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Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the…

Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century (edition 2010)

by Michael Hiltzik

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171None69,056 (3.94)3
Title:Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century
Authors:Michael Hiltzik
Info:Free Press (2010), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 512 pages
Collections:Tim's Books, Your library

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Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik


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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
The Hoover Dam--what an achievement! This well researched and competently written history covers all aspects of its creation, political, personal, labor, engineering, environment. ( )
  gbelik | Nov 5, 2013 |
A sweeping book on Hovver Dam. Goes through history of the area, but only from modern times. Really enjoyed. Would liked to have gotten more info about the engineering of the dam, as well as more photos. ( )
  bermandog | May 25, 2013 |
Outstanding story of mans attempt to tame the Colorado River. The history provided by the book of what led up to building the dam was Fascinating. It could never happen today the environmentalists would block it from ever being built and the unions would make it too cost prohibitive. ( )
  zmagic69 | Jun 6, 2012 |
I’m a big fan of history, and especially enjoy reading histories of some of the biggest projects and/or events of American history. Stephen Ambrose and David McCollough are two of my favorite authors in this genre. Ambrose’s accounts of the Lewis and Clarke expedition and the building of the transcontinental railroad, and McCollough’s books detailing the Panama Canal and Brooklyn Bridge construction are among the best I’ve read. Therefore, when I saw this work on the history and construction of the Hoover Dam, one of the greatest feats of engineering in history, I was more than excited to order and read it.

This is a good book. It more than competently covers the details and the personalities behind the Dam, the region and the historical era. When compared with the works cited above, it falls short however. One issue is the paucity of photographs and diagrams contained in the book. In the presence of highly detailed descriptions, simple diagrams or descriptive photographs would have been extremely helpful.

The second problem I encountered was the blatantly obvious political bias held by the author. If Hoover was the smarmy, autocratic, hypocritical blowhard that the author clearly paints him to be, a simple recitation of the facts could allow the reader to come to that conclusion. Instead, the author frequently peppers the facts with “helpful” little adverbs and descriptive phrases to help the reader along.

The Hoover Dam is rightly held up as one of the greatest public works ever undertaken by the U. S. government, at a time when such projects were very difficult to accomplish due to the financing and political restrictions in place before the New Deal and Great Society programs made such mega projects de rigueur. Nevertheless, recognition of the role of government in this case is used by the author as a sledgehammer to denigrate and ridicule the idea that private enterprise can or should have a major role in our society. Time and again, individuals and capitalists of the era are painted as greedy slave drivers, interested only in printing money, to the detriment of quality workmanship or the safety and well being of their workers. The few that were seemingly decent human beings were hopelessly incompetent.

Again, this is not a bad book. It is however, not what it could have been in the hands of Ambrose or McCollough. ( )
1 vote santhony | Jun 6, 2011 |
Completed 3/22/11, 408 pages. In a nutshell, good book but expected much better. I was disappointed there were virtually no maps, and no drawings of the dam. The book had many sections with considerable detail about design and construction which could have been better understood with the inclusion of both. There were several photos, but mostly a ho-hum collection of the usual portraits and Dam photos, but not nearly enough to show the evolution of the dam through its many phases of construction. And finally, while the book seemed well-researched, I thought the writing was so-so and many lengthy passages were very dull and slow going. If there is one question most asked by visitors to the dam and people reading this book, I am sure it would be "how many people died as a consequence of this project?" There are many anecdotal accidents described but the basic question is never answered. Yet there are tons of statistics about this on the web. The one thing the author had going for him though is this monster of a dam, and the soap opera surrounding its creation. The author did a good job in identifying the critical elements (e.g. Commerce Secy Hoover's sessions with the 7 states' reps, treatment of the workers, cement research, collapse of the St Francis Dam, FDR's visit, building Boulder City, why electric trucks were not used). And generally these subjects were so fascinating that some of the faults mentioned above would be temporarily forgotten. I have been to Hoover Dam three times but have never gone to the Visitor Center - but I plan to this summer. I think I'd be a bit more excited about it had "Colossus" been a better book. ( )
  maneekuhi | Mar 22, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
In this detailed and vividly written study -- destined to be the standard history for decades to come -- Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, struggles with considerable success to bring it all together: the dam itself, its engineering and design, the mighty and mercurial Colorado River it sought to control, its remote and punishing desert site, the larger-than-life personalities involved in its development and completion, the previously untold story of its troubled labor history, the tragic consequences to human life brought about by its rushed and relentless construction.
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(Introduction) The president's train lumbered across the desert in the dead of night.
By any customary measure, the Colorado River is an unremarkable stream.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The author of "Dealers of Lightning" pens the definitive account of the epic construction of the Hoover Dam, one of the the 20th century's most consequential public works.

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