Bob Woodward books, ranked

Bob Woodward is going to publish a book on the Trump Administration. His books have fascinated me since I was in college. I’ve read several of them – “All the President’s Men,” “The Final Days,” “The Brethren,” “Veil” – multiple times. I’ve read every one completely, except “The Last of The President’s Men,” though I have read much of it. Here’s a look at his books, from best to worst.

The Final Days (1976) Working with Carl Bernstein, he takes you inside the climax and denouement of the Watergate scandal. The details are vivid, the people nuanced, the story-telling tight.

All the President’s Men (1974) OK, it’s more important than “The Final Days.” But it’s not as well written and well researched. In many ways it’s got a bit of a memoir in it and there are times it seems both Woodward and Bernstein are uncomfortable with that.

The Brethren (1979) Working with Scott Armstrong, he takes you deep inside the Burger Court. The fun part of this book, beyond the way he lifts the veil on one of our most secretive institutions, is that you can actually tell who his off the record sources are.

Shadow (1999) This tome is different than many of Woodward’s books because it isn’t a narrative of one administration or one event. He takes a look at how Richard Nixon’s scandal affected the following five presidents. Woodward’s books often offer scant analysis. This one offers more and his perspective is a valuable one.

Wired (1984) Easily the most un-Woodward title. He writes a biography of the late John Belushi, who attended his high school. It’s not his most popular book, but I’ll take it over some of his more recent ones because he writes more authoritatively.

The Price of Politics (2012) His look at how President Obama tried to work with Republicans to save the economy gives you a deeper look at what went right and wrong during those crucial 3 years.

Veil (1987) He takes you inside the CIA to look at some of the covert wars of the time. It’s a valuable book to understand today’s biggest international problems.

The Agenda (1994) A concise look at what were the legislative, political and personal struggles inside Clinton’s first term that shaped his presidency?

Plan of Attack (2004) Woodward shows how the George W. Bush Administration planned on going after Saddam Hussein early in his presidency. It’s far and away the best Woodward book on the Bush presidency.

State of Denial (2006) The third chronicle of the George W. Bush Administration, it showed how inept some of the decision-makers were.

The Commanders (1991) A look at the people who drove the success of the first Gulf War. This could use a rerelease with what we know today.

The Choice (1996) Woodward does his Theodore White impersonation, trying to follow an entire 1996 campaign. It’s a good book, but not the best on the 1996 campaign (I’ll take Michael Lewis’ rollicking “Trail Fever” on the Republican Primary.)

The War Within (2008) If he hadn’t already written three books on Bush’s wars, this book would have been incredibly impressive. However, when one considers what he’d already reported previously, this book should have had more perspective in it.

Bush At War  (2002) This one is kind of forgettable because it’s about the Afghan war, so there’s no real controversy. But reading it at the time, you could see that the administration wasn’t prepared for a 2-front War on Terror.

The Last of the President’s Men – One of three books that deviate from Woodward’s normal storytelling techniques. It’s interesting, but not incredibly necessary.

Obama’s Wars (2010) The facts surrounding the book – That Osama bin Laden recommended the book, saying it showed Obama’s ineptitude; was then killed in a raid ordered by Obama; and the book was found in his compound – is much more interesting than the book itself.

Maestro (2000) It’s essentially a hagiography of Alan Greenspan, who does not deserve a hagiography.

The Secret Man (2005) Woodward’s rushed biography of his valued source, Deepthroat. We now know it was W. Mark Felt. And, after reading the book, I cared less.

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