Rick Perlstein's Nixonland does something remarkable, similar to what was accomplished in last year's Oscar-winning documentary O.J.: Made in America: it takes as its focal point a single, familiar figure while also offering a panoramic view of a critical moment in American history and culture. The book makes an compelling case for the career of Richard Nixon, with all its caustic rhetoric and manipulative machinations, as setting the course for the next half-century of American politics. Perlstein defines the titular “Nixonland” as a place where “two separate and irreconcilable sets of apocalyptic fears coexist in the minds of two separate and irreconcilable groups of Americans." As for the man at the center of it all, Perlstein draws Nixon as a sort of tortured Richard III type: cynical, manipulative, and very much a villain, but not without a certain underdog charm. And while you might be forgiven for wanting to escape from our own noxious political climate, Nixonland will at least let you escape to a time when our leaders were just as malevolent but quite a bit more competent.