I’ve probably read 8 or 9 of the American Presidents series biographies. They are totally hit or miss, but for a lot of the presidents, it was really the only viable option out there. There were a couple of other Herbert Hoover books out there but they were either very expensive or very long and I knew I didn’t want either.* So I ended up with another American Presidents book… and it was a total hit.
We’re getting into a period of American history that I’m totally fascinated by (Depression/WWII), so maybe that was part of it, but really I think that this was just a really concise, well written biography.
There are a few things that really stuck with me. Let me list them:
-Before he was president, Hoover headed up the Food Administration during WWI. Before him there was no such thing. He had worked in Europe on getting food to people when they entered the war, so when the US entered it just made sense that Hoover would come back and do the same thing here. He did an amazing job. Because of him tons of people didn’t starve. So for all the bad things people said about Hoover later, this was good stuff. I thought that how he carried this out (volunteers and straight up propaganda) was way interesting & I could read a whole book about that.
-After that, he became Secretary of Commerce, which was a pretty new position, meaning that Hoover could pretty much just do his own thing. There was a giant flood on the Mississippi and he again organized volunteers and the Red Cross and got it taken care of. Bam.
-He was elected president easily and went into office and really got off to a great start. And then…
-The Great Depression. Part of me wonders if Hoover would have been remembered totally differently by history if not for the Great Depression. Here is something I thought was crazy: You know, the market crashed in October. In December when the newspapers were doing “year in review”s, that wasn’t at the top of the list. It didn’t seem like a huge deal. People (including the government) figured that these things happen and that the market would correct itself, so no one was really worried… until it didn’t. And still didn’t. Then continued to not.
-Hoover never really got on board the “we need to fix this” train, thereby assuring that he’d be remembered as the president that led us into then sat by idly while we endured the Great Depression. Womp womp.
So there it is, totally low ranked president who I expected to not enjoy at all was actually a really interesting, good read. I love happy surprises.
*I love long books generally, but I knew that my next few biographies were going to be long ones and for whatever reason I thought reading a long biography of Hoover too would be wasting time? I have no idea.