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Showing 1-10 of 289 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 510 reviews
on March 12, 2016
This is the third book by Ron Chernow that I have read. Last year I read his biography of George Washington followed by his excellent work on Alexander Hamilton. His latest books led me to one of his earliest biographies. What they all have in common is a personal picture of Americans who have had a fundamental impact on this nation for good or ill. I wasn't sure how I would feel about a book that dealt with the life of John D. Rockefeller. I have to admit, as I began this book, that I had preconceived attitudes about men like Rockefeller especially in the context of the 2008 recession. Mr. Chernow points out so well that there is both a good and bad John D. Rockefeller who had so much to do with the creation of an Industrial American Economy in the Post Civil War Era. There is the greed of the monopolist who attempted to eliminate competition without regard to the untold harm it could cause to our economic prosperity. Then you see a man who was undoubtedly the wealthiest man in America committed to giving away the wealth he had accumulated to improve the society that had allowed such disparity in wealth. Yes, John D. Rockefeller brought philanthropy into our economic vernacular . There is a dichotomy here that is very difficult to judge. If we advocate a laissez-faire free market economy, such disparity seems to me is inevitable. In this book I saw both good and evil in this man. Mr. Chernow helps you to consider what kind of cooperation is necessary in a free democracy.
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on December 31, 2016
'Titan' by Ron Chernow tells the story of John Rockefeller, the founder of Exon-Mobil (née Standard Oil). Titan is an appropriate title: Rockefeller left footprints in America as large and significant as the retreating glaciers left in upstate New York. The book itself is well enough written with only a few flaws, the biggest of which is that in places it assumes that the reader already knows the story. Usually I did not, even though Rockefeller was big enough and important enough that I *ought* to have. I think this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand America.
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on August 31, 2015
This is an excellent treatment of the subject. Chernow spends maybe a little more time psychoanalyzing JD and his family than providing historical narrative, but overall the story is well done, clearly well researched, and well written. To me, the weakest part of the book was Chernow's attempt to discuss the antitrust concepts in play. He seemed a bit confused at times as to what conduct was competition at work and what, under modern standards would be considered anticompetitive. At times he notes the irony that some of SO's biggest critics engaged in the same tactics, but never squares the circle so to speak on what is okay and what is not. For example, is it okay to get a discount from a railroad, or not? Modern antitrust and industrial organization economists would tend to say it is fine, but Chernow writes as if it is a terrible competitive sin. A bit more robust discussion of where JD and SO "crossed the line" would have made the book that much better. But overall I found this to be a good read and recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject matter.
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on May 29, 2013
Mr. Chernow managed to write a book that will leave you neither loving nor hating Rockefeller, Sr. You will kind of gasp at the wealth he amassed and be torn between hating him for his ruthlessness and admiring him for his humility (yes, humility), dedication (especially to his religion), and philanthropy. You will also wonder what he felt as a parent when you learn a little more about not only his kids, but their spouses and the choices they made...

Without ever being a steward to history, everyone still knows this name to this day and often associates it with the need for the government to intervene and break up the monopoly of Standard Oil. But don't be surprised if, sometimes, you find yourself rooting for Mr. John D. When you see how the government and some members of the press behaved at times, you may even develop a slight conservative streak...

In reading this book, I found myself torn about what I had previously been taught about this man... he seemed much fairer than he had always been portrayed to me before, but I still couldn't reconcile his stingy streak. Very interesting portrayal that will have you questioning values in business even, and perhaps, especially in today's "modern" age.
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on June 7, 2017
Excellent book. Audible add-on is also very very well done. This book is basically a great overview of Rockefeller's life and influences both by him and upon him. It's difficult to sum up such a long and influential life in a single book, but you really get a sense of it here along with the politics and economics of the time.

Chernow is an excellent writer.
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on October 22, 2015
I hate the 5 point system. I would give this between an 8 and 9 in a ten point system. Please don't take that as a negative. This is a very good book. I really liked it. My gold standard is McCullough so this should be no disrespect to Chernow. I never knew a thing about Rockefeller before I read this book so it was a very enlightening and enjoyable read. I think it does as good of a job as any of covering the man and the family. It is well written and is very engaging.

My semi-complaints:
- It is not really a chronology. It's more of a topicology. It covers topics in a range of times. This means it jumps around a little in an area that can be a little confusing. For instance, it will cover his investments in the University of Chicago for a timeframe then go backward to cover another topic during that time frame.
- There are huge gaps in coverage of his mother and family. Maybe I missed something but I don't even remember a mention of his sister Mary.
- Rockefeller lived at one of the most exciting times in this nations history. He saw the invention of the car and of the airplane. It's hard to imagine he wasn't more than a little interested in what the Wright Brothers were doing.
- It's very hard to get a sense of his wealth. The numbers in the books seem a little inconsistent at times.

