Nixonland

The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
Narrated by: Stephen R. Thorne
Length: 36 hrs and 46 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (941 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From one of America's most talented historians and winner of a LA Times Book Prize comes a brilliant new account of Richard Nixon that reveals the riveting backstory to the red state/blue state resentments that divide our nation today.

Told with urgency and sharp political insight, Nixonland recaptures America's turbulent 1960s and early 1970s and reveals how Richard Nixon rose from the political grave to seize and hold the presidency.

©2008 Rick Perlstein. All rights reserved. (P)2009 BBC Audio

Critic Reviews

"A richly detailed descent into the inferno - that is, the years when Richard Milhous Nixon, 'a serial collector of resentments,' ruled the land." ( Kirkus Reviews)

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A 5-Star Book Injured by the Narrator

The *book* "Nixonland" is fascinating. Though one can quibble about some of Perlstein's choices (relatively little space devoted to the 1960 election compared to, e.g., Nixon's role in the 1966 Republican midterm-election resurgence), the details about seemingly minor politics and politicians, many now largely historical footnotes (Calif. Gov. Pat Brown; N.Y. Mayor John Lindsay; Illinois Sen. Charles Percy) are a kind of Rorschach of the politics in the 1960s. And that minute detail is what, ultimately, explains why many folks who supported Kennedy in 1960 and Johnson in 1964 had come, by 1968 and, especially 1972, to vote for Nixon in droves.

Richard Nixon is the main character, of course, in all his bottomless pathology -- smart; conniving; petty; crafty; conflicted; envious. But this book tells the story of this talented yet deeply flawed man against the vast canvas of his era, showing how easily history could have taken a different path.

But like several other reviewers, I found this *edition* wanting because of the narrator's careless pronunciation -- I counted at least a dozen relatively well-known folks (including Dean Acheson, Nguyen Cao Ky, and Tom Huston, infamous today for the "Huston Plan" that presaged Watergate) whose names he botched, along many place-names of Vietnam (e.g., Ton Son Nhut Air Base). There are reams of audio news reports from that era against which contemporary pronunciations of those names can be checked -- it's not as if this book were about life in the 1850s, after all. For those who lived through the era, the constant mispronunciations were both annoying and distracting. Overall, the book itself rates a "5" -- but this version loses a notch because of the narrator's failure to "fact check" pronunciations easily accessible in the public record -- which are the coin of the realm in a spoken word edition.

34 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book, Great Narrator...Yes it's true!

This was overall a great book and a great listen. I was put off initially by all of the negative reviews about the narration. They were true in that the narrator mispronounced a lot of words. Yes, I agree it is distracting and yes, where is the editing that should have caught these gaffs. If you can set aside the mispronunciations the narrator did an outstanding job. My favorite was the pronunciation for pseudo. He pronounced it sway-doe. It took me just a bit to figure that one out. Just see it as a game and get beyond the mistakes. Otherwise the writing is very engrossing and the narration is one of the best I have experienced (with the caveat about mispronounced words). Definitely 5 stars.

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Illuminating

Just when I thought I knew everything there was to dislike about Nixon, along comes this book. Intriguing insights about the roots of the current political divide. Leftish point of view, but honest about the left's dropping the ball when the field seemed wide open after 1964. I found the book exceptionally well read, though, as others have commented, the mispronunciation of familiar names almost made me jump out of my shoes.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Wholeheartedly agreeing with Jerrold

I am really enjoying listening to this selection. It's a lively history of the turbulent years of the late fifties through the early seventies, with an emphasis on understanding how the Nixon presidency played on and widened the polarizations that are still gripping this country: gaps in education, race, social standing. How Nixon's own jealousies and resentments helped him play on the resentments of the people whom he named "The Silent Majority".
The book is interesting, well written, never dry, and it's obvious the writer is completely engaged and passionate about his subject.
OK, that's the book. It's great.
I agree with Jerrold that the publisher of this audiobook should be ashamed of the shoddy job this reader did. Not only does he mispronounce many words, but more embarrassingly, names like Dean AY-chison, Sander VAN-oker, and more. Come one, these are people in history. How could an editor let this go by? It's tough not to find it a little distracting.
Nonethless, I can almost wholeheartedly recommend this listen. The quality of the book is good enough to ignore the idiocy of the reader.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Nixon: There was more to it than Watergate

Going into this book, I knew 3 things about Richard Nixon. He was a Republican. He was a liar. He resigned in the middle of the mother of all political scandals. These 3 facts I gleaned from reading All The President's Men in high school.

This book gave depth and character to not only Nixon, but all the various agitators of the 60s and 70s. It explained quite a lot about why my uncle, a veteran, is still angry about Vietnam. It gave context to that swift-boat nonsense from the Kerry presidential campaign that I didn't understand when it happened. It revealed the origins of the current bugaboos of the Republican party: Pat Buchanan, Karl Rove, Chuck Grassley, to name a few. Like the Iliad, it was epic in scope and stopped just shy of where you thought it was going.

I also really enjoyed the narrator. His tone may have been slightly less than neutral and he may have mispronounced things, but this material had the potential to be mind-numbingly dry in audio format, and I enjoyed the injections of personality and drama.

17 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good Book, Terrible reader

Nixonland is a fine book. It gives background information on our history that is sometimes lacking in books of this time period.

That said, my main objection is that the reader cannot seem to pronounce names of people,places, and even ordinary words. One would think that an editor or someone would have checked this out.

As I said earlier, the book is good, but the mispronounced words really detract the listener.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent, inciteful story, jarring narration

This is an excellent analysis of the rise of Richard Nixon in the light of new documentation that has become available in recent years. It is also a great way to see the rise of current political and press figures in the context of their early careers.
The narration is well paced, but the Mr. Thorne has learn how to pronounce names and relatively simple English words. A number of prominent American journalists and politicians have had their names butchered and I even heard him pronounce the name of the feminist magazine, "Ms", as "miss". Common now, how come the producer didn't pick this up and do a re-take?
However, this shouldn't detract from the insight into the distorted and small mind of the man who was Richard Nixon.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent overview of the 60s and how we got there

The divisions in our country played upon so expertly by Richard Nixon continue to plague us. The various cultures of resentment that developed throughout Nixon's career are nicely brought out in this work. The narrative is a bit uneven, due to the author's fondness for lists of contemporaneous events. Aside from that, the overall story is compellingly told and really does make clear the damage done to our nation by Nixon in his never-ending quest to get even.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Exhaustive, Detailed, Entertaining

I grew up after the Nixon years, and so only know what I know about him from popular movies and TV. The book didn't paint too much of a different picture, but did fill in a lot of detail and complexity of the man and the times. The writing is engaging and not at all boring. I think I learned more about the times than the man.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent listen

I was alive for a good chunk of the time period covered here but was amazed to find so much foreign to me. I didn't become politically aware until there were "Don't blame me I voted for McGovern" bumper stickers. It is hard to think about this time period in light of where we are today, where the good guys, like Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and the baddies like Nixon have been enshrined by history. This book did a great job at helping me understand how, for example, a working class white person in the 1960's could be so threatened by civil rights and the war protesters even though history has largely vilified them for that stance. The time period covered was a terrifying one to many. Today, we talk about a "protest" at the 1968 Democratic convention; I can see now how many at the time felt society itself was disintegrating. I was also amazed to learn so much about the liberal wing of the Republican party and the conservative wing of the Democratic. The changes that took place in this relatively short period of time still define where we are today.

OK, there were mispronunciations. But overall I thought the narration was excellent. At times his voice reminded me of David McCollough's narration of Ken Burn's Civil War--it was that good.

5 people found this helpful