Thursday, December 26, 2013

Book Review: Coolidge



I've enjoyed watching Justin reading Amity Shlaes' Coolidge over the past few months. He would chuckle and say of Calvin Coolidge and his wife, Grace, "Those two remind me of us. The classic introvert and the classic extrovert." Given today's political climate it seems that this book is a timely one for us Americans and I look forward to reading this after I clear some other books of my GoodReads shelf.    

Enjoy Justin's review: 


Such a great biography...in-depth enough to give you a good picture, but pretty tightly paced so it never drags.

Calvin Coolidge was a fascinating yet unassuming fellow who was loath to promote himself, preferring to work hard and be "in the stream" so that his excellence would be noticed by others at the right time. Shlaes speaks up where Coolidge himself may never have, poring through papers and letters to allow his choices and perseverance shine forth as the example for others he always hoped they would be. He comes across not as the cranky, taciturn caricature most Americans hold, but as a shrewd and calculating political operator with steely-eyed convictions and a keen eye for public perception. Moreover, he was quite family-focused, cherishing and protecting his wife through a life lived in public, holding onto his family land in Vermont throughout his presidency (even micromanaging his tenants at times), and suffering incredibly through the sudden loss of his 17 year-old son during the 2nd year of his presidency. Shlaes gives ample treatment to both his home life and his official capacities, offering a window into the sacrifices the whole family made for the sake of the country.

If there is a weakness here, it is that Shlaes focuses heavily on the nuts and bolts of Coolidge's policies, though I actually appreciated that. Economics and tax policy seems to be the stuff that rings her chimes, from other pieces I've read by her (and interviews, etc.), and the tone throughout the book suggests that she would clearly like to see those in the political realm revisit the inner workings of the Coolidge administration and apply some of his solutions to today's issues.

In all, a great read. I foresee that Shlaes book will have the same recussitatory effect on Coolidge's historical standing that McCullough's work had on Truman's.