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Publisher's 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 listeners say about Richard Nixon

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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.

11 people found this helpful

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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."

19 people found this helpful

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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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.

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liberal skew.

had promise that it could be good but the deeper you get into it the worse the liberal bias comes out. just wanted a biography not a hatchet job.

1 person found this helpful

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Sympathy for the Devil?

I inherited my father's contempt for President Nixon, but Farrell's biography gave me new found appreciation. Not a whitewashing of sins, but placing politics in the context of an entire life.

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Captivating

What a heck of a life. He was a real person and I believe he was more than misunderstood and horribly underestimated. He meant well and was more than a descent President. He deserves far more honor than he received. Other Presidents that proceeded him would have done well to try to emulate some of his descent moral and family values. This is the stuff that a Statesman should be made of.

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Sock It To Me

An intimate look at the man Richard Nixon. Intellect and political cunning intersecting with a deep sense of inferiority and suspicion toward all political opponents.

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A Decent Summary but No Great Insights

This book is a perfectly fine summary of the life and career of Richard Nixon. It is pretty even-handed in its treatment, noting and highlighting both his accomplishments and his terrible flaws. But if you are looking into deeper insights into what made the man, one of the most strange and fascinating characters in 20th century American politics, tick, you'll have to look elsewhere. Maybe I've just been spoiled by Robert Caro's incredible multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, in which you truly get to know the man and all the many people who surrounded him, what he wanted, why he behaved the way he did, what motivated him, etc. Yes this is just one volume and Caro's, possibly one of the best biographies of all time, is 4 volumes with a 5th on the way, but I was really hoping for more. And if we are going to compare the two biographies, the different treatment of the 1957 civil rights bill is, to say the least, interesting. To hear Farrell tell it, Nixon was a driving force behind the bill and Johnson did everything in his power to stop it. To hear Caro (who is often extremely critical of Johnson) tell it, Nixon and Eisenhower cared very little about the bill and Johnson's many compromises, manipulations, and cloakroom deals are the only reason the bill passed the Senate. Needless to say, Caro's telling is far more convincing. Anyway, if you are looking for a decent telling of the facts of Nixon's life, this book will serve.

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  • Mr
  • 05-11-17

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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-10-19

Pretty Good

Good biography. Lots of focus on the less well-known aspects of Nixon's life (his childhood, stint in the war, early congressional career and Vice Presidency) but still an interesting enough focus on the more well-known aspects (Watergate). It doesn't hide from the ugly aspects of Nixon, but every now and then it does a good job of humanising him - there are lots of little commentaries on his psychology, his insecurities and his being 'Frank's son'. Narrators voice was soothing without being monotonous. It's not as academic as the other biographies or history books, but that's why its more entertaining and a good read. I would really recommend it to someone who is interested in Nixon and wants a solid, comprehensive overview of his life, his character and his driving forces.

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  • Anecdotal
  • 02-01-18

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!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Paul M.
  • 07-12-19

Outstanding

This is a brilliant audiobook. It is comprehensive, balanced and engaging. I fully recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Hayley McCoy
  • 01-20-19

good listen, great overview

it's a bit weird in the beginning it seems to get straight into mid life nixon and then they go back to his origins around chapter 3. but aside from this it follows Nixon all through the stages of his life and is a great overview. I was left feeling sorry for him and overwhelmed at his self righteousness. I would reccomend this book

1 person found this helpful

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  • William Rymer
  • 07-06-20

History being rewritten?

Amazing story, and with the horror show of the Nixon seen in the Cold War context, it is possible to now view the Presidency as a mixed bag. Judged against the atmosphere of its time, he achieved equally great and horrible things. I had an unfairly biased opinion of this flawed character.

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  • Airlie
  • 02-18-20

Great for Nixon buffs!

Just loved this book. Fascinating and a well researched and considered review of a remarkable life. This book does not suffer from one-sided attacks as so many Nixon biographies do, nor does it over flatter. Instead it paints a picture of a very human man, who made mistakes (like the rest of us) but who persevered and fought on and on and on with unmatched resilience, which example is perhaps Nixon’s greatest legacy.

1 person found this helpful