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on March 3, 2016
Comprehensive biography which gave insight into how his experiences as a youth impacted his philosophy and actions as an adult. Brought back all the issues of his tenure with Nixon and all the failures of their shared view of the world. Isaacson pointed out how some of Kissinger's accomplishments are long lasting and for the good of mankind and others were harmful to our nation. An interesting if not at times a distressing read.
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on January 20, 2015
I didn't enjoy this book as much as others written by Walter isaacson. I don't think there was anything wrong with the research or the writing. I did gain a stronger understanding of history and also great insights into the mind of Henry Kissinger. The problem may be that continuous analysis of Henry Kissinger's character flaws grew tiresome in such a long book. My next book choice will be something more uplifting.
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on July 29, 2016
Mr. Kissinger, very intriguing person, however in some parts book is adding pages for purpose of adding pages, we are not finding out anything new, we are going into too many details of the topics that are already explained on top level (enough) and there is really no need to go into details. It goes a bit on the line of tabloid writing, which was a bit of a surprise from Isaacson.
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Walter Isaacson, who has written esteemed biographies of Benjamin Franklin, The Wise Men, and Einstein, tackles the complex character of Henry Kissinger, academic, diplomat, and consultant. Kissinger is a difficult character to pin down, as Isaacson notes. He was devious, self-promoting, self-deprecating, intelligent, ambitious, and successful. The author interviewed over 150 people--including Kissinger himself--to gather information for this lengthy volume (767 pages of text).

At the outset, Isaacson says (page 9): "Three decades after he left office, Henry Kissinger continues to exert a fascinating hold on the public imagination as well as intellectual sway over the nation's foreign policy conversation." He was a well-known apostle of "Realpolitik," emphasizing doing what had to be done to advance the national interest, balancing power with power, concerned more with accomplishing things than getting caught up in ideology and morality. Again, a realist as opposed to an idealist. And this is the tension that is described throughout the course of this powerful volume (page 15): ". . .Kissinger had an instinctive feel. . .for power and for creating a new global balance that could help America cope with its withdrawal syndrome after Vietnam. But it was not matched by a similar feel for the strength to be derived from the openness of America's democratic system or for the moral values that are the true source of its global influence."

The book begins with a brief early biography of Kissinger, including the misery he experienced after the Nazis came to power and the departure of his immediate family from Germany when they came to understand how inhospitable that country was becoming for Jews. The book also notes that many of his relatives died during World War II, part of the Holocaust. There follows the tale of his adolescence, his military service, his graduate study, and his promising academic career.

But the major portion of this book focuses on his role as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State under Richard Nixon's presidency and Secretary of State under Gerald Ford. There is a relatively brief discussion in several chapters of his life after Nixon-Ford, as consultant, commentator, intellectual-without-portfolio.

After having worked with Nelson Rockefeller as an advisor, it is somewhat surprising that he ended up serving one of Rocky's antagonists, Richard Nixon. The book traces the odd relationship between Nixon and Kissinger. Sometimes hard-edged and combative, sometimes oddly supportive of one another. The secretive Nixon and Kissinger as lone cowboy accomplished a great deal in foreign policy; however, their penchant for secrecy also created problems of its own. Kissinger could be viewed is devious (for telling different people things in such a way as for each to think that Kissinger was on his/her side), but he also earned the trust of many leaders as he invented "shuttle diplomacy." Leaders might become exasperated with his style and his deviousness, but he was effective in a number of key instances. Examples worth exploring and reflecting upon in the book include the negotiations with North Vietnam to extricate the United States from a quagmire of its own making; the effort to end the Yom Kippur War in a manner that would stabilize the Middle East; the opening to China; détente with the Soviet Union.

