An intimate portrait of the 39th president draws on fresh archival material to trace Jimmy Carter's improbable rise from a humble peanut farmer and complex man of faith to an American president and Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian.
Jonathan Alter’s important, fair-minded, highly readable contribution to this literature provides not just an authoritative introduction to Carter’s feats and failures but also insight into why a man of such intelligence, drive and noble intentions floundered in the White House as haplessly as he did ... In his preface, Alter promises to advance a revisionist brief for Carter’s presidency. And he has some persuasive evidence ... But the book is no apologia. It exposes Carter’s weaknesses as well as his undervalued strengths, his reverberating failures as well as his unsung triumphs. Above all, it shows how the qualities that propelled Carter to the pinnacle of American politics also kept him from rising to his historical moment ... Ironically, when the book hits its narrative stride, it is largely a chronicle of defeat and drift. Alter’s most gripping sections detail such unhappy stories as the hostage saga ... Alter digs up forgotten details that make Carter’s travails even more excruciating than we might recall ... On Carter’s post-presidency, Alter is also provocatively revisionist.
... [a] splendid new biography ... nothing short of inverting the conventional narrative about Carter ... The major failures of Carter’s presidency are amply covered here, too, most prominently the Iranian hostage crisis ... Alter’s account is ably sourced and fluidly written, one of the best in a celebrated genre of presidential biography ... The most interesting passages of this book trace Carter’s personal journey on race ... he could be self-righteous and stubborn, for which he often paid a price. But as Alter convincingly demonstrates, the upside was an elected official who pursued the public good relentlessly, disregarding the political consequences.
Alter makes his case convincingly ... while it's evident that he admires Carter—the title of the book is a bit of a giveaway—His Very Best isn't at all a hagiography; it's a fair-minded assessment of the life and career of the politician from Plains. Alter paints a vivid picture of Carter's childhood in rural Georgia ... if the past four decades of Carter's life don't get as much ink as some readers might hope, Alter does do a good job summarizing the former president's extensive humanitarian work with the Carter Center ... a fascinating book, and Alter tells Carter's life story beautifully and with admirable fairness—he treats Carter as a real person, as flawed as anyone else, and not as a saint. Alter's pacing is wonderful; his accounts of some of the more dramatic events in Carter's presidency are thrillingly told, but this never comes at the cost of the humanity of the people involved. It's a book that's bound to fascinate anyone with an interest in American history, and an excellent look at the man whom Alter considers, justifiably, 'perhaps the most misunderstood president in American history.'