To read this biography with an eye only toward the parallels between the two presidents would be lazy and unfair, a disservice to Farrell’s nuanced scholarship. But the context here is unignorable. The similarities between Nixon and Trump leap off the page like crickets ... Like Trump, Nixon was a monomaniac on the stump, obsessed with the enemies lurking within. Nixon, too, had a penchant for sowing mayhem and a gourmand’s appetite for revenge, especially in the wee hours of the morning. (Trump tweets. Nixon made phone calls) ... He’s an electrifying subject, a muttering Lear, of perennial interest to anyone with even an average curiosity about politics or psychology. The real test of a good Nixon biography, given how many there are, is far simpler: Is it elegantly written? And, even more important, can it tolerate paradoxes and complexity, the spikier stuff that distinguishes real-life sinners from comic-book villains? The answer, in the case of Richard Nixon, is yes, on both counts.
A stack of good books about Nixon could reach the ceiling, but Farrell has written the best one-volume, cradle-to-grave biography that we could expect about such a famously elusive subject. By employing recently released government documents and oral histories, he adds layers of understanding to a complex man and his dastardly decisions ... That sense of persecution fed Nixon’s penchant for chicanery. Farrell’s deep research exposes new evidence of this tendency ... He stained his reputation and that of the presidency. As Farrell’s outstanding biography reminds us, the consequences have endured. They remain toxic.
That's a lot of material to pack into one volume, even one that weighs in at 750 pages, but Farrell does it while providing revelations and insights along the way ... Farrell devastatingly shows how Nixon sabotaged the 1968 peace talks in Paris to end the Vietnam War by using Chinese-American activist Anna Chennault, a staunch anti-communist, as a conduit between his presidential campaign and the South Vietnamese government ... Richard Nixon: The Life falters only when it feels rushed. Near its end, a lot of details fly by fast and furiously. A reader who is not steeped in decades' worth of Nixon lore will find this an extremely valuable introduction to the life and times of one of our most consequential presidents.