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First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daley Hardcover – March 28, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (March 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226449475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226449470
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In this ripping political biography, Koeneman portrays the mayor who held office for 22 years and transformed Chicago from a gray working town into a gleaming global city. The story of the second Mayor Daley begins with the first, and Koeneman reveals exactly how the father ushered his oldest son into politics while keeping him on a tight leash. Young Rich, awkward and arrogant, also faced resentment from his peers. But as hostile as his critics are––and Koeneman, who conducted more than 100 interviews, quotes some stinging remarks––there is no denying that Daley underwent a “dramatic personal evolution” or that he cares deeply about people. As Koeneman charts the political calculations intrinsic to Daley’s rise and rule and takes a close look at his inner circle, with its ties to Barack Obama, he contrasts the epic viciousness and corruption of Chicago politics and the mayor’s own failings with Daley’s tenacity, empathy, “humanistic impulse,” and accomplishments. This brisk (though repetitive) portrait of a complex, colorful, and powerful American is a work of valuable living political history. --Donna Seaman

Review

Dynamic, compelling biography of the Daley family that shaped Chicago for nearly half a century. Publishers Weekly

A ripping political biography. This brisk portrait of a complex, colorful, and powerful American is a work of valuable living political history - Booklist

First-ever biography of Richard M. Daley: Keith Koeneman writes thoroughly researched review of an important career. - TimeOut Chicago

A very high quality biography of an important historical figure whose story is an important part of Chicago and American history. - Northwest Indiana Times

“Native son Koeneman colorfully and familiarly details the rise of the Daleys and their imprint on their hometown. . . . A highly focused history of a 20th-century metropolis and a compelling biography of the family that shaped it for nearly half a century.”
(Publishers Weekly)

“A ripping political biography."
(Booklist)

"Koeneman captures the arc of Daley's reign perfectly—its early successes and later failures, its mix of volatility and insecurity, and the evolution of an insular Democratic-machine prince from Bridgeport into a powerful leader who learned to coexist with intellectuals, culture buffs, and titans of business to build a world-class city. . . . A must-read if you care about Chicago."
(Andy Shaw, executive director, Better Government Association)

First Son recounts an important era of Chicago’s history ruled over by one of its most powerful mayors. It is a nuanced picture of Mayor Richard M. Daley with all his contradictions and triumphs, failings and successes. Keith Koeneman concludes that 'history’s judgment [will be] that Daley’s achievements . . . outweighed his mistakes.' Whether one agrees or not, First Son should be read by all who care about the city, its history, and its politics.”
(Dick Simpson, author, professor, and former Chicago alderman)

"Koeneman’s First Son is a satisfying, engaging read for anyone who enjoys modern politics and has a heartstring or two for Chicago." 
(Kenneth D. Ackerman Washington Independent Review of Books)

"A valuable book, admirably fair and balanced, and vastly informative about four colorful and highly eventful decades in the life of America’s third-largest metropolis."
(Washington Monthly)

"First Son is a very high quality biography of an important historical figure whose story is an important part of Chicago and American history." 
(Jane Ammeson Times of Northwest Indiana)

“Accessible and well researched, this well-written look at the Windy City’s oft-loved, oft-controversial mayor is a compelling read.” 
(Chicago Book Review)

More About the Author

Keith Koeneman writes about Chicago history, politics, and culture. His book on the recently retired mayor of Chicago, First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daley, will be published by the University of Chicago Press in Spring of 2013. He also teaches and speaks as an expert on Chicago mayoral politics on television and radio. He holds advanced degrees from Harvard, University of Chicago and Northwestern University, and a liberal arts degree from Carleton College. Koeneman lives in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Follow him at the Huffington Post, KeithKoeneman.com or on twitter @DaleyBiographer.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chicagoist on January 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I was eager to read this book, as the subject offers up a fascinating character with which to look at any number of issues impacting American cities at the end of the 20th Century: race, urban politics in America, globalization, and much more. Chicago has been at the center of American urban life since its founding and the Daleys - father and son, ruled over it to a degree that most people might not fathom, had they not experienced it first hand. Chicago is also a great city for political reporting and I hoped this book would be a useful addition to the pantheon of other great profiles of Chicago mayors.

Unfortunately, the author fails to penetrate beyond the surface of Richard Daley. For a self-professed expert on Chicago, the author also leaves a surprising degree of detail either out of the picture or reduced to generalizations. Contrasted with others who have written on Chicago politics, the work stands out unfortunately for its overall blandness and lack of conviction about who Daley is and what he represented for the city.

For instance, Richard Daley made education the centerpiece of his mayoral tenure, yet what is the actual record? Chicago recently moved to close more than 50 schools and has privatized many more through an aggressive use of charter schools. Charter schools do not merit a mention, nor does the author unpack data on test scores, drop-out rates, or other standard indicators of performance.

Koeneman spends literally no time on the education reform movement that was instituted by the state legislature in 1985. Reading this book, one would have no inkling of the important conflicts over neighborhood schools and who would control them, which grew out of the battles over race and neighborhood turf from Daley the elder's time.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth B. on April 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As a non-native Chicagoan who grew up steeped in politics and worked for and with some of the greatest and most notorious of Illinois' recent polititians, I just loved First Son. I only wish I knew all the facts that Keith Koeneman lays out in his book when I first embarked on my political career here in Chicago more than 20 years ago.

Koeneman's book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand Chicago - as it was and as it is today. He approaches Daley with a scholar's eye - looking neither to flatter nor bury Richard M. Daley - but rather to lay out the facts and let the reader conclude what he will of the man who has, more than anyone, created the Chicago that we have today.

Koeneman's well-researched book provides us with the background on Chicago and Richard M. Daley that allows us to see for the first time the forces that shaped the man and the city and to appreciate the journey that both have travelled.

Koeneman has taken great care to provide his readers with the facts, pretty or not, and the historical perspective needed to truly begin to understand who Richard M. Daley is and what drove him to dedicate so many years of service to the city he clearly loves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By PugsB on September 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Clinical recap of his career. Was hoping for more insight. The later years didn't provide much beyond what has been covered in the local media.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter R. Sonderby on June 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good summary for those not familiar with Daley's history but certainly nothing new; much appears to be cut and paste from other sources.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Curtis M Jacobson on August 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great read. As living in Chicago my entire life, and living through both Daley's as Mayor, it goes into great detail of the History of Chicago politics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joan on May 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Loved this book. Although nonfiction, it was a great read. So glad that I read it as the author presented factual information in a clear, concise manner.
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By Patricia A. Ryan on July 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Learned a lot about Chicago Politics from yesteryear. The history on how Daley grow up helps understand the future Mayor. There are a lot of holes that we may never fill on more current motives but that's how politics works. Good read.
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