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Titan: the Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr [Paperback]

Ron Chernow
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Vintage) Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Vintage) 4.4 out of 5 stars (15)
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Book Description

12 Oct 1999
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

"A biography that has many of the best attributes of a novel. . . . Wonderfully fluent and compelling." --The New York Times

"A triumph of the art of biography. Unflaggingly interesting, it brings John D. Rockefeller Sr. to life through sustained narrative portraiture of the large-scale, nineteenth-century kind."--The New York Times Book Review

In this endlessly engrossing book, National Book Award-winning biographer Ron Chernow devotes his penetrating powers of scholarship and insight to the Jekyll and Hyde of American capitalism. In the course of his nearly 98 years, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was known as both a rapacious robber baron, whose Standard Oil Company rode roughshod over an industry, and a philanthropist who donated money lavishly to universities and medical centers. He was the terror of his competitors, the bogeyman of reformers, the delight of caricaturists--and an utter enigma.
        Drawing on unprecedented access to Rockefeller's private papers, Chernow reconstructs his subject's troubled origins (his father was a swindler and a bigamist) and his single-minded pursuit of wealth. But he also uncovers the profound religiosity that drove him "to give all I could"; his devotion to his family; and the wry sense of humor that made him the country's most colorful codger. Titan is a magnificent biography --balanced, revelatory, and elegantly written.

"Important and impressive. . . . Reveals the man behind both the mask and the myth."--The Wall Street Journal

"One of the great American biographies. . . . [Chernow] writes with rich impartiality. He turns the machinations of Standard Oil . . . into fascinating social history."--Time

Product details

  • Paperback: 774 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st edition (12 Oct 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679757031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679757030
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.3 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Brilliantly researched and written" -- WALL STREET JOURNAL

* "The book has the movement and tension of an epic novel. It is, quite simply, a tour de force" -- New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

* A magisterial epic biography of America's first monopolist - the Bill Gates of his time - John D Rockefeller. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the seminal biographies of this decade!! 30 Aug 1999
By A Customer
I just finished reading this biography of one of the most influential non-political figures of American history. Mr. Chernow deserves all the critical acclaim he received for writing this; it is truly a remarkable work. At the outset, it seemed that Chernow was going to give a "polished-up" version of Rockefeller's life. However, you soon begin to see that he instead presents Rockefeller in a rather impartial light, exposing both qualities and faults with equal judgment. Mr. Chernow wonderfully intertwines the events of the day as he narrates Rockefeller's life, the life, innerworkings, and sheer dominace of Standard Oil, and the philanthropic entities that came to make Rockefeller revered by many. When the reader completes this book, he/she is able to formulate their own opinion of Rockefeller because we were given such a well-rounded, thorough, and fair presentation. If anything else, that is the essence of what a truly outstanding biography should be able to do. That is why Mr. Chernow's book is such a success and enjoyable read.
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By A Customer
Just as Giant summed up "Oil as a film" So Titan powerfully evokes the power and dominance which JD Rockefeller brought to America's first major industry and still, one of its largest. At a time when many of the other branches of American commerce were being formulated, Rockefeller used this comparative naivety, as much in evidence in his own industry, to maximise his own advantage and sometimes punish, the lack of complexity of other industries. His grasp of how to make a margin and maximise it is breathtaking given that many of what are now accepted practices, were not even dreamt of then. This book is probably the first to show so graphically, how one man with vision, can manipulate even a country the size and complexity of America to his own ends. More importantly, Rockefeller started a dynasty which remains to this day, still one of the major forces in US commerce. The author's research of his subject has produced a fascinating read for anyone interested in power, America and oil!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, excellent biography 27 Jun 2008
By MarkE
Much in made, both in this book and in the reviews, about the apparent contradiction between Rockefeller's early career, building Standard Oil, and his later philanthropy. I felt this was an attempt to oversimplify a man who (like the rest of us) was the product of his many contradictions, and who may very possibly have persuaded himself that the steps he took in building the company were justified by the greater good.

Even with this one caveat, this is an excellent biography; well researched and very well written. Chernow is very even handed in his treatment of his subject, and it is not clear where his sympathies actually lie; he certainly does not go to either extreme as this is neither a "hatchet job" nor a hagiography.

For the reader who is interested in the lives of those who have contributed to the shape of the world we live in, or for those interested in how Rockefeller became the world's richest man at that time (perhaps ever, if you look at the wealth he gave away and compare the impact he had compared to Bill Gates) this is a very worthwhile read.
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By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
John D. Rockefeller Sr. was probably the biggest, baddest robber baron in 19th century America, and also its leading philanthropist. Many writers scorned his ruthlessness, notably Ida Tarbell, who wrote two books on Rockefeller and his company, Standard Oil. Author Ron Chernow digs deeper, through masses of Rockefeller family documents, to present the founder of the Rockefeller dynasty as a "man of flesh and bone and soul." He covers Rockefeller's ugly, dramatic and even shameful aspects, while concurrently demonstrating his business acumen and his philanthropic leadership amid a remarkable generation of business barons, including William Randolph Hearst, Jay Gould, William Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan. An amazing portrait emerges of an almost invisible, rather megalomaniac ascetic who wanted to fulfill God's will. He became extremely wealthy, gave millions away, and believed that he brought the benefit of inexpensive oil products to all mankind. getAbstract highly recommends this multifaceted biography.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Chernow offers a great deal of insight and detail not only into Rockefeller himself but also of the culture and events of the time. These latter aspects are important to the rise of Rockefeller since in our more regulated and commercially aware times another Rockefeller could not exist - or could he? There are in my opinion strong parallels to be drawn between Rockefeller and Bill Gates both impressively entreprenurial with a bold vision of the future and equal ruthless in the face of competition.
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