In general, I found the story of Rockefeller's life fascinating. There was nothing especially exceptional about him and yet he became the wealthiest man in the history of the world. While there is debate about this I have no doubt. Unlike today's wealthy who are paper rich (stock) Rockefeller was taking in all of his wealth in the form of untaxed dividends. At one point he was taking in the equivalent of more than $1B a year. While today's rich promise to give their money away when they die Rockefeller spent half of his life giving away as much as he could. While he got vilified throughout life I'm actually amazed at how reserved and content he was. With all of his money he theoretically could have taken over everything. He had enough money to control nearly every major industry if he wanted.

If I could have one major criticism of him it would be the way he was with his wife. She clearly had issues for a great portion of her life and yet Rockefeller still pretty much did as he wished. Perhaps that is what she wanted or perhaps it was either that or he just sat around the house and withered away too. In any, case it seems odd how much time he spends away from her during all of her troubles.

On the other hand it's absolutely remarkable the restraint he shows in dealing with his brother and children. It's amazing that the most powerful man in the world just sits by as his daughter lives in Europe and refuses to even come home for her mother's funeral.

I highly recommend this book.
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on May 5, 2011
I am late to add my 2 cents to "Titan's" many reviews but I think it better cheered late then not at all. Chernow's JD Rockefeller biography is superb in its depth and implications. The boy, the man, the business man, the maker of empire, the villain, and the extraordinarily far sighted philanthropist; his legacy is explored in fascinating depth.

Chernow's Titan as an altogether different character then I had previously imagined. The strength and character of JD Rockefeller is truly astounding no matter if you love or hate the man. Chernow provides the record and evidences to properly posit your opinion of JD Rockefeller. For me, I give JD the highest marks in genius, ingenuity and persistence of character witnessed in a time when there were no rules or comparable non-nation state paradigms to build the truly enormous enterprise.

This is long, superbly enjoyable read. I have gifted it to several associates.
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on December 6, 2012
After completing a history of Butte, MT, I wished to gain a better understanding of Standard Oil's role in the formation of Anaconda Copper. When I found that Mr. Chernow had written a biography of John D. Rockefeller, I knew I would learn how Standard Oil and Anaconda Copper fit together. Titan did not disappoint. The nexus of Standard Oil to Anaconda was actually through the investment of individual officers of Standard Oil and not the actual "evil" corporation. In addition, John D. Rockefeller had literally nothing to do with the Anaconda creation as he had already "retired" from the daily management of Standard Oil. The Butte history I recently read was written in about 1933 and did a poor job of explanning the Standard Oil nexus.

Ron Chernow is a thorough researcher and provides substantial detail in bringing his subjects to life. I ratesd this book as a four star selection only in as much as some of the details of Rockefellers children and grandchildern became a little tedious. I am not sure I really was looking for as detailed a history of all the decendant's nerouses.

Major learnings from Mr. Chernows work were

1. Rockefeller's strick adherence to fundamentalist Baptist faith.

2. Rockefeller's role in developing the Mesabi Iron Range, something I knew nothing about before reading this book.

3. The role of questionable ethics used in growing Standard Oil and not violation of law.

4. The fact that Rockefeller made almost all of his petroleum fortune before the "invention" of the automobile and subsequent demand for gasoline. Kerosene for lighting drove his fortune.

5. The role John D. Rockefeller, Jr. played in establishing Grand Tenton, Smokey Mountain, Acadia National Parks and Colonial Williamsburg.

6. The life view John D. Rockefeller had on philanthropy as he really had a life long commitment to spend his wealth for the benefit of others. He died with an estate of less than $30 million dollars at 97 years of age, about 2 1/2 years short of his life-long goal of living to 100 having given away over $500 million (estimated at $30 billion in current dollars).

7. Rockefeller's role in the creation of the University of Chicago and its early growth to one of the country's elite schools.

As with previous Chernow biographies I have read, this book left me with a feeling that I had gain a pretty exhaustive view of the man and his times.
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on September 4, 2015
It's a pretty thorough book. I am reading it on a Kindle so I haven't looked at how many pages it actually is! I am from Cleveland, spent time living near NYC, and didn't really know much about Rockefeller so I decided to read this book. I should have taken notes as there is a lot of information and I don't remember all of it but I liked learning. My only critique is that while the author spends a lot of time on Standard Oil history and organization, I was still not convinced how the company was organized was completely illegal for the time period. I guess you need a better understanding of how business was not allowed to run back in the 1870's to 1910. I get it, monopolies are bad in a free market economy, but I actually might side with John D. on his view of cooperation vs. competition. This was a critical building time for the U.S. economy and he made rules as he went since there weren't stringent guidelines as there are today. One last criticism- the book did repeat a few facts but I think that probably can't be avoided. I recommend as you read, you highlight or bookmark important chapters if you want to go back. I find that difficult to do on the Kindle with a book of this length. There are photos as well which might be better in print.
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on January 2, 2017
An excellent book on a great man. Ron Chernow has proved once again his mastery of biography skills.
JDR was an interesting person with two faces, a fierce capitalist and warm old man.
The author has succeed to give us enough details about JDR in an entertaining way.
Worth of reading.
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