Most people know of Richard Nixon as the man who was President during the Watergate scandal, but there is so much more to him than just that. He was a Navy Lieutenant, was a congressperson, and one of the most driven men in politics at his time.
However, his drive also led him to basically do anything he could to make sure he was able to be in power.
His story is a warning for anyone who wants to ensure democracy stays alive and isn’t subverted by any president in the future.
Written by: Richard Nixon
Published: January 1st, 1979
R.N.: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon is an autobiography written by the 37th President of the United States. Nixon provides a firsthand account of his early childhood, teen years, and growth into adulthood. He then examines his political career, including his roles as a World War II naval officer, member of the House of Representatives, and U.S. senator; his service as Dwight D. Eisenhower's vice president; and his 1968 election victory over Hubert Humphrey.
Nixon examines his presidency from 1969 to 1973 and his choices during Watergate, which led to his eventual disgrace and resignation. We list this one first since it will give you an understanding of the man through his own words.
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Written by: Stephen E. Ambrose
The following three books are all written by one of the most respected biographers during his life. This volume starts with Nixon's rough childhood, teen years, and adult towards being a politician. Ambrose delves into how ruthless; his campaigns were for Congress and his beliefs as they began to form and adapt to become Vice-President under Eisenhower.
Ambrose examines Nixon's influence during House Committee on Un-American Activities, which focused on trying to destroy civil rights and communist party members and others. His support of the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine and his awkward relationship with Dwight D. Eisenhower as Nixon grew into the politician he would become, for better and much worse.
>> More books by author Stephen E. Ambrose
Written by: Stephen E. Ambrose
Published: December 1st, 1987
As Nixon’s power grew, these years began an even more tumultuous time in Nixon's political career. He ran for President in 1960 but was barely defeated by John F. Kennedy. Thinking that he could use the time off at home, he rested, began practicing law again, and wrote the book Six Crises (also in this list). After doing this, he realized that if he ran for governor of California, he could use it as a way to build up to another run for the presidency. This was not to be as incumbent Pat Brown soundly defeated him.
Even though he was defeated, Nixon was still incredibly politically ambitious. Even as some Republicans pushed for him to run for President, he endorsed Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson destroyed. After seeing this, Nixon decided to run for President in 1968. However, he realized that it was not his time yet. Seeing that the war in Vietnam was rocking the Democrats, he ran as someone who would help the country be stable in this time of protest and unrest. After he won, he promised to bring the country together.
Nixon's downfall had begun, and he thought he could survive it by lying, obfuscating the truth, and using any means necessary. However, his promises were often unfulfilled, and then came the disaster of Watergate, where he had his men infiltrate the Democratic party headquarters to gather information on them. When this didn't work, and it seemed Congress would impeach him, he resigned. This leads us to the final volume of Nixon's life, written by Ambrose.
Written by: Stephen E. Ambrose
Published: November 15th, 1991
After being impeached, Nixon returned to his home in California, a broken man. Since U.S. citizens still wanted him to be punished, his Vice-President and now President Ford gave him an unconditional pardon. In later 1974, Nixon became sick and had to have surgery. He recovered in 1975 and started to think about joining the political world once again. He started doing interviews and touring so people would see him. However, seeing that he was still problematic, he endorsed Republicans such as Ronald Reagan and others.
Although not an elected official, Nixon still was working in politics and helping Republicans until he had a stroke in 1994. He had a heart attack and died at the New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan on April 22nd, 1994, at the age of 81.
Written by: Evan Thomas
Published: June 16th, 2015
In his new book, Being Nixon: A Man Divided, Evan Thomas provides a unique and intimate look at the life of Richard Nixon. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with those who knew him best, including former wife Pat Nixon and Henry Kissinger, Thomas paints a portrait of a complicated and deeply conflicted man. Even despite his many failures, Nixon remains an important and complex figure in American politics and is just one of the reasons he was nicknamed "Tricky Dick."
This book offers a well-rounded portrait of the President and examines the factors that led to his downfall. It is full of exciting insights into Nixon's life, starting with his childhood being raised as a Quaker and then moving on through his legal and political career. This book seems to be written without bias as Thomas is dedicated to the flaws in his life and gives praise to his achievements during his lifetime. It provides a valuable perspective on one of the fascinating chapters in American history.
