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Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  5,992 Ratings  ·  602 Reviews
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.

Perlstein's epic account begins in the blood and fire of the 1965 Watts riots, nine months after Lyndon

Johnson's historic landslide victory over Barry Goldwater appeare
ebook, 896 pages
Published May 13th 2008 by Scribner
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Call us America the Schizophrenic.

How else can you explain a country that embraced a right wing philosophy after a devastating terrorist attack that led to blindly following a moron for eight years, yet finally overwhelmingly rejected those politics by voting in the liberal opposition only to seemingly overnight turn into a nation of screaming maniacs who consider spending a dime on anything but guns and prisons a waste of tax payer money?

The cold comfort I got from reading Nixonland was that Am
Paul Bryant
You’re trudging slowly along one of those interminable moving walkways you get in airports; you have your political luggage with you. Each side of the walkway a thousand things are happening, it’s hard to take them all in – newspapers, blaring tv debates, screens showing footage of all kinds of violent bombings and assassinations, there's yelling ranting crowds on each side, there are looming politician’s faces spewing statistics and believable cures for cancer; and raining down on you a steady ...more
Aug 07, 2011 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Nixonland very much, as Perlstein managed to intermingle many events and personages that were new to me with those of which I was considerably more aware, and to do so with an effortlessly breezy, witty, and readable style; however, this is a long book, and as the pages piled past it felt long—although it never dragged or stalled, it did eventually prove exhausting in the sheer accumulation of details on electioneering and strategizing, rioting and reacting, Vietnam maneuvering and Was ...more
Paul Bryant
A supplemental review! - this is just some of my favourite outrageous quotes from Mr Perlstein and his mostly less than merry pranksters - starting with a jarring fact I found quite jaw-dropping:

…an LA cop stopped a black man named Leonard Deadwyler for speeding through Watts. He had been speeding [his wife] to the nearest hospital, miles away; there was no hospital in Watts, an area twice the size of Manhattan. P89

Here's something that will ring a bell with anyone who watches the news:

The Penta
Apr 15, 2013 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland struck me as the book Hunter Thompson should or could have written, if he hadn't been so totally caught up in a haze of paranoia, drugs, and booze. But, in fairness to Thompson, he was on the ground in real time during these crazy years. What Perlstein captures, however, is Thompson’s full steam ahead energy, while at the same time cataloguing a decade’s worth of political and cultural mayhem (and I mean EVERTHING). To Perlstein’s credit, there are no sacred cows. I we ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
This was a hard book for me to get through. I had to take breaks and read two other books while getting through this one. It was a bit slow going, and also depressing.

Nixon was the first Republican president who was obsessed with power. Power was much much more important to him then doing the job of the president, which is to care for the welfare of the citizens of the United states. Up until Nixon, the presidents of the time new their job was to serve. To make this nation a great place to live
May 07, 2011 Marvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I have long maintained that the most influential president of the 20th century was not FDR or Reagan but Richard Nixon. While Roosevelt may have created more programs and Reagan changed the economic tone of the nation, Nixon changed how we voted and how our politicians campaigned. And that may have the most longstanding effect on 21st century America.

Rick Perlstein traces that change through the tumultuous career of Richard Nixon. He illustrates how Nixon set on the formula of turning the "silen
Almost 900 pages of meticulously researched and documented items that basically boil down to two sayings: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." and "Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it." Enlightening. Almost like the entire 4 seasons of the Battlestar Galactica reboot. You go through hours of riveting plot and information only to be told in the end that "This has all happened before and it will happen again." It really is uncanny. So much of what we a ...more
Mar 28, 2013 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It starts with a riot and ends in an elegy, a deep feeling of loss. In between is almost nonstop frantic energy and bad moods. This is not a biography of Nixon, though he broods and connives throughout like Milton’s Devil, this book is a panorama or Boschian landscape of the era that brought this deeply paranoid, inferiority complex plagued man to power. The title of Nixonland is taken from an Adlai Stevenson quote, “a land of slander and scare, of sly innuendo, of poison pen and anonymous phone ...more
Jun 17, 2015 Max rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
Nixonland is a divided America cynically manipulated and exploited by Richard Nixon. Rather than try to bring people together and heal the country in a time of turmoil, Nixon chose to exacerbate the tensions and polarize the country so he could pose as the savior for his so called silent majority. This is the second of Perlstein’s three books depicting the rise of modern American conservatism. It chronicles the violence and radical social change of the 1960’s, the domestic politics of the Viet N ...more
Jan 13, 2009 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a lengthy, but very detailed, discussion of how the modern political landscape came to be. Writing too much about it would rehash the book, but the author comes from his background as an analyst of Barry Goldwater's effect on the FDR-Truman consensus to discuss how Nixon leveraged, and extended, social divisions and the rifts in American public consciousness to create his political career.

