REVIEW: Richard Vague — An Illustrated Business History of the United States (BOOK)
I can say, free from politics or other skewing influence, that few nations in humanity’s history embody the possibilities of the entrepreneurial spirit like the United States of America has. The consequences and ramifications of this are another discussion. Richard Vague’s book An Illustrated Business History of the United States makes an ambitious attempt to provide readers with a comprehensive yet never exhaustive account of how American business evolved throughout our country’s history. It may seem like, for some, an impossible subject to do justice to.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: https://www.richardvague.com/
I presume that making this an illustrated history has something to do with that. Vague brings his implied goal of writing that comprehensive history well within his grasp. Accompanying his prose, viewpoints, and research with some of the finest photography and illustrations chronicling the journey of American business over the last two plus centuries is a masterstroke. It has a reinforcing effect on both his observations and the narrative qualities of his book.
The presentation is well-nigh faultless. Handsomer texts are hard to come by in modern publishing with its uncluttered page layouts and polished construction. There’s no question Vague thoroughly plotted out where he wanted to go, what he wanted to say, and how to frame things before embarking on the book. The effort shows in each page of An Illustrated Business History of the United States.
Vague’s background is thoroughly steeped in the corporate rather than literary world. His book, however, benefits from thoughtful yet frequently crackling prose brimming with intelligence and personality alike. His professional background affords him insights into the history he’s documenting without ever seeming full of himself or falling prey to self-absorption. This isn’t a book about Richard Vague.
I admire other aspects of its presentation. The chapter layout is ideal for the subject and Vague keeps his discussions informative yet never overwrought. He maintains a consistent balance, as well, between the text and strictly visual material; this is not a coffee-table book but, rather, a serious study reliant on its writing rather than ornamentation. The design of this book makes it a more accessible reading experience.
The final point is key. The history of American business, especially in such fractious times, isn’t a subject certain to attract every reader. However, broadening the book’s focus with illustrations expands the potential audience for An Illustrated Business History of the United States. Vague’s decades of experience in the professional world qualify him for offering a book such as this. It is the chief factor in him producing a formidable work. His trenchant point of view and ability for untangling a frequently convoluted history is impressive throughout.
It is a book you can read from beginning to end or else dive in as you see fit. It is, likewise, a book with a chance to appeal to wide audiences as well as those with an interest in business history. Richard Vague’s An Illustrated Business History of the United States rates among the best offerings of its kind in recent memory and deserves attention from any mature reader.