Written by: Rick Perlstein
Published: May 13th, 2008
Starting in 1965, this book covers one of the most turbulent times in the history of the U.S.A. Protests in the streets, a war in Vietnam, women were fighting for equality, and a significant rally at the Democratic convention. Unarmed student peaceful protestors shot dead in Ohio. Add to that the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X and so much more insanity through to the early 70s.
Because of his opinions and how the left-wing Democratic party seemed to be inept at dealing with all the country's problems, this is how Nixon came to power. An example of this is when he tried to destroy any advancement by the Democrats, such as stopping L.B.J.'s Paris agreement to end the war in Vietnam while saying he had a secret plan. He told the country that he would unite the country, but he did quite the opposite as he divided it worse than ever. Much of this was because of his paranoia and encircling himself with cronies, which only exacerbated the situation.
Written by: Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
One of the most respected books on Watergate and Nixon’s presidency, All the President’s Men, is a must-read if you want to understand why this event was so important. At first, it seemed like a minor break-in at the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate complex. Little by little, the truth filtered out, and people realized just how deplorable the actions of Nixon and his cohorts were, and they were doing as much as they wanted without any regard to democracy in the U.S.A.
This book was initially published two months before Nixon resigned, so you will feel like you are living through the investigation as you read it. This was the first time that "Deep Throat," the F.B.I. informant, was ever heard of, and it goes into why his revelations were so crucial to bringing down Nixon and his corrupt government even before it happened. The Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein won a Pulitzer Prize for this incredible book, and it has been ranked as one of the Top 100 nonfiction books of all time by Time Magazine. This is a must-read if you genuinely want to understand why Watergate was so important in U.S. history.
Written by: John Farrell
Published: March 28th, 2017
At first, he was known as a respectful Navy Lieutenant named Richard Nixon, who seemed like a good man. However, he quickly realized that if he wanted to succeed in politics, kindness and caring for one's opponent would only defeat his desires. Realizing that he could capitalize on the mistakes of the Democrats, Nixon moved quickly and with contempt of the law to take control and move forward in his quest to be President.
We found this book quite intriguing since it not only looked at the negatives of his actions, it examines his staff's original desire to help reform health care, civil rights and to help people rise up from poverty. Sadly, Nixon only cared about these beliefs if they could show him as an uniter of the country. As you have seen already, that is just one of the lies that he told the American public so he could get elected. Meanwhile, even before becoming President, he was already doing as much as possible to tear apart the country's fabric. This only became worse as he gained more and more and believed himself above the law. Sadly, for Nixon, the Watergate scandal proved otherwise.
Written by: John W. Dean
Published: July 29th, 2014
Written by John Dean, who was Nixon's White House Counsel, this gives an insider's view of the Watergate scandal and how it affected the presidency and the U.S.A. This includes 150,000 pages of transcripts from around 1,000 conversations with many of the most powerful men in Nixon's world.
Because Dean was so close to the President, he has information that almost no one else could examine and use.
Because Nixon was so paranoid, he often taped conversation, and Dean was able to access these and use them to document the facts he presents in this book. Using these resources, he deduced what Nixon knew and when he knew it regarding the Watergate break-in. There is also a critical eighteen-and-a-half-minute conversation that just happened to be erased for some reason. In this incredible book, you will find out the truth and see how it could have been avoided if Nixon hadn't been so power-hungry and unwilling to trust in democracy.
Written by: Anthony Summers
Published: September 30th, 2000
Written over five years, Summer digs into what drove Nixon to be the man that he became and why he thought he was beyond the reach of the law—looking at his life and his desire to be a dictator whenever possible is a sad and terrifying view of this man. His attempt to ruin the Vietnam peace talks so he could show the Democrats to be weak, but there is so much more. Some of the exciting information related to how he worked to try to overthrow Cuba's Fidel Castro and the Chilean dictator Salvador Allende.
Unlike many of the other books on this list, Summers investigates the possibility that Nixon had an extensive issue with alcoholism and most likely prescription drugs during his life. He also examines his mental stability, or lack of it, because of his extreme paranoia and how his thoughts were different from the word he spoke to the world. Lastly, but not least, he examines how Nixon was abusive to his wife, Pat. Using more than a thousand interviews during the writing of this book, he makes strong points for all the above to be true.
Written by: Richard Nixon
In the first book written by Nixon, initially in 1961, he examines six of the major events up until that time. Being that he was constantly monitoring the press, either on tv, radio, or in the papers, Nixon seemed to want to set the record straight according to himself. It is interesting to see him sometimes be calm, reserved, and intelligent, while other times, he seems to lose control and become unbalanced depending on the circumstances. This includes basically ignoring his wife, Pat, so that he can focus on his drive to be powerful throughout his life.
