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This warm biography of Harry Truman is both an historical evaluation of his presidency and a paean to the man's rock-solid American values. Truman was a compromise candidate for vice president, almost an accidental president after Roosevelt's death 12 weeks into his fourth term. Truman's stunning come-from-behind victory in the 1948 election showed how his personal qualities of integrity and straightforwardness were appreciated by ordinary Americans, perhaps, as McCullough notes, because he was one himself. His presidency was dominated by enormously controversial issues: he dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, established anti-Communism as the bedrock of American foreign policy, and sent U.S. troops into the Korean War. In this winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize, McCullough argues that history has validated most of Truman's war-time and Cold War decisions.

The life of Harry S. Truman is one of the greatest of American stories, filled with vivid characters -- Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Wallace Truman, George Marshall, Joe McCarthy, and Dean Acheson -- and dramatic events. In this riveting biography, acclaimed historian David McCullough not only captures the man -- a more complex, informed, and determined man than ever before imagined -- but also the turbulent times in which he rose, boldly, to meet unprecedented challenges. The last president to serve as a living link between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, Truman's story spans the raw world of the Missouri frontier, World War I, the powerful Pendergast machine of Kansas City, the legendary Whistle-Stop Campaign of 1948, and the decisions to drop the atomic bomb, confront Stalin at Potsdam, send troops to Korea, and fire General MacArthur. Drawing on newly discovered archival material and extensive interviews with Truman's own family, friends, and Washington colleagues, McCullough tells the deeply moving story of the seemingly ordinary "man from Missouri" who was perhaps the most courageous president in our history.

Customer Reviews:

  • McCullough a Master!
    David McCullough is a master biographer. His prose are truly beautiful, painting not only a brilliant portrait of one of our greatest presidents, but taking the reader back in time creating the world of Harry Truman. Those who love biography, history, politics, and just an overall well rounded story should check this book out! one of the best biographies ever. ...more info
  • Excellent along several dimensions
    I came away admiring Mr. Truman for his ability to work very hard at the tasks he felt were his to do; for his integrity at critical times (such as the decision not to carry the Korean Warn into China); and for his appreciation of history and the constitution.

    I also enjoyed the theme in the book contrasting the opinion of the press about Mr. Truman and the reality of the man. News media are so ever present in our daily lives (in the gym, at the airport, in restaurants) that we forget that news editors are *highly* fallible. This theme recurs so often in the book ("Dewey Defeats Truman" being only one of many mis-predictions and mis-estimations) I gather it was intended. The man certainly was much greater than many measures taken of him at the time.

    I do hope Mr. McCullough will produce another biography soon....more info
  • The Missoura Mule was an Amazing Man
    I never really knew Truman and didn't really expect to like him, but this book shows what a real, down to earth and scrupulously honest man he was that I can't help but love and admire him. I never knew that as a Senator, Truman helped bring a stop to government gouging that many defense contractors were getting away with during WWII. Truman was a ruthless investigator tracking down anyone who was gaining excessive profits off defense contracts as he felt they were vultures robbing our soldiers of much needed supplies by overcharging the government and thus undermining the government's ability to buy more supplies. He also considered any company that made substandard supplies as being un-American as they were sending our "boys" out without sufficient goods to take care of them on the battlefield.
    I never knew Truman, the military commander, who was as loyal to his subordinates as they were to him.
    I never knew Truman the hardworking farmer, Truman the businessman who would rather go bankrupt that fail to pay a bill and the husband who doted on his wife-to-be until middle age when her mother finally consented to their marriage.
    Truman was a unique man of virtue and honesty. David McCullough did a special favor to all humanity by capturing in one compelling book the incredible life of this simple, yet brilliant man. ...more info
  • Excellent book with errors made during digital processing
    This is a fascinating study of Truman's life with its many challenges, many of which resonate with those faced by our president today. I am thoroughly enjoying this book yet the errors in transcription during the digital process are becoming annoying. McCullough's work deserves better....more info
  • A level look at a level man!

    I enjoyed this book a great deal! Very hard to put down. While I have questions perhaps about this and that, I sat down at my desk each night and went through the life of President Truman in a few weeks time. I would recommend this to everyone! Mr. McCullough hit another one into the stands! I'm looking into 1776 now! Thank you!...more info
  • A review of the abridged audiobook; a history teacher's review
    While I am a world history teacher, my favorite times in American history are the Revolutionary War Era, the Civil War Era and an interest in the Frontier as it moved across the United States. While I knew a great deal about Truman before listening to this audiobook, I really felt that I needed to know more.

