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Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
 
 
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Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America [Hardcover]

Rick Perlstein
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)


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Book Description

May 13, 2008
NIXONLAND begins in the blood and fire of the Watts riots - one week after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, and nine months after his historic landslide victory over Barry Goldwater seemed to have heralded a permanent liberal consensus. The next year scores of liberals were thrown out of Congress, America was more divided than ever, and a disgraced politician was on his way to a shocking comeback: Richard Nixon. Six years later, President Nixon, harvesting the bitterness and resentment borne of that blood and fire, was re-elected in a landslide even bigger than Johnson's, and the outlines of today's US politics of red-and-blue division became distinct.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, May 2008: How did we go from Lyndon Johnson's landslide Democratic victory in 1964 to Richard Nixon's equally lopsided Republican reelection only eight years later? The years in between were among the most chaotic in American history, with an endless and unpopular war, riots, assassinations, social upheaval, Southern resistance, protests both peaceful and armed, and a "Silent Majority" that twice elected the central figure of the age, a brilliant politician who relished the battles of the day but ended them in disgrace. In Nixonland Rick Perlstein tells a more familiar story than the one he unearthed in his influential previous book, Before the Storm, which argued that the stunning success of modern conservatism was founded in Goldwater's massive 1964 defeat. But he makes it fresh and relentlessly compelling, with obsessive original research and a gleefully slashing style--equal parts Walter Winchell and Hunter S. Thompson--that's true to the times. Perlstein is well known as a writer on the left, but his historian's empathies are intense and unpredictable: he convincingly channels the resentment and rage on both sides of the battle lines and lets neither Nixon's cynicism nor the naivete of liberals like New York mayor John Lindsay off the hook. And while election-year readers will be reminded of how much tamer our times are, they'll also find that the echoes of the era, and its persistent national divisions, still ring loud and clear. --Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Perlstein, winner of a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, provides a compelling account of Richard Nixon as a masterful harvester of negative energy, turning the turmoil of the 1960s into a ladder to political notoriety. Perlstein's key narrative begins at about the time of the Watts riots, in the shadow of Lyndon Johnson's overwhelming 1964 victory at the polls against Goldwater, which left America's conservative movement broken. Through shrewdly selected anecdotes, Perlstein demonstrates the many ways Nixon used riots, anti–Vietnam War protests, the drug culture and other displays of unrest as an easy relief against which to frame his pitch for his narrow win of 1968 and landslide victory of 1972. Nixon spoke of solid, old-fashioned American values, law and order and respect for the traditional hierarchy. In this way, says Perlstein, Nixon created a new dividing line in the rhetoric of American political life that remains with us today. At the same time, Perlstein illuminates the many demons that haunted Nixon, especially how he came to view his political adversaries as enemies of both himself and the nation and brought about his own downfall. 16 pages of b&w photos. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743243021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743243025
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 6.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
179 of 198 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love him or Hate him Nixon was no Dummy May 15, 2008
Format:Hardcover
This is a four-part story of Richard Nixon's reign. Each section is devoted to one of the four elections of 1966, 1968, 1970 and 1972, and thus it is a political history that attempts to capture and make sense of the temper of those turbulent and changing times as seen primarily through Richard Nixon's character. In this sense it parallels Oliver Stone's biopic called "Nixon."

When Nixon prepared to make his second run at the Presidency, Vietnam had ignited a rage in the nation's young. This rage intersected with the cultural cross currents of the quickening pace of the civil rights movement and the rise of leftwing radical groups. Many conservative whites thought the wheels were coming off the nation morally and culturally.

Nixon, seen by many at the time (and since by historians), as a tragic but brilliant figure, wore his deep felt hurt, anger and anxieties on his sleeve for all to see, but despite this he was judged (and proved to be) a smart political tactician. Perlstein's story centers on Nixon's character and how it proved to be a critical factor in shaping both domestic and foreign policy during his reign and in the process being responsible for making fundamental realignments in American domestic politics as well as changing the course of U.S. foreign policy with his ground breaking overture to China.

During the first part (1966), reading the tea leaves left by Reagan who had recently won the California governorship on a new "law and order" platform, and encouraged by a resounding defeat of a host of liberal LBJ legislation -- by essentially the same "law and order coalition" -- Nixon could see where the future was headed and plotted a course that he hope would set the troubled nation on a more even keel and get him elected in the process.
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128 of 149 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Perlstein uses the rise of Richard Nixon as a way of illustrating the rise of modern Republicanism, with its populist themes, often faux populist policies, and its relentless negativity. None of these things were invented by Nixon, his circle, or the GOP, but he certainly provided a vehicle for making them central to Republican power since the 1960s. Although Nixon is the central figure of the book, Perlstein also provides a narrative that describes what happened to the Democrats and how they came to fall out of power, even as a majority of voters tended to endorse the majority of their positions.

