I am not reviewing Richard Nixon, but rather the biography of him by Evan Thomas, "Being Nixon: A Man Divided".
There are two kind of political biographies. The first are those that are written with an "agenda" - either partisan or personal - and the second are those written to be non-partisan. The first kind of biographies may be more "fun" to read - particularly if you agree with the "agenda" - than the second, but "Being Nixon" is an excellent example of a fact-based, opinion-free book. I recently read and reviewed "Mormon Rivals: The Romneys, the Huntsmans, and the Pursuit of Power", and found it to also be free of political ideology.
Evan Thomas - an author with an impeccable East Coast/Ivy League pedigree - would be the kind of person Richard Nixon would find very little kinship with. Nixon was raised in a small rural town - Whittier - outside Los Angeles, the son of struggling parents. His father was an unsuccessful business man but his mother, Hannah, urged her sons to succeed in life. She was a fervent Quaker, and was a life-long inspiration to Richard. After graduating from Whittier College, Nixon was offered a free ride in law school from Duke University. After law school, Nixon applied to "white shoe" law firms but was turned down. He joined the US Navy after Pearl Harbor and was sent to the South Pacific. When he returned to California, he was "noted" by the local Republican power broker and offered a chance to run for US Congress. He campaigned hard, won the election, and then four years later to the US Senate, after a fairly dirty campaign. He joined Dwight Eisenhower on the national ticket for Vice-President in 1952, but was laid low by rumors of a slush fund. Most everyone reading this review will have heard of Nixon's famous "Checkers" speech, which saved his place on the ticket. The book - and Nixon's life - continue from there.
Evan Thomas writes about Richard Nixon with a good mix of the private and public man. He doesn't shirk in pointing out Nixon's weaknesses, but also talks about his strengths. Thomas looks at those people who surrounded Nixon - from his wife and daughters who faithfully supported him in his public life - to his political friend and cronies who Nixon leaned on for advice and support. But what Evan Thomas does so well in his biography of Richard Nixon is to define the man and give context to his decisions. "Being Nixon" is well-worth reading.