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1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America Hardcover – October 4, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"sweeping...compelling"
--Library Journal
"A masterpiece!"
--Roger Stone
"A terrific book...a must-read."
--Ron Faucheux, editor-in-chief, Campaigns & Elections magazine
"outstanding...by far the best yet about the fateful [1948] election"
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune


"brilliantly portrays . . . Truman's successful efforts."
--David Mark, Sr. Editor POLITICO
"A great book about American politics ... a must-read."
--John Rothmann, KGO (SF)
"absorbing and fascinating"
--Joe Donahue, "The Book Show"
"reads like a movie thriller waiting to be filmed"
--Washington Times


"vivid...important"
--Senator Mitch McConnell
"lively...illuminating portraits of the four candidates...The account of the whistle-stop tour is gripping."
--Albany Times-Union
"magnificent"
--John Hancock, KMOX (St. Louis)
"a fine narrative"
--Long Island Business Press


"coherent, compelling...A skillful, authoritative investigation'"
--Kirkus Reviews 
"a wonderful book...one of the best of the year."
--David R. Stokes WAVA (Washington, DC)
"Pietrusza is the undisputed champion of chronicling American Presidential campaigns."
--Anthony Bergen, Dead Presidents blog
 


"If you think [2012] is wild, this is really wild--Harry Truman and Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond and Tom Dewey."
--Tom Brokaw
"a must read for anyone who loves history"
--Milhaven McGraw, KTRS (St. Louis)
"richly detailed, sweeping"
--Schenectady Gazette


Praise for 1960--LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies:

“[A] winning and provocative chronicle … highly recommended.”--Library Journal (STARRED REVIEW]

"[A] colorful, character-driven narrative.... A lively look at the underside of a campaign."--Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Called one "of the best historians in the United States" and "the undisputed champion of chronicling American Presidential campaigns," David Pietrusza has produced a number of critically-acclaimed works concerning 20th century American history.

His book 1960: LBJ vs JFK vs Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies was named by ForeWord Magazine as among the best political biographies. Robert Caro has praised it as "terrific."

Pietrusza's 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents received a Kirkus starred review, was honored as a Kirkus "Best Books of 2007" title, and was named an alternate selection of the History Book Club. Historian Richard Norton Smith has listed 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents as being among the best studies of presidential campaigns. 1920 reached #1 best-selling rank in three amazon.com non-fiction categories.

Pietrusza's biography of Arnold Rothstein entitled Rothstein: The Life, Times & Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series was a finalist for the 2003 Edgar Award. 

Pietrusza's Judge and Jury, his biography of baseball's first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, received the 1998 CASEY Award.

Pietrusza collaborated with baseball legend Ted Williams on an autobiography called Ted Williams: My Life in Pictures.

He has been interviewed on NPR, MSNBC, C-SPAN BookTV, C-SPAN American History TV, ESPN, the Fox News Channel, the History Channel, EBRU-TV, and the Fox Sports Channel. He has produced and written the PBS-affiliate documentary, "Local Heroes." He has served as a regular panelist on FoxNews.com Live.

Pietrusza holds a master's degrees in history from the University at Albany and has served on the City Council in Amsterdam, New York. 

Pietrusza is the Recipient of the 2011 Excellence in Arts & Letters Award of the Alumni Association of the University at Albany.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Union Square Press (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140276748X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402767487
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric Mayforth on October 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Approaching the presidential election of 1948, Republicans were optimistic. They had recaptured both houses of Congress in the midterm elections of 1946, had a seasoned presumptive nominee in New York Governor Tom Dewey, and looked set to end the Democrats' decade-and-a-half hold on the White House. In "1948," author David Pietrusza looks back at how those GOP hopes fizzled and how President Harry Truman won election in his own right.

Pietrusza offers brief biographical sketches of both Truman and Dewey, as well as of minor-party candidates Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond. He also recalls the reluctance of Dwight Eisenhower to run and shows how figures such as Earl Warren, Alben Barkley, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, and others factored into Election 1948.

The late Forties were a fascinating time in American history: the Cold War, civil rights, the creation of Israel, the Hiss Case, inflation, and the nascent medium of television were the talk of the country in 1948, and Pietrusza shows how these issues impacted the election.

