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 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 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 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.
I like the insight this book gave into this rather unknown President. His personality was soft spoken and a man of few words. The book shows these traits worked for Coolidge because it was who he was and they were a reflection of his true personality. In an age of politics were rhetoric is perceived as the key to success, this president was comfortable in his own frugal, quite personality. He also had many successes including balancing the budget and he was a pure economist so he cut, cut, cut national spending. He was certainly also a pure Republican whether that is good bad or otherwise. It was interesting how he was so cost conscious that he even cut the costs of running the actual White House in terms of expenses for food, staff and entertainment. Interestingly he chose not to run for a second term which seems to be because of the stress of the job. He loved good Cuban cigars but I am sure he would probably never have spent the money on them unless they were given to him. He was a devoted husband and father and was without political controversy. Quietly refreshing.
I suppose the closest comparison would be "Wilson" but I did like Wilson better. It is not near as good as John McCullough's Adams but that is not a reflection on the author or narrator as much as it is on the subject since Adams was such a powerful and monumental person in time.
No first time that I can recall.
No extreme reaction but it was insightful, interesting and I was glad I purchased the book.
If you enjoy biographies, especially political biographies this is a good book. For example, there are multiple books on Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy etc. but this is sort of refreshing because it is about a president who only ran for one term and is not all that well known in terms of his personality and accomplishments. I will listen to the book again sometime down the road.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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