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
I am an avid eclectic reader.
Amity Shlaes has produced a scholarly look at Calvin Coolidge. It is well documented but not a dry boring story that some scholars write. The book came along at a perfect time for me as I had Coolidge on my list of people to read about in 2013. The book covers Coolidge from birth to death. He was born on July 4 1972 in Plymouth Notch Vermont and died there on January 5 1933. The Coolidge family was one of the founding families of Vermont and had the frugal hard working values of New England. He went to Amherst College and met a group of men that he maintain a lifetime friendship and appointed some to government positions. For example I was surprise to learn that Dwight Morrow was an Amherst buddy of Coolidge and he appointed him to the study the role of aviation and then appointed him Ambassador to Mexico. Morrow was the father of Anne Morrow who married Charles Lindbergh. I have a book in my wish list on Anne Morrow so I was pleased with the connection. I love it when one book provides information to another I am to read. Coolidge chose to "Read the Law" rather than go to law school. Then opened up his own practice. He was active in politics and was elected to local, then state positions. He married Grace Anna Goodhue in 1905 and she was outgoing and he was shy so she was a great first lady. She was a teacher at a school for the deaf and a good friend of Elizabeth Reeve Cutter who married Dwight Morrow. When He was governor of Massachusetts he had to deal with the Boston police strike in 1919. When president he not only balanced the budget he had a surplus which he used to pay down the national debt. He had to battle Congress as they wanted to spend the money. But his basic philosophy was to leave business alone and unregulated and all would be fine. He thought aviation was the future but thought that commercial aviation should lead the way not the military. The press noted he was key to healing the country after the scandal of Harding's presidency. I will not give away any of the story you are going to enjoy reading how and why he handled all the above plus more. Terrence Aselford did an adequate job narrating the book.
This book skillfully captures Coolidge as an individual as well as providing a good account of the history of the time and Coolidge's political and philosophical thought. It is not hero worship, and the author takes care to present those in opposition to Coolidge in a fair minded way that avoids demonizing.
I finished the book having a better understanding of the man, the nation, and the history of the time than when I began.
I have a new favorite President. If only the politicians of our age were of a similar mind to Coolidge.
I found myself listening to 2-3 hour intervals, but the narration style demands attention. If I was even a little distracted, the narration was unable to demand by attention and draw me back in.
I loved the way Shlaes documented the influences and experiences that made Coolidge the honorable man he was. The book, a product of extraordinary research, meticulously depicts both subtle and substantial events throughout the life of our 30th president while also painting a picture of life in America during that era.
Coolidge's experience as a legislator and Commonwealth Senate President enabled him, as POTUS, to lead and work with congress to enact legislation which respected Federalism and led to extreme prosperity.
Learning that Coolidge was so focused on reducing federal spending that he and Budget Bureau Director General Lord met frequently and regularly to actually shrink the federal budget.
Another great book from Shlaes!
This is a great biography. One point that was week was how bad the recession was that he inherited from Wilson, it was far worse than what Obama inherited. Yet Harding and Coolidge turned things around to a point that we had the roaring 20's. Then he looked at what Hoover was doing and said - stock market is going to crash, and it did. He was a man of few words, but his actions meant far more.
Great book about a president I knew virtually nothing about.Great story and a solid performance. I gained a great deal of respect and admiration for Coolidge. It's odd that he is not better known.
Amity Shlaes captures who Calvin Coolidge was and brings him and his wife to life. This determined man did what no President before or after has ever done - reduce the debt (by almost a third!). The denizens of Washington DC hated him because he did what they said was impossible.
A good listen and performance; it is worth your time.
Yes...for reading, it is better than print. However, Ms Shlaes' references are so voluminous at the end of her book that I would want that in print.
Its a toss up between Grace Coolidge, Calvin's wife and Andrew Mellon, who worked so long and so hard with Calvin on reducing the public debt and reducing taxes that perhaps he qualified as Cal's wife as well...lol
I think his rendition of the dour John Coolidge (the father, not the son) was really well done.
If I had the time, yes!
I was astounded as to the amount of material went into the research and development of this book! The end of the book is nearly a half an hour of Mr Aselford reading all of the extensive papers and volumes and people that were researched for this book. Ms. Shlaes is one of the first faculty I have encountered that has her subject coming out of her very pores...she is one hell of a passionate advocate for Coolidge and his principles. Amazing woman.
Perhaps a year from now, lot of detail that could be missed the first time.
his life long belief that it is crucial to live within your means
the detail is more easily absorbed
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.
This telling of Coolidge's life, career, presidency, and after is tonic for the times. This was a principled individual who sought to steer in a sensible way, and in small ways. Well-written, well-researched, and well-read. The book flows and feels complete. There were aspects of the era I missed in this book, though, too. Prohibition is hardly mentioned among other large influences and events of the era. But overall, excellent.
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