His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

S. & S. Sept. 2020. 800p. ISBN 9781501125485. $37.50. BIOG
Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) is not always well remembered. His term in office was fraught with a number of economic challenges, as well as the Iran Hostage Crisis. Alter (The Center Holds) presents a superb historical assessment of Carter’s life that is more comprehensive than Peter Bourne’s Jimmy Carter and Stuart Eizenstat’s President Carter. Covering the politician’s beginnings and experiences up to the present, based on numerous interviews with Carter himself, his family, and those who knew him throughout his career, Alter takes care to explain his subject, whom he describes as often feeling like an outsider. He traces Carter’s upbringing as the eldest of four children during the Great Depression and working on the family farm to becoming involved in politics at the suggestion of his brother. Yet Alter also doesn’t shy away from the complexities of the president’s life, including his reluctance to support civil rights publicly for fear it would hurt his career. Insight is also given to his record on domestic policies as Georgia senator (1963–67) and governor (1971–75), and his time in the White House (1976–80) with the Camp David Accords. Through it all, Alter maintains, Carter relied on faith and family.
VERDICT This thorough account of a remarkable life will have wide appeal.

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