    David McCollough's treatment of Truman is friendly, but not overly rosy. The audiobook version I listened to was abridged. I assume that the areas that were not focused upon in the abridged edition are more fleshed out in the unabridged edition. (Note: this abridgement was not sloppily done - I didn't even notice it was abridged until about 3/4 of the way through the book - it just seemed like he was glossing over the activities of the New Deal Congress rather quicker than normal)

    Areas of particular focus in the abridged edition include Truman's family background and childhood. His World War I experiences, early political jobs, his association with Kansas City machine politics, Bess (of course!), his mother, how he was chosen to be Vice the decision to drop the atomic bombs, the Korean War, the decision to fire MacArthur and eulogies for Truman.

    The printed version of this book includes pictures, I am sure, which is a disadvantage of the audio version. However, that deficiency is more than made up for by the inclusion of real audiotaped quotes from Truman himself when possible. It is one thing to see a picture of Harry Truman, it is quite another to hear sections of his speeches in Truman's own voice - the way most Americans did at the time when they were delivered. It gives you a different sense of the man. A section of MacArthur's "Old Soldiers Fade Away" speech is also included, to the detriment of MacArthur, in my opinion. He sounds very snobbish and patrician. When compared to Truman, it makes you root for the Man from Independence all the more.

    A second strength of the audiobook is that it is read by the author himself. McCollough has a voice that I envy and enjoy to hear and he makes even the most slowest portions of the book flow by quickly and easily.

    I give this one a grade of A+.

    Bravo!...more info
  • David McCullogh does it again!!
    Yet another superb job by David McCullough!! He has emerged as the absolute BEST historical writer of our generation, hands-down. Talk about bringing a character to life and covering all the aspects of his subject: the good, the bad, and the ugly. From Trumans humble beginnings, through his presidency, and his death, McCullough brings you inside the mind of Truman, and many of the people most important in his life. This is a long book, but it reads so easily that you don't even realize it. I am just amazed at the job McCullough does with his subject matter, whether it be technical (i.e. the Brooklyn Bridge or the Panama Canal), or personal (i.e. Truman, John Adams, Teddy Roosevelt). He does such an incredible job making his subject matter spring to life, and leaving you wanting more. How many authors write history books that are genuine page-turners and read like a fiction novel? This is the ability McCullough has, and Truman is no exception. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history, whether it be of WWII, the Atom Bomb, or Truman himself....more info
  • Give 'em hell Harry
    In the middle of WW2, when Harry Truman became
    president, people wondered how such an ordinary
    man could ever become president: "If Harry Truman can be president,
    so could my next door neighbor. ".

    But as David McCulloughs wonderful Truman biography
    explains - there is absolutely nothing wrong about
    a "common man" becoming president. Quoting
    Senator Adlai Stevenson: "The 'lesson' of Trumans life,
    was a lesson about ourselves. An object lesson in
    the vitality of popular government; an example of
    the society to yield up, from the unremarkable origins,
    the most remarkable man".

    From sunday school and own reading of the Bible
    Harry Truman knew many passages by heart:
    "Ye are the salt of the Earth.. Let your light so shine
    before men, that they may seee your good works."
    and prayers like:
    "Oh! Almighty and Everlasting God, creator of heaven,
    Earth and Universe:
    Help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right,
    make me truthful, honest and honerable in all things;
    make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and
    honor and without thought of reward to me. Give me
    the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with
    my fellowmen - help me to understand their motives and
    their shortcomings - even as Thou understandest
    mine! Amen."

    What is more - for what we can gather from McCulloughs
    biography - Harry Truman actually believed and lived by these words.
    Combined with his midwestern belief in the values
    of the farmer - Following Thomas Jefferson belief
    in a nation of farmers - In Harry Trumans words: "
    .. as long as a country
    is one of that kind, people are independent
    and make better citizens. When it is made up of
    factories and large cities, it soon becomes depressed
    and makes classes among people. ".
    - he was placed in a world that was anything
    but simple. But a world that was in absolute need
    of his values and judgement.

