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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Senator from Pendergast
This is one of the most readable and fascinating biographies ever written--a story of how an ordinary American rose to great heights. But one feels it isn't quite the whole story. I don't think McCullough gets to the heart of Truman's peculiar relationship with Tom Pendergast. Although Truman clearly was not corrupt, he cannot possibly been so naive as to be ignorant...
Published on 14 April 2007 by T. Burkard

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars massive, yes, but often surprisingly thin and sentimental
This huge biography tells the story of a truly remarkable man, who rose from humble origins as a farmer and failed haberdasher - he was the last president not to have gone to college - to enter office at one of the most difficult junctures in the 20C, when the map of the world was being re-shaped after WWII. Though a history buff, he was thrust into power with little...
Published on 16 May 2011 by rob crawford


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Senator from Pendergast, 14 April 2007
By 
T. Burkard (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
This is one of the most readable and fascinating biographies ever written--a story of how an ordinary American rose to great heights. But one feels it isn't quite the whole story. I don't think McCullough gets to the heart of Truman's peculiar relationship with Tom Pendergast. Although Truman clearly was not corrupt, he cannot possibly been so naive as to be ignorant of the workings of the Democrat's big city machines. When Truman was in control of awarding the contracts for paving the roads of Jackson county, he put a stop to blatant cheating by contractors who laid a mere 'pie crust' of concrete that quickly broke up. But since Tom Pendergast owned the local ready-mix concrete company, Truman's honesty meant big profits for him. McCullough doesn't seem to have made this connection, but I would be very surprised if Truman didn't.

McCullough's lack of economic acumen would be fatal if this were history rather than biography, but it still leaves some troubling gaps. Although he rightly eschews analysing the New Deal (or Truman's Fair Deal), which is a subject in itself, we are left none the wiser as to how the United States pulled out of the post-war slump so quickly--nor are we told whether the Truman administration's measures contributed to this recovery. We are not even given the the broad outlines of the Marshall Plan.

Still, these are quibbles, for after all, this is a biography, and a first-rate one at that. Sympathetic as it is, it stops well short of being a hagiography. Nonetheless, it certainly has contributed to the growing consensus that Truman was the last great American President.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great American, 20 Dec 2004
By 
Bert Ruiz "author/journalist" (Pleasantville, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
It is crystal clear why author David McCullough was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this 1992 publication of "Truman." His meticulous narrative vividly captures the decency, dignity and determination of Harry S. Truman. Moreover, McCullough carefully explains how the farmer from Grandview, Missouri...who never graduated from college, managed to become the thirty-third President of the United States of America.
Truman was eulogized as the president who faced the momentous decision of whether to use the atomic bomb, he was praised for the creation of the United Nations, for the Truman Doctrine (to support free peoples), the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, the recognition of Israel, NATO; for committing American forces in Korea and for upholding the principle of civilian control over the military. To this end, it must also be noted that Truman was the first president to recommend Medicare and that he had the courage to take a very strong stand on civil rights.
Truman was a man who lived by simple small-town Missouri articles of faith that urged individuals to, "say what you mean, mean what you say...keep your word...never get too big for your britches and never forget a friend." McCullough observes that, "they were more than words-to-the-wise, they were bedrock, as clearly established, as integral to the way of life, it seemed, as were the very landmarks of the community...not everyone lived up to them, of course, but to Harry it seemed everyone ought to try."
McCullough packs this book with an enormous amount of historical and personal information. For instance, Truman was the seventh man to succeed to the office after the death of the President...he was the first U.S.President to visit Mexico...he had a portrait of George Washington and Simon Bolivar in his White House office...he detested corporate greed...he was dedicated to his wife and daughter...he was a terrible speller...he was not an exciting speaker...he once worked in a haberdashery...he was in debt for years...he loved bourbon, he was uncomplicated, open and genuine...and without a doubt he was a great American. Highly recommended.
Bert Ruiz
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great American, 7 Dec 2004
By 
Bert Ruiz "author/journalist" (Pleasantville, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Truman (Hardcover)
It is crystal clear why author David McCullough was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this 1992 publication of "Truman." His meticulous narrative vividly captures the decency, dignity and determination of Harry S. Truman. Moreover, McCullough carefully explains how the farmer from Grandview, Missouri...who never graduated from college, managed to become the thirty-third President of the United States of America.
Truman was eulogized as the president who faced the momentous decision of whether to use the atomic bomb, he was praised for the creation of the United Nations, for the Truman Doctrine (to support free peoples), the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, the recognition of Israel, NATO; for committing American forces in Korea and for upholding the principle of civilian control over the military. To this end, it must also be noted that Truman was the first president to recommend Medicare and that he had the courage to take a very strong stand on civil rights.
Truman was a man who lived by simple small-town Missouri articles of faith that urged individuals to, "say what you mean, mean what you say...keep your word...never get too big for your britches and never forget a friend." McCullough observes that, "they were more than words-to-the-wise, they were bedrock, as clearly established, as integral to the way of life, it seemed, as were the very landmarks of the community...not everyone lived up to them, of course, but to Harry it seemed everyone ought to try."
McCullough packs this book with an enormous amount of historical and personal information. For instance, Truman was the seventh man to succeed to the office after the death of the President...he was the first President to visit Mexico...he had a portrait of George Washington and Simon Bolivar in his White House office...he detested corporate greed...he was dedicated to his wife and daughter...he was a terrible speller...he was not an exciting speaker...he once worked in a haberdashery...he was in debt for years...he loved bourbon, he was uncomplicated, open and genuine...and without a doubt he was a great American. Highly recommended.
Bert Ruiz
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best historical biography I've ever read., 28 Nov 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
I knew I would enjoy this book because I'd read about the period and was predisposed to admire Truman as the most human and honest of politicians.I did not anticipate that Iwould find this quite the best historical biography I've read.Immensely detailed,superbly judicious,incredibly enthralling even though you know what will happen next.A book to re-read and treasure.Read this and you might regain a little faith in politics and politicians!But perhaps he was unique-McCullough's wonderful book is worthy of its fascinating subject.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars massive, yes, but often surprisingly thin and sentimental, 16 May 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Truman (Hardcover)
This huge biography tells the story of a truly remarkable man, who rose from humble origins as a farmer and failed haberdasher - he was the last president not to have gone to college - to enter office at one of the most difficult junctures in the 20C, when the map of the world was being re-shaped after WWII. Though a history buff, he was thrust into power with little preparation and after virtually no contact with FDR, whom he served as VP for only 3 months. That Truman then achieved greatness and made astonishingly wise and shrewd decisions is rightfully the stuff of legend.

