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The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 20, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The magazines Henry Luce and Time Inc. launched have become institutions, but as Brinkley's magisterial biography reminds us, Luce was only 24 years old when he published the first issue of Time at the tail end of a recession in 1923—not much different from today's digital media entrepreneurs. (Brinkley also details the role of Brit Hadden, Luce's friendly rival at Hotchkiss and Yale and eventual business partner, in making the magazine a success.) Those around Luce frequently described him as arrogant, and his intense sense of purpose increasingly played out in the pages of his magazines, like his insistence (despite numerous warnings from observers on the front lines) on supporting Chiang Kai-shek as a counter to the rise of communism in China. Brinkley appears to have read every issue from the early decades of Time, Fortune, and Life cover to cover, grounding his criticisms of Luce's social and political vision in rigorous detail. He's equally solid on Luce's personal life, including his early years as the son of Christian missionaries in China and his whirlwind courtship of (and rocky marriage to) Clare Boothe Luce. A top-notch biography, and a valuable addition to the history of American media. (Apr. 22)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Invariably drawing comparisons with the political slant of his subject's magazines, reviewers praised Alan Brinkley's evenhandedness in The Publisher. They portrayed the book as an antidote not only to earlier, more negative biographies but to a generation that cannot comprehend the influence once held by Time brethren, especially in this age of digital information. Above all, critics praised Brinkley's feel for the particular prose style of Luce and his magazines, which gave birth to many an expression now considered cliché. A few reviewers commented that while the book is extraordinarily well researched, Brinkley still holds his subject at arm's length. Then again, for a man of such public titanic proportions, he remained a lonely, private man.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (April 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679414444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679414445
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #942,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By G.I Gurdjieff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For me, there were no huge revelations in this book but there were many, many instances that supported the general perception I had formed regarding Luce over the years. Much has been written about Henry Luce. Not a warm and fuzzy type, he avoided intimacies and had few friends. While he wanted to be recognized as a major force in the publishing world and was very successful in that respect, he had an innate sense of what his burgeoning audience wanted. He was reclusive and secretive to certain respect and seemed like an odd choice as a life partner. His second wife Claire Booth Luce seemed to be as ambitious as Luce but far more social; she seemed to be a good choice given CBL's drive and goals and Luce's level of influence. In many ways, it seemed as though their marriage might have been likened to a good business deal. As a parent, he was not of the hands on variety. As with most things, he delegated responsibilities freely when it came to familial duties and parenting.
For an essentially reclusive personality such as Luce, it was interesting just how much information was out there and pieced together to present a complete and fairly consistent picture. What I found of particular interest was Luce's relationship with Time co-founder Britton Haddon. Ostensibly, Haddon was Luce's one and only true friend, but even that friendship dissolved by the time of Haddon's early death in 1929. From that point on, Luce did everything in his power to remove Haddon's name from the history of TIME. It was emotion coldness of this type that ran through this book in relation to Luce and the way he interacted with people. Even his affairs were seemingly bereft of warmth or true intimacy.
What punctuated this book as an exceptionally good bio the level of detail which was dispersed throughout.
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Format: Hardcover
It's time to stand up against the 1-star "reviews" of books that are solely based on the Kindle price. This is an excellent work by one of our leading historians. It deserves reviews based on the content. The 1-star "reviews" are misdirected, mistaken, and damaging.

* First, Amazon sets the price of Kindle editions, not the publisher or author. Amazon doesn't care about your 1-star "review"; the author does. And the author has absolutely no power over price, yet these "reviews" are punishing the author, and the author alone.
* Second, when you have not read the book, yet post a 1-star "review," you mislead other buyers into thinking the content of the book is of low quality. Other consumers can see the price and decide for themselves; what they want is input from people who have read the content.
* Third, the claims that e-books are dramatically cheaper to produce are factually false. Printing and distribution represent only about ten to twelve percent of the cost of each book. That's a buck or two, not half the price of the hardcover. The cost of making of a book is not, in fact, largely in the physical production. There's the author's advance and royalties, the cost of editing, copy editing, design, promotion, and countless other ways in which publishers bring books to the public. These comprise the largest share of the cost. Books like this one take years of full-time research and writing. That's what the book's price represents, not the paper.
* If you want to drive down the book's price, then start buying hundreds of thousands more. The fixed costs of acquisition, editing, etc. must be spread out among the units sold. E-books are currently cannibalizing the market, not making it larger.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A book almost as much on the famous set of magazines (Time, Fortune, Life, and SI) created by Henry Luce as on the man himself. Anyone interested in the history of American publishing should buy and read it.

Alan Brinkley has written a straightforward biography in clear but unexceptional prose. The material is often interesting because Mr. Luce, his times (the Depression, World War II, the rise of American world power), and his political causes (anti-communism, China, freedom) are interesting. At times, however, the book veers too much into detailing the blasted love episodes of this great, if personally flawed, publisher: essentially--who now cares?

While wrong on some things, Mr. Luce was right on many things, including being early to the threat of both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. And he had the courage to trumpet his well-founded international political fears, which served to annoy many a New York City liberal.

Above all, Henry Luce created a commercial magazine empire from scratch: a feat that is unlikely ever to be duplicated.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is biography as it should be: - the story of an important American written beautifully, objectively and with interest understanding and sympathy by one of America's leading historians.

To those readers to whom Henry R. Luce and Time, Life, Fortune and Sports Illustrated were not part of daily life in the twentieth century this superb biography may come off as interesting history. However, to those of us to whom these magazines were weekly reading during those times it's a trip into the past. The Great Depression, World War II, the Truman years, Eisenhower, the Rise of the Middle Class, The American Century, the "Loss" of China, The Vietnam War and its aftermath were all reported by and pictured in these magazines through the mind and eye of their publisher - Henry R. Luce (1898-1967), the ambitious, bright, driven son of Presbyterian Missionaries in China who, although a bit of a prig and never comfortable with himself, brought his view of the American experience to the American people through the pages of these publications which were his - and his alone - with a missionary zeal and a brilliance unmatched in the media world by any one before or since.

Alan Brinkley has beautifully and accurately recounted these years and Henry Luce's experience for us in this absolutely stunning and very readable biography where we get to know Luce who at 23 was already a skilled writer and was fathering Time along with his school chum Britton Hadden. Then we follow his career, his personal life with its many disappointments (including a disastrous and lengthy marriage to a dysfunctional and slightly goofy Clare Booth Luce) and his business life, his huge success, his enormous influence and his immense wealth. And at the end you have to wonder. If you were in Luce's shoes and having lived his life as he did would you say that it had been worth it? I felt sorry for him. But read the book. That's worth it.
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