After reading the biography of Henry Kissinger a few months ago, I wanted to read more about the Nixon presidency. I turned to All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward for a closer look at the downfall of the crooked White House of Nixon.
Unfortunately, I found Bernstein’s and Woodward’s book to be a rushed time line of events, rather than a captivating analysis of the situation or people involved. Because Bernstein and Woodward were reporters, this style was to be expected. However, I found the book disappointingly boring and hard to read.
Bernstein and Woodward were young, rather inexperienced, reporters for The Washington Post on June 17, 1972 when five men broke in to the Democratic offices in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. The two young men found themselves assigned to the story, against their will at first. When they attended the trial for the five burglars, the two reporters soon found, as did the rest of the country, that the story of the Watergate break-in was larger than just a break-in. Two years later, August 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency. All the President’s Men tells the story of Bernstein and Woodward’s reporting of the unfolding events between June 17, 1972 and the spring of 1974.
All the President’s Men was first published in 1975, although the author’s note at the beginning is dated February 1974. It was evident to me that Bernstein and Woodward were rushed to put their account into a book; even in the middle of it they refer to the fact that they were meeting with a publisher to discuss making a book. The book was not carefully written and edited; it was written like a newspaper account that needed to make a deadline. For a long nonfiction book, a newspaper style of writing is hard to get through.
The story has the potential to be captivating. I was repeatedly shocked by the lies that the White House issued in trying to cover-up its mistakes, and I was disgusted by the cruel tricks politicians did for the sake of power. There was a lot of drama in the unfolding of the truth.
In the end, however, I finished this account without any further understanding of the “President’s Men”; they still feel like the list of names in the front of the book. While there are a lot of facts in All the President’s Men, there was no emotion to draw me in to the people and situation, and I felt far from the scene. While Bernstein and Woodward may have won the Pulitzer Prize for their investigative reporting of Watergate, their nonfiction book recounting the experience was not engaging.
I’d be interested in reading about the Nixon presidency or Watergate; it has the potential to be interesting, albeit disgusting. Has anyone read an interesting and engaging book that they could recommend?
Note: I found a comprehensive historical section on Watergate on The Washington Post‘s website. If you are interested, check it out here.
Have you read All the President’s Men? Link to your review in the comments and I’ll list it here.
This is my second book for the Nonfiction Five Challenge.