Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan by Edmund Morris
I was only 8 years old when Ronald Reagan left office, so I felt like I was rediscovering the famed era of my childhood while reading this book. RR was such an imposing figure upon my imagination, and I remember sadly watching as Alzheimer's slowly took his faculties and he dwindled away into a shadow of what he once was, while I grew into an adult. Through this biography, I learned much about the inner-workings of twentieth-century American history, and especially about Dutch himself. Though the author clearly displays Reagan's failings as well as his successes, I came away with a sense of awe and respect for this magnanimous man who denouced the "evil empire" and dreamed of a defense system in the stars.
The best part about this memoir is the author's ability to insert himself into the narrative (which was highly controversial, since Morris basically made himself a semi-fictional character in Reagan's story), but here, it works. This is a much more literary biography than I've read before, with beautiful, haunting descriptions and creative narrative touches throughout, including (appropriately enough for an actor-turned-President), a smattering of movie script-style sections.
The only drawback, in my opinion, is that I think the author expects the reader to be more familiar with the time period that is covered; there were many cultural and historical allusions or references that were unfamiliar to me. Perhaps, though, it just means I need to brush up on my 20th Century history!
All in all, I rate this as a fantastic book, and well worth the six months it took me to finally finish (of course, I had to read the footnotes, too-- they are almost as interesting as the bio itself!). Highly recommended to all, epseically during this Presidential election year. I think I began reading this the night after the Republican primary at the Reagan library. Hopefully, you will be able to finish it much sooner than I did, though it is a whopping 841 pages!