- File Size: 113566 KB
- Print Length: 1120 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (August 20, 2003)
- Publication Date: August 20, 2003
- Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
- Language: English
- ASIN: B000FC0VVQ
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,340 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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-- Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"A warm, affectionate and thoroughly captivating biography....the most thorough account of Truman's life yet to appear. "
-- Alan Brinkley, The New York Times Book Review
"McCullough's marvelous feel for history is based on an appreciation of colorful tales and an insight into personalities. In this compelling saga of America's greatest common-man president, McCullough adds luster to an old-fashioned historical approach...the sweeping narrative, filled with telling details and an appreciation of the role individuals play in, shaping the world."
-- Walter Isaacson, Time
"Remarkable....you may open it at any point and instantly become fascinated, so easy, lucid, and energetic is the narrative and so absorbing the sequence of events."
-- The Economist
"McCullough is a master storyteller whose considerable narrative skills have been put to exquisite use in re-creating the life and times of America's 33rd president."
-- Robert Dallek, Los Angeles Times Book Review
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I couldn't help drawing parallels between the present and the past while reading this book - particularly with the 2016 Presidential campaign and how Clinton and Trump campaigned compared to how Truman campaign and our current problems in Korea. I couldn't help contrasting the personalities of Truman and Trump, either.
I highly recommend Truman; it's a fascinating, informative, well written biography of a President who was in office during a highly important, trans-formative period of United States History.
Harry Truman was the second to last US President to have been born in the 1800s. His grandparents lived during the era of the Missouri frontier and the Civil War. “The arc of his life spanned more change in the world than in any prior period in history…he had to assume command of the most powerful industrial nation on earth at the very moment when that power, in combination with the stunning advances in science and technology, had become an unparalleled force in the world.” There is a romance to the life, a seemingly fictional element in the biography. Truman did not go to college, nor did he get involved in politics until midlife. He worked a decade as a farmer until his early 30s, went to war in Europe and returned only to get married and start a men’s clothing warehouse. In many ways he was a normal middle American man, who had his share of ups and downs and financial debts.
Truman was not bred for the Presidency, nor trained for the global decisions he would have to make like an FDR or a Churchill. His rise to power could not have been more unforeseen; but with the Pendergast (a powerful Missouri political boss) backing he proved to be very successful in state government. From there, there was no looking back.
From state government to US Senator, from Senator to Roosevelt’s Vice President, from Vice President to President, from President to the creation of United Nations and Victory in Europe and Potsdam and the dropping of the atomic bomb. These first 4 months were riveting to read. And from that point the story does not cease to amaze: from a very low approval rating as President to an exhausting campaign and a most improbable victory over Dewey. Truman’s story is an unfolding of one unlikely event followed by another unlikely, momentous event. Truman’s second term included the founding of the state of Israel, the unpopular start of the Korean War, and the eventual firing of Douglas MacArthur.
It was not just the decisions and the policies implemented that really struck me as a reader. To be sure I did learn a lot more about the post-WWII world; but I found myself becoming very much attached to the key figure in the story. Truman is an admirable protagonist with a noble heart. He is just, moral, upright, wary of the temptations that come with power. He makes mistakes. His persona exudes vitality and industrial energy that is contagious to everyone who works with him. Throughout his life he possessed a deep desire to “do the right thing” no matter what. If modern generations look back on the atomic bomb or the “dangerous foreign intervention precedent” of Korea with disdain—they should read this book. Time and time again Truman is faced with two deeply flawed options in real time: drop a bomb or allow a world war to continue; intervene in Korea or watch on from a distance; use extreme governmental measures or let the crippling strike go on during wartime. An imperfect decision had to be made and rarely was there a third option.
At his farewell address in 1953 Truman said:
“When Franklin Roosevelt died, I felt there must be a million men better qualified than I, to take up the Presidential task. But the work was mine to do, and I had to do it. And I have tried to give it everything that was in me... Good night and God bless you all.”
To sum it up, this was a very enjoyable ride. I found myself at times staying up until the early morning binging, because I was so engrossed in the narrative. I was sad to finish, just like I am sad when I finish any good biography. You walk so far with the characters it is almost an emotional experience when they pass on and a new era arises.
As for the writing, David McCullough in one of the best historians alive and his prose is perfect as always. A remarkable story teller to match a remarkable life.
Although I would have disagreed with some of Truman's views such as expansion of welfare programs, he was the model of what we long for in a President. Firm, fair, resolute... Always doing the best he could for the American people as he saw fit. Political calculations were very seldom a concern.
Top international reviews
The book is never a hagiography of Truman's life, but obviously Mr McCullough has great respect, even love, of his subject. The 1948 Presidential Campaign was an unexpected highlight. But we also have Truman's service in WWI, the decision to use the Atom Bomb and the Korean War. And much else, all making, because of Truman's sheer integrity, an inspirational read. A man who never lost his roots, yet still continued to grow as a human being in very demanding times.
I have never enjoyed a biography more than this one. No stars deducted even though something seems to have gone wrong with the download of the illustrations.
This biography confirms the truth of those beliefs. But it does far more than that. It reveals Truman not just in his successes but in his failures, and there were many of them. Most notably, he spent many years as a farmer, with mixed results, and later attempted to set up a haberdashery shop, where he went broke. Perhaps more worrying still, he worked closely for many years with political bosses in his native Missouri, some of whom were found to be deeply corrupt.
Ironically, it was the dubious associations that led to his successes. Though he worked with some questionable individuals, it’s clear that he never engaged in any murky activities of his own. He maintained personal integrity in poisonous circumstances. But the Missouri bosses were his springboard into politics.
He was also a leader of men. Despite his poor eyesight and his lack of any previous military experience, he became an artillery captain during the First World War, distinguishing himself both by his personal courage and by his ability to forge men into a highly-efficient unit. He pulled off that achievement with a disparate group of men who were not soldiers but civilians in uniform. As well as a leader he was, truly, a fighter.
That was the quality that most marked his political career. He showed it most clearly at two key times: when he stood for re-election to the Senate in 1940 and when he ran for President in his own right in 1948 (he was elected Vice President in 1944 with Roosevelt, and inherited the presidency when the latter died).
On both those occasions he showed a tireless ability to campaign even when all around him were telling him he had no chance of winning. He covered huge distances speaking to crowds and individuals at every opportunity. Above all, he established a personal bond with thousands, who passed the message on to many times that number of others.
Against the odds, he won both those elections, astounding friend and adversary alike.
I found another quality of his just as striking: his ability to build consensus. Even after he had taken a decision, for instance to build a Hydrogen bomb, he would allow his subordinates to debate the issue, leading many of the discussions himself. Eventually, they would come around to the view that he had already adopted, at which point he put it into application knowing that his team was behind him.
Nor did he ever duck responsibility for the choices he made. We might not agree with his decision to build a Hydrogen bomb, or to use the Atom bomb against Japan, or to involve the US in the Korean War. It’s hard, however, not to admire the resolution with which he took those decisions, knowing that they were his responsibility and his alone, and accepting that criticism for the consequences had to be directed at him.
Told with a great deal of humour and in the clear and gripping language which always marks David McCullough’s work, this biography brings out all these aspects of the man. That provides us with a work that is a pleasure to read (or listen to) full of vital insights into a remarkable personality.
McCullough follows Truman through the seemingly endless concatenation of failures that constituted his life: his failure a student, as a farmer, as a businessman, and even as a politician, always in the shadow of more charismatic men.
Trumans otherworldly perseverance, his ability to conquer failure and learn from it, is shown to be the foundation of his ultimate success.