Woodward began examining the administration's national security and intelligence operations in the fall of 2019. Former Cabinet members James Mattis, Rex Tillerson and Dan Coats were obviously primary sources. But his focus necessarily shifted in early 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic intervened and quickly became the defining story of the Trump presidency.
More than in some of his previous books (that I've read, & that I can remember, anyway), Woodward inserts himself into the story, sharing verbatim excerpts from the transcripts of his 16 taped conversations with the president (plus one more where he just took notes). And he weighs in at the very end of the book with his personal judgment of Trump's presidency. (You can probably guess...)
This book, like all of Woodward's books, is meticulously researched and documented. It's well written, readable (in terms of the quality of writing, anyway) and insightful. And yet... I have to admit, I had a tough time slogging through this one. It took me forever (more than a month, anyway). I chalk it up to the subject matter, the heavy use of verbatim quotes (with Trump rambling all over the place as usual) and perhaps the timing (just before the U.S. election -- plus other stressful distractions competing for my attention). I'm a political junkie, I like to be well informed and I love a well-written book on politics &/or political figures -- but seriously, there is only so much about Trump that even I can take -- and this close to the critical U.S. election, perhaps it was just a little too much. Your mileage may vary...!
I debated the Goodreads rating for this one, but I ultimately settled on four stars (because it really is an important & well done book).
This was Book #36 read to date in 2020 (Book #1 finished in October), bringing me to 120%!! of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I have completed & now exceeded my challenge goal for the year by 6 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 12 books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2020 tagged as "2020 books."