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Summary

Brilliantly researched, authoritatively crafted by a prize-winning biographer, this is the Nixon we've been waiting for.

Richard Nixon opens with young navy lieutenant "Nick" Nixon returning from the Pacific and setting his cap at Congress, an idealistic dreamer seeking to build a better world. Yet amid the turns of that now legendary 1946 campaign, Nixon's finer attributes quickly gave way to unapologetic ruthlessness. It is a stunning overture to John A. Farrell's magisterial portrait of a man who embodied postwar American cynicism.

Within four years of that first win, Nixon would be a US senator, in six the vice president of the United States of America. "Few came so far, so fast, and so alone," Farrell writes. Finally president, Nixon's staff was full of bright young men who devised forward-thinking reforms addressing health care, poverty, civil rights, and protection of the environment. It was a fine legacy, but Nixon cared little for it. He aspired to make his mark on the world stage instead, and his 1972 opening to China was the first great crack in the Cold War.

Nixon had another legacy, too: an America divided and polarized. It was Nixon who launched the McCarthy era, who set South against North, and who spurred the silent majority to despise and distrust the country's elites. He persuaded Americans to gnaw, as he did, on grievances - and to look at one another as enemies. Finally, in August 1974, after two years of the mesmerizing intrigue and scandal known as Watergate, Nixon became the only president to resign in disgrace.

Richard Nixon is an enthralling tour de force biography of our darkest president, one that reviewers will hail as a defining portrait, and the full life of Nixon listeners have awaited.

©2017 John A. Farrell (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"Farrell's blockbuster portrait of Nixon is revelatory - filled with fresh reporting shedding new light on the roots of our own dark political moment. He shows that dirty tricks, October Surprises, and anti-elitist resentment were among the gifts Nixon bequeathed to our own presidential politics." (Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right)
"John A. Farrell has once again delivered a rich, precisely written portrait of the past to help us understand the present. He traces the origins and turning points of one of the most complex, complicated and fascinating presidents of the modern age with flair and narrative skill. Each page is a joy to read, on the way to a very satisfying whole." (John Dickerson, moderator of CBS' Face the Nation and author of Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History)
"Richard Nixon's political career has all the nooks and crannies of an English muffin: the red-baiting of the early campaigns; Checkers; the Great Debates of 1960; the comeback in '68; the inheritance and horror of Vietnam; the historic opening to China; the shame of Watergate. In Richard Nixon, John A. Farrell is tough and unyielding, yet gives his subject a fair hearing through each gripping episode. 'I'm not a quitter,' Nixon once protested, and this grand, indispensable book proves him right, right to the end." (Chris Matthews, author of Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Post-war America)

What members say

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Outstanding biography of the man

Too many biographies of men of consequence turn into histories of those events and times , not here. This is a portrait of the man from humble beginnings to the end.

I have listened to about 15 books on the Nixon presidency and it was fresh to me to hear about the early days, first campaigns etc. We are treated to an exciting narrative of the Hiss scandal.

This book was balanced and fair so unfortunately lacking in the justifiable hate for the man. Many people looking to satisfy a prejudice against him or for him will find plenty of material here to satisfy a preexisting bias but actually this is fine professional history. I noticed gaps such as Nixon's junkets in the wilderness years, his dark dealings with foreign powers especially Iran (see Oil Kings by Cooper on Audible) and the midnight prayer with Kissinger (see Nixon and Kissinger by Dalek on Audible). And was sad when we skip quickly through the Yom Kippur war. I wanted to see that but if it was that detailed it would be 100 hours long.

Overall.. 5/5 for enjoyable sweep over a complex man. This is better for not being a history of the Nixon years, it is good to see it sticking to the man not the times.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Trez
  • London
  • 01-02-18

A leader with heart that made mistakes

I could summarise this book as a story of a man who had to free himself from his own web. Nixon is portrayed as a very capable and sincere leader with sometimes contradictory emotions who was embroiled in a complete mess. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as the narration was top notch and practically every line was compelling. I feel no need to elaborate. Enjoy!

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  • Suzanne R.
  • 30-05-17

Listen with an open mind

Being a teenage and "twenty something " during the Vietnam war and Nixon years, I hesitantly chose to this book. With deliberate objective listening, I was surprised to feel a sense of empathy for this troubled and misguided man. Even with that strained understanding, I still cannot muster enough empathy to overcome my contempt for some of his decisions and actions. If you can be open minded, it is worth a read or listen and may even enlighten on the importance of character and shared values in those we elect.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael Friedman
  • 10-07-17

A Fine Biography

Mr. Farrell has written an excellent biography of President Nixon using fairly recently declassified tapes and notes, particularly from Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. He does a nice job of painting the early Nixon and his evolution from brilliant politician (his Checkers speech was groundbreaking) to criminal megalomaniac. In all, he was always the same, but Farrell gives perspective to Nixon's criminal behavior (the taping and illegal hounding of enemies by presidents did not start with Nixon in any respect) and his accomplishments (China opening in spite of his anti-Communist past and that of the Republicans), the Russian SALT treaty, environmental preservation, savior of Israel after the coordinated attack. This is all of course balanced by Watergate (yes, it was far more than the coverup), interference with Johnson's Viet Nam negotiations thanks to Henry Kissinger, the bombing of Cambodia, the failure to pursue the end of the Vietnam war for nearly 8 years costing tens of thousands of American lives and his knowing support and ultimate betrayal of South Viet Nam. He knew full well that Peace With Honor was nonsense, but ultimately he had no further political use to extend the war. The quoted statements and notes are often chilling and Farrell does a fine job of describing the family, upbringing (California Quaker), prejudice (Ivy league, Alger Hiss) health and financial pressures that drove Nixon to become our most famous criminal, disgraced president.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Tad Davis
  • 04-06-17

Well balanced and proportioned

John Farrell has written a well-documented and reasonably balanced biography of one of our most controversial presidents. He covers everything from the lemon farm and the "house my father built," through Watergate and on to Nixon's rehabilitation and death. In between he gives a full accounting of Helen Gahagan Douglas, Jerry Voorhees, Alger Hiss, Dwight Eisenhower, and the Plumbers. He maintains an admirable sense of proportion throughout.