    Trouble never far away. His wife Bess' father kills
    himself age 43, by putting a gun to his head, leaving behind
    4 children. No reason given, except a drinking problem.
    Harry Trumans father not that good with money -
    more or less resulting in no college for bright Harry,
    but 10 years of hard work on the farm instead.
    Only escape - even with very poor eyesight - to
    WW1 France and war horrors. Home again he marries
    sweetheart Bess. And opens a business that fails
    in 1922. Leaving him broke and strapped for money for 20 years,
    Eventually he enters politics - settles as a local Missouri judge,
    when fortune offers him to run as a US senator - a race which he surprisingly wins 2 times. And in 1944 Chicago Convention democratic bosses selects Truman as Vp candidate. Ambassadorships and postermaster
    jobs etc. promised around to make the deal go through.
    However corrupt some of this might seem - somehow
    it doesn't cling to the man who is then elected VP -
    but escapes intact.
    So much so as when asked about his feelings about the
    current president Roosevelt - Harry Truman answers
    (obviously not in public) that he has only
    one objection - that he lies.

    When Roosevelt dies an old man age 63. Truman
    takes over - a young man of 60. With the remark
    to reporters : "Boys if you pray, pray for me now.".
    With WW2 still on he offers the 48 presidency to Eisenhower.
    But still he is the one to make the decisions.
    And he does nuke Japan - making historians
    remember that he did use the "n-word" and was
    not respectful towards chinese back home in Missouri.
    Still, in Trumans mind that was the only way to stop
    the war in east without another million dead american soldiers.
    And he was happy about the decision.
    With the Berlin crisis, Korean war there was no lack of problems.
    And yet reporters remark that everyday "is a mothers
    day in White House under Truman" with a president who never
    fails to call back to see how things are back home on the farm.

    Against all odds he is re-elected president in 48.
    With the backing of fellow democrats Lauren Bacall,
    Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan (later to become a republican).
    standing for a government for the people and
    against special interest.
    When MacArthur threathens to go for all out war with the chinese
    in Korea he is fired by Truman, telling the world
    that civilian leadership is above military leadership.
    He is always well composed - when assassins from Puerto Rico
    tries to kill him and all leading newspapers
    are certain that he will loose. Except when a music
    critic says his singing daughter is no good. Then he explodes.
    Making the picture perfect of Harry the man, who became
    A real person.

    Personally I was amazed when I visited his home in
    Independence, Missouri in 2002 - that it was actually the home
    of Harry Truman the president. It somehow seemed to humble.
    After reading the McCullough book I see it was not.
    How amazing. And how amazing the thing called democracy is.
    "Give 'em hell, Harry" a spectator said in the 48 campaign for presidency,
    and you see why!

    -Simon...more info
  • A Great Read
    For anyone who has ever cheered for an underdog or bet on a longshot, this is a great read. HST had no money, no family position and no formal higher education--but he did great things for America. McCullough gives us his best story yet, with all the rich detail and factual substance we have come to expect from today's greatest political biographer. If I could read only one political biography again-this would be it....more info
  • Give 'em Hell, Harry: A Reappraisal
    This is a good biography of President Harry S. Truman, the man from Independence, Missouri. What I found most surprising in the book is how little time Truman spent with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, even after being nominated and elected. This was especially disturbing in light of the fact that many of the gatekeepers at the White House knew that Roosevelt was in failing health and doubted that he would complete his unprecedented fourth term. Fortunately, Truman was basically a good man, despite his dependence upon machine politicians while seeking political advancement in Missouri, and he tried to conduct himself in an honest manner. He made his share of mistakes, but he meant well. He certainly was not a plaster cast saint, but on the whole he acquitted himself well. In recent years, Truman has been promoted as an exemplary member of the Democratic Party, but, as McCullough points out, when he left the presidency he was shunned and seemed to be destined to obscurity. His reputation rebounded twenty years after he left Washington. ...more info
  • Give 'em hell, Harry, was more than accurate.
    David McCullough renders a fine portrait of Harry Truman. IMO this country has possibly had only two great Presidents--George Washington and Harry Truman.

    I think Lincoln meant well, but it might have been better to let the Southern states go.

    Theodore Roosevelt's contribution of National Parks is nice, of course.

    FDR's New Deal had its merits, but Eleanor was likely the better humanitarian.

    JFK did not last long enough to really make a difference, and RFK was killed before he had any chance to get in office.

