Bob Spitz’s new biography, is that Spitz manages to evoke Reagan’s heyday in the 1980s with compelling clarity ... a balanced and copiously researched chronicle of its subject ... Spitz does a good job of capturing how groundbreaking that evolution was. Though he doesn’t draw a parallel with the current occupant of the White House, the significance of Reagan’s precedent seems clear, making it easier for reality TV star Donald Trump to make the transition to the campaign trail.
3.5/4 stars ... There are a some sloppy mistakes and misjudgments in the book ... That said, the account of Nancy Reagan’s relentless campaign to oust Regan is deliciously detailed ... Reagan: An American Journey is honest about the president's shortcomings.
Mr. Spitz’s prose is business casual: no tie, collar unbuttoned, blazer, loafers. It keeps his many pages turning, and it knits his many venues—small towns, sound stages, summit meetings—smoothly together...What Reagan: An American Journey sometimes misses is a sense of urgency, beyond the immediate concerns of its hero and his circle...a handsome, handy introduction to the 20th century’s last hero.
No biographer has dug as deeply or with such verve into the making of Reagan the star ... The prose is energetic and engaging, with only occasional lapses into fan-mag mode ... [Spitz's] sourcing shows a strong preference for interviews over archives. This lends a personal immediacy to his accounts of crucial meetings and decisions, which surviving participants describe. But memories can be slippery, especially decades after the fact, and readers might have been reassured if Spitz had taken greater pains to cross-check the memories with the increasingly available documentary record.
The outlines of this story will be familiar to political junkies and policy wonks with long memories, but it’s told in lavish detail ... Spitz tells much of his story with a warts-and-all even-handedness: the jealousies and infighting within the administration ... Sometimes there’s too much detail, sometimes not nearly enough, the focus sharp but narrow. For the most part, the wider world in which Reagan had such a large role is missing. Spitz here is still the celebrity biographer he was with Julia Child, Bob Dylan and the Beatles. We get page after page on who got what part in what movie, who dated whom and who ate with whom in what restaurant ... And sometimes Spitz is just flat wrong ... More troublesome is the absence of any extended discussion or analysis of the legacy of a president who was surely one of the towering figures of the latter half of the 20th century ... Nonetheless, Spitz’s book, relying in part on prior Reagan books, in part on the author’s interviews with old Reagan associates, and in part on a trove of Reagan papers and documents, not only fills in many details but will inevitably also be a significant marker against which to measure our current politics and political leadership.
Reagan: An American Journey is remarkable for the three-dimensional humanity it reveals in its subject, but even so, we wouldn't be reading our 25th biography of the star of Kings Row. And when it comes to the balance-sheet of President Reagan, Spitz is almost terse ... Reagan biographies too often come across as authorized royal biographies, and aspects of that reflex cling even to an account as thoroughly satisfying as Reagan: An American Journey. But this is an irresistibly talented and intelligent author, here telling a supercharged story. Shoppers for doorstop biographies could do much worse.
Despite his genuine appreciation for Reagan’s strengths, Spitz illuminates the Gipper’s considerable flaws, manifested especially in his irrational faith in Reaganomics and in his stunning ignorance of the Iran-Contra illegalities. In visiting his final years, readers share the pathos of Reagan’s descent into dementia and feel the intense sorrow of the millions who mourn his passing. Candid, complete, compelling.
The author’s take on the controversial former president is mostly balanced, as he mixes the policy failures and successes with the personal shortcomings and strengths; this is neither pathography nor hagiography...The strictly chronological approach is easy to track, and because the author is such a skilled stylist, the narrative flows smoothly...A solid entry in the realm of presidential biography.
Reads like a novel but doesn’t skimp on the scholarship...Despite pacing that keeps things moving at a steady clip, evocative detail abounds throughout...Impressive research, including numerous interviews with a wide array of Reagan cohorts, undergirds the exceptional writing ... Readers need not be Reagan fans or Republicans to enjoy this outstanding biography.