It’s rare these days to catch a public servant in even a moment of spontaneity; their events and appearances are too carefully choreographed. (Even so-called “reality” shows featuring private citizens are often scripted to the point where unrehearsed moments are few and far between.) At least books are coming to the rescue, as usual! Here are 4 great new reads that peel back the curtain and show us a little bit of what’s going on behind the scenes in the lives of some of our most interesting public figures:
The Nixon Tapes, by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter
Although it’s well known that President Nixon installed voice-activated recording equipment throughout the Oval Office and other key rooms in the White House, less than 5 percent of the contents of those tapes (3,700 hours in all) has ever been transcribed and published—until now. Nichter’s transcriptions and digitized recordings give readers and historians an unprecedented glimpse into the life and mind of a highly complex and polarizing figure in American history. Finally we can read and hear Nixon’s own words, and from them, gain new insight into his actions during one of the most politically tumultuous periods of history.
The Nixon Defense, by John W. Dean
Former White House Counsel Dean takes the Nixon tapes a step further by using them, along with transcripts of nearly a thousand conversations of his own, and countless documents in the National Archives and the Nixon Library, to put together a captivating and convincing analysis of Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal. The Nixon Defense offers a sound and well-argued answer to the enormous question of what Nixon knew, and when. It is crucial to learn as much as possible about the past in order to avoid repeating it, and Dean’s deeply fascinating and disturbing account of one of the worst political scandals in American history will shed new light on the actions of all involved, particularly those of former President Nixon.
Back Channel, by Stephen L. Carter
When America was on the brink of nuclear war in the fall of 1962, open negotiations between Kennedy and Khrushchev, who were locked in a deadly face-off, were all but impossible—necessitating the creation of a “back channel” through which clandestine communications could be carried out. Carter’s audacious fictionalized, “what if?” version of events involves a nail-biting undercover mission to Russia by a clever 19-year-old college student and a young chess champion. A masterful blend of fact and fiction, this enthralling, suspense-filled retelling of the Cuban Missile Crisis manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, even though it involves an historical incident with a known outcome—which is an impressive feat in itself.
The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents, by Ronald Kessler
The author of the bestselling book In the President’s Secret Service is back with an even more intimate look at the lives of our public officials, as observed by those serving closest to them. After all, when you get down to it, who would know more about you than your Secret Service agents? This is one of the many reasons why I, personally, don’t have any. Kessler’s new book even goes beyond the White House, following the lives of past presidents and their families after they’ve left office and are out of the spotlight, giving readers an even more authentic glimpse into the real personalities (and proclivities) of our leaders.
What famous figures would you like to know more about?