Calvin Coolidge, president from 1923 to 1929, never rated highly in polls, and history has remembered the decade in which he served as an extravagant period predating the Great Depression. Now Amity Shlaes provides a fresh look at the 1920s and its elusive president, showing that the mid-1920s was in fact a triumphant period that established our modern way of life: The nation electrified, Americans drove their first cars, and the federal deficit was replaced with a surplus.
Coolidge is an eye-opening biography of the little-known president behind that era of remarkable growth and national optimism. Coolidge's trademark discipline and composure, Shlaes reveals, represented not weakness but strength, and he proved unafraid to take on the divisive issues of this crucial period: reining in public-sector unions, unrelentingly curtailing spending, and rejecting funding for new interest groups. He reduced the federal budget even as the economy grew, wages rose, taxes fell, and unemployment dropped.
In this magisterial biography, Amity Shlaes captures the remarkable story of Calvin Coolidge and the decade of extraordinary prosperity that grew from his leadership.
©2013 Amity Shlaes (P)2013 HarperCollins Publishers
This is a must-listen if you want to understand America in the era between 1870 and the early 1930s - rural New England agrarian life, college in that era, the simplicity of transportation, politics, the rise of labor unions, immigration controversy, back-room politicking, the growth of means of communication and flight and the pressures of the presidency. I listened intently - even increasing the speed slightly to absorb the material more quickly - and probably will relisten in a year or two to reinforce the information.
The author is a master storyteller. She brings the reader into Coolidge's mind as he faces the challenges of a politician - state legislator, state senator, governor, VP and president - during the first three decades of the 20th century. We understand why he stood up against the striking Boston Police Department and the undercurrent of radicalism in union activity, we appreciate why he made the political moves that he made when he made them and we appreciate the challenges that he faced as president.
The memories that I'll retain most are the descriptions of the multiple meetings between President Coolidge and General Lord, as they pore over the budget, eliminating trivial items and finding less costly alternatives that save a million dollars here or $50,000 there. Coolidge respected the people's money and saw himself as its steward in a way that no modern politician of either party emulates. Today, politicians of both parties throw around a hundred billion dollars like it's money falling from heaven. Coolidge tossed quarters like they were manhole covers.
I appreciated the description of the strain that the presidency and personal losses (the Colonel, Calvin Jr.) placed on the Coolidge marraige, and how the President tried to repair it in the later stages of his term, when the strain was greatest. The strain appears to have repaired itself fairly quickly after the weight of the presidency - the President's obligations and time commitments, which prevented his participation in many activities, including John's graduations - were lifted and the couple returned to Northampton.
High school and college students rarely learn much history between the end of the War of Northern Aggression and the beginning of the Second World War. I'm making a conscious effort (aided largely by audible.com) to learn more about this era - from "The President is a Sick Man" to "The Destiny of the Republic" and "The President and the Assassin" - and soon "The Bully Pulpit" or "The River of Doubt." These biographies all deliver an excellent description of the United States during my great-great-grandfather's lifetime.
How to write a biography about one of America's least loquacious and bland Presidents? That was the task facing Shlaes who does an admirable job on one of the 20th centuries' more overlooked leaders. Silent Cal spoke little, spent less, and nevertheless ably lead during one of America's more prosperous decades. Should make for compelling reading but this bio is mostly a recapitulation of what is already largely known about the man with few insider details about CC and what made him tick. Nevertheless I found it interesting, more because of how such a man - talented though he may have been - was clearly a product of his time and could never be elected today. Though Shlaes doesn't draw these comparisons, this book really does speak volumes about what type of man America once made President and what type of person it now takes to endure seemingly endless campaigns, 24 hour news cycles, a cynical electorate and bland but electable policy positions by candidates. CC may be the last if his kind. Too bad Shlaes didn't focus more attention and details on this.
Yes, I would. The narrator and story are very good, and the book are not
The death of Harding, and the reactions of the country and of Coolidges'
family are moving.
The true meaning of each and every sentence. His inflexion is very important
to the story.
Has anyone else noticed that in Chapter 6 with an Hour and 50 minutes left in the chapter, that there is a reference to the "Cameras of Fox News" rolling? Was this a joke played by the Narrator?
I am currently listening to John Adams.
This was my first audio book using Audible. Once I got the hang of everything, the performance was great.
I was shocked how little Coolidge was addressed in the years of American history classes I attended. This book gave context to many political arguments still existing today.
I probably would not have read this book because of its length. The audio format gave me the opportunity to enjoy a piece of history while painting the inside of my garage.
It's hard to write an interesting biography of a dull person. One approach is to do a "Life and Times" which would have worked especially well her, because the events of the 1920's are fascinating in themselves. I was left with no idea whatsoever why Calvin Coolidge wanted to be president, except, perhaps, to shave a few nickles off the national debt through what is now called supply-side economics. I am curious why Amity Shlaes thought this biography worth writing.
I've learned that I prefer biographies of great, or at least interesting, people. A president is not worth an exhaustive biography simply because our political system happened to cough him up.
I believe this was my first experience with Terence Aselford. His reading was excellent.
I'm an insomniac, and the book succeeded in putting me to sleep several times.
1) I had a higher opinion of Calvin Coolidge before I listened to this than I do now.
2) I would suggest avoiding biographies of Franklin Pierce as well.
I love history and enjoy reading different books about the past. I like to joke that I have read many books about the outcome at Gettysburg, but no matter how many I read the outcome remains the same! I do find it interesting and fascinating to get different takes and outlooks on the same events.
Not by Amity Shlaes. Terence Aselford was adequate.
The material he had to work with was poor.
I found it a right wing look at an historical but justly ignored figure in our national canopy. It had no redeeming qualities I could discern. I even remained listening until the end. It went off a cliff and never really recovered.
Whose idea was it to include the reading of credits at the conclusion of the book? That was a disastrous decision on top of a sad and sorry tale. This would have been okay but she thanked everyone imaginable for this and for that. What a waste of time!
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