The best books to understand why Pat Nixon was known (incorrectly) as Plastic Pat

Who am I?

I became a historian because I am nosy. I like to know what is going on in other people’s lives. I study politics because I am fascinated by power—who has it? How did they get it? I took up this project not knowing much about First Ladies or Pat Nixon. My quest to know more led to the correspondence between Pat and her closest friend. The letters in these files allowed me to hear Pat’s voice describe her life as a politician’s wife, as Second Lady, and as a regular citizen. I feel privileged to be able to share that with the world.


I wrote...

Pat Nixon: Embattled First Lady

By Mary C. Brennan,

Book cover of Pat Nixon: Embattled First Lady

What is my book about?

In 2003, I knew nothing about First Lady Pat Nixon except what I had seen on Saturday Night Live or read in Good Housekeeping. Then Kansas University Press invited me to write a book about her. What I learned over the course of the next years was that the woman the press dubbed “Plastic Pat” was smart and determined, with a wicked sense of humor. She might see the flaws in her family but would fight any outsider who noticed them. She could be tough as nails to the press who attacked her husband, but rarely failed to win over the hearts of people who met her in person. I did not always agree with her, but I came to respect her.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pat Nixon: The Untold Story

Mary C. Brennan Why did I love this book?

This is a daughter’s tribute to her mother. Because Pat left few journal entries and a limited number of letters, Julie’s book is the closest we can get to understanding Pat’s perspective. Julie not only loved her mother; she respected her.  Both the love and the respect are apparent throughout. If there were times, I sometimes shook my head in disbelief over Julie’s sometimes naivete, I forgave her in gratitude for the insights into her mother’s life.

By Julie Nixon Eisenhower,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pat Nixon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The remarkable biography of Pat Nixon, the wife of former president Richard Nixon, as told by her daughter Julie Nixon-Eisenhower. Throughout the pages Julie describes her mother as a devoted, loyal, courageous, and remarkable woman who served as the quintessential First Lady. It's through Nixon's "grit" that enabled her to remain "onward and upward" during her struggling days as a student in the Depression, to the nightmares of the Watergate scandal.

An inspiring read, this electronic copy of the popular book celebrates the centennial anniversary of Pat Nixon's life and is told with love, affection, and admiration.

From Publishers Weekly…


Book cover of The Lonely Lady of San Clemente: The Story of Pat Nixon

Mary C. Brennan Why did I love this book?

While David offers some interesting and important insights about the real Pat – her humor, her grit, and her kindness, the overall picture of Pat as victim of her own life can make the book off-putting. The more I learned about Pat from my research, the less I trusted some of David’s more saccharine statements about her life. Taken with a grain of salt, however, the book offers some interesting stories I did not find elsewhere.  

Book cover of Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons

Mary C. Brennan Why did I love this book?

Out of the myriad of books analyzing presidential marriages, this volume, in my opinion, does the best job of showing an in-depth view of the Nixons’ relationship. Troy acknowledges the stereotypes and caricatures of the couple, puts these misrepresentations in context, and then reveals a much more balanced view of the Nixon marriage. He never forgets that a marriage involves both partners!

By Gil Troy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mr. and Mrs. President as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The emergence of the presidential couple is one of the most contentious developments in US post-war political history. Reaction to the First Couple reflects the country's changing morality and attitudes. This work traces these shifts through ten presidential marriages, including the Clintons.


Book cover of Mamie Doud Eisenhower: The General's First Lady

Mary C. Brennan Why did I love this book?

Although the sections directly discussing Pat are limited, I found this book very useful. Holt offers a view of another presidential marriage that was contemporaneous and interactive with the Nixons. Mamie was a role model for Pat and Holt was one for me. Holt provided me with a roadmap for dealing with sensitive issues within a marriage and a presidency.

By Marilyn Irvin Holt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mamie Doud Eisenhower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was fitting for a soldier's wife to make curtains out of military-surplus parachutes. That they would hang in the White House made little difference. Mamie Doud Eisenhower was a president's wife who seemed to most Americans like the friend next door. She gave us ""Mamie pink"" and ""Mamie bangs"" but has stood in the shadows of first ladies who followed. Yet she accomplished more than even her own contemporaries noticed, and her popularity not only enhanced her husband's presidency but also put a distinctive stamp on the role of first lady. This first scholarly biography of Mamie Eisenhower draws…


Book cover of A White House Diary

Mary C. Brennan Why did I love this book?

Lady Bird’s diary is worth reading no matter what you are studying. She is insightful, funny, and attentive to her unique perspective as First Lady. In terms of understanding Pat, the diary offers an outsider’s view from someone who understood Pat’s situation personally. The tidbits concerning their first post-election meeting and then subsequent visits provide evidence of Pat’s humor, humility, and kindness.

By Lady Bird Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A White House Diary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now available again in paperback--Lady Bird Johnson


You might also like...

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

Book cover of The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

Alexander Rose Author Of Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men's Epic Duel to Rule the World

New book alert!

Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.

Alexander's book list on Zeppelin airships

What is my book about?

From the author of Washington’s Spies, the thrilling story of two rival secret agents — one Confederate, the other Union — sent to Britain during the Civil War.

The South’s James Bulloch, charming and devious, was ordered to acquire a clandestine fleet intended to break Lincoln’s blockade, sink Northern merchant vessels, and drown the U.S. Navy’s mightiest ships at sea. Opposing him was Thomas Dudley, an upright Quaker lawyer determined to stop Bulloch in a spy-versus-spy game of move and countermove, gambit and sacrifice, intrigue and betrayal.

Their battleground was the Dickensian port of Liverpool, whose dockyards built more ships each year than the rest of the world combined and whose merchant princes, said one observer, were “addicted to Southern proclivities, foreign slave trade, and domestic bribery.”

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Washington's Spies, the thrilling story of the Confederate spy who came to Britain to turn the tide of the Civil War-and the Union agent resolved to stop him.

"Entertaining and deeply researched...with a rich cast of spies, crooks, bent businessmen and drunken sailors...Rose relates the tale with gusto." -The New York Times

In 1861, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, two secret agents-one a Confederate, the other his Union rival-were dispatched to neutral Britain, each entrusted with a vital mission.

The South's James Bulloch, charming and devious, was to acquire…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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