• Hoover

  • An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times
  • By: Kenneth Whyte
  • Narrated by: Richard Ferrone
  • Length: 27 hrs and 38 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (330 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The definitive biography of Herbert Hoover, one of the most remarkable Americans of the 20th century - a revisionist account that will forever change the way Americans understand the man, his presidency, and his battle against the Great Depression.

A poor orphan who built a fortune, a great humanitarian, a president elected in a landslide and then routed in the next election, arguably the father of both New Deal liberalism and modern conservatism - Herbert Hoover is also one of our least understood presidents, conventionally seen only as a heartless failure for his handling of the Great Depression.

Kenneth Whyte fully captures this rich, dramatic life: from Hoover's difficult childhood to his meteoric business career, his work saving hundreds of thousands of lives during World War I and after the 1927 Mississippi floods, his presidency, his painful defeat by Roosevelt, and his return to grace as Truman's emissary to help European refugees after World War II. Whyte brings to life Hoover's complexity and contradictions - his modesty and ambition, ruthlessness and extreme generosity - as well as his political legacy. Here is the epic, poignant story of the poor boy who became the most accomplished figure of his time, who worked ceaselessly to fight the Depression yet became the public face of America's greatest economic crisis. Here, for the first time, is the definitive biography that captures the full scale of this extraordinary life.

©2017 Kenneth Whyte (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"An exemplary biography - exhaustively researched, fair-minded and easy to read. It can nestle on the same shelf as David McCullough's Truman, a high compliment indeed." (Edward Kosner, The Wall Street Journal)

"Outstanding.... This well organized, thoroughly researched, and smoothly written biography persuasively demonstrates that its subject's place in history should be elevated far beyond its current status." (Talmage Boston, Washington Independent Review of Books)

"While no apologist for the man who became synonymous with the Great Depression, Whyte details how Hoover was up against worldwide economic forces that he had no way of controlling and points out that the hard times continued long into Roosevelt’s presidency. Just as interesting, however, are Whyte’s accounts of Hoover’s early life, from his rise from orphanhood to world-traveling problem solver, and his post-presidency attempt to restore his image and regain his place among the 20th century’s most admired people." (Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor)

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What listeners say about Hoover

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

What a fascinating story!

I only knew about Herbert Hoover as president and this book, in the almost 28 hours of narration, tells the complete story about how Mr. Hoover grew up in meager circumstances, losing both parents at an early age, and then transformed himself into a business power after gaining a degree in Geology at Stanford University.

The book also takes a fair position on how Mr. Hoover was castigated by the press and the Roosevelt administration and shows the great value he placed in public service, especially when it comes to caring for the "collateral damage" in war time, namely the starving women and children in Europe.

A great book that I will probably listen to again.

7 people found this helpful

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Must Read

I have read a lot of bibliographies of US presidents and this is one of the best. Well written, well researched and incisive. Also, well narrated.

6 people found this helpful

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A Great Humanitarian

I was curious about Herbert Hoover. I had grown up with my parents' opinion, that Hoover was the cause of the Great Depression. My dad referred to it as "the Hoover Depression", and if we were out of a necessity, he would say my mom was "Hooverizing".
Hoover was a great humanitarian, who was responsible for feeding millions of people in Europe after WWI. He also saved millions of children in the Soviet Union, when the crops failed. So many other times he organized food deliveries to starving people.
Hoover, like most people, was a complicated person. I personally do not believe he deserved the blame for the Great Depression nor the ill-treatment by FDR.
I highly recommend this book. My husband, who is not a history major, enjoyed it, too.

2 people found this helpful

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Hoover

A man of times, He wasn't all bad for he was he was a good person. But the democrats kept trying to destroy all he had done by making him look bad and going after everyone in his cabinets as corrupt.