Richard Nixon is one of my hobbies; I lived through his terms both as Vice President and President, and devoured Watergate books in the years since. And I have to give Farrell credit for rectifying some of my ideas about Nixon. As evil as some of his actions were - John Dean couldn't have selected a more damning set of quotes from the Watergate tapes than Farrell provides - he comes across here as a human being rather than a mythological beast.

I found only one passage where Farrell's sense of balance seems to leave him. He attacks the prosecution of Nixon's top aides - Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, and others - as the corrupt product of a kangaroo court, charging collusion between prosecutors and judge, and decrying the jail sentences that were handed down. What kind of justice system, he asks, would send somebody like Donald Segretti to jail and let John Dean off the hook? Yet Segretti and Dean both pled guilty and both spent four months in prison. That seems pretty fair to me.

Dan Woren provides a brisk narration, maintaining the pace and engagement throughout. I enjoyed it a lot. I'll mention one small point - a point that many audiobooks about Nixon get wrong, but that Woren gets right. Gordon Strachan was a minor player in Watergate, but he deserves to have his name pronounced correctly. His last name rhymes with "brawn," not with "bacon."

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • lesley
  • 24-04-17

A page-turner with depth

This biography is thorough and fair, yet leaves the reader as puzzled as ever about Nixon's personality. I don't think the man will ever be explainable beyond a conclusion that he was amoral and incapable of empathy, and childhood losses don't seem to really explain that. He seemed to have moments of caring and a sense of fair play...but then would turn on a dime and calmly eviscerate a political enemy. I can't say there were many new facts in this book - except for the unconscionable dealing with North Vietnam that extended the war 3 more years and cost 20,000 additional lives so Nixon could get elected. But the book flows and the darkening of his character continues inexorably.
Reader is wonderful except for a couple of mispronounced words and a very odd tic of saying long vowel sounds in a strangulated way; reminded me of Bullwinkle of Rocky and __. It became distracting for me because the reader has a resonant and pleasant voice, and he reads with much expression, keeping the story moving. But then there will be a phrase like "green fees" (think Bullwinkle) and I cringe.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Philo
  • 28-01-18

Rich detail, well told always, gives great insight

This is a masterpiece. Every sentence seems crafted to give the most useful info in the most listenable phrasing. As a listener through several books on Nixon, this one best told the story and explained the context of each event. The portraits of each person are compact but well done to convey what the listener needs to know. Would give 6 stars if I could. The narrator is serviceable and, as the hours go by, wears well on the ears.
Aside from crafting the best phrasings, the author came up with some definitive evidence on the Chennault affair, before Nixon's first election as president, in which Nixon (as a mere candidate, communicating through Anna Chennault) made a pitch to South Vietnamese President Thieu to scuttle the deal then-President LBJ was cooking up with all parties in the Vietnam conflict, to create a path to de-escalate the war. This was done cynically and quite possibly illegally to serve Nixon's electoral strategy. (Shades of the tussles pending now in DC about 2016 pre-election Trump and Russia.)
I have long viewed Nixon's as perhaps the most useful individual's story in decoding USA's political and geopolitical history from about 1950 to 1975. This book more than lived up to its possibilities in completely fleshing out the story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • John Block
  • 11-07-18

Great book about the greatest President in history

Amazing, and detailed biography I’m on the most interesting and influential people history. I learned so much about Richard Nixon, and his efforts to make our country stronger. I definitely recommend this book.

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  • B.A.B.
  • 31-03-18

Compelling account...

That describes Nixon’s many strengths and weaknesses. Farrell paints a somewhat favorable picture of the up and coming Nixon, but pulls no punches regarding Vietnam and Watergate among other failings. I have recommended the book to many.

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  • Ed Walters
  • 15-03-18

not a very detailed or in-depth biography.

More like cliff notes on Nixon's life than a biography. Left me wanting, but I did learn Stephen Ambrose did a Nixon biography so I have that to check out. Nixon seems tame and scrupulous compared to some of our last Presidents. Nixon paved the way for Obama's IRS targeting abuse, improper surveillance on political candidate's and citizens, along with shady foreign dealings. As Nixon pointed out, "Double standards."

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  • Anonymous User
  • 13-03-18

exceptional

great book all around on a fascinating and flawed man and his rise and fall from the presidency

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  • jacqueline
  • 10-03-18

Richard Nixon was a flawed human being

What did you love best about Richard Nixon?

This book describes how a truly brilliant and talented man could feel his own pain but not the pain of others and could commit evil against others and justify those acts because he aspired to be a part of the world politics. He committed crimes as though world prestige absolved him of guilt. Thousands of young men would be alive today if not for the treasonous acts he committed during the Viet Nam War. Looking through the eyes of his daughters he seemed beloved, but misunderstood and persecuted.

WOW, this is an incredible book!