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Publisher's Summary

From one of America’s most-respected journalists and modern historians comes the first full-length biography of Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States and Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian.

Jonathan Alter tells the epic story of an enigmatic man of faith and his improbable journey from barefoot boy to global icon. Alter paints an intimate and surprising portrait of the only president since Thomas Jefferson who can fairly be called a Renaissance Man, a complex figure - ridiculed and later revered - with a piercing intelligence, prickly intensity, and biting wit beneath the patented smile. Here is a moral exemplar for our times, a flawed but underrated president of decency and vision was committed to telling the truth to the American people. 

Growing up in one of the meanest counties in the Jim Crow South, Carter is the only American president who essentially lived in three centuries: his early life on the farm in the 1920s without electricity or running water might as well have been in the 19th; his presidency put him at the center of major events in the 20th; and his efforts on conflict resolution and global health set him on the cutting edge of the challenges of the 21st.

Drawing on fresh archival material and five years of extensive access to Carter and his entire family, Alter traces how he evolved from a timid, bookish child - raised mostly by a Black woman farmhand - into an ambitious naval nuclear engineer, writing passionate never-before-published love letters from sea to his wife and full partner, Rosalynn; a peanut farmer and civic leader whose guilt over staying silent during the civil rights movement and not confronting the white terrorism around him helped power his quest for racial justice at home and abroad; an obscure, born-again governor whose brilliant 1976 campaign demolished the racist wing of the Democratic Party and took him from zero percent to the presidency; a stubborn outsider who failed politically amid the bad economy of the 1970s and the seizure of American hostages in Iran but succeeded in engineering peace between Israel and Egypt, amassing a historic environmental record, moving the government from tokenism to diversity, setting a new global standard for human rights, and normalizing relations with China among other unheralded and far-sighted achievements. After leaving office, Carter eradicated diseases, built houses for the poor, and taught Sunday school into his mid-90s. 

This engrossing, monumental biography will change our understanding of perhaps the most misunderstood president in American history. 

©2020 Jonathan Alter. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • P Willis
  • 08-10-2020

Unbiased biography of a complex president

Very illuminating biography of a complex, brilliant, and amazingly energetic man. Jimmy Carter certainly has always given “his very best”. Although Carter has flaws, and the author illuminates those flaws, this book points out the many accomplishments of his presidency, many which have been overlooked. For instance there has never been a president who has done more for the environment. and human rights. He has worked most of his life to make the world a better place. Unlike most presidents, he has admirably not enriched himself after his presidency and has worked tirelessly to make the world a better place. Definitely worth reading.

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  • Richard H. Page
  • 14-10-2020

Still Looking

If you are looking for an evenhanded treatment of Carter, keep looking. The book is very interesting and comprehensive. It is well worth the read. But, the author is guilty of biased interpretation of events, bending over backwards — sometimes way over backwards — to construct things in Carter’s favor. Listening reminded me of the reasons I did not like Carter and of the reasons I came to admire him.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Chet56
  • 25-10-2020

A Candid Assessment

Looking fondly on the past as one's life approaches twilight is normal, but that doesn't render its perspectives incorrect. Such is the hindsight which shapes my reflections on the Carter presidency. After over 30 years of daily hammering on talk radio and single-purpose TV "news" channels, an entire generation of Americans born after President Carter left office will tell you Jimmy Carter was the worst president in our Nation's history. History will judge him far more kindly, and this book and others, recent and forthcoming, herald that reassessment. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see kicking Carter to the curb put us into the exit lane for the off-ramp from the positive course the United States was on. Yes, we had problems but at least we were working on them and making process, and at least we cared about each other. That off-ramp put us on a boulevard of broken dreams, where we are stuck gaping at the trappings and distractions of our consumerist, me-first society, wishing we could find a way to turn around and find an on-ramp to put us back on course. Realizing the course, however imperfect, was better than the course we're on is a positive first step, and this valuable biography can help.

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  • Mark
  • 23-10-2020

a great biography

After a general prologue covering Jimmy Carter's career highlights, the book began with Carter's childhood in rural Georgia. The book grabbed a hold of me then, and never let go. Carter's life is fascinating, and this book brought alive the man and the political leader. His unexpected rise to power in Georgia and the country is fascinating. His post-presidency was as interesting as his any part of this book. This book is so well written, and covered Carter's strengths and weaknesses. I put this book up there along with classic presidential memoirs like McCullough's Truman and John Adams. This is history at its most readable. In addition, the narrator was outstanding. This book was more than 30 hours, and I was not bored for a second. While Carter had his political bumps, he is an inspiring human being. If you like history, you should read or listen to the book! I have rated hundred of books, and to me, this is one of my rare 5 star ratings.

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  • Country Boy
  • 21-10-2020

One of My Favorites

A well-written narrative about the life of a legend. I enjoyed every minute and I highly recommend this book to all.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jennifer Baratta
  • 26-11-2020

Thank you Michael Boatman.

Thank you John Alter. You made Jimmy Carter relatable to me . I was born in 1979.

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  • Marcella
  • 15-11-2020

Very Best Sometimes

Good biography. Sees both sides, not unalloyed praise of a decent man who made errors and did great deeds, but probably truthful.

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  • Jae Miles
  • 15-11-2020

Very enlightening

I am inspired to do more during my retirement. l spent my career in service to others. This book encouraged me not to give up. But, seek new ways to help and uplift others.

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  • Ross Smillie
  • 13-11-2020

Engaging biography

this biography of the former president is balanced in its depiction of a man with heart high moral standards who often was challenging personally because of his exacting, sometimes judgmental approach to others. The book is a thorough depiction of Carter's struggle to be an effective leader and statesman, without compromising with the worst aspects of political life.

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  • John J. Di Gregorio
  • 11-11-2020

wonderful and inspiring

I would have given this 5 stars if not for the repeated jabs and unnecessary comparisons to Trump. This came off as petty and cheapens the legacy. Also, a little to dismissive of Reagan's contributions. Carter was ahead of his time and his determination to use his platform for good is what makes him worthy of admiration. We should all aspire to achieve a small portion of what he has accomplished.

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