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1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America Hardcover – October 4, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"sweeping...compelling"
--Library Journal
"A masterpiece!"
--Roger Stone
"A terrific book...a must-read."
--Ron Faucheux, editor-in-chief, Campaigns & Elections magazine
"outstanding...by far the best yet about the fateful [1948] election"
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune


"brilliantly portrays . . . Truman's successful efforts."
--David Mark, Sr. Editor POLITICO
"A great book about American politics ... a must-read."
--John Rothmann, KGO (SF)
"absorbing and fascinating"
--Joe Donahue, "The Book Show"
"reads like a movie thriller waiting to be filmed"
--Washington Times


"vivid...important"
--Senator Mitch McConnell
"lively...illuminating portraits of the four candidates...The account of the whistle-stop tour is gripping."
--Albany Times-Union
"magnificent"
--John Hancock, KMOX (St. Louis)
"a fine narrative"
--Long Island Business Press


"coherent, compelling...A skillful, authoritative investigation'"
--Kirkus Reviews 
"a wonderful book...one of the best of the year."
--David R. Stokes WAVA (Washington, DC)
"Pietrusza is the undisputed champion of chronicling American Presidential campaigns."
--Anthony Bergen, Dead Presidents blog
 


"If you think [2012] is wild, this is really wild--Harry Truman and Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond and Tom Dewey."
--Tom Brokaw
"a must read for anyone who loves history"
--Milhaven McGraw, KTRS (St. Louis)
"richly detailed, sweeping"
--Schenectady Gazette


Praise for 1960--LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies:

“[A] winning and provocative chronicle … highly recommended.”--Library Journal (STARRED REVIEW]

"[A] colorful, character-driven narrative.... A lively look at the underside of a campaign."--Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Called one "of the best historians in the United States" and "the undisputed champion of chronicling American Presidential campaigns," David Pietrusza has produced a number of critically-acclaimed works concerning 20th century American history.

His book 1960: LBJ vs JFK vs Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies was named by ForeWord Magazine as among the best political biographies. Robert Caro has praised it as "terrific."

Pietrusza's 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents received a Kirkus starred review, was honored as a Kirkus "Best Books of 2007" title, and was named an alternate selection of the History Book Club. Historian Richard Norton Smith has listed 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents as being among the best studies of presidential campaigns. 1920 reached #1 best-selling rank in three amazon.com non-fiction categories.

Pietrusza's biography of Arnold Rothstein entitled Rothstein: The Life, Times & Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series was a finalist for the 2003 Edgar Award. 

Pietrusza's Judge and Jury, his biography of baseball's first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, received the 1998 CASEY Award.

Pietrusza collaborated with baseball legend Ted Williams on an autobiography called Ted Williams: My Life in Pictures.

He has been interviewed on NPR, MSNBC, C-SPAN BookTV, C-SPAN American History TV, ESPN, the Fox News Channel, the History Channel, EBRU-TV, and the Fox Sports Channel. He has produced and written the PBS-affiliate documentary, "Local Heroes." He has served as a regular panelist on FoxNews.com Live.

Pietrusza holds a master's degrees in history from the University at Albany and has served on the City Council in Amsterdam, New York. 

Pietrusza is the Recipient of the 2011 Excellence in Arts & Letters Award of the Alumni Association of the University at Albany.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Union Square Press (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140276748X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402767487
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Called one "of the best historians in the United States," "one of the great political historians of all time," and "the undisputed champion of chronicling American Presidential campaigns." David Pietrusza has produced a number of critically-acclaimed works concerning 20th century American history. Critics have compared his work to that of Eric Larson, H. L. Mencken, Theodore H. White, Edmund Morris, H. R. Brands, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

His "1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America," a study of the dramatic 1948 presidential campaign, is a selection of the History Book Club, the Book-of-the-Month Club, and the Literary Guild.

ForeWord Magazine designated his book "1960: LBJ vs JFK vs Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies" as among the best political biographies. Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Caro has termed "1960" "terrific."

