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216 of 223 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising for a biography, this was a page-turner.
At first the size of this book can seem daunting. However, from the very first page I found it fascinating. For most of the 1,000 or so pages it read like a novel, a real page-turner. Because of the kind of time commitment necessary to read a book of this size, I read it in sections over a couple months, reading other things in between.

Having lived through...
Published on August 6, 1997

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83 of 93 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost a Classic
While it's Ok for a historian to like the subject of the biography, he should not love him. David McCullough likes Harry Truman a bit too much. As a result he seldom takes a critical view of Truman's Presidency, politics or personal life. This is disappointing given that Harry Truman was the President at probably the key juncture of twentieth century - the end of War...
Published on September 18, 2006 by Lawrence Effler Jr


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216 of 223 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising for a biography, this was a page-turner., August 6, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Truman (Hardcover)
At first the size of this book can seem daunting. However, from the very first page I found it fascinating. For most of the 1,000 or so pages it read like a novel, a real page-turner. Because of the kind of time commitment necessary to read a book of this size, I read it in sections over a couple months, reading other things in between.

Having lived through most of the significant events discussed in the book, I found them presented with accuracy. Mr. McCullough showed all sides of every significant conflict.

The book gives a fascinating insight into the difficulties of public office and the setting of public policy. It also presents Harry S. Truman as a man of real integrity and one who will, in the long run, undoubtedly go down as one of our great presidents.

Throughout this book I was consistently impressed with Mr. Mccullough's writing style. Anyone who can keep the pages turning for 1,000 pages of biography is an extremely skilled writer!