1 person found this helpful

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Must read

After listening to this book .... twice ... I had to also purchase a copy. I had no idea about Hoover’s life story and enormous contributions to this country. Like many other, I assume, my ideas about him were tied to the depression and largely negative. Anyone concerned about the current world/ country economic situation and the US role in managing both growth and distribution should read this book.

1 person found this helpful

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A new appreciation.

From a rather uninformed but negative opinion of Hoover this book has completely changed my appreciation for this complex and highly accomplished man.

1 person found this helpful

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Hoover

I learned a great deal about this man who certainly has earned a better place in the history of America than he has received.

1 person found this helpful

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Learned Interesting Things, but Bias Disappoints

I knew little about Hoover before reading this. For the first several chapters I figured that was because he led a pretty boring life. That turned out to be far from the case. Some of his stands on issues were surprising. Like his support for high estate taxes. From what I did know previously, I did think that he was probably unfairly blamed for the depression and unfairly blamed for not ending it. I have studied Roosevelt intensely and knew the New Deal was largely unsuccessful in ending the depression. But, that wasn't because many of the ideas were wrong. It was impossible to do enough. It was the massive government spending in wartime that finally ended it and ultimately led to one of the strongest periods of economic growth in our history. Anyway, as the book moved into the post-presidential years, the author lost his objectivity and that was disappointing. His dislike of Roosevelt and misreporting, at least by implication, was clear. Roosevelt had many faults but was not nearly so evil as described. Meanwhile, Hoover was given a pass for sniping from the sidelines without suggesting how he would have dealt with the Germans without the Russian alliance. The author also gave Hoover a pass for deifying Woodrow Wilson as a great proponent for democratic freedoms despite Wilson being the most autocratic president of the history of the United States. (c.f. The Sedition Act) Just a couple of examples among all the possible ones. Despite the flaws, the book is certainly worth reading and I'm happy I did.

1 person found this helpful

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Good Biography Of An Unloved President

It’s unfortunate, really quite unfair, that the general public only knows him for the Depression. He had quite the life: from orphan to tycoon, sharp businessman to life-saving philanthropist, leading progressive to grand old man of conservatism, and of course, President of the United States. What I wanted from this book was the whole life, and that’s what I got, his presidency taking up seven chapters of twenty-nine.

The man himself seems to have been relatively dull. Whyte paints a portrait of a man devoid of introspection: one part Babbitt, almost pathetically fixated on status and reputation; and one part can-do efficiency god, representing everything good in early-20th century Progressivism. His Belgian relief work, in particular, was incredible.

His tragedy is that he got it into his head to be President, despite being temperamentally unsuited to the job. He excelled as a technocrat, and there it ended. I can easily imagine him, sans Presidency, becoming a respected crisis-manager and administrator. Instead, well…

I felt there was an egomania to Hoover that I think Whyte understated. He’s out of the country for decades, gets famous for foreign charity, comes back and within a few years makes a go at the presidency? Despite disdaining actual politics? I see this tendency as much as any honest moral stance being behind carping at Roosevelt, or his quixotic attempts get the Republican nomination in 1936 and 1940.

His Presidency is, of course, one of the most interesting parts of the book (though the Belgian Relief is up there). I felt that Whyte was a bit pro-Hoover, but also that there is a somewhere a revisionist view well worth reading. It’s not exactly common knowledge how much FDR’s policies came from his predecessor. Also, it never occurred to me that Hoover had to court the Prohibition diehards in his reelection, as if he wasn’t screwed enough without that. Whyte interestingly downplays the Bonus Army episode. I’ve heard that described as a typically tone-deaf blunder. Apparently, the newspapers, the smart set, who condemn him now, said nothing then. I can’t say I’m surprised.

He became more likable in his autumn years. The last chapter, on his legacy, is particularly good. It’s hard for me to deny that a good number of the things he warned about seem more sensible and more reasonable now, than they would have when he died.

The reading is good, well suited to the work.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent!

while being very detailed it remained very interesting. I gained a new appreciation of President Hoover