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Citizen Soldier: A Life of Harry S. Truman Hardcover – October 2, 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Jean H. Baker, Goucher College, author of The Stevensons: The Biography of an American Family
“Crisply and incisively, Aida Donald has provided an absorbing account of Harry Truman’s life from poverty to the presidency. In this brief yet comprehensive biography, Donald navigates both the internal and more familiar external challenges that Truman faced throughout his life. There is always something new to say about even the most studied subjects and adroitly and intelligently Donald has done so. Citizen Soldier: A Life of Harry S. Truman is an immensely readable book for both popular and academic audiences.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals
“No other book about Harry Truman is likely to provide a more intimate portrait of the private man behind the public figure. With penetrating psychological insight, Aida Donald shows how Truman’s inner strengths and weaknesses, talents and demons shaped his public career. This is an endlessly fascinating book.”

Alan Brinkley, author of John F. Kennedy
“Aida Donald’s Citizen Soldier is a concisely elegant biography of one of the twentieth-century’s most important presidents. Reviled by much of the country during his eight years in office, he nevertheless helped create America’s role in the world during one of the most difficult and dangerous periods since World War II. ”

Philip Zelikow, Associate Dean for the Graduate School & White Burkett Miller Professor of History, University of Virginia
“Aida Donald has brought a keen focus back on Harry Truman the person.  Not so much a policy tome, this is about the interior life of a decent, seemingly ordinary person — a kind of real life ‘Mr. Smith’ — finding himself drawn more and more to the center of a very messy political world.  The more we recognize Truman as a common man, the more we recognize in him a bit of ourselves, the more we appreciate the way he learns and copes with choices, great and terrible, that marked an age. Donald wears her deep knowledge lightly; her portraiture is swift yet thoughtful.”

Daniel J. Kevles, Stanley Woodward Professor of History, Yale University
Citizen Soldier rivetingly reveals Truman the man and what shaped him—his family and his wife, battlefield service in World War I, and entanglements with the politics of the Pendergast machine. Donald judiciously takes the measure of his presidency while recounting how the inner man coped with the burden of his momentous decisions, from the atomic bombing of Japan to the waging of war in Korea. A moving and insightful biography. ”

Ellen Fitzpatrick, author of Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation
“In this wonderfully engaging biography, Aida Donald brings Harry Truman’s complexities to life in ways that enrich our understanding of the man and the president. With humor, wit, keen psychological insight, and a sure feel for her subject and his times, Donald offers a fresh and vigorous portrait of the ‘Accidental President’ who altered the course of twentieth century American history.”

David Kaiser, author of The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
“Aida Donald has written a succinct and gripping life of one of our most remarkable presidents, marked in particular by an original and highly engaging portrait of Truman as a young man. Truman took more than forty years to discover his real vocation, yet left an enduring mark on the nation and the world.”

Kirkus Reviews
“A skillful psychobiography by an empathetic scholar.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review
“With her research and historical expertise, Donald…has succeeded in making Truman much more than a silent commander of a failed watch, into a fully formed man of sizable defects and masterful achievements.”

Roanoke Times
“Citizen Soldier is a concise account of the life of a man who overcame many failures to become president and made significant contributions to the country he loved.... An inspirational story.”

"Donald convincingly finds the secret to Truman’s astounding success — essentially inheriting a prostrate world and managing it until it was on its own feet again — in the president’s character."

City Journal
“A stylish and economical introduction to this extraordinary American life.”

Washington Times
"The brevity of this biography serves Ms. Donald’s aim of filling in a specific gap in Truman scholarship. She succeeds.... Credit Ms. Donald with some skillful storytelling. At times, the reader has to convince himself that this career loser actually becomes president one day.... A very balanced narrative."

Military Review
“Donald’s wit combined with her extensive research and attention to detail make this a biography compelling to any military and historical reader.”

Sacramento Book Review
“An insightful look into the most controversial decisions President Harry S. Truman grappled with during the critical advent of the nuclear age.... The beauty of this work comes in its concise nature. It gives us a feel for the issues of post WWII without leaving us bogged down in minutia.”

