I looked high, low and wide for a month or so for a balanced bio on Herbert Hoover. The general trouble with bios is they often take a strong pro or con view of their subjects, and that seemed to be especially true of bios on Hoover. Judging from reviews and excerpts from Richard Norton Smith's 1983 account of Hoover's life, I bought it and read it. I do believe it's a well-balanced view of Mr. Hoover, at least the best I could find.
Smith doesn't hesitate to criticize or compliment Hoover, always using facts to back up what he says. Hoover inherited the Great Depression seven or eight months after taking office. His critics insist he could have done more to head off the nation's worst-ever financial crisis, pointing out all that Franklin Roosevelt did from the day he took office until his death. Yet none of FDR's New Deal measures overcame the Great Depression. It ended with the beginning of World War II as the nation as a whole ramped up production and the economy to fight a vast and bloody two-front war across both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. So unfortunately Hoover still usually gets the blame for the Great Depression and FDR gets the credit for overcoming it.
This bio covers all of Hoover's life, from boyhood as an orphan to his death. It captures his life as a student at Stanford, his profession as an outstanding engineer and manager, his service in World War I to Woodrow Wilson and later to Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. And we find out why he was so revered in Europe. The book also covers his family life, including his highly-intelligent and well-educated wife.
I wrote a more informed review right after I read the book, but discovered today it didn't get posted here, probably because of some mistake I made when I went back and edited it. Anyway, this 30-something-year-old bio is truly informative, clearly written, interesting and worth your time if you have an interest in Hoover and much of the nation's history from about 1910 to his death. Cheers x 3 for Richard North Smith. I look forward to reading some of his other books, too.