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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Vintage) Paperback – 20 Dec 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Vintage)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 2nd edition (20 Dec. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400077303
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400077304
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Inside Flap

John D. Rockefeller, Sr.--history's first billionaire and the patriarch of America's most famous dynasty--is an icon whose true nature has eluded three generations of historians. Now Ron Chernow, the National Book Award-winning biographer of the Morgan and Warburg banking families, gives us a history of the mogul "etched with uncommon objectivity and literary grace . . . as detailed, balanced, and psychologically insightful a portrait of the tycoon as we may ever have" (Kirkus Reviews). Titan is the first full-length biography based on unrestricted access to Rockefeller's exceptionally rich trove of papers. A landmark publication full of startling revelations, the book will indelibly alter our image of this most enigmatic capitalist.
Born the son of a flamboyant, bigamous snake-oil salesman and a pious, straitlaced mother, Rockefeller rose from rustic origins to become the world's richest man by creating America's most powerful and feared monopoly, Standard Oil. Branded "the Octopus" by legions of muckrakers, the trust refined and marketed nearly 90 percent of the oil produced in America.
Rockefeller was likely the most controversial businessman in our nation's history. Critics charged that his empire was built on unscrupulous tactics: grand-scale collusion with the railroads, predatory pricing, industrial espionage, and wholesale bribery of political officials. The titan spent more than thirty years dodging investigations until Teddy Roosevelt and his trustbusters embarked on a marathon crusade to bring Standard Oil to bay.
While providing abundant new evidence of Rockefeller's misdeeds, Chernow discards the stereotype of the cold-blooded monster to sketch an unforgettablyhuman portrait of a quirky, eccentric original. A devout Baptist and temperance advocate, Rockefeller gave money more generously--his chosen philanthropies included the Rockefeller Foundation, the University of Chicago, and what is today Rockefeller University--than anyone before him. Titan presents a finely nuanced portrait of a fascinating, complex man, synthesizing his public and private lives and disclosing numerous family scandals, tragedies, and misfortunes that have never before come to light.
John D. Rockefeller's story captures a pivotal moment in American history, documenting the dramatic post-Civil War shift from small business to the rise of giant corporations that irrevocably transformed the nation. With cameos by Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, Jay Gould, William Vanderbilt, Ida Tarbell, Andrew Carnegie, Carl Jung, J. Pierpont Morgan, William James, Henry Clay Frick, Mark Twain, and Will Rogers, Titan turns Rockefeller's life into a vivid tapestry of American society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is Ron Chernow's signal triumph that he narrates this monumental saga with all the sweep, drama, and insight that this giant subject deserves.

"From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Ron Chernow's first book, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award and the Ambassador Award for the year's best study of American culture. His second book, The Warburgs, won the Eccles Prize as the Best Business Book of 1993 and was also selected by the American Library Association as one of that year's best nonfiction books. In reviewing his recent collection of essays, The Death of the Banker, The New York Times called the author "as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we've seen in decadesand chose the paperback original as one of the year's Notable Books.

"From the Hardcover edition.""


Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm currently working my way through the list of twenty books Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett's partner) recommends in the second edition of Poor Charlie's Almanack (very highly recommended). Thus, I am reading books I frankly wouldn't otherwise be (which I'm feeling increasingly sure reflected poorly on me) and I therefore feel somewhat less certain about my opinions. For example, I've read very few biographies and so it's harder for me to compare it to others.

With that caveat, I do read a lot, and I know an excellent book when I come across one - and Titan (2nd edition, 2004, 679 pages) is first rate. The author has clearly done a staggering amount of research, writes well and clearly and is admirably even-handed in his approach (so much as one can tell without reading the background material oneself). I think these are probably the three key factors in producing a biography and it is difficult to find fault in his approach to any of them.

Rockefeller comes across as a fascinatingly strange mixture of cold hearted and genial, a hyper-religious bandit who was convinced that his was God's work even when it involved political bribery and industrial espionage on a grand scale. I found it particularly interesting that he was not considered in any way remarkable in his abilities whilst at school - it appears his success was mainly due to his utterly relentless approach and self-discipline. There are many other interesting subtexts that emerge through the book, such as the enormous difficulty in preventing great wealth from destroying family relations.

My approach to reading my way through Munger's list is to devote an hour to reading each day before I do anything else (I found that was the only way to ensure it got done).
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Format: Paperback
I only bought this book because Amazon recommended it to me. I didn't really think it would be all that interesting and the massive number of pages meant it would be a daunting read.

It is actually an amazing account of the life and time of John D Rockefeller and his close family. The deals done and the plans laid meant that he became the richest man every to have walked the earth - being worth (in modern money) the combined worth of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mr WalMart three times over.

The book itself explains about his methods in business and how the combination of his intellect, planning and attention to detail lead to his immense wealth.

Towards the end of his business career, the book shows how the breakup of his company (Standard Oil) became inevitable; but lead to his wealth increasing every more quickly after he retired from running the business.

Thereafter the book charts his gentle retirement, setting up the University of Chicago, medical foundations in New York and the deep south, national parks, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and countless other world-class institutions.

The sadness of the death of his wife and his own death some years later, is tempered by the knowledge that he used his wealth to provide more of a benefit to mankind than any other human being.

This book is a truly amazing read and Ron Charnow was rightly awarded huge acclaim for the work he did.

Buy the book and read it for yourself - you won't regret it!
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Format: Paperback
"Titan" is a huge read, and heavy going at times, however this is due to the staggering detail into which the author goes rather than any fault on the part of the material. I can barely imagine the amount of research that Ron Chernow put into this book, but it must put him in a bracket with very few (and one that probably includes Rockefeller himself!) when it comes to obsessive professionalism.

What is made clear in this book is that Rockefeller was what we might call the "perfect capitalist", even moreso than Warren Buffett. The man was purely driven by the desire for money and power, whether it was subconscious or not, and his constant citing of "God's work" in his (often questionable) business practices is sparse camouflage, and not something I feel he believed himself. Almost seems as if he felt the more extreme he came across as religiously, the more ruthlessness he could justify in his political persona, and it probably worked.

Anyway, enough of my kindergarten psychology. Great book, buy it and immerse yourself. Took me 3 weeks, and I'll be impressed if that's beaten.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoy reading biographies, but this one is tough going. It's a huge book and goes into minute detail about almost everyone Rockefeller met and every deal he did. The author probably set out to write the "definitive" biography of Rockefeller and he probably succeeded. I've read about a third of it so far and I think I'm going to give up with it. It's probably ideal if you are a historian or writing a thesis on the subject, but for the casual reader of biographies I suggest that you look elsewhere.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author gives good descriptions of Rockerfellers family and these are really interesting. However, the author discusses in great detail the oil transactions and oil business and I found this too heavy going to be able to complete this huge biography.
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