Cover image for Nader : crusader, spoiler, icon
Nader : crusader, spoiler, icon
Martin, Justin.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Perseus Pub., 2002.
Physical Description:
xv, 320 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
"A Merloyd Lawrence Book"
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HC110.C63 M375 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Few figures in our history have had the wide-ranging influence of Ralph Nader. Deemed by Rolling Stone the "most dangerous man in America," Nader has had a profound impact on our society and government.As a public figure, Nader is virtually without parallel, playing a lead role on the national stage for nearly four decades. The consummate public advocate and the "U.S.'s toughest customer" (Time), Nader has brought about the passage of groundbreaking laws covering everything from auto safety to hazardous x-rays to affordable insurance. Untold numbers of lives have been saved through his efforts.But the private man is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. For this probing biography, the first since 1975, Justin Martin spoke with Nader along with more than 300 people, including close associates, old friends, and family. The result is a sweeping portrait, covering Nader's small-town Connecticut boyhood, his days at Harvard Law, the David-and-Goliath battle with GM that launched him into the spotlight, and colorful encounters with characters as varied as Albert Einstein, Gloria Steinem, Fidel Castro, Phil Donahue, Susan Sarandon, Upton Sinclair, and Al Gore. The climax of this extraordinary story is an astonishingly revealing insider's account of the 2000 election. Nader is the definitive life of a fascinating, controversial man of our time-a true American icon.A Merloyd Lawrence Book

Author Notes

Justin Martin's best-selling biography of Alan Greenspan was selected as a notable book for 2001 by the New York Times Book Review. His work has also appeared in Fortune, Newsweek, Travel and Leisure, and Worth. He lives in New York City

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Martin's biography of Alan Greenspan, Greenspan: The Man behind Money (2000), became a national best-seller. This first biography of Ralph Nader since 1975 is a compelling account of the man for whom the title "consumer advocate" was invented. Nader took on the powerful forces of corporate greed and government corruption on a shoestring budget and effectively increased public awareness and gained legislative influence in areas such as auto safety, the meatpacking industry, X-ray exposure, nursing-home care, and nuclear energy. During his heyday of 1969-76, he was renowned as a public safety expert and testified before Congress many times. Along with an alliance of young lawyers known as "Nader's raiders," he successfully cleaned up the Federal Trade Commission and had a significant impact on mine safety, water pollution, and food additives. Nader is extremely protective of his spartan personal life and won an invasion of privacy lawsuit against General Motors after his nemesis there had him investigated, primarily to "shut him up." Urged to run for political office since the early 1970s, he steadfastly refused to join any political party, but by the 1990s had become marginalized by both parties. The book climaxes with his pivotal role in the 2000 Bush/Gore election debacle. Reviled as spoiler or applauded as defiant crusader, Nader remains as controversial as ever. --David Siegfried

Publisher's Weekly Review

After the success of his Alan Greenspan biography, Martin tackles another subject with tremendous influence on American economics and politics and a largely unknown private life, but this attempt to find the man behind the public figure meets with limited success. This life of the 68-year-old Ralph Nader lingers over his already well-known public advocacy successes, like the fight for auto safety, then quickly skims over the period from 1975 to 2000, eager to get to the behind-the-scenes story of his controversial presidential campaign. The three chapters on the race provide solid chronology, but the larger questions remain open to speculation. Forced to address whether Nader cost Gore the election, the author merely ventures that "the answer lies somewhere near the intersection of political perceptions and first-grade math." He does show, however, how Nader's tenacious, unapologetic campaigning style was likely shaped by his childhood experience attending town meetings in Winsted, Conn., where his immigrant father was famously reluctant to let go of a debate. Martin has interviewed Nader and found plenty of people willing to talk about him, including former Princeton classmates and several "Nader's Raiders" from the 1970s, but never quite pierces the veil of mystery with which his subject has surrounded himself. What the story lacks in personal detail, however, it makes up in historical perspective, clarifying Nader's status as one of the most influential Americans of the 20th century. Agent, Lisa Swayne. (Nov.) Forecast: Those who see Nader as an icon will undoubtedly seek this out; even his enemies might check it, looking for clues to what makes him tick, but they may be disappointed. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The biographer who gave us Alan Greenspan tries to get under Ralph Nader's skin. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This is the most authoritative biography to date of consumer movement leader and political activist Ralph Nader. Based on scores of interviews with Nader's allies, enemies, former associates, and family members, it gives as full a portrait of Nader as we are likely to get for some time. Martin is not able to shed much light on the personality of the notoriously private Nader, or reveal what makes him tick. But this is attributable to Nader's apparently sphinx-like personality; few people know him well as a person. What one does get in this biography, however, is a fairly complete account of Nader's controversial rise to prominence, told through the many campaigns that the consumer activist has taken up since his groundbreaking assault on General Motors's safety record in the 1960s. While Martin's account is sympathetic to Nader, it is scarcely uncritical. He quotes disgruntled former Nader staffers--who appear to be legion--amply in the book. And his account of Nader's history-altering 2000 presidential bid conveys clearly the extent to which this one solitary figure has shaped recent US history. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All collections; especially recommended for general readers. J. A. McCartin Georgetown University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prefacep. xiii
1 Winsted, Connecticutp. 1
2 Tangling with the Iviesp. 16
3 A Small Worldp. 31
4 Unsafep. 38
5 Nader Versus Goliathp. 54
6 One-Man Armyp. 64
7 Nader's Raidersp. 75
8 "Maiden Muckrakers"p. 90
9 GM Reduxp. 105
10 PIRG (Pronounced Purg)p. 119
11 At a Zenithp. 138
12 The Raid on Congressp. 152
13 Kingmakerp. 167
14 Carter, Not Camelotp. 181
15 Back to Grass Rootsp. 200
16 In Torts We Trustp. 216
17 Mars Invadesp. 226
18 "Let Ralph Debate"p. 240
19 A Contact Sportp. 257
20 Next for Naderp. 270
Selected Bibliographyp. 283
Notesp. 285
Indexp. 309
About the Authorp. 320