    So, I will hold my opinion that George Washington and Harry S. Truman were the two that made the mold......more info
  • Unbalanced Biography
    David McCullough writes well but tends to leave out the negative aspects of his subject's personality traits. Truman was impetuous and suffered from feeling that the Presidency was too big for him. He permitted himself to be dominated at times by small town friends with their petty influence peddling. Truman never took complete control of the office to demand personal integrity of subordinates nor did he demand high quality performance from them. The fact that he got it from some people reflects the awe that the Office of the President imposes on those selected to serve. Truman's sense of his own "smallness" resulted in smearing his time in office with charges of corruption laid against his associates. McCullough avoided discussion of this aspect of Truman's personality and the important influence on his ability to govern.
    McCullough did the same with his John Adams' biography....more info
  • One of the greatest histories, one of the greatest presidents
    I read this book because I had run out of book and this one was lying around. Rarely I have I been so fortunate to stumble upon one of the most uplifting books that I have ever read.

    It's length of 900 pages can be intimidating but is well worth the journey. David McCullough is as superb a historian as Steven Ambrose or any other in recent memory. His research is apparent as he shows how Truman's upbringing as a farmer in rural Missouri, his service in World War I and subsequent failed business ventures all combined to prepare him for being president during some of the most important and trying years in our nation's history.

    If ever there is a man to give one faith in the American dream that any man can become president, it would be Harry Truman. But what impressed me the most was his immense character and humility that we wish for, but seldom find in our politicians.

    I did not fully appreciate his presidency until I read this book. The decisions he made have affected our lives to this day - the dropping of the atomic bomb, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift and aid to Greece and Turkey (the that three of which arguably saved Europe and democracy in much of the world) and the Korean War.

    One would do well to study the character and live of Harry Truman for he is certainly one of the greatest unsung presidents or leaders I know of.
    ...more info
  • Absolutely Superb
    As stated by others, this is an absolutely superb effort by McCullough; in my mind by far his best. It ranks with the best biographies I have ever read, and may be at the very top of the list.

    McCullough paints a comprehensive picture of Harry S. Truman, in which childhood perceptions about family, wartime leadership experience, business failures, and messy Kansas City politics all instill an incredible desire in the man to succeed on his own merits, all leading up to what is probably the climax of the book--the account of the 1948 presidential election. But every portion of this book is eminently enjoyable, and one cannot help, after reading it, to come away with a new appreciation for the Captain With a Mighty Heart....more info
  • One of McCullough's best
    As one has come to expect from a book by David McCullough, this book is thoroughly researched and beautifully written. If you like history/biography you will love this book. I found it well worth the time I spent reading the almost 1000 pages of text. I have read most of David McCullough's books and in my opinion this is one of his best. I think it's the best of all that I have read, but I still have a few to go before I finish them all. I liked it more than "John Adams" but this is largely because I found Truman to be a much more likable subject.

    This biography covers the whole of Truman's life, not just his presidency. It actually begins with his grandparents and the area of Missouri in which he was born and raised. It covers his childhood, his service in WWI, his business years after the war, his early political years as a member of the Predergast political machine, his presidential years and the 20 years that he spent after his presidency. Truman is shown to be a man of great character, straight forward, loyal and dedicated to his friends and to the US, over any political advantage that he might gain by being otherwise. He was guided by the simple principle of trying to do what he believed was right and then letting the chips fall as they might. He was largely underrated, but those who knew him, or even interacted with him briefly, came to see that he was not the simple man in a job that was over his head. Rather, he had the moral courage and the determination to lead and to make tough decisions (almost always ones that history has shown to be the correct) and not be swayed by negative public opinion. McCullough makes a strong case for him being one of the most important presidents that the US has ever had, a view shared by most current historians. He was forced to make decisions that set the course for the rest of the 20th century.

    McCullough clearly loves Truman and you may too when you finish this book. While almost uniformly laudatory of Truman, McCullough does cover the events that are less than complementary. For instance, his tendency to write scathing letters when he was angry (which fortunately for Truman's legacy were almost always just put into his desk draw instead of being sent) and, more importantly, his nationalization of the steel industry, which was deemed unconstitutional. Also, in private Truman used language, which today is considered racist. However, in spite of his southern upbringing, his innate sense of justice and fair play led him to desegregate the US armed forces by executive decree and to put forward civil rights legislation that almost cost him the 1948 election. His civil rights and health care legislation did not pass until many years after his term in office. Nonetheless, was willing to pave the way in spite of the considerable political cost to his presidency.
    ...more info
  • Does half a review count?
    Harry "S" Truman is the only president I ever saw in person. My two room school went to see and hear him speak in Dayton, Ohio. I was too young to focus on what he said, but I hold the memory of him walking across the stage in that auditorium and speaking.

