5 White House Memoirs Worth Reading

White House Years
By Henry Kissinger (1979)

1. A memoir of nearly 1,500 pages can be forgiven on one condition: that it be riveting. Henry Kissinger’s account of his time as President Nixon’s foreign-policy adviser still is. His prose is marked by both gravitas and grace: “The basic challenge to the new Nixon Administration,” he writes apropos Vietnam, “was similar to de Gaulle’s in Algeria: to withdraw as an expression of policy and not as a collapse.” Anecdotes abound: An aide to Pierre Trudeau is rendered “almost incoherent with rage” when an overzealous White House advance man decides on his own to redecorate the Canadian prime minister’s office because its color scheme is insufficiently flattering to President Nixon. At times the descriptions have a touch of the novelistic about them: Chairman Mao fixes “the visitor with a smile both penetrating and slightly mocking, warning by his bearing that there was no point in seeking to deceive this specialist in the foibles and duplicity of man.”

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