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in 20th century American history, but also to anyone interested in just plain good writing!
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83 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the BEST book I have ever read!, December 26, 2000
By 
Jeffrey Tidwell "tidwell100" (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
I read this book two years ago during a Christmas vacation. At first, I was intimidated by the sheer size of the book. However, I found that once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down! David McCullough is, perhaps, the best American historical biographer alive today. His writing is crisp, clean, and entertaining. I have to admit that before I started this book, I was pretty ignorant about who Harry S Truman was as a person, as well as the contributions that he made to the United States and to the world as President. I was absolutely STUNNED to learn how influential and accomplished Truman was during his presidency. Truman left a legacy of good works that still impact the world in which we live today. Like one earlier reviewer wrote, I too had always been looking for a hero, someone who came from humble beginnings and made a lasting impact on the world in which he lived. I found that hero in the pages of David McCullough's book. As I finished the last page of this book, I felt like both crying (because I was saying goodbye to a friend that I had grown to love), and cheering (because I had found my American Hero in Harry S Truman). This book should be a must-read for every American!
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130 of 144 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Coverage Of An Amazing Man's Life and Times!, December 19, 2000
By 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
Into the press of circumstance and the irony of history strode the diminutive and bespectacled Harry S. Truman, who promptly grinned his way into becoming the single most surprising President of the 20th century. Written off as a party hack of the Missouri democratic machine until very late in his political career, Truman astounded everyone by picking up the shambles left in the wake of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's sudden death and turning in a deft and remarkable performance against the most formidable of odds. In this best-selling biography by noted author and historian David McCullough (The Path Between The Seas), one is treated to a massively informative and yet immensely readable treatment of Truman's life and times. The author uses a treasure-trove of newly available archives, personal interviews, and historical records to show how the unassuming man from Missouri who everyone under-appreciated became responsible for everything from the successful conclusion of WWII to the Marshall Plan to the formation of NATO to the Berlin Airlift rose to assume the Presidency in one of our nation's darkest moments.
From his first halting steps as a young man rising out of poverty and a farm family background to become a sudden war hero who led men bravely in combat, from his frequent missteps and failures as a post-war businessman to a first failed try for local political office, from his quick rise from county-level politics to become the darling and frequent benefactor of the quite colorful Pendergast political machine, this is the stuff of a momentous 20th century life, told as well as it can be by a master of historical biographies. Truman, who arose from a family beset by tragedy, missteps, and misfortune, was saddled before adulthood with the responsibilities and burdens that were so common for those coming of age early in this century. His is the story of a man who kept trying, arising again and again when life and misfortune knocked him down, and like the proverbial hero of one of Horatio Alger's novels, Truman's persistence and dogged courage before personal defeat eventually brought him to public prominence and to the United States Senate.
Once established in the Senate, Truman quite rapidly (and totally unexpectedly) proved himself a consummate diplomat, negotiator, and dogged proponent for what was right, rational, and reasonable. In doing so, he earned himself a reputation as man with uncommon moral character and indefatigable energy. Later this strength of character and ability to do the hard things when pressed to do so proved invaluable, as in the decision to employ the atomic bomb against Japan and to fire that most vexing and perplexing of military war heroes, the legendary Douglas MacArthur. McCullough's treatment reveals for us the drama of Truman's sudden and unexpected tour as President; a terrifying, wrenching and extraordinarily difficult balancing act for someone left so singularly unprepared and unprepared as was Truman. Yet so masterful was his balancing act that he became a legend himself by simply being himself, a man who believed in all of the traditional verities and virtues, a man of the common people who was always unassuming, self-effacing, and quick to admit his own mistakes.
This is truly a wonderful book, one I have read several times simply because I find its depiction of Truman as being quite inspirational. Here was a man who rose to meet the challenges of his life and his times, a most unexpected leader and role model who showed us, even in his death, that the role of the man of enduring virtue participating in public life is an achievable and workable goal, that we can have people with moral direction and the courage of their convictions to serve us and the country at large as President. Especially now, in the age of mental midgets and errant sons of former presidents running for office, it is wonderful to remember a time when an ordinary man proved just how extraordinary he could be. Enjoy!
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb biography of a great President!, February 29, 2000
By 
This review is from: Truman (Hardcover)
David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize winning biography "Truman" is undoubtedly the best Presidential biography I've read in recent years. Written in a graceful and powerfully eloquent style, it is meticulously researched, and accurately captures the essence of the man who was the 33rd President of the United States.
McCullough challenges a commonly held view of history that Harry S Truman was nothing more than a common man of mediocre abilities who became President almost by accident, and owed his political success to his loyalty to the Democratic party and the Kansas City political bosses. By tracing the life of this self-made man - a farmer, artillery captain during World War I, haberdasher, local politician, U.S. Senator, Vice President, and ultimately President of the United States - the author acquaints the reader with a highly intelligent, competent and complex man. Here is seen the highly principled politician whose ability to judge the character of others enabled him to select outstanding men like Dean Acheson and George Marshall to serve in his administration; a Chief Executive capable of making some of the most momentous decisions of the twentieth century, such as ordering the use of the atomic bomb against Japan in 1945, integrating the Armed Forces in 1948, and firing General Douglas MacArthur in 1951. But, here also is seen a man who remained loyal to personal friends and Democratic party bosses and tolerant of their often disreputable activities; and who, in a fit of petty anger, authored a threatening letter to a music critic who wrote unfavorably about his daughter.
"Truman" is above all a fair and balanced portrait of one of the most unique and greatest of American Presidents. In my view, this extraordinarily well written book is destined to be the biography of Harry S Truman against which all others will be measured. Highly recommended!
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82 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The biography of an authentic American, June 1, 2001
By 
Jon R. Schlueter (Grand Terrace, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Truman (Hardcover)
I am a great fan of biographies of great men. This is the first time I have ached to spend time in the company of the subject of a biography. There is something about Harry Truman --underestimated, shrewd, fallible, magnificent, decent and straight-taliking -- that comes across in this biography. I highly recommend this book.
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83 of 93 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost a Classic, September 18, 2006
By 
This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
While it's Ok for a historian to like the subject of the biography, he should not love him. David McCullough likes Harry Truman a bit too much. As a result he seldom takes a critical view of Truman's Presidency, politics or personal life. This is disappointing given that Harry Truman was the President at probably the key juncture of twentieth century - the end of War World II and the beginning of the Cold War. More time is spent describing the whistle-stop campaign of 1948 then in explaining the development of the containment strategy of Soviet expansion. He also dismisses Secretary of State Dean Acheson's January 1950 omission of South Korea as being in the United States defense perimeter as being the inspiration of the subsequent attack that June by North Korean forces. While it may not have been the inspiration, that statement along with troop withdraws in 1948 and 1949 were hardly discouragements.

Yes, Harry was the common man who became President but McCullough glosses over the reasons for Henry Wallace being replaced by Truman as V.P. on the 1944 ticket. McCullough tells us that many Southern Democrats and city bosses were uncomfortable with Wallace, especially given Roosevelt's health. But the reader is left wondering why they were uncomfortable. Indeed many Democratic leaders were worried that Wallace and his advisors were too sympathetic to the Soviets and that "moderate" Harry Truman would take a tougher post-war stand against them than would Wallace.