Pietrusza's "1920: The Year of the Six Presidents" received a Kirkus starred review, was honored as a Kirkus "Best Books of 2007" title, and was named an alternate selection of the History Book Club. Historian Richard Norton Smith has listed "1920: The Year of the Six Presidents" as being among the best studies of presidential campaigns.

Pietrusza's biography of Arnold Rothstein entitled "Rothstein: The Life, Times & Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series" was a finalist for the 2003 Edgar Award. Rothstein's audio version won an AUDIOFILE Earphones Award.

Pietrusza has edited three volumes on the career and works of Calvin Coolidge: "Silent Cal's Almanack: The Homespun Wit & Wisdom of Vermont's Calvin Coolidge," "Calvin Coolidge: A Documentary Biography," and "Coolidge on the Founders: Calvin Coolidge on the American Revolution & the Founding Fathers." Says Amity Shlaes: "an authority on the 1920s and [Calvin] Coolidge . . . David Pietrusza has brought Coolidge back to life with his volumes about the president . . ."

Pietrusza's "Judge and Jury, his biography of baseball's first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis," received the 1998 CASEY Award and was also a Finalist for the 1998 Seymour Medal and nominated for the NASSH Book Award.

Pietrusza collaborated with baseball legend Ted Williams on an autobiography called "Ted Williams: My Life in Pictures."

His books have been utilized as texts by such colleges as George Washington University, the City University of New York,  the University at Buffalo, Baylor University, Bellevue College, the University of Illinois, the University of San Francisco, and Portland State College. "1920" has been part of the syllabus for the course "Congress, The Presidency & 21st Century Media" offered by C-SPAN, The Cable Center and the University of Denver. His talk on "Silent Cal's Almanack" is included in the curriculum for the C-SPAN Classroom initiative.

Pietrusza served as president (1993-97) of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and as editor-in-chief of the publishing company Total Sports.

He has been interviewed on NPR, MSNBC, C-SPAN (including "The Contenders" and "First Ladies: Influence & Image"), C-SPAN Book TV (including "In Depth"), C-SPAN American History TV, ESPN, the Fox News Channel, the History Channel ("The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents"), EBRU-TV, GBTV, the Voice of America, "Secrets of New York," and the Fox Sports Channel. He has produced and written the PBS-affiliate documentary, "Local Heroes." He has served as a regular panelist for FoxNews.com Live.

An internationally recognized expert on American presidential elections, he has been interviewed by Le Figaro, Le Monde, Radio-France, Radio-France International, Greece's To Vima, and Denmark's Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.

Pietrusza holds both bachelor's and master's degrees in history from the University at Albany and has served on the City Council in Amsterdam, New York. He has served as public information officer for both the NYS Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform and the NYS Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.

Pietrusza is the Recipient of the 2011 Excellence in Arts & Letters Award of the Alumni Association of the University at Albany.

His study of the 1932 elections, "1932: The Rise of Hitler and FDR: Two Tales of Politics, Betrayal & Unlikely Destiny," (Kirkus starred review) is published by Lyons Press on October 1, 2015.

Learn more at www.davidpietrusza.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Eric Mayforth on October 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Approaching the presidential election of 1948, Republicans were optimistic. They had recaptured both houses of Congress in the midterm elections of 1946, had a seasoned presumptive nominee in New York Governor Tom Dewey, and looked set to end the Democrats' decade-and-a-half hold on the White House. In "1948," author David Pietrusza looks back at how those GOP hopes fizzled and how President Harry Truman won election in his own right.

Pietrusza offers brief biographical sketches of both Truman and Dewey, as well as of minor-party candidates Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond. He also recalls the reluctance of Dwight Eisenhower to run and shows how figures such as Earl Warren, Alben Barkley, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, and others factored into Election 1948.

The late Forties were a fascinating time in American history: the Cold War, civil rights, the creation of Israel, the Hiss Case, inflation, and the nascent medium of television were the talk of the country in 1948, and Pietrusza shows how these issues impacted the election.

