Rosen does a wonderfully sensitive job shading the nuance back into the picture in ways that almost can't help but reflect the current moment in American presidential politics ... The series is always at its best when the biographers do what Rosen does here: survey the pertinent literature and then liberally fill the resulting book with judgement calls, buttressed opinions, and rich synthesis. It's sadly likely that most readers coming to this brief biography will know next to nothing about Taft the President and nothing at all about Taft the Chief Justice, and it's refreshing that Rosen is equally strong on both periods – and their connections ... This book won't take the place of an enormous full-dress biography of Taft, but that's never the goal in a series of this kind. In crafting a spirited, informed precis of a remarkable life, Rosen has done an excellent job.
Rosen aptly observes that by some measures — trusts prosecuted, acreage protected, tariffs reduced — Taft was more progressive than Roosevelt. Yet his style could hardly have been less Rooseveltian. Rosen makes a compelling argument for Taft’s importance as a conservator of the Constitution on the subject of presidential powers ... For all her pushiness, Nellie was his true love, and the attention he devoted to her recovery after a stroke is deeply moving.
All this made for an interesting life, told by Jeffrey Rosen in this new biography, part of the American Presidents series. Rosen begins his examination with a look at Taft’s parents and childhood, which shaped and informed his political thinking. Rosen’s writing is clear and his research shines. This well-written and well-told story is in some ways more relevant today than when it happened. Do not miss this one.