Unfortunately, though this volume is thick enough to stop a bullet, I was continually diappointed with it. Rather than concentrating on the events that threatened to engulf Truman, McCullough undertakes the task of promoting him as a downhome, commonsensical kinda guy who exemplified some American ideal, i.e. that allowing someone from the heartland to take over government was a really good thing. I found this approach sentimental, defensive, and superficial, like a Ron Howard version of a very complex man.

I would have been much happier if the book covered Truman's momentous decisions is greater detail. To mention a few: the use of the atomic bomb in Japan, the defense of Europe against communism (both militarily and economically, in opposition to the isolationism that was creeping back), the beginning of "loyalty" requirements in the government (and his failure to fight Joe McCarthy), and the Korean War (a "limited war" that did not seek "total victory", setting a new precedent). Instead of exploring these with any depth - and they dominated American politics and diplomacy for the next 50 years and even do today - McCullough briefly mentions them and then asserts that Truman pretty much did the "right thing" in his homespun wisdom and simple faith in himself and the American system. That is not good enough.

What we get is a sanitised version of Truman the man, as he coped with these challenges. Unfortunately, I didn't get the feeling that I was learning much about him, except that he was perservering, modest, and naturally wise. You get no real window into his mind and very little of the dirt, except to justify that he somehow grew beyond it (which apparently he did): but he was a machine politician from the notoriously corrupt Pendergast Kansas City, his lack of education may have led him to make some serious misjudgments whose consequences we may never be able to judge. and he showed serious signs of cracking under the stress of it all. In a nutshell, McCullough liked him too much and hence lost the critical distance that a serious biographer needs. This feels almost like a work of propaganda, or a PR effort rather than a genuine work of scholarship.