If you think you fully understand the modern culture wars, and everything that went on in the 1960s,
Pglusman Glusman
I am of the age where, until his death in 1994, I considered Nixon to be the omnipresent evildoer. He was around when I was born, and he was still around 47 years later. You couldn't get rid of him. I felt the boomers would be more correctly called the "Nixon Generation." I was too young to remember him vilifying Helen Gahagan Douglas, but I do remember him as Vice-president getting (literally) stoned in Caracas. I remember him running againt Pat Brown for Governor. His, "you won't have Nixon to ...more
Aug 27, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I put Perlstein’s Nixonland on my "to read" shelf, after I read a very effective and thorough review of the book in the September 1/8, 2010, edition of The Nation. Perstein's book is a must-read for any one interested in the Republican Party's calculated obliteration of whatever tatters and remnants of New World democracy still informed the American polity during the years that Perlstein examines.

I found that this book, although a great read, as one would expect from a much honored journalist,
Matt Brady
Apr 25, 2016 Matt Brady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Nixon. Old "Tricky Dick. Ol' Tricky Dick Nixon. Good old Milhouse. Old Tricchard Dixon. Slick Ricky. Nasty Nixo. Ol' Rubber Nose. The Sweaty Boy. What an utter prick.
Mar 14, 2015 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nixon; brilliant, conniving, duplicitous, paranoid, self conscious, striving. A man peculiarly able to manipulate upheaval and confusion to his own benefit. Nixon's almost first politically conscious act was to organise a college club called the Orthogonians. This club was for the remnants of of the student body who didn't make it or felt excluded by a "circle of swells" called Franklins. The Franklins were the kids who always wore black ties in photos and knew how to carry it off. They were smo ...more
Jun 27, 2013 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though one might mistake Nixonland for being an exhaustively researched and detailed biography of Richard Nixon, Rick Perlstein's tome is something very different. Nixonland's central character is not the man himself, but the America in which he rose to power. Nixon's role in these times, the manner in which he manipulated and exploited events, seems of secondary importance (at least to this reader.) Nixonland's real triumph is Perlstein's startlingly vivid resurrection of America in the years 1 ...more
This is a massive book. It is the story of America book-ended by the elections of 1964 and 1972. Two things are seen again and again throughout this epic tale of mid-century America: Richard Milhaus Nixon and the Vietnam War. The story begins in the smoke and flames of the 1965 Watts Riots and concludes with the first rumblings of the only scandal (thus far) to topple an American Presidency: Watergate.

So much is brought up in this book that it strikes me as to why hasn't someone bought up the fi
Dylan Horrocks
Feb 18, 2017 Dylan Horrocks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history, america
Not just fascinating and readable, this book is also important: essential reading for anyone trying to get their heads round what's going on in American politics at the moment (and at any time since the early sixties). Part of a trilogy (so far) by Perlstein, centred in turn on Barry Goldwater (Before the Storm), Nixon (Nixonland), and Reagan (The Invisible Bridge). But it's so much more than an account of the back-room politics. Perlstein wants to give a detailed picture of the whole landscape ...more
Erik Graff
Dec 21, 2014 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: US citizens
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
As time goes by and as more records are released, Richard M. Nixon emerges ever more sullied. This is at once a biography of the man and a history of the USA focused on the years of his two successful campaigns for the presidency. Throughout author Perlstein attempts to describe and understand the schizophrenia apparently dividing the nation as it divided Nixon himself.

