SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Improbable Wendell Willkie: The Businessman Who Saved the Republican Party and His Country, and Conceived a New World Order

Liveright: Norton. Sept. 2018. 400p. notes. index. ISBN 9780871404572. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631493744. BIOG
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In this comprehensive biography, Pulitzer Prize winner Lewis (history, New York Univ.; W.E.B. Du Bois) paints a portrait of Wendell Lewis Willkie (1892–1944) as an ambitious intellectual; a man too stubborn to abandon valued principles yet too ambitious to remain out of politics entirely. Dense and thorough, this treatment clearly illustrates Willkie's political bent from an early age as his family enthusiastically endorsed Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 U.S. election. Willkie's political activity continued with his passionate campaign for Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations and earnest battle against the Ku Klux Klan in his home state of Indiana and adopted town of Akron, OH. Though portrayed as a political neophyte, Willkie championed these causes alongside his climb to Akron social prominence, becoming the youngest president of the Akron Bar Association and serving on numerous boards and directorships. Drawing parallels to recent events, Lewis honestly chronicles Willkie's introduction into politics, with the interesting claim that Willkie "saved" the Republican Party from isolationism.
VERDICT Students of 20th-century political and economic history will appreciate this detailed examination of Willkie's rise to prominence and subsequent political career. {See Prepub Alert, 11/12/17.]

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