"The Herbert Hoover Story" by Catherine Owens Peare

Brian Gongol

One-paragraph review: The myth that has evolved around Herbert Hoover is that he was a do-nothing President who sat idly by as the nation plunged into the Great Depression, and that the only good thing he did was lose to Franklin Roosevelt. This biography is a magnificent counterpoint to that narrative, colorfully depicting Hoover's difficult childhood on the frontier (in three different states with a variety of family members after both of his parents died young), his exceptional career as a preeminent mining engineer and businessman, and his tremendous public service on behalf of children and refugees on several occasions, but most especially during and around World War I. He is preserved in this volume not as a do-nothing President, but as one who could not fully reconcile what he wanted to do as a humanitarian with the tools he thought were legitimately available to him as President. That FDR succeeded him and asserted far greater government authority to act wasn't Hoover's fault (remember that even the Supreme Court thought FDR was overreaching), nor was the Depression itself.

Verdict: With a laudable economy of words, this biography gives Hoover the fair shake he rarely gets in the history books but richly deserves.