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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Paperback – March 30, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 2nd edition (March 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400077303
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400077304
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

''A biography that has many of the best attributes of a novel . . . Wonderfully fluent and compelling.'' --New York Times

''Ron Chernow's portrait of Rockefeller, an eccentric on a heroic scale as well as a genius, is convincing . . . This is the best biography of the man so far.'' --Washington Post Book World

''Splendid . . . A blue-chip biography.'' --Newsweek

''It is hard to imagine a better biography of Rockefeller being written . . . An enthralling biography of an enthralling person.'' --Chicago Tribune

''With uncanny timing, Ron Chernow has written a captivating biography of one of the most famous men in American business history . . . Business needs more books like Titan.'' --Newsday

''Chernow has written the definitive biographies of two other legendary financial dynasties . . . Now, with his Rockefeller biography, he has completed an extraordinary trilogy about the towering figures of twentieth-century commerce.'' --Vanity Fair

''A scrupulously balanced, frequently fascinating, and humanizing portrait of a figure of seemingly superhuman energy and ambition.'' --People

''By the time Chernow is finished, the old guy seems utterly human . . . and oddly appealing…A timeless parable of our civilization.'' --San Francisco Chronicle

''A monumental and mesmerizing biography . . . A fascinating yarn, capturing a man who insisted he could serve God and Mammon.'' --San Diego Union-Tribune

''Stunning . . . Mr. Chernow has confirmed his reputation as a great business historian.'' --Financial Times (London)

''A worthy biography of a truly titanic figure.'' --Economist (London)

''Sweeping . . . Chernow lays out the [Rockefeller] conundrum superbly, delineating the forces that shaped this man and the ways he responded to them.'' --USA Today

''[No biographer] has been as skilled, or as exhaustive, as Ron Chernow.'' --Philadelphia Inquirer

''Good biographies are hard to find and great ones even rarer . . . A thoughtful and balanced approach to one of the most significant and controversial lives of the past century . . . Spellbinding.'' --Seattle Times

''A masterful synthesis of research and writing…An extraordinary achievement in biography.'' --New Republic

''A triumph of research, understanding, and elegant writing.'' --Houston Chronicle

''What a story! An outstanding business biography.'' --New York Observer

''You can read this book as a sympathetic portrait of a complex man, a business history, a legal battle, or simply as a great yarn.'' --Businessweek

''Chernow has written the definitive biographies of two other legendary financial dynasties . . . Now, with his Rockefeller biography, he has completed an extraordinary trilogy about the towering figures of twentieth-century commerce.'' --Vanity Fair

''A scrupulously balanced, frequently fascinating, and humanizing portrait of a figure of seemingly superhuman energy and ambition.'' --People

''By the time Chernow is finished, the old guy seems utterly human . . . and oddly appealing…A timeless parable of our civilization.'' --San Francisco Chronicle

''A monumental and mesmerizing biography . . . A fascinating yarn, capturing a man who insisted he could serve God and Mammon.'' --San Diego Union-Tribune

''Stunning . . . Mr. Chernow has confirmed his reputation as a great business historian.'' --Financial Times (London)

''A worthy biography of a truly titanic figure.'' --Economist (London)

''Sweeping . . . Chernow lays out the [Rockefeller] conundrum superbly, delineating the forces that shaped this man and the ways he responded to them.'' --USA Today

''[No biographer] has been as skilled, or as exhaustive, as Ron Chernow.'' --Philadelphia Inquirer

''Good biographies are hard to find and great ones even rarer . . . A thoughtful and balanced approach to one of the most significant and controversial lives of the past century . . . Spellbinding.'' --Seattle Times

''A masterful synthesis of research and writing…An extraordinary achievement in biography.'' --New Republic

''A triumph of research, understanding, and elegant writing.'' --Houston Chronicle

''What a story! An outstanding business biography.'' --New York Observer

''You can read this book as a sympathetic portrait of a complex man, a business history, a legal battle, or simply as a great yarn.'' --Businessweek --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

About the Author

Ron Chernow's first book, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award and the Ambassador Award for the year's best study of American culture. His second book, The Warburgs, won the Eccles Prize as the Best Business Book of 1993 and was also selected by the American Library Association as one of that year's best nonfiction books. In reviewing his recent collection of essays, The Death of the Banker, The New York Times called the author "as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we've seen in decades  and chose the paperback original as one of the year's Notable Books.


From the Hardcover edition.

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.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Well written and very interesting!
Lynne M. Manero
I have to be honest, I did not pick up and read Ron Chernow's Titan because I was burning to read a biography about John D. Rockefeller.
Martin P. McCarthy
Anyone in business ought to read this book!
Coach Phil

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Zubair Khan on March 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
Ron Chernow's Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. is a powerhouse from beginning to end. Chernow is fast becoming one of my favorite biographers after reading Alexander Hamilton and now this. In both books, he is able to keep you turning the page while, at the same time, building carefully rendered portraits of these complex historical figures.

In Titan, he is at his best, describing Rockefeller as both a great philanthropist and also a man possessed by greed. Chernow's Rockefeller can be as consumed by creating a great Baptist University [University of Chicago] as building tactical alliances that will squeeze out any hope of competition for his company, Standard Oil.