    One reason why I purchased David McCullough's biography "TRUMAN" is to find out some of the things he said over his life. But my main reason is that having read three other McCullough's books, I know this is going to be a great read.

    I am not even half way through TRUMAN, but I am writing this based upon my enthusiastic endorsement of anything David McCullough writes. I've always been interested in history, but never had a single teacher who made history come alive and hold my attention, often at the edge of my seat and fighting sleep in order to finish a segment in the book, as does author McCullough.

    Did you know that the "S" in Harry S. Truman doesn't stand for any name or anything? It's just an alphabet letter picked. You'll find out why by reading TRUMAN.

    I'm hardly able to lay TRUMAN down, once I begin reading again. David McCullough introduces you to the real person he writes about. He takes you into their own thoughts and feelings and allows you to view the individual as if you were right there with them, living out the actual experiences; because McCullough goes back to their own personal diary notes, letters, quotations recorded by others; woven in a context of actual life, as recorded by the person themselves and other relatives, friends, business associates, and here, political connections. This, like every David McCullough biography I've read, reads like a novel. The introduction he gives of his subjects puts you right there, and you almost find yourself reaching out your hand to shake hands with them.

    I'd like to write more, but the house is quiet now and I am drawn to my lazy boy recliner where I can pick up and read more of David McCullough's TRUMAN....more info
  • A vivid portrait of an outstanding American President
    This biography of President Harry S. Truman achieves what very few books of any kind ever achieve -- it combines being an irresistible page-turner, with great length (I bought the Kindle edition; the hardcover edition is big enough to use as a doorstop), and incredible thoroughness. When the reader completes reading this book, he or she will know about all that is worth knowing about President Truman, his life, and his political career. This time period was one of the critical stages of America's own social and political development, and this combines to make this biography by David McCullough a very important work, worthy of the reader's attention.

    The distinguishing feature of this biography is its readability. I simply could not put it down. And this is an extremely detailed book. It takes the reader through President Truman's young adulthood, his hardscrabble years as a farmer, his early political career with the Pendergast political machine in Missouri, and his eventual ascent to Senator, then President, then elder statesman. Few details are omitted, and as far as I could tell none that anyone would want to know.

    The times of Harry Truman were remarkable. As a young man, he spent ten years as a farmer on a modest farm, performing backbreaking labor, at a time when 9 out of 10 American farms had no electricity. President Truman's remarkable health and stamina, which were one of his hallmarks as President, perhaps derive from the fact that in his early years he was no desk-bound slouch. The book makes no bones about the fact that Truman's entry into politics was sponsored by the Pendergast political machine, which was no more honest than the Tammany machine in New York, or perhaps even the Chicago machine. And yet author McCullough makes a strong case that despite this, Harry Truman was known for his honesty even as a candidate sponsored by this political machine. Truman amassed no financial wealth from his involvement in Missouri state politics at a time when many of his colleagues were becoming rich through graft. This should help put to rest lingering criticisms of Truman that still surface from time to time, that he dirtied his hands in his involvement in the Pendergast political corruption. It simply is not true.

    McCullough's analysis of the Truman Presidency is nothing short of brilliant. General George Marshall, Dean Acheson, and other leading members of the Truman Administration literally come to life in this vivid and very thorough biography. One comes to see that America was very fortunate that Harry Truman was the man to step into the Presidency upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. And yet, McCullough dispels the myth that this was unexpected. To the contrary, both Truman and most other top politicians expected FDR to die in office, and in selecting Senator Harry Truman for the Vice-Presidency in 1944, many "in the know" politicians, including Truman himself, knew that they were selecting the next President, given the (correct) expectation that FDR would succeed in his bid for a fourth term of office. Indeed, when he met FDR so poor was the President's health and appearance that Truman worried that he would not survive to take the oath of office at his fourth inauguration.

    Truman's 1948 campaign against Thomas Dewey, the Republican candidate, is covered in amazing detail. McCullough seems to have covered about every top of the famed "whistle stop campaign" in which Truman criss-crossed the United States by train in order bring his campaign directly to the country. This was undoubtedly the last time any American politician will take his case so directly to the people, unfiltered by the media or indeed by anything. The country liked what it saw, and this resulted in what is still considered to be the greatest political upset of all time.