This is a biography that is worth investing time and energy into. It portrays Kissinger, warts and all, in a manner that illuminates this complicated individual. On some pages, one will think of railing against him; on other pages, one may well feel admiration for his strengths and accomplishments.
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on August 12, 2015
This is a good survey of Kissinger's life. It is well documented and balanced in its presentation. Kissinger was a brilliant negotiator and foreign policy analyst; however, there is a major flaw in his life. How could a man who talked about being a victim of the holocaust be so insensitive to human suffering? His failure to prevent the bombing and eventual disaster in Cambodia is not addressed enough. Kissinger's lack of empathy and action in the slaughters in Bangladesh and Timor raise many doubts about his sincerity on human suffering. I feel pithy for this man. His brilliance never allowed for human consequences . Isaacson notes that Kissinger needed to be 10% less brilliant and 10% more honest. I think that he needed compassion for human suffering.
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on November 14, 2014
This a great read for anyone who grew up during the Cold War era and the fall of Communism. Isaacson clearly explains the clash of "American Ideals" and "real-politik" in shaping foreign policy. There is a lot of very interesting material on Watergate along with very vivid insights into the intellect and personality of Richard Nixon. Indirectly Kissinger helped precipitate the events that became one of the great scandals in American history. Henry Kissinger is a very complex and multi-dimensional individual; but in the final analysis he is can be understood. He spectacular successes and experienced several miserable failures with serious unintended consequences.

In spite is the complexity of the subject matter and the broad sweep of events covered in this book, Kissinger: A Biography was a great read. Walter Isaacson writes clearly and provides a lot of background and historic detail of every event.
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on May 5, 2015
I have enjoyed Isaacson's biographies of Ben Franklin, Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein. With Kissinger, the style is different as it probably should be. Kissinger is unlike his other subjects. Every other subject has warmer sides, they seem more human - but this is what makes this an interesting book. Isaacson seems to capture Kissinger without judging him. I would recommend it for those who are interested in the Nixon era -an important era of US history often reported with a bias on either side.
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on August 5, 2015
I read Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs before this book. His still is very similar in this book and is very well written. It's very informative and well researched, showing attention evenly to Kissenger the person and Kissenger the politician. Isaacson does an excellent job of being unbiased and telling the reader what actually happened or was said in situations. The vast majority of this book covers the Nixon administration (does not discuss Watergate much), but this is expected since that was Kissinger's main political period. Since Kissinger is still alive, it does not cover his entire life, but still an informative read.
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on July 9, 2017
Fascinating individual and so much different from what I remember "back in the day". I absolutely recommend this book as well as any other of Walter Isaacson's writings.
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on February 7, 2011
What Pavarotti represents to music, Einstein to physics, and Freud to psychology, Dr. Henry Kissinger represents to diplomacy.
In this biographical book, Isaacson combines his skills of being a good researcher and an excellent writer using an elegant style with the art of Michelangelo to paint a beautiful description of Dr. Kissinger's unique personality.
From this book,the reader will learn how Dr. Kissinger skillfully applied three techniques in his diplomatic endeavors. First, Dr. Kissinger compared old historical world events to the challenges with which he was dealing in foreign affairs during the time he served under former presidents Richard M Nixon and Gerald Ford. Second, Dr. Kissinger associated or linked world events at that time to shape foreign policy,looking forward to leading America to awakening and to learning about the European diplomacy of balance of power. And third,one of the main contributions of the author is to reveal how Dr. Kissinger'a ego interrelated with other large egos,such as Nixon,Mao,Brezhnev, as well as with other domestic and international figures. Dr. Kissinger played the role of a psychoanalyst,and the rest of the egos were treated by him with respect as if they were his patients,in the sence that all of them developed strong,deep,ambivalent emotions of admiration and hate we can perceive throughout Issacson's excellent book.However.everyone respect Dr. Kissinger's realistic analysis of national interest and his contributions to living in a world where international eagles can be restrained by a new international order that is in the process of being finalized.
After reading this interesting book,you will understand how Kissinger's personal diplomatic style shaped the United States's foreign policy and world leaders'decisions: as well,you will understand why he is strongly admired and well respected among leaders from different cultures. The legacy and homework for others is how to conduct a diplomatic policy away from the traditional dogmas wherever they arise.
You will learn from this book how Dr. Kissinger's historical perspective helped him interpret and act in world events and,above all,how he skillfully negotiated with world leaders and persuaded them to arrive at a negotiated, realistic agreement which would be accepted by the parties involved as a fair one.

Finally,the author presents a well-balanced analysis of Dr. Kissinger's personal strenghts and flaws. I would say that, most likely, Dr. Kissinger is aware of both. Being an expert in balance of power among nations, he must have a deep inner understanding of how to balance and manage his own strenghts and flaws. Otherwise,he would not be able to operate so succesfully at the domestic and at the international levels.
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