The author's account of the Republican nomination process and of the splintering of Wallace and Thurmond from the Democratic Party is absorbing, he covers each of the parties' conventions, and his account of the general election campaign is also very good--Dewey began very sure he would win, so much so that he decided to run a bland, play-it-safe campaign (but he made one huge gaffe which really cost him).

GOP doubts began to creep in as Election Day approached, and their fears of a Truman win were realized the morning after the election.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ron Faucheux on October 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
David Pietrusza has produced another excellent book about an American presidential election. It superbly captures the drama, personalities and politics of one of the truly fascinating elections in our nation's history. This readable, entertaining new volume--about the 1948 election--is the third in a series by Pietrusza, along with his wonderful books on the 1920 and 1960 elections. The 1948 election is of particular interest to us today. As President Obama tries to position himself as a "come from behind" underdog for re-election, and attacks Republicans in Congress as "do nothing" obstructionists, Harry Truman's 1948 campaign gives us clues as to the ultimate applicability--both the opportunities and hazards--of such a strategy for 2012. If you're interested in politics and presidential elections, this is a must read,
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Barat on May 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Could David Pietrusza's latest campaign history be falling victim to the "Law of Diminishing Election Returns"? 1920 was superb; 1960, a bit less satisfying, but still very enjoyable. With the '48 election's dramatic historical backdrop -- the earliest stirrings of the Cold War and the civil rights movement, the nation's ungainly postwar stumbles back to full prosperity, the birth of Israel and the "Red Scare" -- and four-candidate field, Pietrusza should have had no trouble at all fashioning a compelling narrative here. The book, however, seems unfocused at the start, jumping from point to point in time in a most jarring manner. Not until the conventions and the campaign itself does Pietrusza really get a grip on the goings-on. Even then, the author fails to deliver a coherent explanation of why, exactly, 1948 "transformed America" (or, as the inside title page puts it, "transformed America's role in the world"; some editors at Union Square apparently weren't talking to one another as this book went to press). In that respect, 1948 falls short of Zachary Karabell's earlier work, THE LAST CAMPAIGN, which had fewer zingy anecdotes but a considerably stronger theme.

If Pietrusza is planning another campaign tome, I'd suggest he tackle 1968 -- and pay closer attention to what he did better in his two previous books.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert N. Going Esq on December 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm substantially convinced at this point that noted presidential historian David Pietrusza could re-write the telephone directory and make it sound like an adventure novel. His third major presidential election chronicle more than lives up to the incredibly high standards he set for himself in 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents and 1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. NIXON. Once again he does political and character sketches of the principal players, in this case the 1948 combatants who included not only President Harry S. Truman and his Republican challenger Thomas E. Dewey, but also Truman's intra-party opponents Henry Wallace and J. Strom Thurmond who both end up running as third party candidates of the Progressive and Dixiecrat parties respectively. Pietrusza then weaves his characters into the times and the issues of the day (the birth of Israel, the Berlin Airlift, the Hiss Case, the desegregation of the armed forces, etc.), moving along to the big chase scene which leads to the subtitle Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year That Transformed America.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. C Sheehy on November 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
David Pietrusza has done an amazing job of sharing the history of important American elections and applying them to a broader historical context. In 1948 he takes on one of the most important Presidential elections in American history and offers a distinct and sharp retelling of the election and what it meant to the country as well as to the world. Pietrusza does a great job sharing with the reader all the stressful events which had occurred between the end of the war and the election.

He does a great job of giving an overview of the political climate itself and providing backgrounds of the four main candidates and their respective running mates. Pietrusza makes an interesting case for the lack of focus of each party on issues and more on who their supports were. Much like today the parties were defined more by who opposed them than by what they espoused. Still it was refreshing to see that despite the partisan nature of the attacks there were true bipartisan relationships existing.

The only weak spot is the lack of any analysis as to why Dewey lost. Now we hear so many had doubts but if so they went unshared. Pollsters stopped counting because they believed Dewey had the race won. Yes we see the numerical shifts but there is no context provided. I believe this book would have been perfect with a chapter analyzing what happened in a more contextual sense. Other than that, this is a great book and well worth reading.
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