    When I reached the last part of the book, the Truman post-presidency years, I expected to be bored. Not at all. In some ways this was the most insightful part of the story. When the Truman Library was established, Harry Truman often worked there, five or six days a week. Imagine: early telephone callers to the library would often speak with President Truman himself, who would unselfconsciously explain the operating hours of the library, and give directions. Truly, this was a man who did not think that he was better than the rest of us.

    Rarely indeed have I had the opportunity to read something this worthwhile, with this much enjoyment. This biography is destined to be one of the great ones. Highly recommended....more info
  • Citizen Politician
    People tend to forget what a citizen politican looks like. Today our government is littered with career bureaucrats seeking the perks of office and forgetting to legislate in a modest manner. McCulloch paints a forgiving portrait for a once reviled President that, at 1000 pages, is terribly short as a page turner. From Truman's tortured decision to use the atomic bomb (for which he knew so little about) on Japan, to his unpopular decision to release General McArthur, we get a sense of man who took no decision lightly. Truman's character is amply shared with the reader, tracing his humble Missourian roots to an accidental presidency, all marked with the traits of common decency, hard work and intelligence. Today's career politician can learn from this outstanding work. ...more info
  • Definitive
    Outstanding read. Provides the reader with a good understanding of the man and his times....more info
  • The Truman You Never Knew
    While this is not a myth-creating book, you will find it impossible to read this biography and come away as anything less than a fan of a decent man who did his best under difficult circumstances. I have always respected McCullough's research and attention to detail, but this book is also just a cracking good read.

    Many have been brought up - perhaps by the educationocracy that still worships at the altar of Marxism and FDR - with the caricature of Harry Truman as a bumbler selected for his insignificance who fell into office and then screwed it up. He has also been portrayed in pro-military circles as the personification of foolish political interference in military matters; yet with his experience in World War I he had as much military experience in the most brutal conflict on record as any prior or subsequent President except those few who were career military men. FDR, by contrast, winner of the greatest war this nation ever fought, had no military service except as Secretary of a peacetime Navy, and as one of the richest men in America was hardly in a position to sincerely understand the problems of regular people.

    We all know of the Truman-Dewey polling fiasco, his decision to use the atom bomb, and probably of his conflict with MacArthur. But unless you are a history buff of that era, you do not know of his reluctant climb through the party machine, his financial dependence on his parents-in-law, his valiant service in the short but ugly experience of World War I, his creation of and service on the committee for overseeing waste and abuse during World War II, and Bess Truman's total unsupportiveness in his White House years. McCullough does not gloss over any of this, and indeed it is these experiences perhaps that shape Truman's character (something that many of our recent politicians lack utterly).

    Those of us who are accustomed to the imperial Presidencies, and the strange but never-investigated accrual of wealth by politicians of all classes who come into office as middle-class and leave office as multi-millionaires, will be astounded to learn that when he completed his term as President, he just went home to Independence and lived more or less on the financial edge, with a minimal pension after a lifetime in public service, and he was politically persecuted for the rest of his life by the Republicans because he was all that was left of the FDR administration that had persecuted THEM, and by the Democrats because he was all that was left of the FDR administration yet he was not FDR.

    Truman was a plain-spoken person who never lost track of his farming roots. For this reason the Eastern aristocracy looked down on him, even as they were embracing the principles of Marxism, and in the scholastic presses (which until recently were based almost exclusively in Boston and New York) he was denigrated because he was not the demigod Roosevelt (who as we now know was mostly a caricature himself by 1940). And since 1970 or so he has been overlooked by Republicans because they were not in search of a Democratic role model, and by today's anti-American Democrats because he inconveniently seemed to be quite sincere in actually believing in truth, justice and the American way.

    Perhaps the status of limitations for political correctness is about 50 years. In that case, now is the time to read McCullough's balanced portrait of a great American....more info
  • Great book -- good writing
    The book, although long was an interesting read. I would have liked a little bit more detail on his early political career and his encounters with the mob....more info
  • First class with some editing; too long
    Good book. McCullough needed an editor to bring this down to Edmund Morgan size, the master of the concise history book....more info
  • Right man at the right time in history
    I never really got Truman until I read this book. He was a man driven by principles who sought integrity from all he dealt with. The rise to Presidency was by chance. He was given the VP slot because of his popularity from recent Senate inquiries into overbilling from US contractors in WWII.