About the Author

Aida D. Donald is the author of Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt. She holds a Ph.D. in American history and has taught at Columbia University. Formerly editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press, Donald lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1St Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046503120X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031207
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,155,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Citizen Soldier: A Life of Harry S. Truman deserves attention for the Truman buffs who want as much detail as possible about one of the greatest leaders of the free world. This book reillerates and reviews the tough decision-making attitude personified by a one-time failed farmer, Pendegrast greased politican; who gains world attention after Roosevelt's untiming death and makes moumental decisions. If nothing else, this book could be a lesson on the importance of being a "quick learner."
Aida Donald adds new information recently released by interweaving personal letters that give new insight into the cognitive reasoning (sometimes humorous, sometimes guttural), that brought about old and new policies that continue to affect american politics today. This edition lets the reader know (both good and bad), more from the human perspective, the true feelings Truman experienced and the struggles of holding the office of President of the Untied States.
To the casual reader, Donald does not enhance the story or give drama in her delivery as did McCullogh's version. Not much time is spent on detail or the building of content for punch or flavor. It's just straight forward with no attempt to sway opinion in gaining new Truman fans. But regardless of your favor, this is a good book worthy of attention.
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Format: Hardcover
I am writing this review on the 4th of July, a most fitting time to do this for a man who was such a patriot. I first read this book in the winter when the snows were flying. Now, in the summer, I am confident it is a book for all seasons.

Aida Donald has used scholarship and research to bring a completely human and very complex Harry Truman to the reader. We learn about his struggles to get education, first as a gifted child with a math problem and later as a young man whose college career was cut short by his father's demands that he be a farmer. We look in on his maternal domination and the road to clam his manhood that took him into the leadership of a crack artillery unit in WWI. We see Truman's career punctuated by failures and successes until he found his calling in the service of his government. Donald's careful research allows us to discover a man who reached out into the world to claim his true identity and who sometimes made mistakes in his attempts to escape the limitations of his environment. Most of all we see a man who never gave up. The story of his courtship is a touching and deeply romantic example of Truman's fundamental optimism and persistence.

Truman's story is a quintessential American story, and it is told in a wonderful way. We meet Donald's Truman with his virtues and his flaws, and we are guided to witness how his basic optimism was energized by the incredible tenacity that was the integrating force in his life. In many ways his life embodies that Aristotelian virtue so extolled as a great American virtue by C. S. Pierce. Donald has carefully braided the elements revealed by her research into a moving portrait of an American citizen who, to his own surprise, became a President. I could not put the book down.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Unlike so many so called historical writings of our day, Donald sticks with the facts of Truman's march through his life. She is not swayed from reporting his warts in an attempt to make him look good; nor is she prone to devalue the superlative acts that our former president carried out within life. Citizen Soldier is a very good treatment of Harry Truman, which is most readable and holds one's interest throughout the pages.
I appreciate Aida Donald's pure English and focused thinking throughout the work. We need more authors like her today because they would quite naturally instruct young minds to appreciate correct writing and logical thinking in an age where these qualities often get lost.
I hope Donald is working on a new book, perhaps a sequel featuring Bess and Margaret and their effect on this great president.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Grea insight into character of much-maligned president. Most people show their true charater during batle, and Truman was typical. He defied senseless orders to defeat the enemy, much as he difed conventional Washington, DC, "wisdom" to lead the country.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book without a hidden agenda. Don't even open it expecting a lot of hype and enhancement. It reveals a man at work during a time when love of ones country was not a bumper sticker. I was a young person growing up when Truman was in office, but this is the President Harry S. Truman I remember. I wish instead of merely reading and writing about values and virtue, we could find leaders (Of any party) who practiced it as strongly as he did. Thank you for a wonderful book about a real-to-the-heart American.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I grew up during Truman's presidency and being politically biased, I did not have much regard for this chief executive. As I matured and studied, I found much admire in Truman's candor and policies. As the generations passed, historians have consistently ranked Truman as a better than average president. This biography approaches HST as a somewhat flawed individual whose great love for his wife, Bess, and his daughter, Margaret, was always prioritized into second place by his political responsibilities. Compared to McCullough's masterful work, TRUMAN, this bio is brief but fair. This perspective did not diminish my esteem for HST but it did make me appreciate how much sacrifice of family and relaxation is demanded by the US Presidency.
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