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Cronkite Hardcover – May 29, 2012

4 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A majestic biography. . . . Cronkite is evidence that a job can be done just about perfectly. That goes for the man and this exceptional biography.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“With the style and precision worthy of his subject, Douglas Brinkley’s biography of the late Walter Cronkite gives the icon his due. . . . A keen, fair-minded book.” (The San Francisco Chronicle)

“Walter Cronkite exemplified the glorious age of trusted journalism. In this deeply researched and brilliantly analytic biography, Douglas Brinkley captures his essence. He treats Cronkite as not just an icon, but as a real human with passions, loves, and occasional enmities. It’s a fascinating and valuable tale.” (Walter Isaacson)

“Douglas Brinkley’s absorbing and well-researched book recaptures the high solstice of American television journalism and the man who most exemplified that moment. It also illuminates, behind the scenes, a Walter Cronkite that millions of Americans thought they knew, but, as Brinkley’s book now shows us, didn’t.” (Michael Beschloss)

“Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, Cronkite is a classic. Douglas Brinkley has written his best book yet. This is a fascinating story that will be read for years to come.” (Debby Applegate)

“In this absorbing and sensitively-written biography, Douglas Brinkley has captured not only the life and momentous decades of a uniquely American legend, but also the heartbeat of a nation in its times of both triumph and tragedy.” (Ronald Steel)

“This sweeping narrative of Walter Cronkite’s life is irresistibly told, beautifully written, and deeply researched. Douglas Brinkley has produced one trustworthy biography after another, each one commanding widespread respect and admiration. And this is one of the very best.” (Doris Kearns Goodwin)

“The personal and professional life of Walter Cronkite is an American treasure - and we should all be grateful to Douglas Brinkley for telling it so well.” (Tom Brokaw)

“A sweeping and masterful biography.” (Newsweek)

“A superb biography. . . . If only we had Walter Cronkite today.” (Tina Brown, Newsweek)

“Cronkite’s career has vast scope, and cumulative effect of this book is illuminating, not only about the man himself but also about the way he filtered history for a nation.” (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)

“An ambitious and deeply researched biography. . . . Cronkite magically transports the reader to a bygone era. . . . Recounted here in detail, with scholarly grasp and smooth narrative flow, are the familiar milestones and more obscure regions of Cronkite’s life.” (The Boston Globe)

“Informed, wide-ranging, clear, accessible. . . . This richly detailed and impeccably researched biography brings you into a vivid life,. . . . A thorough, even-handed and illuminating work that goes beyond image and myth about the broadcast legend for a full, frank and fascinating portrait.” (Newsday)

“A tremendous read. . . . Brinkley’s book brings this man intimately to light, in all his petty maneuvers and all his grandeur. I gobbled up every page.” (Robert MacNeil, The Washington Post)

From the Back Cover

For decades, Walter Cronkite was known as "the most trusted man in America." Millions across the nation welcomed him into their homes, first as a print reporter for the United Press on the front lines of World War II, and later, in the emerging medium of television, as a host of numerous documentary programs and as anchor of the CBS Evening News, from 1962 until his retirement in 1981. Yet this very public figure, undoubtedly the twentieth century's most revered journalist, was a remarkably private man; few know the full story of his life. Drawing on unprecedented access to Cronkite's private papers as well as interviews with his family and friends, Douglas Brinkley now brings this American icon into focus as never before.

Brinkley traces Cronkite's story from his roots in Missouri and Texas through the Great Depression, during which he began his career, to World War II, when he gained notice reporting with Allied troops from North Africa, D-day, and the Battle of the Bulge. In 1950, Edward R. Murrow recruited him to work for CBS, where he covered presidential elections, the space program, Vietnam, and the first televised broadcasts of the Olympic Games, as both a reporter and later as an anchor for the evening news. Cronkite was also witness to—and the nation's voice for—many of the most profound moments in modern American history, including the Kennedy assassination, Apollos 11 and 13, Watergate, the Vietnam War, and the Iran hostage crisis.

Epic, intimate, and masterfully written, Cronkite is the much-anticipated biography of an extraordinary American life, told by one of our most brilliant and respected historians.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 820 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st edition (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061374261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061374265
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Douglas Brinkley is currently a Professor of History at Rice University and a Fellow at the James Baker III Institute of Public Policy. He completed his bachelor's degree at Ohio State University and received his doctorate in U.S. Diplomatic History from Georgetown University in 1989. He then spent a year at the U.S. Naval Academy and Princeton University teaching history. While a professor at Hofstra University, Dr. Brinkley spearheaded the American Odyssey course, in which he took students on numerous cross-country treks where they visited historic sites and met seminal figures in politics and literature. Dr. Brinkley's 1994 book, The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey chronicled his first experience teaching this innovative on-the-road class which became the progenitor to C-SPAN's Yellow School Bus.

Five of Dr. Brinkley's books have been selected as New York Times "Notable Books of the Year": Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years(1992), Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal, with Townsend Hoopes (1992), The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House (1998), Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and a Century of Progress (2003), and The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2006).

Five of his most recent publications have become New York Times best-sellers: The Reagan Diaries, (2007), The Great Deluge (2006), The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion (2005), Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War (2004) and Voices of Valor: D-Day: June 6, 1944 with Ronald J. Drez (2004). The Great Deluge (2006), was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy prize and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book award.

