VOYA - Kathleen BeckFour years after his death as a result of a stroke in 1994, former President Richard Milhous Nixon remains a fascinating figure. How could a man of such intelligence, drive, and ability go so far astray? These two new biographies seek an answer to this question. Barron provides details of Nixon's early life, in a hard-working but hard-luck family. Through illuminating anecdotes she paints a picture of a determined loner who would go to any lengths to achieve his goals. Using phrases such as "a disturbing side of his personality," "controlling and secretive," and "mean-spirited," it soon becomes apparent that Barron does not like Nixon much. These traits, amply displayed in his early campaigns, are the root, in Barron's opinion, of the later conspiracies which forced Nixon from office. The competent summary of Nixon's political career has limited insight or analysis, but the chronology of events is clear. The bibliography contains mostly adult titles and the index is weak, composed almost entirely of names and omitting even such basic references as "Vietnam" and "Watergate." chuman's book targets a younger audience, one primarily interested in the facts. The language can be insultingly simple, as in this reference to the publication of the Pentagon Papers: "[Daniel Ellsberg] did not give them to the Times in a legal way. On the contrary, he gave them secretly. This is called leaking." Unlike Barron, Schuman is carefully neutral about Nixon's character and the morality of his tactics. The two books complement each other in their details of the Vietnam War, the events following Watergate, and Nixon's gradual rehabilitation after his resignation. Many of the photographs are the same, but Schuman also includes interesting documents and personal letters. Of the two, Barron's book is stronger. Schuman's adds little to a good encyclopedia article, though he has the better index and includes a list of related Web sites. Readers interested in more depth may prefer Richard M. Nixon: The Complex President, by Martin Goldman and John Anthony Scott (Facts on File, 1997). Index. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Chronology. Note: This review was written and published to address two titles: Richard Nixon: American Politician and Richard M. Nixon. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
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