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Summary

The landmark New York Times best-selling biography of Richard M. Nixon, a political savant whose gaping character flaws would drive him from the presidency and forever taint his legacy.    

“A biography of eloquence and breadth... No single volume about Nixon’s long and interesting life could be so comprehensive.” (Chicago Tribune)

One of Time’s Top 10 Nonfiction Books of the Year   

In this revelatory biography, Evan Thomas delivers a radical, unique portrait of America’s 37th president, Richard Nixon, a contradictory figure who was both determinedly optimistic and tragically flawed. One of the principal architects of the modern Republican Party and its “silent majority” of disaffected whites and conservative ex-Dixiecrats, Nixon was also deemed a liberal in some quarters for his efforts to desegregate Southern schools, create the Environmental Protection Agency, and end the draft.   

The son of devout Quakers, Richard Nixon (not unlike his rival John F. Kennedy) grew up in the shadow of an older, favored brother and thrived on conflict and opposition. Through high school and college, in the navy and in politics, Nixon was constantly leading crusades and fighting off enemies real and imagined. He possessed the plainspoken eloquence to reduce American television audiences to tears with his career-saving “Checkers” speech; meanwhile, Nixon’s darker half hatched schemes designed to take down his political foes, earning him the notorious nickname “Tricky Dick.” Drawing on a wide range of historical accounts, Thomas’ biography reveals the contradictions of a leader whose vision and foresight led him to achieve détente with the Soviet Union and reestablish relations with communist China, but whose underhanded political tactics tainted his reputation long before the Watergate scandal.   

A deeply insightful character study as well as a brilliant political biography, Being Nixon offers a surprising look at a man capable of great bravery and extraordinary deviousness - a balanced portrait of a president too often reduced to caricature.   

Praise for Being Nixon 

“Terrifically engaging...a fair, insightful and highly entertaining portrait.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“Thomas has a fine eye for the telling quote and the funny vignette, and his style is eminently readable.” (The New York Times Book Review)

©2015 Evan Thomas (P)2015 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“A biography of eloquence and breadth... No single volume about Nixon’s long and interesting life could be so comprehensive.” (Chicago Tribune)

“How self-aware are the great men of history? That’s the fascinating question at the heart of Evan Thomas’s new book on Richard Nixon.... Here in one sharp and briskly written volume is what you really want to know about the great and horrible thirty-seventh President: How could someone so wise about the world be so utterly clueless about himself?... [Nixon] is revealed in Thomas’s hands as awkward, striving, victimized and alone - strange habits for a man who opted for such a public life, and traits that carried the seeds of his destruction.” (Time)

“Ambitious... Thomas’s book is filled with anecdotes that humanize Nixon. There are pages suggesting real insight and, especially, how the president was seen by those around him.... There are well-crafted word-pictures of Nixon throughout the narrative, from his legendary awkwardness to his catastrophic frustration and vindictive rage.” (Carl Bernstein, The Washington Post)

What listeners say about Being Nixon

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Only book you need on nixon

Fantastically well written book.
Narration can be a little monotone but not a problem.
Gives a well balanced view of nixon.

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  • Scott
  • 27-07-15

Sympathetic bio

Any additional comments?

This is a very readable and surprisingly sympathetic bio of Nixon. More than most bios of RMN, Thomas devotes as much space to trying to unravel and understand Nixon’s complex and flawed character as he does to the historical record. Thankfully, he has the good sense to rely on the insights and comments (often humorous) of Nixon’s contemporaries in painting a picture of the Nixon personality rather than allowing himself to veer into psychobabble. After reading Being Nixon, I still can’t say I fully understand the man and his contradictions but this is probably as close as any bio will come. If I had a criticism it would be that like most presidential bios, scant time and space is devoted to the post-presidential life of Nixon though I was certainly eager for more details than what was given around, for instance, his reaction to being pardoned, how he dealt with his downfall and attempts to rehabilitate himself, and the Frost/Nixon interviews. Despite this, I quite enjoyed Being Nixon and recommend it.

