicted what kind of president Reagan would be: "Above all else, this is what he wants to do as president-to help America fulfill her destiny, to put her people once again on the freedom road to achieving the American dream."

Ronald Reagan: How An Ordinary Man Became An Extraordinary Leader by Dinesh D'Souza: D'Souza, a former managing editor of Policy Review, doesn't provide the what of Reagan's presidency so much as the why. The secret, D'Souza says, is simple: Ronald Reagan was just himself-a man who was wiser, smarter and better at handling complex national and world issues than his critics gave him credit for.

Where's The Rest of Me? by Ronald Reagan: Reagan's first autobiography, written in 1965 and named after a line from his 1941 movie, Kings Row. It mostly tells about Reagan's days in Hollywood, but an appendix includes a speech Reagan gave in support of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential run. Most historians say this televised speech put Reagan on the national political map and many conservatives know it simply as "The Speech."

With Reagan: The Inside Story by Edwin Meese, III: Here is the story of the Reagan administration from the point of view of Edwin Meese, III, Reagan's attorney general and one of his closest and longest-serving political aides. Meese, who is Heritage's Ronald Reagan Fellow in Public Policy, illuminates how the Reagan administration operated, the personalities who made it work, the ideas that motivated it, and the issues it conquered.

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