    He was the right person at the right time. He was not liked by others in the adminstration when he came to power, but be won them over with his style of leadership. Would another had the guts to use the BOMB to end WWII? As hard as the decision was for Truman, he made it and stood behind it.

    I have a deeper appreciation for the man after reading the book. I always love McCullough's work - it reads in a linear fashion. ...more info
  • A splendid work - worth two Pulitzers
    I had very high expectations for this work after reading `John Adams' years ago. I wasn't disappointed. `Truman' merits two prizes -the first for a faultless, vivid narrative; and a second for a riveting subject portrayed in the fullness of his time.

    Far from a partisan tome, it exposes an honest, unaffected man with all his rough edges. It's a story of one familiar with hard work, adversity, failure and success; a man whose drive and curiosity shamed piers with higher education, but never led him to fail to acknowledge modest roots. Judged by his faults, challenges, and accomplishments one cannot but feel lucky he served.

    Readers should be warned they will need some arm strength for this volume (a 992 page text). More importantly (given the quality), they will wish it was twice as long....more info
  • The Common King
    This book is as rich in importance as the subject himself. Truman will be the last of the common-man presidents, and McCullough (an icon himself) presents this in such magnificent style. Truman, with his farm background, surely is the last person who will ever rise to this high office without having gotten a college degree. Great tidbits of relatively unknow elements of the Truman life: No middle name, birth tree, friendships, farmhouse, etc. For so long Truman has been ignored as one of the greatest of Presidents, this changes that image. HST should be in the Top 10...and this book on your "To Read List."...more info
  • The Last Great American?
    David McCullough writes sympathetic biographies. Whether it is John Adams or Harry Truman, what you get is a look at the heart of the man as that man interacts with, responds to and general confronts, the issues of his day. As opposed to someone, like... say Pringle in his bio of Theodore Roosevelt, McCullough is not content to let the facts speak for themselves. His desire is to represent the man and this book does that extremely well.

    I titled the review because: (1) Harry Truman was in fact an "American" in the traditional sense of the word. When you speak of "American values", at least up until the seismic shift of the 1960's, Truman distilled them all. Honesty, integrity, loyalty and patriotism governed his life alongside and built upon an implicit faith in humanity and the future. Those things built a great nation. (2) the "last great" because truly "apres moi le deluge" applies as well to Truman as to Louis XIV. Eisenhower, JFK, Johnson, Nixon... the spin and the decline are self-evident - at least from a "traditional American" view.

    This book is very useful for reminding us what the human animal can be. Truman's politics are not my own. I probably wouldn't have voted for him on all his domestic policies. But there is no doubt I would have enjoyed him as a man and a friend... and what says the most about Truman is... I am pretty sure he would have enjoyed me also.

    Read it and make your adult kids read it too. ...more info
  • Harry S. Truman - a Great President
    This is far and away the best Presidential biography I've ever had the pleasure of reading. The subject, Harry S. Truman is a likable man who rose to the office of President in an unlikely manner and is the last common man to earn that office. The Biographer is a fabulous storyteller who creates a tapestry of Truman's life that is complex in detail but simply explains his rise and the choices he made along the way.

    Reaching back to the earliest white Missouri settlers, McCullough mixes together the elements that formed the family into which Truman was born - poor, hardworking farmers whose luck was never good, misfortune piling upon misfortune. From this Truman grew and became self-made time and time again. It always seems that Truman's about to thwarted in life, but instead he's just propelled in a new direction.

    Things I really like about Truman - he was loyal. He was loyal to his friends to a fault. He was loyal to his country and his family. To his wife whom he adored he was completely faithful. He was humble, wondering always at his good fortune even when his business was crumbling, the farm worthless, and his mother-in-law (who thought he was never good enough for her daughter, even when he was president of the United States of America). He took responsibility. When was the last time we heard the Chief Executive say, "I made the decision and I stand by it." Truman stood by his decisions and took responsibility for those under him. The Buck Stopped There.

    How did he come to prominence? - He joined the army late in life despite horrible eyesight, but he quickly found that men liked him and he could lead them. As an artillery officer he commanded respect from large groups of men. After World War I, he went back to Missouri and attempted to be a businessman, but failed. During that time he caught the attention of local party bosses because of his ability to lead men and influence their decisions, and he earned a spot as a county judge. From there he rose through the corrupt party organization of local boss, Tom Pendergast.

