On Breaking Up With Richard Nixon

“It’s not you, it’s me,” I want to say to Richard Nixon, but I know he won’t hear it.

I’ve been reading Nixonland as part of my personal Presidential Reading Challenge. It hasn’t been going well. I started it at the end of December, and it’s now February and I’ve barely made it to page 300. It has never taken me this long to read a book I enjoy before. And so I’m deciding to break up with it, to return it to the library so others can enjoy it.

Before you ask, there was no one waiting for it. The beauty of the Brooklyn Public Library is that they won’t let you renew a book once (okay, two or three times) if someone has placed a hold on it. So don’t worry, I’m not holding it hostage and depriving others of their Nixon factoids.

It’s not a bad book. The writing is great, and it’s rich in detail (sometimes inexhaustibly so). I’m actually finding it enjoyable…at times. The overarching theme is fascinating: as Nixon transformed from a constant disappointment to a presidential candidate, the swinging 60’s swirled around him. Relaxed social norms, racial tensions, and the Cold War created a divided country. Is this the genesis for today’s incredibly divisive system? I would imagine that this is the author’s main point, although I haven’t gotten far enough into the book to confirm that. And with almost 600 pages to go, I won’t get far enough.

My love of reading makes it really hard for me to break up with a book. This is why I’m trying to rekindle my romance with Tropic of Cancer this year, and why I will force my way through even the driest of material. Quitting a book to me is just that: quitting. And I’m not a quitter. But at times, I do recognize that things just aren’t working out. It’s just not fun anymore. And that means it is best to put the book back on the shelf (or into the book depository at the library) and call it a day. Make a clean break of it.

But it’s not clean. I have to get to the library. I have to remove Nixonland from my “currently reading” Goodreads shelf and put it on the “did not finish” shelf. I have to make sure I delete any photos we have together. Well, this last part is a joke. I believe Nixon made it into one Instagram picture, but he can stay there.

Maybe I’ll miss it in a few days and put a hold on it again, running to the library to pick it up when it’s once again available. Or maybe, someday soon, I’ll forget all about it. I’ll find another Nixon-centric book to read and Nixonland will just be some book I used to know.

Whatever happens, right now, while it’s fresh, it hurts a little. It’s true what they say, breaking up is hard to do.

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4 thoughts on “On Breaking Up With Richard Nixon

  1. I had a similar experience with Bill Clinton’s autobiography.

    It didn’t help that I bought it in the airport bookstore because I was flying to America after the London bombings in 2005. There were insane levels of security, and rumours of British people getting to the US only to be put on the next flight home because they couldn’t get through immigration for no apparent reason. So I bought the book thinking having it in my luggage would maybe make me look more America friendly.

    It’s still on my bookshelf, with a bookmark sticking out about a third of the way through, where I left off with it, reminding me of my failure to see it through.

    • Oh goodness! I guess I would keep that book forever just so I could tell a good story about it :). I have to say that the one book I ever bought in an airport got put out on my stoop for someone else to pick up and love…airport books always seem promising but never pay off.

  2. I recently broke up with Jack Daniels. Or rather, an incredibly dry book that claimed to be about JD but really just spit out facts about the whiskey business in general with random tidbits about the legend. It’s a sad day when you have to quit a book, but sometimes it happens to the best of us :(

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