The Nixon Tapes, Perlstein on the Rise of Reagan, & Women in the U.S. Army | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Aug. 2014, Pt. 3

Brinkley, Douglas & Luke Nichter. The Nixon Tapes. Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2014. 608p. ISBN 9780544274150. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780544277373. HISTORY
Surprisingly, the last of the nearly 4,000 hours’ worth of tapes made by President Nixon was nixontapesreleased only last August, and very little of this material has been transcribed and published. CBS News Historian Brinkley (e.g., The Wilderness Warrior) and Nichter, an associate professor at Texas A&M University and former founding Executive Producer of C-SPAN’s American History TV, have selected, edited, and annotated key passages from the tapes with topics ranging from negotiating with North Vietnam to managing the reelection campaign. The book will be released, along with accompanying digitized audio recordings, on the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation. Obviously important; with a 50,000-copy first printing and an author tour that will include New York, Washington, DC, Houston, and Austin.

Gay, Roxane. Bad Feminist: Essays. Harper Perennial. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780062282712. pap. $15.95. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Salon columnist, PANK coeditor, and Rumpus essays editor, with 9,600 followers on Twitter and 85,000 followers on Tumblr, Gay is a young cultural critic to watch. And she’s just put herself on the map with a debut novel, An Untamed State, about a young Haitian woman examining her assumptions after a violent kidnapping. Smart readers cannot afford to miss these essays, which range from socially significant art (Girls, Django in Chains) and feminist issues (abortion) to politics (Chris Brown) and why Gay likes pink. With a 30,000-copy first printing and some intense publicity for a nonfiction paperback original.

Greenspan, Ezra. William Wells Brown: An African-American Life. Norton. Aug. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780393240900. $29.95. BIOGRAPHY
William Wells Brown grew up on the Western frontier with Daniel Boone as neighbor, but as a slave his life was a universe away from Boone’s; often, he was rented out by his masters to steamboat captains along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. After escaping to freedom, he became a veritable Renaissance man, speaking persuasively on the antislavery circuits in both America and Great Britain; writing travelog, history, plays, and fiction (e.g., the now-honored Clotel); practicing medicine; running for office; and more. Greenspan, the Edmund J. and perlsteinLouise W. Kahn Professor of English at Southern Methodist University, brings Brown to light for contemporary readers.

Perlstein, Rick. The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. S. & S. Aug. 2014. 800p. ISBN 9781476782416. $37.50. HISTORY
In the 1970s, after Watergate, after the horrors of the Vietnam War, after revelations of CIA malfeasance, America seemed humbly ready to readjust its sights. Then along came Ronald Reagan, and against all odds flag waving was back in fashion. What happened? Here’s insight from Perlstein, author of the New York Times best-selling Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, who ultimately asks us to reconsider what it means to be American.

Swafford, Jan. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2014. 992p. ISBN 9780618054749. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780544245587. BIOGRAPHY/MUSIC
Winner of the PEN/Winship Award and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, Swafford’s Ives is a wonder of music biography; the author, who teaches at Boston Conservatory, re-created the very sounds surrounding Ives in childhood to help us understand his daring music making. Here, Swafford offers a study of Beethoven, ten years in the making, that investigates the ideas tumbling through the air in Enlightenment-era Bonn so that we can see how Beethoven and his music was shaped. With a 25,000-copy first printing.beethovenswaff

Thorpe, Helen. Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War. Scribner. Aug. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781451668100. $28. BIOGRAPHY/MILITARY
Author of Just Like Us, a Washington Post Best Book, journalist Thorpe had the good idea to show what it means to be a woman in the army today by following three women deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. More women than ever are serving in the U.S. armed forces, but they are still isolated in an essentially male culture. Here we see them working hard, resisting unwanted attention, confronting the death of friends, sometimes countering stress through drinking or illicit affairs, and staying in touch with friends and family back home. One woman must also endure serious injury. With a four-city tour to Boulder, Denver, New York, and Washington, DC.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. Karl Helicher says:

    Great selections, Barbara! Will be interesting to see what the “Great Phoenix” (RN) has to say. Likely more than a few of the tape transcriptions would not pass muster as LJ comments. “Don’t use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.”

    Also Perlstein’s third book in his series on modern conservatism should be noteworthy. His 2001, BEFORE THE STORM remains an important narrative of the ’64 election, in which LBJ trounced Goldwater but Goldwater became the visionary of modern Republicanism, which enabled the new, new conservative Nixon to take the White House four years later.

  2. limeonaire says:

    Re: this sentence: “Smart readers cannot afford to miss these essays, which range from socially significant art (Girls, Django in Chains) and feminist issues (abortion) to politics (Chris Brown) and why Gay likes pink.”

    Just an update, it should be “Django Unchained,” and I think you may have the wrong Chris Brown—Gay has written about the musician Chris Brown, not the politician, from what I’m seeing. I would recast like so: “Smart readers cannot afford to miss these essays, which cover topics ranging from socially significant art (Girls, Django Unchained) and feminist issues (abortion, Chris Brown) to why Gay likes pink.”

    See the Amazon blurb for this book: