Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Books Like Whoa: All the President's Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (Favorites Edition)

Are you ready for my favorite brand of political intrigue? Favorite series continues...

All the President's Men
by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

Procured from Borders, back when there was such a thing. Tear.

Format: Trade paperback, the anniversary edition

Why I gave it a try: I saw the Robert Redford/Dustin Hoffman movie from back in the day, and I wanted to revisit the source material. I read this on a family vacation to the Highlands in North Carolina... I remember sitting on the porch and devouring this

Summary: So, you know Watergate? Nixon? All that good stuff? Yeah, these guys are more or less responsible for all the scandal coming to light. Basically, this is the story of two low level reporters who dared to keep asking questions when everyone was satisfied with the wrong answers, and who accidentally brought down a president. 

Thoughts: This is the granddaddy of all modern investigative reporting narrative nonfiction... in the expositive tradition of The Jungle, this account is told from the perspective of the gumshoe reporters who are looking for the truth. The narrative unfolds a bit like a mystery plot, with each strand of the puzzle coming together.

It's a little hard to stay in the moment with the story, just because you do have that historical perspective of knowing the impact of what Woodward and Bernstein were doing. Also, it's a different story now that we know who Deep Throat was (the assistant director of the FBI), and that plays into the reading of the story. All that being said, there still manages to be a lot of freshness to the story and I found this to be a page turner. I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

It is also a great book for those of us who weren't around when the scandal first broke. Since the story is told as an unfolding web of clues, you learn a lot about the various players, their motivations, and the stakes of keeping the illegal activities under wraps. What's really fascinating is the pointlessness of what the Republicans were doing - they had a virtual lock up for the upcoming election, but it was such a pervasive atmosphere of criminality that the scandals basically became a bad habit and illegal machinations became the norm.

Overall, it's a great story, a great history lesson, and by far the best piece of investigative reporting that I've read. 


7 - I will have to seriously reevaluate any friendship or romantic interest that does not like this book: a favorite 

Do you like narrative nonfiction? What types are especially appealing to you?

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