Kai Bird’s landmark presidential biography of our 39th president, The Outlier, begins, almost lyrically, by recreating the world in which Jimmy Carter grew up ... Bird is able to build a persuasive case that the Carter presidency deserves this new look ... Curiously, Bird’s story [...] does not create an overwhelming sense of Carter as a tragic, misunderstood president. Instead, his narrative engenders as much impatience with Carter as respect ... Kai Bird’s important book intentionally, and inadvertently, explains why American presidents continue to learn as much from President Carter’s mistakes as from his many achievements.
... while Kai Bird does not spare us even the slightest detail of the failures of the Carter years...he offers a bracing reminder that the 39th president was a man of probity, decency, high hopes, and high moral standards ... We needed this biography ... An admirer of the content of Carter’s character if not the content of his politics, Bird’s take on whom he calls 'our most enigmatic president' is relentlessly fair-minded ... Overall the Bird book also is a timely reminder that the Carter years were consequential years, beyond the Camp David accords ... Many historians and commentators have wrestled with the role of the South in the life of the first Southerner elected to the presidency since Reconstruction ... Bird approaches this with sensitivity and insight ... Bird’s biography redeems his presidency and reminds us of how callous we might have been during his years in office.
... balanced, detailed and very readable ... This compelling portrait of Carter, a complex personality who was finally undone by the Iran hostage crisis, is an absorbing look at his life and administration that should be appreciated by anyone interested in American history.
The Outlier is a fresh take on Jimmy Carter. It presents him as a flawed but confident and capable man who spoke hard, necessary truths to his fellow Americans and racked up numerous accomplishments in office.
Although these contradictions make Carter a potentially fascinating figure, he is a surprisingly boring subject for biography ... Bird’s book offers a rich and compelling account of Carter’s sincere efforts to make American policies match the nation’s ideals.
Carter was consumed by his inability to free the hostages, and Bird has written a compelling account of the administration’s planning for its failed rescue mission. Carter’s re-election campaign against Ronald Reagan makes for painful reading, but his visit with the Iran hostages upon their release is an emotional highlight of the book. Bird concludes with an overview of Carter’s post-presidential years. His wife, Rosalynn Carter, has been a strong influence, and their close relationship resonates throughout the book ... This engaging political biography introduce Carter to a new generation, and will remind other readers of a truly transitional time in U.S. politics.
Offering a readable, masterful biography of a complex leader, Bird does a magnificent job characterizing the many strong and fiery personalities in the Carter administration, making them all individuals with virtues and flaws.