Perhaps the work of Robert Caro has set the bar too high for every biography that follows. Or perhaps McCullough is a reflection of the American self-satisfaction - the softball approach that perpetuates nostalgia for a time that never existed - that so grates on more skeptical Europeans. Alas, I found this biography mediocre, just not meaty enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great portrait of American history, 26 Mar 2011
By 
B. FLAVIANO "F.B." (Roma, Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
A superb portrait of American history, full of atmosphere ranging from the XIX century's race to the mid-west to the XX century's politics. Maybe a bit hagiographic, but dense of history and men who did the history in the XX century.
No doubts one of the best books I have ever read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harry Truman - history's gift!, 24 Dec 2002
This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
~~~~~If there ever seemed to be a man not marked for greatness it was Harry Truman. The man failed at so much throughout his life that his ability to continually return is precisely what is great about him.David McCullough with a great amount of care and respect portrays a man who puts character above all else. What comes across most forcibly about Truman is his wonderful common sense, his humour, his deep sensitivity and his forceful never to be done character.
David McCullough writes~~ very~~ well~~ and, as a true master of his craft, like all the best biographers, gives us those small intimate portraits where personality and character are revealed. Truman is enlarged before us and is a greater man than I think many of us would have supposed. He does not have the reputation of a Roosevelt, yet, he comes across the bigger man: less petty, less duplicitous, more widely admired by the men he leads. He is the match of Stalin and is unfooled by him (unlike Roosevelt), nor does~~~~ he allow~~ the greatness of his own commanders to overwhelm him. MacArthur is given reign then dealt with and Eisenhower is not buckled to. Marshall and Ridgeway both thought him destined to be remembered as Great and after reading this sympathetic, but captivating biography I cannot disagree. If I do have one reservation it is that McCullough does not allow much of the negative to appear. Harry Truman himself admits than when he was younger he used to run away from fights, however David~~~~ McCullough goes~~ out of his way to disprove this. I don't think that Harry Truman is diminished by this; it adds to a complex character, but it is thoroughly challenged. Why not let it lie? It is better to see the whole person. An excellent book.~~~~~
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Biography, 18 Mar 2009
By 
Donald McPhee "donniemcphee" (Glasgow U.K) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
I have just finished this book and had to share my thoughts with others in the hope that they might also buy this and enjoy the best biography I have ever read.
I wont talk too much about the subject except to say if you dont know who Truman this book is an excellent introduction to Americas last great president. Due to the excellent research and writing the character is not dwarfed by the detail and it nevers feels a chore to read. Some bios concentrate on facts and figures, McCulluogh concentrates on the characters and the book is richer for it. Within the first few pages McCullough begins with an introduction to 19th century america and paints an excellent portriat of the envirionment that produced Truman and shaped his character. But although his admiration for Truman is obvious he doesnt coat over any flaws nor does he fail to report any mistakes he ever made. This no whitewash but rather an honest tribute to a dedicated public servant.
Read it and enjoy it is a long book but will keep you fully engrossed until the end.
The author fully deserved his Pulitzer for this.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great American, 16 Dec 2004
By 
Bert Ruiz "author/journalist" (Pleasantville, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
It is crystal clear why author David McCullough was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this 1992 publication of "Truman." His meticulous narrative vividly captures the decency, dignity and determination of Harry S. Truman. Moreover, McCullough carefully explains how the farmer from Grandview, Missouri...who never graduated from college, managed to become the thirty-third President of the United States of America.
Truman was eulogized as the president who faced the momentous decision of whether to use the atomic bomb, he was praised for the creation of the United Nations, for the Truman Doctrine (to support free peoples), the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, the recognition of Israel, NATO; for committing American forces in Korea and for upholding the principle of civilian control over the military. To this end, it must also be noted that Truman was the first president to recommend Medicare and that he had the courage to take a very strong stand on civil rights.
Truman was a man who lived by simple small-town Missouri articles of faith that urged individuals to, "say what you mean, mean what you say...keep your word...never get too big for your britches and never forget a friend." McCullough observes that, "they were more than words-to-the-wise, they were bedrock, as clearly established, as integral to the way of life, it seemed, as were the very landmarks of the community...not everyone lived up to them, of course, but to Harry it seemed everyone ought to try."
McCullough packs this book with an enormous amount of historical and personal information. For instance, Truman was the seventh man to succeed to the office after the death of the President...he was the first U.S.President to visit Mexico...he had a portrait of George Washington and Simon Bolivar in his White House office...he detested corporate greed...he was dedicated to his wife and daughter...he was a terrible speller...he was not an exciting speaker...he once worked in a haberdashery...he was in debt for years...he loved bourbon, he was uncomplicated, open and genuine...and without a doubt he was a great American. Highly recommended.
Bert Ruiz
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gigantic book about a gigantic man, 24 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
David McCullough's Truman deserves all the praise it gets. Extremely long and extremely interestings. Mr. McCullough is a terrific writer with a good style and fine build-up.
I highly recommend Truman to all those interested in American History and the history og World War II and the Korean War.
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Truman by David G McCullough (Hardcover - 1 Jun 1992)
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