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Richard Nixon: The Life

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,855 ratings  ·  301 reviews
Brilliantly researched, authoritatively crafted by a prize-winning biographer, and lively on the page, 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,
Hardcover, 752 pages
Published March 28th 2017 by Doubleday
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Chucktobinconstruction.Com Yes, I noticed the jacket error. I think it's the most sympathetic book on Nixon that I've read--I'm really enjoying it. Other minor errors, though: J…moreYes, I noticed the jacket error. I think it's the most sympathetic book on Nixon that I've read--I'm really enjoying it. Other minor errors, though: John Sparkman was Senator from Alabama, not Arkansas; Bob "Woodstein" [Woodward]. I'm not trying to be a pain. It's a great book, but such errors are a distraction.(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
”The president ‘was an almost completely political animal. He was neither moral nor immoral, but was amoral,’ said Farmer, the civil rights leader….’I don’t think right or wrong entered into it.’

‘Nixon would have been recorded as being a very great president had it not been for the fatal character flaw,’ said Farmer. ‘He did not believe in anything.’”

 photo Richard20Nixon_zpspiulay1m.jpg

I can remember in 1994 when Richard Nixon died that one of my friends, who has been an unrepentant hippy her whole life, said she was going to
Apr 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nixon: The Life by John A. Farrell is a 2017 Doubleday publication.

There is no shortage of books written about Nixon, with Nixon himself having written several books, published as memoirs. So, with all that material floating around, why do we need another book about Nixon, and why now?

Well, first, I think having a Nixon biography published in one book, as opposed to, say, Stephen Ambrose’s chronicles of Nixon’s life, published in three volumes, makes this biography a terrific choice. It’s enorm
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Army One lifted from the lawn, rose above the muggy capital, the National Mall dimmed in a summer morning’s haze. Below, L’Enfant’s grand boulevards and Brumidi’s halls and corridors pulsed with visionaries, parvenus, and hustlers; with dreams and scheming; with avarice, ambition, rivalry, and purpose. The chopper soared over statues of heroes, and monuments to great statesmen whose ranks, with such American audacity, the awkward grocer’s boy had presumed to join, had come so near, only to fall ...more
Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon in a conversation with President Lyndon Johnson in October 1968:

“My God. I would never do anything to encourage [South Vietnam] not to come to the [peace] table.”

But as John Farrell proves, Nixon did that very thing in an effort to sabotage possible peace talks to end the Vietnam War. He did so because he was afraid that a settlement would damage his prospects while enhancing those of his Democratic opponent, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, in the up
Donna Davis
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those that read presidential biographies; those that want to read just one Nixon bio
History buffs rejoice; the definitive Nixon biography is here. John A. Farrell is the renowned biographer of Clarence Darrow. Now he gives us a comprehensive, compelling look at the only US president ever to resign from office under the cloud of imminent impeachment. This is the only Nixon biography that answers the many questions that left Americans—and those around the world that were watching—scratching our heads. Why, why, and why would he do these things? Farrell tells us. I read this book ...more
Christopher Saunders
For all the books written about Richard Nixon, there are surprisingly few cradle-to-grave biographies (and most of those by Nixon apologists whose views on their subject aren’t reliable). Or maybe not surprising, considering how complex and tormented he is: what biographer could cram Nixon’s tortured life and tumultuous times into a single volume? Farrell, author of formidable works on Tip O’Neill and Clarence Darrow, makes an excellent try in this 2017 volume. Unlike recent works by Evan Thomas ...more
The president was “a gut fighter….His first reaction was to fight back…to get even.”

Amongst my earliest memories during the early/mid 1970s was the ubiquity of the word Watergate. Somehow I imagined it was related to the games of dominos that my grandparents played with their friends. The designs created during the game evoked plumbing -- I was too young to grasp that Plumber was another timely designation.

Perhaps it is hubris, whatever the motivation--it is daunting to attempt to encapsulate a
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it

Published in 2017, John Farrell’s “Richard Nixon: The Life” is the most recent comprehensive, single-volume biography of Nixon. Farrell is a former White House correspondent for The Boston Globe and The Denver Post and is the author of award-winning biographies of Massachusetts congressman Tip O’Neill and attorney Clarence Darrow.