Personally, I enjoyed this book as a reminiscent overview of that period from 1967 through 1972 when I was politically active, f
Jan 13, 2013 Kay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the mission that Perlstein set out to accomplish, namely assessing how America could go from voting in such a large majority for LBJ to voting for Nixon in an equally overwhelmingly way, this book is nearly perfect at accomplishing that. This book is not a biography of Richard Nixon. I think Perlstein's writing is best summed up by something he wrote for the Baffler:

I write long history books that are published with photos of presidents and presidential aspirants on the covers. The photos a
Craig Werner
Jun 04, 2011 Craig Werner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, sixties
Popular history at the absolutely highest level. In some ways, despite its central emphasis on Nixon, it stands with the best synthetic histories of the Sixties in America, comparable to Taylor Branch's America in the King Years trilogy. The difference, of course, is reflected in the titles: Perlstein spends more time on electoral politics, Branch on the details of the movement. When they take a step back and provide quick summaries of the big picture framing their central figures' actions, I us ...more
Brian Eshleman
Nov 07, 2012 Brian Eshleman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Interesting mesh of man and era, when the author focuses on it. Sometimes Nixon psychobiography and historical narrative only occasionally intersect and lack a causal link. Was disappointed that with such a glaring divide between the challengers and defenders of the culture that the author didn't find people doing both. The Jesus Movement, for instance, challenged many cultural assumptions without undermining Biblical family and sexual teachings.
Dec 06, 2016 Christy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To understand how Trump was able to use race and class divisions to win the US Presidency this gives a good background to what happened a half-century ago with the rise of President Nixon and his blatantly racist "southern strategy". (Remember the US south ideologically speaking narrows but really goes all the way north through the US Biblebelt/Rustbelt to the Canadian border.)
David Quinn
I was looking for an epic book to read this summer and in today's political climate in America this seemed to be a good choice. Unfortunately I can't stand the author's style and that's too much of an obstacle to overcome in such a big book so I'm quitting after reading just five chapters.

The author is too prominent in the narrative to ignore. I can almost feel him elbowing me every time he makes what seems to him to be a clever or witty comment about Nixon's iron ass (i.e. his ability to patien
Jan 01, 2010 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Warning: this review is a gusher. Here it is, one of my favorite books. I swallowed it whole--all 800 pages of it. Perlstein is simply amazing. He maintains a fast-paced story line that charges like an action movie. He leaks in his own commentary and ironic observations throughout. He culls together all manner of sources and ephemera, from transcribed clips of TV news broadcasts of the era, first-hand accounts of historical events like the ’68 Democratic Convention, memoirs from Nixon’s sides, B ...more
Adam A
Aug 18, 2014 Adam A rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The times I've been presented with the story of Richard Nixon, it tended to be some highly moralistic film or play; perhaps a fevered documentary that flashes back and forth between the oval office and some university where protests took place or outside a recruiting center or at a GOP convention. The media had a problem of being unable to separate itself from the dichotomy of the conservatives of the time with the "love generation" which was some Quixotic force of righteousness without a goal t ...more
There is a scene in The West Wing where fictional Pres. Bartlett dismisses modern American history as shallow. if Nixonland is to be believed, it is so much worse than that: sickening, gut-wrenching and depressing. The author draws in every ugly thing of the period (the book follows a person, but is meant to be an overview of the times), only mentioning positive things that can be easily dismissed or which pale starkly next to the evil presented. I read the book quickly, wanting this darkness in ...more
Nov 27, 2012 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A few years behind the times on this one, I know, but "Nixonland" has to be one of the most over-hyped books I've ever read. When all is said and done, it is just a re-packaged version of the "culture war" thesis popular in the early 1990s. The author basically argues that it was the 1960s that opened the door to polarization between conservatives and liberals and that Richard Nixon was an evil puppet master who stoked those divisions and more or less created today's political divisions. While t ...more
Nov 27, 2013 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I read the whole thing. This is a very important book, full of every detail of this most tumultuous time. It is as exhausting as the times it describes. I am well-versed on this period even though I was not born yet, but there was so much I didn't know, or hadn't drawn connections between, or hadn't placed in a chronology. Another writer might have been more selective in presenting all of these incidents, but I feel it is appropriate to the era to include every possible event. I ...more
This is garbage.
Extremely biased and one-sided attack against what must be the author's perceived political enemy.
A caricature of a biography, with contempt oozing from it and not even the attempt to veil the bias, an attempt to oversimplify and demonize complex political events, individuals, and diplomatic diplomatic exchanges, coupled with oversimplification,vociferous attacks not fit for the worst of yellow rags and gossip sites,dubious sources, self-congratulating back patting, and no unders
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Eric S. "Rick" Perlstein (born 1969) is an American historian and journalist. He graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in History in 1992. He is a former writer for The Village Voice and The New Republic and the author of numerous articles in other publications. Until March, 2009 he was a Senior Fellow at the Campaign for America's Future where he wrote for their blog about the fail ...more
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“He (Nixon) needed someone with him so he could be alone.” 6 likes
“In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words: from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading.” 6 likes
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