The book is not a full scale biography of Nixon and some sections show obvious signs of editing which probably excised details that would be important to people not familiar with Nixon's life or major events of the 1960s. The book also relies a lot on secondary sourcing and could have used more aggressive fact checking on key details (e.g., Hugh Scott did not represent Ohio, Wayne Hays was not from Cleveland and, most embarrassingly for a resident of Chicago's South Side like Perlstein, the Dan Ryan Expressway goes no where near the West Side. Perlstein also goes with less credible accounts of Eisenhower's decision to place Nixon on the ticket (Eisenhower wanted Earl Warren) and the sweep of Eisenhower's disdainful treatment of his vice president (e.g., waiting until the last minute to endorse him in 1960) is not fully developed. The phoniness of Nixon's striving also gets a bit lost. Nixon was a poor relation (his mother's family were the local gentry), but never knew real poverty--unlike Lyndon Johnson, who shared many of Nixon's grievances about the world, or George McGovern whose view of life was more optimistic than that of Nixon or Johnson.
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128 of 157 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are We Still In Nixonland? May 10, 2008
Format:Hardcover
I'm 49 years old, not quite old enough to have a first hand memory of the events and forces covered in this book but I still feel like I've been living in Nixonland all my life. I've read hundreds of books about the 1960's (and the early 1970's, often confused with the 60's) and this is the best. If you fell asleep in 1965 and just woke up and wanted to understand politics and culture today, I'd tell you to read Nixonland before I introduced you to "blogs" or even the 1990's. It takes time to make sense of such a defining era. It's a heck of a page turner too, no one ever said that the period between 1965 & 1973 was boring! Perlstein does a great job of weaving 1960's popular culture into the story but not in a trivializing way.

Even if you are, say, 25, you live in Nixonland too. Like me you grew up with music from Nixonland, TV shows from Nixonland, a culture from Nixonland and, of course, politics shaped and defined by Nixonland. I agree with the author that we are still fighting pretty much the same battles that were first thrust upon the national stage in the form of Richard Nixon and others like RFK, Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater and George McGovern who make up the characters in this grand story, all the wierder because its all true. I honestly think, however, that the 2008 election might just mark the beginning of a new era. Some of these battles are getting old. I think we are heading out of Nixonland but we are not there yet. If you want to know where we are and how we, as a country, got here, Nixonland is the place to start.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Gave it away.
Published 3 days ago by Anna Gregov
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and informative, but lacks depth
NIXONLAND: THE RISE OF A PRESIDENT AND THE FRACTURING OF AMERICA by Rick Perlstein is interesting a well-written history of the culture class that defined the 1960's. Read more
Published 22 days ago by E. Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars this is the history we live every day
To understand America today you must read this book. Essential reading whether you lived through Nixon or did not-- because we are all still living in the world he shaped.
Published 29 days ago by Elana Levin
2.0 out of 5 stars Nixonland
Too wordy! Turned a 300 page book into a 800 page slog. Wouldn't buy or recommend. Save your money. Thanks
Published 2 months ago by Joseph Fenton
5.0 out of 5 stars putting a fresh face on a tale told many times
There have been thousands of books written about 1968, Richard Nixon, and the Vietnam War. So, the first question is: why should you buy this book? Read more
Published 3 months ago by Enjolras
4.0 out of 5 stars Now I know why they called him "Tricky Dick"
I lived through it all and didn't pay much attention til it was over. Voted for the man once (against McGovern) while serving a combat tour in Vietnam in B-52s. Read more
Published 4 months ago by bev lambert
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid
Very well written. The story telling definitely draws you in. I have checked out the authors other book on Goldwater and it is similar.
Published 4 months ago by VMG
4.0 out of 5 stars THE AGE OF NIXON
There is the Great Man Theory of history and there is Social (bottom up) Theory history. Rick Perlstein gives us both with Nixonland . Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jeremy A. Perron
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive Review of the 60's - the best I've read.
This extensive journey through the life and times of Richard M. Nixon is comprehensive, and somehow without bias. Read more
Published 7 months ago by S. Curtis
2.0 out of 5 stars Very dry and repetitive read
Be prepared for an author with a very cynical outlook on life who makes a lot of strong accusations and claims without providing the evidence behind them when he could have easily... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Steve
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