This 558-paged biography proves balanced, lucid and consistently captivating. It begins with Nixon’s run for Congress in 1945 be
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very solid bio on Nixon. That said, as I was reading, I couldn't help but think of Robert Caro's massive (and highly praised) LBJ project. The arc of Nixon's life is epic. If you're of a certain age, his life covers a good part of our post-World War II experience. In other words Nixon, whatever you think of him, should probably be the subject of a multi-volume effort. Then again, any biographer is also going to confront the lifelong enigma of Nixon. On one hand, he was a great up-from-your-boots ...more
Peter Beck
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: presidents
How dare you, John A. Farrell! You have taken someone I have considered my whole life to be pure evil and made me feel empathy and compassion for him. I actually had tears in my eyes as I reached the final page. You have ruined my plan to give my copy of “Richard Nixon” to my library.

As a boy, I wondered what a “water gate” was when my parents watched the news. Over the years, I gradually learned about Richard Nixon’s dark side, especially with the release of more and more of the Nixon Tapes. I
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Farrell's life and times of Richard Nixon is surprisingly approachable. At over seven hundred pages its long but he writes entertainingly while managing to weave in history lessons painlessly. Farrell is sympathetic to a president we've seen as a near villain during and after Nixon's time in politics. "Richard Nixon" is also an in depth character study of a man who so often got in his own way. Nixon made it hard for his public to like him and this is where Farrell shines by clarifying Nixon's co ...more
Charles Haywood
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Richard Nixon’s name is often invoked, but what we hear, for the most part, is not history. Rather it is incantation, much like watching a medieval morality play, where every character has his place, and Nixon’s is Evil. Given this, John Farrell’s 2017 biography performs two services. The first is to go behind the stage and show Nixon in all his lost complexity. The second is to show how the destruction of Nixon has been used as the template in attempts to similarly destroy Donald Trump. For peo ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The newest presidential biography I’ve read, John Ferrell’s Richard Nixon: The Life is one of the best I’ve devoured. Ferrell’s storytelling combined with Nixon’s often bizarre experience make for a biography that reads more like a novel than a textbook. I purchased Rick Perlstein's Nixonland for my collection and checked this one out from my library, but I will be purchasing this wonderful tome as well.

Its unconventional start places an adult Nixon at the onset of his civilian life after World
4.75 Stars - Irrespective of your view of ‘Tricky Dick’ or whether or not you’re a particularly keen observer of World or US Politics, this biography is a read that is able to pay handsomely for the investment made to partake in reading it.

Right off the bat, you are engulfed in the world of Richard Nixon, this may seem obvious to state but I’m particularly keen on expressing that this is no surface level or highlight reel bio, I found myself consumed in the childhood, formative years & career o
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I agree, they really should have tested their cow.
There are similarities to Trump, thus is why I read this. Didn't know much about Nixon, but this book proved as a great intro into his mindset. From my opinion, Trump was and is isolated and detached from reality as a privileged child born into his business, how could he possibly understand low to middle class America. Nixon however grew up from nothing but was slowly ruined by politics of the time due to his insecurities and introvert personality.

To me, this read like a tv drama at times. Felt
Apr 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I was so excited about this book because it's timely and also because it's far enough in the past where we can look back accurately on the life. I've read several other Nixon bios and his autobios and also spent significant time in the Nixon archives so I was familiar with the arc of this story. But somehow, this bio fell flat for me. He nailed the character and sometimes the context, but as with most biographers that spend a lot of time with their subjects, I think he's too soft on Nixon. Espec ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best bio I’ve read of Nixon. Really appreciated how the author points out so well that although Watergate was a foolish series of acts, Nixon was held to a much more severe standard than many prior Presidents who engaged in similar conduct. While very flawed in personal respects, Nixon was a truly bright individual who brought tenacity and an iron will to succeed and survive in tumultuous times. He showed us that our hubris can both be harmful and eventually lead to redemption.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well researched, detailed filled look back into American tumultuous past and the driven man who is to be haunted by his insecurities, decisions and public opinion.
Found many similarities to today’s political landscape. As time resolutely pushes us forward, some things never change.
Bryan Craig
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
This is the best one-volume treatment of Nixon I have read.
Jim Bowen
I'm not altogether sure why this book has been getting the rave reviews that I saw before I started reading this book. It's the 4th book (at least) that I've read about Nixon (after books by Jonathan Aitkin, Robert Dallek, and John Dean), and of the 4, this... felt like the worst, to me at least. Maybe it's my fault, but I really don't believe it is.