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  • Jane
  • 12-10-15

Gave me a deeper perspective on Nixon & Watergate

I was in high school during Watergate and watched most of the Senate hearings. This book helped me to see Nixon as a person and to revisit that era through the eyes of an adult. At the time, I saw all of people in the Nixon administration as one monolithic block, but now I see that they were competing individuals with various motives, rivalries, and animosities. And I learned that Nixon foes such as Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee had personal animosities toward Nixon, whereas before I had seen them purely as altruistic heroes.

I was able to empathize with the early Nixon, in that I am also clumsy and sometimes feel uncertain in social situations. So having come to empathize with him, I was disappointed to learn how vindictive he became and how much he lost his moral compass as president. Yet I had always thought of him as villain, so I shouldn't have been surprised.

The book also helped me to appreciative Nixon's accomplishments as president, especially in foreign policy.

Bob Walter did an excellent job of capturing Nixon's cadence.

There were some funny parts that had me laughing out loud.

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  • Haven
  • 04-01-16

See How Open Minded You Are

I didn't like Nixon then and I still don't think there is much to like, but I learned a great deal from this book and I am the better for listening to it. A biography of Richard Nixon is a difficult hand to play but Evan Thomas has played it well. His points about the good side of Nixon are delivered gently like a fly cast before a fish not harshly like a street fight.

Superb.

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  • Judith J. Wurtman
  • 10-09-15

A mind changing book

This is an honest well researched account of Nixon that wipes away the character depicted in the press and shows the agony and bafflement of a man who really did not understand himself.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 25-03-16

A complicated man

Noted presidential biographer Evan Thomas seeks to explain Nixon, rather than condemn him. If only Nixon had known himself half as well as Thomas understands him!

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  • Ryan
  • 23-06-15

Exceptional story and impeccable narration

Would you consider the audio edition of Being Nixon to be better than the print version?

Yes - the narrator has an effortless delivery, precise pronunciation, and a compelling delivery that makes this such a pleasure to hear.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Being Nixon?

When JFK and Lyndon Johnson stole the 1960 election from Nixon through voter fraud in Illinois and Texas -- and how Nixon took the high-road and did not appeal the election turnout through the courts, which he was encouraged to do by President Eisenhower and others who believed he was robbed.

Which scene was your favorite?

When Nixon was on the phone with Eisenhower, awaiting his answer on whether he was to continue as the VP running-mate, and he growled at Eisenhower that "there are times, such as these, when one needs to either shi* or get off the pot!".

Any additional comments?

This is a terrific story, that is more evenly-balanced and better researched than most typical books on Nixon (many of which are biased hatched-jobs, which this is not). It paints a well-rounded picture of this most compelling, complex, unusual, and effective President.

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  • Stephen
  • 15-08-21

Another Nixon Bash

Nixon was thinking this Nixon was thinking that. uggggg, Who in their right mind would read this garbage. I got half way through this slog of a book.

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  • TS
  • 18-06-21

Excellent and insightful

Very well researched and objectively told. Excellent narration. It was great to read after all the years that have passed.

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  • Shawnna Morris
  • 25-08-20

Surprisingly Nuanced

Evan Thomas goes beyond the Nixon caricature to paint a nuanced portrait of a complicated man. The reader is left to marvel at the tragedy of an intelligent, driven man who reached the pinnacle of success, only to be brought down by his own insecurities and resentment. A compelling read.

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  • Jessica
  • 29-01-20

Really Good Book

When I went to the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda I wondered how someone could go from who he was morally to do what he did with Watergate. This book really did a great job of capturing who Nixon was.

The only issue I had was that this book jumped around a lot chronologically, and this book name dropped often. My advice would be to look at the people that were around him and when so you are more guided at the time period the author is writing about.

Other than that it was an enjoyable book.