The six crises mentioned in the book focus on The Alger Hiss Perjury Case, The Checkers Speech during his 1952 campaign (Checkers was his dog), Eisenhower’s heart attack in 1955 (he has very little to say about his relationship with Ike otherwise), his trip to Latin America in 1958, his meeting with Khrushchev in 1959, and his defeat by John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election. This book is obviously biased regarding how Nixon defends his actions but is worth reading since you see his mindset in ways that no one else can show them.
Written by: Richard Reeves
Published: September 18th, 2001
In President Nixon: Alone in the White House, Richard Reeves draws on over 600 hours of taped conversations to offer an intimate portrait of America's 37th president. Reeves paints a picture of a man who was often isolated and alone in the most powerful office in the world. Despite his many accomplishments, Nixon struggled with a lack of self-confidence and feelings of inadequacy. This inner turmoil led to paranoia and a deep mistrust of others, ultimately contributing to his downfall.
What we found interesting is that most of the people that Nixon hired, or worked with, were just as paranoid as he was most of the time. Nixon was very much alone as he couldn't trust anyone, and no one really seemed to trust him. We know that he spied on, and recorded, many of his meetings with people in power, but it seems they did the same to him. And, as we know, that is one of the reasons that the Watergate scandal occurred: Fear and a lack of trust in democracy, which in reality, Nixon had caused to come to fruition by his own actions.
Written by: Chris Matthews
Published: August 28th, 1997
This is the story of two men, one from a dynasty of privilege and one a self-made man, and their rivalry that would shape postwar America. Most people don't realize that early on, they were friends and then became enemies as the years wore on because of differences in politics and morals. Chris Matthews charts the course of J.F.K.'s and Nixon's lives from their earliest days to when J.F.K. was assassinated.
Matthews shows how these two men were driven by forces beyond their control - in Kennedy's case, his D.N.A. and in Nixon's case his paranoia - yet still had the power to choose their own paths. The result is an epic tale of ambition and redemption, tragedy, and resurrection, with a cast of characters including John F. Kennedy Jr., Jackie Onassis, Robert F. Kennedy, Pat Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and Fidel Castro.
Written by: David Greenberg
Published: September 1st, 2003
In his new book, Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image, David Greenberg offers a comprehensive history of how Richard Nixon has been portrayed in the American imagination. From the earliest days of his political career to the present, Nixon has been a controversial and polarizing figure, and opinions have always been heavily divided.
There is so much more to Nixon than just the Watergate scandal, and this book examines it all. Greenberg delves into all aspects of this complex history, exploring the various ways Nixon has been depicted in everything from cartoons to feature films. Was he the heroic true American that the Midwest thought? Or a lying politician who was willing to do anything and rightfully nicknamed "Tricky Dick" by the liberals? Or somewhat of a liberal himself because he championed some views that today's Republicans would find abhorrent. The result is a fascinating and insightful look at one of America's most enigmatic presidents.
Written by: David Frost
Sir David Frost was a reporter in the U.K. who signed a contract to work as a reporter on U.S. news in 1968. During his time on the show, he interviewed many famous people such as Muhammad Ali, Henry Kissinger, and even the deposed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. However, the most important interviews are with Nixon. The interviews totaled 29 hours between the two men and discussed many of the seminal points in Nixon’s career.
One of the reasons this book is so important is that you get to read how Nixon handled very personal questions. One of the most famous lines from these interviews include what seems to be Nixon's attempt to redeem himself or ask for forgiveness from the American public when he said, "I let the American people down, and I have to carry that burden with me for the rest of my life." When asked if he would do illegal actions against the American public if he felt it was needed, Nixon responded that it wasn't illegal if the President were to do it. When we look at today's political world, we find that he was pretty prescient on that point.
Written by: Conrad Black
Published: October 23rd, 2007
Richard Milhous Nixon was one of the most complex and controversial American presidents in history. In this exhaustive biography, Conrad Black paints a complete portrait of the man who held America's highest office for eight years – from his early days as a Quaker farm boy to his historic election and tumultuous term in office.
Drawing on unpublished material and exclusive interviews with key players, Black takes readers inside Nixon's political career and personal life, shedding new light on the Watergate scandal, his relationships with world leaders, and much more. Instead of just focusing on the negatives, Black goes into the positives and strengths that Nixon had and how he could lead the country until his downfall. It is an intriguing expose of a man that was so contradictory that it almost seemed like he was two different people at one time.