Still, McCullough has a good literary style and his account often reads more like a novel than a biography. This is especially true early in the book when he describes Truman ancestors, background and upbringing in western Missouri. And when he weaves in little ancedotes about Truman's personal life both before and during his time in the White House, McCullough is at his best.

Harry S Truman was a genuine American, a patriot and a good President at a pivotal time in U.S. history. He deserves a more critical examination of his life and Presidency. After all "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Harry could stand the heat and give them hell back. David McCullough ought to know that.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, serious biography, worthy of praise, December 26, 1997
By 
This review is from: Truman (Hardcover)
I'm normally not one to chat on-line or write reviews like this, but I had to weigh in to defend an unfair comment re McCullough's Truman. An earlier reviewer chastens McCullough for not writing a "balanced" biography.
This is a false and unfair charge. In fact, this is why Truman is such a great book. It paints an accurate picture of the mere man, Harry S. Truman --- his frailities, weaknesses and outright blunders as a human being, all presented in light of his remarkable Presidency.
A good summary of Truman's blunders (there were many) appears on p. 990 of the hardback edition. More in depth discussion of these and other misguided actions are found throughout the book. Harry T's scathing letter, written to a music critic who dared to tell the truth about Margaret's singing, is an excellent example (p. 829).
All in all, this IS a well-balanced, beautifully written, engaging biography. It has all the credentials of serious biographical scholarship, yet it is wrapped in an elegant, warm style. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in understanding the plain-spoken man from Missouri.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get to know Harry S. Truman, September 4, 2001
By 
Amy Schirmer (Arlington, VA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Truman (Hardcover)
I've read a number of other reviews and found that the rating tends to be determined by the reviewers' opinion of the man, rather than the book. Critics of Truman argue that McCullough has written a paean to his subject, which is why they give the book fewer stars. Nonsense. What makes Truman so appealing to me (and probably to many other reviewers who, like me, did not know much about him before reading the book) is that he was so very normal, so very human. McCullough makes it clear that Truman was no genius, that he held prejudiced views of blacks and other minorities, that he suffered from strong self-doubt, that he could be petty and selfish and weak, and that the stresses of the job often caused him physical suffering. Despite all of that, he performed admirably as President and established principles that were to guide U.S. foreign policy (and Presidents of all political persuasions) for the next half century.
It is clear that McCullough has some affection for Truman, but it seldom colors his judgment. This is a great biography, which enables the reader to feel as if he truly knows the man. It is also great history, providing a well-researched and well-written account of the vanishing U.S. frontier, of small-town America, of metropolitan political machines, and of the genesis of U.S. Cold War policy. I submit that the distorting biases are not those of McCullough, but those of the readers who do not like Truman, either for personal or political reasons.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Biography, June 24, 2001
By 
This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
McCullough's intensively researched, thorough, and moving biography of Harry S. Truman is an accessible account of a president who is almost effaced by the times in which he lived. Remembered mostly (if at all) as a little gray man who fell somewhere between Roosevelt and Kennedy, Truman's accomplishments, failures and personality often fade into the background, against the likes of FDR, Churchill, Stalin, or even Joe McCarthy.
McCullough's biography captures the man who inserted a civil rights plank to the Democratic Party platform, risking his presidency, and splitting the party; who fought in WWI, married his childhood sweetheart, failed at business, then succeeded beyond his wildest imaginings at politics; and who, yes, dropped the only two atomic weapons ever used in warfare. McCullough presents Truman in all his contradictions, and his affable, easygoing style. I went and read _Truman_ because I had profound ambivalence towards him, and his actions as president. While this bio did little to clear up my ambivalence, it was expertly and cogently crafted, and I found myself personally liking the subject, even though still troubled by him. In this world with few saints, this is the best one could ask for in a comprehensive biography.
McCullough writes from his subject's corner--one can discern a genuine affection for the man in his pages. However, the author does an excellent job of presenting the evidence; of showing the reader that McCullough is a man of his craft; of demonstrating that, while "objective" history may be a myth (yes, certain things did happen, and others did not. What that MEANS, however, is up for constant debate), responsible history is not. Readers who detect bias in the biography are undoubtedly correct. The reason this is troublesome, though, is more that the author's bias does not agree with the reader's, rather than the sheer existence of bias itself. Not that this is necessarily a problem; it simply is the way of things.
