Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times

Knopf. Oct. 2017. 752p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307597960. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781524732462. BIOG
Whyte (The Uncrowned King) emphasizes the challenges presented by the contradictory personality of Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) in this comprehensive and accessible study. The author provides details about Hoover's experiences as an orphan who became a self-made millionaire, commerce secretary, director of the U.S. Food Administration, spokesman for progressive efficiency before his White House years and for the new anti-Communist, noninterventionist, conservatism thereafter. Similar to Glen Jeansonne's Herbert Hoover, Whyte's work contextualizes Hoover as a man of his times, underscoring that he left the White House scandal-free and with a better understanding than his successor Franklin D. Roosevelt that the Great Depression required concerted international, rather than primarily domestic solutions. Whyte explains how supporters of the New Deal took credit for programs that Hoover, albeit tentatively, began for bank and agricultural relief, industrial refinancing, and federal aid to local governments. Sources from nationwide newspapers and the written observations of Hoover's colleagues supplement the politician's largely nonintrospective, although voluminous writings, which were motivated by his lone political defeat.
VERDICT In seeking to understand rather than judge Hoover throughout the entire trajectory of his life, Whyte succeeds in creating a positive overview of the leader's long prepresidential service. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]

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