I just finished Stiles' The First Tycoon. It's a bio on Cornelius Vanderbilt. The book is well written–it's not short, but it reads short. Not like a Robert Caro-style book. (I enjoy reading Caro a lot–if you haven't plowed through The Power Broker, you're missing out on one of the most cynical descriptions of political corruption in NYC circa 1920-1970. Of course, with that corruption came Jones Beach, the LIE, The Triboro Bridge, the 1964 World's Fair and more. Also the creation of the South Bronx as an exemplar of urban decay.) Caro is a compelling writer, and so is Stiles. The difference, though, is that Caro stays on target. Stiles does, too, but the target is the economic and political climate of the industrializing America, not Vanderbilt. And that's the only real weakness of the book. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating read, and I'd encourage anyone interested in US economic/business history to read it.





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