The author's account of the Republican nomination process and of the splintering of Wallace and Thurmond from the Democratic Party is absorbing, he covers each of the parties' conventions, and his account of the general election campaign is also very good--Dewey began very sure he would win, so much so that he decided to run a bland, play-it-safe campaign (but he made one huge gaffe which really cost him).

GOP doubts began to creep in as Election Day approached, and their fears of a Truman win were realized the morning after the election.
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Format: Hardcover
David Pietrusza has produced another excellent book about an American presidential election. It superbly captures the drama, personalities and politics of one of the truly fascinating elections in our nation's history. This readable, entertaining new volume--about the 1948 election--is the third in a series by Pietrusza, along with his wonderful books on the 1920 and 1960 elections. The 1948 election is of particular interest to us today. As President Obama tries to position himself as a "come from behind" underdog for re-election, and attacks Republicans in Congress as "do nothing" obstructionists, Harry Truman's 1948 campaign gives us clues as to the ultimate applicability--both the opportunities and hazards--of such a strategy for 2012. If you're interested in politics and presidential elections, this is a must read,
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Format: Hardcover
Could David Pietrusza's latest campaign history be falling victim to the "Law of Diminishing Election Returns"? 1920 was superb; 1960, a bit less satisfying, but still very enjoyable. With the '48 election's dramatic historical backdrop -- the earliest stirrings of the Cold War and the civil rights movement, the nation's ungainly postwar stumbles back to full prosperity, the birth of Israel and the "Red Scare" -- and four-candidate field, Pietrusza should have had no trouble at all fashioning a compelling narrative here. The book, however, seems unfocused at the start, jumping from point to point in time in a most jarring manner. Not until the conventions and the campaign itself does Pietrusza really get a grip on the goings-on. Even then, the author fails to deliver a coherent explanation of why, exactly, 1948 "transformed America" (or, as the inside title page puts it, "transformed America's role in the world"; some editors at Union Square apparently weren't talking to one another as this book went to press). In that respect, 1948 falls short of Zachary Karabell's earlier work, THE LAST CAMPAIGN, which had fewer zingy anecdotes but a considerably stronger theme.

If Pietrusza is planning another campaign tome, I'd suggest he tackle 1968 -- and pay closer attention to what he did better in his two previous books.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm substantially convinced at this point that noted presidential historian David Pietrusza could re-write the telephone directory and make it sound like an adventure novel. His third major presidential election chronicle more than lives up to the incredibly high standards he set for himself in 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents and 1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. NIXON. Once again he does political and character sketches of the principal players, in this case the 1948 combatants who included not only President Harry S. Truman and his Republican challenger Thomas E. Dewey, but also Truman's intra-party opponents Henry Wallace and J. Strom Thurmond who both end up running as third party candidates of the Progressive and Dixiecrat parties respectively. Pietrusza then weaves his characters into the times and the issues of the day (the birth of Israel, the Berlin Airlift, the Hiss Case, the desegregation of the armed forces, etc.), moving along to the big chase scene which leads to the subtitle Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year That Transformed America.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading 1948 Harry Truman’s Improvable Victory and the Year That Transformed America one gets the impression that David Pietrusza does not necessarily care too much for politicians as no one comes off as particularly heroic sounding. Thomas Dewey and Henry Wallace come across as indifferent at best or clueless at worst to the idea that they were running against a vulnerable incumbent in Harry Truman, while Strom Thurmond was more a manifestation of the divide that was to become in later decades.

Beyond the rather lackluster portrayal of these men as political figures, Pietrusza really does a terrific job of taking the reader into America of 1948 and the social & political issues that served as conflict points such as race, the role of government, FDR’s legacy, and what the post-World War II world will look like. It is along these fissures that the space for multiple candidates emerged. In a lot of ways it reminds me of the polarized and divided country that we have today.

For an elections nerd like me, I found the chapters that talk about the nomination process for the Republicans and Democrats particularly illuminating considering that today’s conventions for all their pomp and circumstance are basically coronations. In 1948, the Electoral College was just the undercard for the backroom or convention floor dealings that made presidential candidates. This should be required reading for any political campaign manager.

I wish more history was this good.
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