— February 1st, 2012 —

Book Review: “The Reagan Diaries,” ed. Douglas Brinkley

“During his two terms as the fortieth president of the United States, Ronald Reagan kept a daily diary in which he recorded, by hand, his innermost thoughts and observations on the extraordinary, the historic, and the routine day-to-day occurrences of his presidency. Now, nearly two decades after he left office, this remarkable record—the only daily presidential diary in American history—is available for the first time.
Brought together in one volume and edited by historian Douglas Brinkley, The Reagan Diaries provides a striking insight into this nation’s most important presidencies and sheds new light on the character of a true American leader. Whether he was in his White House residence study or aboard Air Force One, each night Reagan wrote about the events of his day, which often included his relationships with other world leaders Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope John Paul II, Mohammar al-Qaddafi, and Margaret Thatcher, among others, and the unforgettable moments that defined the era—from his first inauguration to the end of the Cold War, the Iran hostage crisis to John Hinckley Jr.’s assassination attempt.” — from the front flap

This book was difficult for me to read because it is a diary, a daily record of things: the book has no plot, no point, no direction, no goal—it is a constant, without much development or progression.
In addition, this is a personal diary; and because of this, Reagan does not stop to describe anything. Thus, acronyms will pop up out of the blue, with no definition; great international crises will creep into the picture and creep back out before you realize their import; the progress of issues such as START and SALT II are discussed, but no definition is given as to what they actually are. A glossary at the back of the book can be helpful for individuals, but unfortunately only covers people. For anyone who reads this book, it is critical to have a fundamental grasp of the events that took place during the Reagan administration in the ’80s, or it simply will not make much sense.
Douglas Brinkley, the editor, summarized out of necessity great portions of the journal to save space; the National Security Council redacted only about six pages; and Mrs. Reagan wished for only a few entries to be edited out for personal reasons.
However dull and difficult to read I personally found this book, this is a must-have for any student of Ronald Reagan. It truly does describe his inmost thoughts on nearly everything—surgeries, his children (it is sad to see that he seemed to have little affection for his children compared to that for his wife), foreign diplomats, Congress, the newspapers, John Hinckley Jr, terrorists, and daily life.
Reagan really didn’t like the press at all because of their constant spinning of facts.
I was surprised at how many leaks Reagan reported.
I was surprised when I learned that the government operates full-force seven days a week—I thought it was usually only five or at most six, except for special occasions or emergencies.
Thought it interesting when Joe Biden and John McCain showed up; also one “Howie Phillips” (Mr. Howard Phillips?)
INDECENCY: Almost none: Reagan mentions a breast surgery Mrs. Reagan had at one point.
LANGUAGE: Mild language is used somewhat frequently, but is almost always written with dashes between the first and last letters. Nothing greater than d*mn and h*ll, though I think I noticed one instance of blasphemy.
AGE RANGE: Honestly, anyone could read this book, but not everyone would understand it. I suggest it for young adults because of the sophisticated subject matter.

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