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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Hardcover – May 5, 1998


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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. + The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (National Book Award - Nonfiction)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (May 5, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679438084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679438083
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.7 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ron Chernow, whose previous books have taken on the Morgan and Warburg financial empires, now turns his attention to the patriarch of the Rockefeller dynasty. John D. was history's first recorded billionaire and one of the most controversial public figures in America at the turn of the 20th century. Standard Oil--which he always referred to as the result of financial "cooperation," never as a "cartel" or a "monopoly"--controlled at its peak nearly 90 percent of the United States oil industry. Rockefeller drew sharp criticism, as well as the attention of federal probes, for business practices like underpricing his competitors out of the market and bribing politicians to secure his dominant market share.

While Chernow amply catalogs Rockefeller's misdeeds, he also presents the tycoon's human side. Making use of voluminous business correspondence, as well as rare transcripts of interviews conducted when Rockefeller was in his late 70s and early 80s, Chernow is able to present his subject's perspective on his own past, re-creating a figure who has come down to us as cold and unfeeling as a shrewd, dryly humorous man who had no inner misgivings about reconciling his devout religious convictions with his fiscal acquisitiveness. The story of John D. Rockefeller Sr. is, in many ways, the story of America between the Civil War and the First World War, and Chernow has told that story in magnificently fascinating depth and style.

From Library Journal

Industry consolidation, enormous new wealth, journalistic muckraking, government antitrust. Sound familiar? Reviewers enthusiastically praised this monumental work about the founder of Standard Oil, which serves as a useful reminder that what happens today in the business world often has strong roots in the past.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Ron Chernow won the National Book Award in 1990 for his first book, The House of Morgan, and his second book, The Warburgs, won the Eccles Prize as the Best Business Book of 1993. His biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Titan, was a national bestseller and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.

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Customer Reviews

This is a very well written book.
Matthew J. Fery
Titan gives great insight into the life of John D. Rockefeller.
Daniel Chung
He knew what he wanted and he was going to get it!
W. P. Danitz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 63 people found the following review helpful By SL-N/1973 on October 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
As a frequent visitor to New York, I'd often wondered who the "Rockefeller" of the Rockefeller Plaza was, and how he made his fortune. I bought this book with an air of caution, as biographies of highly successfull people can be biased either towards patronising hero-worship, or venomous character assasination. I needn't have worried, as Ron Chernow's extensive, thorough and even-handed book portrays not only JDR's progress through and beyond his 98 years, but also America's consequent development.
The personal conflict between hard-edged business practices and religious ethics are deftly portrayed, and left for the reader to decide wether or not Rockefeller was trying to bring stability and structure to a highly unpredictable market place, or being an un-controllable corporate steam-roller.
The book is not just a study of the incredible business career of John D Rockefeller. To take us some of the way towards understanding the individual, Ron Chernow allows time to give a fascinating look at the early days of not only the parents and grandparents, but also the life styles and factors from before his birth that would so influence the life of JDR. The book covers the years of philanthropy showing how a vast fortune in the right hands can be used effectively.
It's an excellent book, well researched and well written. I learned a great deal from it, and have a tremendous respect for not only the subject of the book, but also the author. I'd recommend "TITAN" to everyone.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mark Edward Bachmann on October 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
While John Rockefeller is one of the most famous and influential men in American history, he has nonetheless come down to Americans in caricature: steely-faced, secretive, greedy, crafty, and ruthless. He was certainly all these, but Ron Chernow has in this book laid bare for us the rest of the story, which is complex, exhilarating, quirky, and rich in paradox. A business genius, Rockefeller was a pivotal figure in developing the modern corporation as the organizational vehicle for controlling massive capital-intensive operations. Recognizing early on that an empire of the scale he envisioned could not be run effectively in the autocratic style still common in his day, he rarely made important decisions without seeking debate and achieving a common mind among his key associates, foreshadowing the "consensus-management" style typical of large-scale enterprise today. His most flagrant sin, and the one that fueled the political backlash against Standard Oil, was the ruthlessness with which he crushed competitors. However, even here he played by the cold-blooded rules as he saw them and was rarely vindictive. When advantageous to himself, as it often was, he extended the olive branch to vanquished rivals, buying out their companies and drawing them into his organization, making at least some of them richer than they could have been on their own. This was not generosity but the inexorable mechanism whereby he expanded Standard Oil into a monopoly. Nevertheless, generosity - paradoxical as it seems - was in fact central to Rockefeller's life. Chernow traces Rockefeller's philanthropy back to his deepest roots as the dutiful son of an intensely religious Baptist mother.Read more ›
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By John J. Wood on December 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
I am in awe of Ron Chernow for writing a long and thorough biography that I absolutely could not put down. Rarely have I finished such a long book in such a short period of time. Chernow manages to show how complex Rockefeller's personality and motives, were, and he helps us to avoid the all-too-easy cliches about the rich and powerful. Yet while revealing the complexity, he is never boring, didactic, or long-winded.
I found it interesting to compare Rockefeller and Standard Oil to Bill Gates and Microsoft. Both men are powerful, rich, misunderstood, certain that their actions are ethical and good for their country and the economy, and dedicated to helping those who are less fortunate. Both men vow(ed) to give away most of their fortune. Both have been attacked by their own government, and villified in the press. Both dominate media coverage of business. And, like Rockefeller, Gates is a brilliant strategist who defies easy cliches and shallow descriptions. You can see goodness in either man, and you can also see evil. The beauty of Chernow's biography is that he allows us to see both sides of Rockefeller, without ever landing on either side himself.
Regardless of my thoughts on the parallels, I highly recommend this bio. Four friends are receiving it as their Christmas gift from me.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By David J. Chmiel on November 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
My interest in John D. Rockefeller was spawned by an interest in the theory and policy underlying antitrust law in the United States. Having read fairly extensively in the realm of academic texts on the subject, I was interested in acquiring a somewhat more human insight into an individual such as John D. Rockefeller who is often held up as an icon of the unrestrained capitalism of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Ren Chernow's book is outstanding and provides an exhaustive description of Rockefeller's background, business and philosophy to life. Having already formed my own personal opinions about monopolies, I felt Chernow provided a well-balanced assessment of Rockefeller's behaviour and avoided the pitfalls of adoration or vilification.
The book is immensely readable and you need not be a lawyer, economist or business historian to make it through any section of the work. His research is exhaustive and leaves the reader feeling that they have truly been provided with insights into what made Rockefeller tick.
I highly recommend the book to anyone with an interest in commerce or in the history of the United States in this period. As we enter a period in which a new multi-billionaire becomes the subject of intense debate over his business practices, it is most interesting to look back on the life of John D. Rockefeller and determine the extent to which history is actually repeating itself.
5 stars - without any hesitation whatsoever.
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