Before coming to Rice, Dr. Brinkley served as Professor of History and Director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University in New Orleans. From 1994 until 2005 he was Stephen E. Ambrose Professor of History and Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. During his tenure there he wrote two books with the late Professor Ambrose: Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 (1997) and The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation: From the Louisiana Purchase to Today (2002). On the literary front, Dr. Brinkley has edited Jack Kerouac's diaries, Hunter S. Thompson's letters and Theodore Dreiser's travelogue. His work on civil rights includes Rosa Parks (2000) and the forthcoming Portable Civil Rights Reader.

He won the Benjamin Franklin Award for The American Heritage History of the United States (1998) and the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Naval History Prize for Driven Patriot (1993). He was awarded the Business Week Book of the Year Award for Wheels for the World and was also named 2004 Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He has received honorary doctorates from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Dr. Brinkley is contributing editor for Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times Book Review and American Heritage. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly, he is also a member of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Century Club. In a recent profile, the Chicago Tribune deemed him "America's new past master."

Forthcoming publications include The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the crusade for America and a biography of Walter Cronkite.

He lives in Austin and Houston, Texas with his wife and three children.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
This book, by Douglas Brinkley is being touted as a portrait of Walter Cronkite, a man I knew very well for three decades. I worked at CBS News for more than 32 years and was a producer on the CBS Evening News for 14. Walter was my boss, but he was my friend as well. I traveled with him, played tennis with him regularly, was a guest in his home many times and worked very hard with him. I knew his family. This book, does not describe the man I knew.

Brinkley, in his plodding, turgid prose, depicts Walter as a drunk, petty, over-ambitious person, willing to do anything the Black Rock suits wanted. His constant references to Walter and drinking are startling. I saw Walter with a glass in his hand many, many times in many different places all over the country and overseas. I never, ever thought for a moment that he drank too much.

No one who knew him would ever think he was petty. He was warm, friendly and generous. He was the most competitive person I ever knew and the most demanding boss I ever had. But that's what made him Walter Cronkite and that's what made CBS News in that era the best TV news organization ever. Don't confuse those qualities with excessive ambition.

Brinkley needs a good fact checker. This book is chock-full of so many errors that I have to seriously question his reputation as an eminent historian. There seems to be an error on nearly every page or two, all of them minor and of little significance, but they are factual errors nevertheless. He misidentifies people and mixes up job descriptions and historical facts so often that I just shook my head. This is really sloppy work.
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Brinkley is America's Historian and certainly has the resources to get us both the overall story and the inside scoop. The book is full of fascinating info on Walter Cronkite from archival sources and the subject's family, professional associates, and friends. It offers particularly juicy gossip about Cronkite's last years and his disdain for CBS and Dan Rather. It is worth reading for the information it provides about Uncle Walter's life and his opinions about newsmakers and the news.

But beware: this is not the quality of book one ever would expect to have been produced by a professional historian and writer, especially one with Brinkley's reputation. It is jarring and disappointing to think that Brinkley; his publisher; his associates; and Cronkite's family and influential admirers would let this extraordinarily sloppy book be published in its current state. Brinkley and his publisher have made a terrible mistake by releasing this book prematurely. That respected reviewers lead the book-buying public to believe the book is ready for prime time is an insult to both Cronkite and the reader.

This book is the most poorly edited biography I ever have read. It smacks of having been thrown together to meet a deadline. Opinion routinely is stated as fact (eg, "Brokaw of NBC News, as always, cut to the core of Cronkite adeptly"). Writing is sloppy (eg, "No television correspondent had covered civil rights or went after Nixon with more doggedness."). Nonsensical assertions abound (eg, "Cronkite's death was a national embarrassment because of how badly TV journalism had fared in his absence.") Proofreading is haphazard (eg, "Silver Seas" instead of Silversea).
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I was a bit stunned when I received an advance copy of Douglas Brinkley's biography on Walter Cronkite. I wasn't aware he was tackling this topic or quite why. Cronkite himself had written a delightful autobiography A Reporter's Life back in 1996 that won numerous awards and fairly cemented his place in the pantheon of journalistic greats. Yet reading over "Cronkite" I could see the relevance to the here and now and reporting over the past century and why this book is necessary. Cronkite has been turned into a plaster saint, as "Uncle Walter", the "most trusted man in journalism" and such. It was as though he was the George Washington of journalists. Could anyone really be so sainted, so pure, so removed from the day-to-day of journalistic necessity that he wasn't tainted by the mad desire to do anything to get a good story? As you'll quickly find, the answer is no. For all his avuncular traits "Uncle Walter" was all too human and all too prone to journalistic tendencies to get the lead on a juicy story.

Douglas Brinkley's "Cronkite" may be something of a shock to people more familiar with the avuncular image of "Uncle Walter" and indeed there is much here that will change and deepen a reader's perception and understanding of Walter Cronkite, who he was, and what he stood for. On the whole that's neither good nor bad; it gives us a fuller portrait of the man than his own A Reporter's Life and "Cronkite is really the first full length biography on him since his passing in 2009.
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