This book is a fuller biography of Nixon's life than any other book I've read since Aitkins, in as much as it starts with his early life, and runs t
Scott Wilson
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I loved this book. One of the few biographies I have read that left me wanting more. This book is fast paced and fascinating. I felt the writer was even handed.

Amazing how much American history Nixon touched when you consider Nixon was involved in Alger Hiss case, Vice President for 8 years, President for 6 and involved in one of the closest Presidential races in history among other things. This book is a wild ride through some amazing times in Americas history.

Highly recommended for anyone inte
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
Farrell's bio of Nixon is masterful, fluid, incisive and provides a well balanced view of the Californian president. It is filled with insightful quotes from a very wide array of sources ranging from former Nixon biographers, newly declassified material on the Vietnam War to Hunter Thompson, Tip O'Neil, Gerry Ford's personal papers.

I loved every page of that book
For readers interested in a single volume biography of Richard Nixon based on the most currently available documentation, this book is a good place to start. While less detailed than Irwin F. Gellman's impressive work on the subject (The Contender: Richard Nixon, the Congress Years, 1946-1952 and The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1952-1961), Farrell's work is also less hagiographic than Gellman's. Farrell notes Gellman's assistance in preparing this work. Other biographies ...more
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
Exceptionally good account of the rise and fall of Richard Nixon. If ever an American life played out like a Greek tragedy it is the life of RMN, and Farrell's account is rich in both detail and insight. He masterfully weaves the observations of Nixon and others throughout his narrative, bringing an immediacy to the unfolding events that makes this book a particularly gripping and compelling read. I have read and enjoyed many books about Nixon over the years, and this is in my opinion certainly ...more
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the best, most even handed, informative, and unbiased book on Nixon ever written. The scholarship here in on par with David Herbert Donald's treatment of Lincoln; never focusing on the good or bad, but dispassionately detailing history as it was, and showing each president for who he was as a person.

This book clearly shows Nixon outside of the view of the media and also outside of himself: the two main factors that destroyed his presidency.

This book opens with perhaps the most detailed a
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
45 years after Watergate, and 6 months into the Trump presidency, it's time once again to gather 'round the campfire and listen to the stranger-than-fiction political life of Richard Nixon, a man who famously kept a long enemies list but whose greatest enemy was himself.

There are so many parallels to the current White House occupant that it's downright eerie. Take a couple passages:

"Most of the decrees were innocuous--banning a newsman from Air Force One, or threatening to cut off federal funds
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
An insightful, engaging and intimate biography of Nixon. The narrative is rich, comprehensive and well-written. Farrell doesn’t really tell anything new, and the coverage of his post-presidential life and legacy is a bit light, but the book is comprehensive and compelling.

Farrell looks at such subjects as Nixon’s civil rights advocacy, his dim view of McCarthy, his suspicion of Eisenhower as vice president (Ike seemed to enjoy annoying Nixon), his dislike of conservatives’ “totally hard-hearted
Alan Tomkins-Raney
Expertly captures the audacity and intellect of Richard Nixon, and reveals his amorality and character as well as any biographer could be expected to. Thoroughly researched and well organized, with a fast moving, gripping narrative that captures the feeling of the political and social climate of the Cold War Era, this is a very good biography. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is because I felt the prose--the author's writing style--was frequently awkward enough to be a tad irritating. ...more
Christie Bane
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a standard solid presidential biography — well-written, long enough to be thorough but not so long that it takes months to finish, deep enough that the reader gets some understanding of the man and not just the president. Richard Nixon was a very interesting man as well as a very interesting president. Despite the fact that his name will always be associated with scandal, he just does not come off as a bad man or even a bad president. He was a GOOD president, if you set Watergate aside. ...more
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“Of the trials that Eisenhower encountered in politics, McCarthy’s behavior was the most difficult to abide. In his private correspondence, Eisenhower repeatedly conveyed his conviction that the way to curb a demagogue was to ignore him. And, given the separation of powers, the president had few levers to discipline a senator. He could try to rally public opinion, but an open clash would elevate McCarthy and tarnish the presidency. “I personally deal in principles, ideas and national purposes,” Ike told a supporter. “I shall not demean this office by indulging in personal Donnybrooks.” 2 likes
“The most virtuous hearts have a touch of hell’s own fire in them.” 1 likes
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