Written by: Stanley L. Kutler
Published: May 19th, 1990
On July 23rd, 1974, Richard Nixon became the first and only U.S. president to resign from office. The Watergate scandal, which had dogged Nixon for more than two years, finally reached its climax with the release of Tape White House Tapes, in which he was heard authorizing the cover-up of the burglary of Democratic National Committee headquarters. Nixon proclaimed, "I am not a crook in his resignation speech." However, as author Stanley Kutler reveals in his new book The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon, the former President's troubles began long before the break-in at Watergate and extended far beyond the infamous tapes.
Drawing on previously unexplored sources-including declassified F.B.I. and C.I.A. files, Kutler shows how this event in U.S. history still has far-reaching effects in today's political world. Kutler examines the personalities of men such as H. R. Haldeman, John Mitchell, and others who Nixon trusted and who thought that Watergate was a minor scandal at most. And people on the other side, such as Judge John Sirica, prosecutor Archibald Cox and legislators such as Sam Ervin, Kutler, show Nixon's utterly confounding world up close and personal. far-reaching
Written by: Robert Dallek
Published: April 24th, 2007
If you want to read about a genuinely confusing and complicated relationship, then it is the book for you. Kissinger was Nixon's Secretary of State. You'd think that they'd get along and support each other, and you are right…well…sort of. They would agree on some ideas, while they would try to tear the other down on others. One of the reasons is that they both wanted absolute power while realizing they couldn't survive without each other.
Some of the interesting points made in this book, along with the lies that they both used to justify American soldiers dying in Vietnam for no reason, is that Kissinger took control of Nixon's foreign policy when Watergate was happening. Being that there are so many taped conversations, it is shown that Kissinger ignored Nixon and did his own thing. This includes his interactions with China and Russia, which contradicted Nixon's statement that only he could deal with them, among others.
One of the most terrifying events is when Kissinger orders the military to be ready to go to war during the Yom Kippur War while Nixon was passed out on sedatives. This book is a rude awakening to who was in control, and when, during Nixon's administration, and what could have gone wrong.
Written by: Tim Weiner
Published: July 21st, 2015
And, of course, the Watergate scandal. When most people think of the Watergate scandal, they remember the resignation of Richard Nixon. However, very few people know the backstory to Watergate and how Nixon nearly destroyed America. In his book, One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, Tim Weiner tells the story of one of America's most tragic presidents. This includes his lying about Vietnam so he could win the election, even though it meant the death of thousands of young U.S. soldiers, the ability to insulate himself from people that would disagree with him basically, and his attempt to ignore Congress and desire to be a dictator simply.
From his early political career to the infamous Watergate scandal, Weiner provides a detailed account of Nixon's rise and fall. It is based on declassified records, some as recently as 2014, and is in-depth as any other book on this list. Looking at the recent political climate through Weiner's eyes, it rightfully seems that Nixon started the divide that now consumes the U.S.A.
Written by: Bob Woodward
Published: June 18th 1999
Bob Woodward was such an influential writer during his lifetime that we felt this book also deserved to be on the list even though it isn't specifically about Nixon. In his book Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate, Bob Woodward chronicles how Watergate has shaped the legacies of five different presidents. It is interesting to see how each President has been able to work around the rules, or obey them, as they viewed how events played out with Nixon and Watergate. The choices the five presidents after Nixon made have had both excellent and horrific results regarding the U.S. public and the world.
Drawing on exclusive interviews with key players in the scandal and newly released White House recordings, Woodward offers a detailed account of how each President responded to this watershed moment in American history. The result is a fascinating look at Watergate's role in our politics and our society over the past four decades.
Written by: Will Swift
Published: January 7th, 2014
In our final book, we decided to focus on the personal side of Richard and Pat Nixon, instead of the Watergate scandal and other misdeeds by the ex-president. There have been rumors that Richard was abusive to Pat and ignored her for his own need for attention and power, but this book challenges this idea using correspondences from one to another.
We found it quite interesting to read this book since Will Swift is a marital therapist and therefore has a unique view of their relationship that other laypeople would not have. We all know of the paranoia, fear, and drive to control everyone and everything around him, but this is softened by the love letters that they sent each other during their marriage. Using interviews with family and friends, Swift shows that Pat seemed to be meek and quiet, while she was quite intelligent but didn't need to prove it publicly. If you want to see a completely different side to the Nixons, you will read this book.