With his first brush stroke, Chernow paints the picture of Rockefeller's father a mountebank, philanderer and a bigamist. From meager beginnings, it is amazing to see the determination with which Rockefeller builds himself up. Rockefeller's ability to move so rapidly from a life of destitution and failure to one of unparallelled wealth and success is built with clear precision though at a dizzying pace.

Chernow's decision to focus so heavily on Rockefeller's father in the beginning of the book is important because the man Rockefeller becomes is a repudiation of everything his father stood for. The son in this case knew what a scoundrel his father was and acted in every way to become everything he was not. The father was a philnaderer, while the son remained devoted to his one wife even when he had become wildly successful. As the father placed his own interests ahead of his family's needs, the son put his family ahead of everything else.
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121 of 135 people found the following review helpful By John P Bernat on October 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
Read this book before reading "Great Fortune."

"Great Fortune" is the story of the building of Rockefeller Center, and inevitably discusses the leadership influence of John D. Rockefeller jr. and Nelson Rockefeller.

However, the man who sired "junior" was John D. Sr., of course, and he was the one who created the values and assumptions which his family took into the 21st century.

I read this book because I had been simply curious about the mechanics of "the robber barons." Exactly how, and under what circumstances, were a few men in our history able to amass huge concentrations of money and thus profoundly direct our nation's affairs? And what were their personalities and values, too.

More so than any history book, Chernow's work in this area sheds needed light onto these questions. And, in learning Rockefeller's story, the reader also gains some understanding of contemporary titans like Bill Gates and - well - Jeff Bezos.

It's not Horatio Alger, exactly. That said, when you read Chernow's thorough and objective study, you realize that certain qualities are timeless:

1. Commitment to hard work.

2. Insight into meta-forces beyond the day to day.

3. Incredible drive and focus.

4. Ruthlessness in competition.

5. Sublime confidence in your own rectitude and success.

This is a great book with lessons well beyond its era.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Martin P. McCarthy VINE VOICE on December 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have to be honest, I did not pick up and read Ron Chernow's Titan because I was burning to read a biography about John D. Rockefeller. I read Titan because I had just recently finished reading Ron Chernow's biography on Alexander Hamilton. In reading Titan, I hoped I would be getting a work similar to Alexander Hamilton, namely the quality of Chernow's prose and the rendering of his subject. Titan exceeded my expectations on all counts.

Chernow has an incredible ability to not only tell the story of a man, but to also tell the story of the times in which the man lived and, in so doing, place his subject squarely within his time. In telling the story of Rockefeller, Chernow is telling the story of America for the nearly 100 years Rockefeller was alive and living in America.

In rendering Rockefeller, Chernow gives us a full portrait of the man - both good and bad and never delivers a verdict on either. Instead, Chernow leaves it to the readers to draw their own conclusion on the man. In so doing, the reader is forced to confront the legacy left by Rockerfeller the Robber Barron with the legacy left by Rockefeller the philanthropist.

One conclusion though, that is implied in the text (if not overtly stated) is that had Rockefeller died during the breakup of the Standard Oil Trust in 1911, the judgement of history probably would have ignored Rockefeller's charitable contributions and condemned him outright. Instead, Rockefeller lived until 1937 during which time he garnered acclaim for his philanthropy. It also certainly did not hurt that Rockefeller's son, John D. Rockefeller Jr. would do so much to secure his father's place as America's foremost philanthopists as well as rehabilitate his father's Robber Barron image.

In short, if you like John D.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Coach Phil on February 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Adjusted for inflation, John Rockefeller was by far the richest man who ever lived. He was reviled for his evil business practices (forming monopolistic trusts, forcing competitors out of business, etc) but he was also a pious, gentle man who gave more to medicine, education and other charities than anyone in history. He could be a stern, rigid man, but defying his public image, he also insisted on paying more than he needed to because he wanted to be sure a business deal was good for both the buyer and the seller.

At the peak of his wealth, Andrew Carnegie had more money than Rockefeller, but from that point on, Carnegie's wealth rapidly declined while Rockefeller's soared. Rockefeller actually made more money after he retired than in all his working years. Even more amazing, Teddy Roosevelt's "trust-busting" efforts to dismantle the Standard Oil monopoly ended up hugely benefiting Rockefeller. This was one shrewd operator!

Rockefeller attended the same small Baptist church on Euclid Avenue most of is life and when he built his first mansion on "Millionaire's Row" in Cleveland, he intentionally built the smallest, most modest home on the street to down-play his wealth. While his contemporaries showed off their wealth, he never owned a yacht, or a private rail car - the equivalent of refusing to buy his own plane and flying commercial airlines today.

Rockefeller's faith believed it was God's will for him to "make as much as he could...and give as much as he could." In the end, no one (not Carnegie who built over 3000 libraries and innumerable galleries and concert halls, not the Mellons or the Fords or the Hearsts) has had more impact on American culture. Rockefeller founded and almost single-handedly built the University of Chicago.
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