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The Reagan Era Books

Michael Schaller, Reckoning With Reagan: America and Its President in the 1980s (1992)

Schaller's brief textbook-style overview of the Reagan presidency is a bit dry but it's a great starting place for any reader interested in delving into the Reagan phenomenon. Schaller's analysis of the Reagan era is critical but measured.

Dinesh D'Souza, Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader (1997)

Dinesh D'Souza is today one of America's most prominent conservative intellectuals, and his Ronald Reagan is fascinating as a document of the contemporary right's efforts to build up a glorious mythology around an idealized remembrance of Ronald Reagan. Don't look for measured judgment here; D'Souza enthusiastically argues that his hero should be considered one of the greatest presidents of all time.

Mark Green and Gail MacColl, Reagan's Reign of Error: The Instant Nostalgia Edition (1987)

Where Dinesh D'Souza can see no wrong in Ronald Reagan, the authors of this slim volume can see no right. Reagan's Reign of Error is a compendium of Reagan half-truths and misstatements, each (supposedly) debunked by the unabashedly liberal and Reagan-loathing authors. It's hard to believe that the president depicted here is the same man described in D'Souza's Ronald Reagan. Readers interested in ideological balance might do well to read both. Readers interested in reinforcing their own prejudices should choose just one of the two accordingly!

Lou Cannon, President Reagan: The Role of A Lifetime (1991)

Cannon, a journalist for the Washington Post, had a longstanding relationship with Ronald Reagan, and his President Reagan: The Role of A Lifetime is probably the best of the multitude of Reagan biographies on the market. It's certainly better than Reagan's supposed autobiography, An American Life, which was ghostwritten by Robert Lindsay and apparently never read by Ronald Reagan.

Lawrence Walsh, Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Coverup (1997)

Lawrence Walsh, the Republican prosecutor charged with leading an independent investigation of the Reagan White House role in the Iran-Contra Affair, ended up thwarted by what he called a "cover-up" to protect senior officials—including Vice President Bush and Reagan himself—from prosecution. This long, dense book recounts his investigation in painstaking detail. It's not easy reading but it's an indispensable resource for anyone interested in understanding the convoluted but constitutionally critical Iran-Contra Scandal.

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