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Kissinger: A Biography [Paperback]

Walter Isaacson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The fullest account of Kissinger's life and career to date, other than for his memoirs, this massive biography provides plenty of ammunition for the former Secretary of State's supporters and detractors. Growing up in Nazi Germany as an Orthodox Jew, Kissinger faced beatings and virulent anti-Semitism, and in Isaacson's view these burdened him with lifelong feelings of insecurity and distrust, as well as a yearning for stability and order. Isaacson, assistant managing editor of Time , sees Kissinger as the foremost American negotiator of this century, but one whose furtive, conspiratorial, at times deceitful personality shaped his conservative realpolitik and diplomatic maneuvering. He maintains that Kissinger's foreign policy, rooted in stealth and surprise, mirrored and reinforced the darker side of his increasingly jealous patron, President Nixon, and goes on to reveal how Chief of Staff Alexander Haig undercut his rival. He also pierces the secretive world of Kissinger's lucrative, globetrotting post-White House career as a business consultant. A spooky, engrossing portrait of the only European-style realist ever to guide U.S. foreign policy. Photos. First serial to Vanity Fair; BOMC main selection; QPB and History Book Club alternates; Reader's Digest Condensed Book selection; author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Isaacson, assistant managing editor of Time , has produced much more than another unauthorized biography, giving extensive insights into the younger years of Heinz Kissinger in Bavaria and how they shaped his character, his style in dealing with others, and his worldview. Over 150 interviews with Kissinger intimates, enemies, subordinates, and the man himself generate a less-than-flattering portrayal of the man behind the intellect and the myths. Isaacson covers Kissinger's Americanization, his use of Harvard ties to enhance his career, his forays into the stratosphere of the Council on Foreign Relations (NY), and his Washington years and exploits. He also examines Kissinger's ill-fated negotiations with the North Vietnamese, empire building as national security assistant, shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East, arms control efforts, and later years as private citizen and consultant. While there are other excellent Kissinger biographies (Stephen Graubard's Kissinger , LJ 6/1/73; John Stoessinger's Henry Kissinger: The Anguish of Power , LJ 9/15/76; Bruce Mazlich's Kissinger: The European Mind in American Policy , LJ 9/15/76), this work is the best to date on Henry K. Superstar. Essential for general libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/92.
- Frank Kessler, Missouri Western State Coll., St. Joseph
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A critical but resolutely objective and utterly fascinating biography of the guileful, egocentric geopolitical scientist who became America's most celebrated secretary of state. Drawing on access to his subject's private papers, family members, friends, and foes, as well as on archival sources, Isaacson (an assistant managing editor at Time; coauthor, The Wise Men, 1986) offers an authoritative and comprehensive account. Tracking Kissinger from his boyhood as a persecuted Jew in Nazi Germany through his current estate as a globe-trotting business consultant who turns 70 next May, the author notes that Kissinger has displayed a knack for attracting influential patrons throughout his career. This talent served Kissinger well as an Army intelligence operative during WW II, at Harvard (where he earned a Ph.D. and professorship), and as a cold-war strategist who made a name for himself advising think tanks and government agencies. Latching on to an ultimate sponsor, he joined the Nixon Administration in 1969; survived Watergate largely unscathed; gained worldwide fame (plus a Nobel Peace Prize) for negotiating an end to the Vietnam War; and won even greater renown for feats of shuttle diplomacy in Africa, the Mideast, and elsewhere. While Isaacson gives Kissinger full marks for his many accomplishments in foreign policy, he minces few words in recounting the secretiveness, devotion to Realpolitik, and personal insecurities that gained Kissinger a reputation for Dr. Strangelove-like duplicity. Although Kissinger consistently had the courage of his conviction--that those engaged in statecraft must deal with ambiguities and accommodations--Isaacson concludes that a general perception of Kissinger's ruthlessness frequently cost him dearly owing to Americans' allegiance to human rights, democratic principles, the rule of international law, and other idealistic values. An evenhanded, warts-and-all portrait of a larger-than-life individual who has left his mark behind. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.) (Book-of-the-Month Dual Selection for October) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Endlessly fascinating...A brilliant and disturbing study of power."
-- The New York Times

"Confirms Kissinger's place as one of the great international players, and takes him down a peg as well....Kissinger will rave about the parts he likes and rage about the rest....This makes for compulsive reading."
-- Peter Jennings, ABC News

"Wonderful, entertaining, definitive biography."
-- Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Meticulously researched, intelligent and fair...a book full of insights."
-- The Washington Post

"A solidly researched, richly textured, and extremely readable account of a man in dramatic times who seemed bigger than life."
-- The Boston Sunday Globe

About the Author

Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He lives in Washington, DC.
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