1983: Reagan, Andropov, and a World on the Brink by Taylor Downing

book 1983

Who would’ve thought that 1983 was so pivotal? I’ve done a lot of reading over the years on Ronald Reagan and thought the mantra was Reagan and Gorbachev, not Reagan and Andropov! This book for me was a shocking revelation. In addition to its revealing nature, this book is as fortuitous in its timing as I’ve seen in a long time. We live in the days when the fear of nuclear war has been taken from the closet, dusted off, and put prominently back on the shelf. There’s North Korea, there’s Iran, and Russia is starting to seem more 1983 than 2018.

When I say that this book is a shock for me, it’s not only the major history from the 1980s that I was clueless about, but worse it’s the fact that we almost had a nuclear war and the United States wasn’t even aware of it at the time. I pray we figured something out since then, but it’s all a little unnerving in light of where confidence in the United States government falls on the scale at this moment.

This book reads well and is hard to put down, which is quite a feat since you know we didn’t have nuclear war 30 years ago. The author, Taylor Downing, has done some interesting research into some recently-declassified material. I can see why they waited a while to release it! We owe a debt of gratitude to our intelligence services, but it appears they let one slip by them here. The author has a background in producing documentaries and looking into these overlooked subjects. Isn’t it strange that someone from Great Britain produced this book of so critical an episode in our history that has been often overlooked?

The book isn’t perfect. Though I appreciated much of what he had to say once he got to this crisis, I thought he caricatured Ronald Reagan leading up to that event. Of course, President Reagan responded as he went along but it was always from core principles. The pre-Gorbachev “warmonger” Ronald Reagan was the same man as the post-Gorbachev peacemaking Ronald Reagan. The results he managed to get were the ones he was always after. I doubt the same could be said of Gorbachev who I’m sure never intended to lose the Soviet Union.

This book is so good, interesting, and revealing that to say much about it would make me a spoiler. Part of the enjoyment of this book will be the surprises you will gain as you go. There will be events you’re aware of such as the death of three Soviet presidents before Gorbachev, the shooting down of a Korean civilian jet, the “evil empire” comment, and so much more, but I promise you there’s so much you didn’t know too.

The year 1983 never stood out to me before and I’m even a Ronald Reagan fan. It’s a big deal to me now – I’ll never think of 1983 the same again. For that reason, how could I label this book anything other than a success?

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Check it out here.

Last Act: The Final Years And Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan by Shirley


What a book! If you admire Ronald Reagan, you will find this book fascinating. If you, as I did, watched for every story about him after he announced his Alzheimer’s and watched every part of his funeral with several tears along the way, this book will fill in all those questions you probably had.

Craig Shirley writes the story in a way that is gripping. When I began reading his method of jumping between the first days of President Reagan leaving office and the days just before he died, I thought it would undermine the book, but it simply did not.

So many insights into the fine character and honest makeup that defined Reagan are here. Actually, I must warn you–you will have waves of deeply missing him again as you read. You will more deeply opine the lack of people like him today too. I believe you will see that Mrs. Reagan is far better than the witch the media unfairly made her to be as well.

Those who served under him, for the most part, adored him. He forced no cynicism on those who served him as many do. Even burly Secret Service men were reduced to heavy tears when he died. Even after Alzheimer’s did its ugly work on him, he was still the man who wanted to stop and help a who man had a flat.

For the most incredible contrast, a story of Nixon ignoring his ailing wife one day and Clinton making a pass at one of Reagan’s young interns and making himself a nuisance by relentlessly begging to speak at Reagan’s funeral were told. Thanks Nancy for holding a firm “no” on that point!

There’s so much more. I love this book. I can’t think of anyone who has lived in my lifetime for whom I would want this kind of information, but Ronald Reagan was for me just such a man. This book is a treasure for those who love the Gipper and would be a great help to those who don’t, but should.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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