The last few years have seen an upswing in the reputations of Republican presidents--the renaming of Washington National Airport, and Oliver Stone's laudatory biopic of Nixon being two examples that come immediately to mind--, while Democratic Presidents, such has Clinton and Kennedy have, sometimes deservedly, sometimes not, come under fire. _Truman_ comes as a breath of fresh air to one who is increasingly disturbed by the tenor of our national historical dialogue.
I recommend _Truman_ to anyone with an interest in the period or the man.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, if too favorable, presidential biography..., October 11, 2003
This review is from: Truman (Paperback)
If I were able, I would actually have given "Truman" four-and-one-half stars instead of five. It's hard to argue with this book's enormous popularity - when it was released in the early 1990's it received generally rave reviews and became the best-selling presidential biography of the decade. And in most respects "Truman" deserves the praise it has received. David McCullough is a marvelous writer, as anyone who has read his earlier books (such as "Mornings on Horseback", his splendid account of the early years of Teddy Roosevelt) can testify. McCullough's research of Truman's life is thorough, and his writing style makes it seem as if you are with Truman on every step of his long journey towards the White House. Truman was the unlikeliest of Presidents, and he may be the last "non-millioniare," non-college-educated person ever to serve in the Oval Office. Compared to most of our great Presidents (a rank which Truman is now given, thanks in no small part to this book), most of Truman's life was totally ordinary. He was a farmer who scratched for a living, he adored his wife and was completely faithful to her, he had to put up with a demanding and snooty mother-in-law who thought he was never good enough for her daughter (even after he became President!), and he was a failed businessman who constantly worried about paying the bills. Truman's life didn't really take off until he served as an artillery officer in World War One, and he learned that he could effectively command large groups of men and earn their respect. He subsequently entered Kansas City politics, serving as an honest and efficient county judge (county commissioner) in an otherwise corrupt and despised political machine run by Tom Pendergast, the nationally infamous "boss" of Kansas City. Truman remained fiercely loyal to "Boss" Pendergast, even after he was sent to prison for various crimes. Truman would display this trait of loyalty time and again, and while in many ways it was admirable, it would also get him into trouble when his friends sometimes turned out not to be as honest and open as he was. I won't recount Truman's life here, as other reviewers have already done so, but I do have one problem with the book, and that is McCullough's favoritism towards Truman. Although some other reviewers have claimed that this book is "even-handed", I would argue differently. Truman did have his flaws, but McCullough either glances at them and quickly moves on, or he just ignores the criticisms that others have made. One example involves Truman's racial feelings. McCullough does briefly mention that in his youth Truman often spoke negatively of Jews and Blacks, but argues that he "made up for it" by pushing civil rights for blacks and helping create the nation of Israel as President. What McCullough doesn't mention is that Truman's "conversion" to these ideals came in an election year (1948), in which he was the underdog and needed all the minority votes he could get. After Truman left the White House he continued to make occasional negative remarks about racial minorities - in the 1950's and 1960's he criticized Martin Luther King and the civil rights marchers in the South as "troublemakers", a fact which McCullough never mentions. Also, like most pro-Truman biographers, McCullough makes Truman into the feisty but lovable hero of the 1948 presidential election, when Truman shocked the pollsters and experts to defeat the heavily favored Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey. What McCullough doesn't mention is that Truman's campaign was every bit as negative and divisive as those of later Republican candidates (such as Richard Nixon) who have been much-criticized for their "dirty" campaigns. Truman, as has been proven by numerous letters, memos, and political memoirs, deliberately made personal attacks on Dewey (such as ridiculing Dewey's mustache and comparing it with Hitler's) and hurling wild, unfounded charges (in one speech he came close to comparing Dewey and the Republicans with Hitler and the Nazis, a speech which McCullough doesn't mention). Truman's campaign deliberately played upon the fears and prejudices of Democratic farmers and workers (one of Truman's main points was that Dewey and the Republicans would bring back the Great Depression), just as Republicans such as Nixon would later play upon the fears of Republican voters. In my opinion, had Truman been a Republican candidate he almost certainly would today be strongly criticized for his 1948 campaign, but instead he is given the heroic role by McCullough (Truman's opponent Dewey ran a presidential campaign that was a model of what most voters say they want. He refused to reply to Truman's "mudslinging", almost never mentioned Truman by name, and gave upbeat, optimistic speeches in which he refrained from personal attacks). In spite of these weaknesses, however, "Truman" is overall an excellent study of how a "common man" who was no different from your average "next-door neighbor" became one of the most important Presidents of the twentieth century. As "Truman" proves, there is a latent greatness in the average, taxpaying, middle-class American citizen - a fact which should provide encouragement if this nation ever again faces the problems and crises which Truman did. Highly Recommended!
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Truman
Truman by David G. McCullough (Paperback - June 14, 1993)
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