    He wasn't a wealthy man - ever. He was always worried about paying the bills and even when he was in the White House, he and his wife stuck to a strict budget to make ends meet. Despite his humble circumstances he never sold out his principles for money. He stayed true to himself.

    Truman was the most progressive president we've had. He proposed universal health care in the 40's. He pushed civil rights legislation, despite his own racism and antisemitism. Under Truman the G.I. Bill came to be, which arguably created the modern middle class in America by improving and not abandoning the veterans.

    He dropped the bomb. Yes he did. He did it and he took responsibility for it and he believed that it was the right thing to do. That's a point that can be argued ad infinitum. But what he did do is keep the control of nuclear weapons in the hands of civilian authorities. Why? Because it's not a military decision to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians, it's a political one. He was right about that.

    I could go on, but I won't. It's a startling work of nonfiction and I can't recommend it highly enough.

    - CV Rick, February 2008
    ...more info
  • McCullough's Best - A landmark Biography

    It takes a bit of courage to start on a 1000 page biography of a lesser known president (relative to Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt(s)). However, for those of you decide to jump in may find yourself transformed at how you look at politics and America as a whole.

    David McCullough has been given much (very well deserved) praise for his biography on John Adams. McCullough clearly deserved the attention (and the Pulitzer to boot), but it seems that "John Adams" has caused his work on Harry S. Truman to be overlooked. This is unfortunate, because in my opinion, Truman is a much more relevant and important that John Adams in today's society.

    In "Truman" McCullough paints a masterful (and I mean MASTERFUL) portrait of a small town farmer who found himself not only President of the United States but as one of the most important figures of World History. It really is an unbelievable that a man who worked on his farm until age 34 decided to enlist in the Army during WWI. His fame as an artillery Captain allowed him to enter the world of local politics. From there a few incredible breaks have him in the US Senate as a relative anonymous Senator. World War II allows him to use his military expertise to form the "Truman Committee" and the oversight of government military spending. An unlikely turn-of-events has him Vice President of the United States to a dying President. Up next....

    1- The Postdam conference with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin
    2- The dropping of the A-bombs in Japan
    3- The drafting of all the railroad workers into the Army
    4- Berlin airlift
    5- Korean war
    6- Firing of MacArthur

    To name a few of the more significant events that this farmer had to face during his presidency.

    McCullough paints a very vivid a lively man who never forgot the office that he represented, the people he served, or how he was raised. Truman is a model of a politician doing what they think is right and allowing the opinions to fall where they might. McCullough shows that what Truman lacked in polish he made up for in grit and determination.

    Final Verdict - McCullough's best work - probably one of the best biographies ever written. In addition, we are given an amazing history of the United States from 1910-1955.

    5 Stars - Must read for anyone who has the courage to tackle such a lengthy book.
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  • Where have the all the Harry Truman's Gone? - Superb, Pulitzer Deserved
    Reading the biography Truman by David McCullough is not just a history lesson but a lesson on how to be an American. From very average roots and background, Harry S. Truman became the President of the Greatest Country in the World during a time when he was needed most. What I learned most about the man was that he never gave up, never succumbed to his enemies, was kind to those around him and was loyal to a fault. As President, he honored and respected the position of power that he had and always looked forward to the effect that his decisions might have on the next Presidents.

    McCullough may not be the best writer or the best historian, but McCullough is best at bringing history to the masses of readers that might not otherwise have read something of this magnitude. It took McCullough ten years to research and write this book; it is easy to tell that McCullough's heart and soul is in this biography. There have been criticisms that McCullough likes his subjects too much and that might be true, but he still lays out the negatives, even if they are not dwelt upon.

    This book is not just about Truman; it is about the United States from 1884 through 1955. All of the events of that time are told through Truman's eyes and heart. This book examines the lives of regular people because Truman was just a regular American. He may be the last of the civilian politicians.

    There have been so many reviews of this book that I am sure that nothing I have to say is original, but this book is so good, that I would feel that I was letting down McCullough and Truman without at least putting my two cents in. I wished that I had started reading history and biographies 10-20 years ago, because books like this one are so entertaining and enjoyable and therefore 1000 pages is not daunting in the least. I couldn't wait each day to begin the next few pages of this book. I recommend this book to anyone that wants to learn about America and its recent history as well as learning and coming to know one of the most terrific personalities to inhabit the White Hous
    ...more info
  • Worthy of the hype
    I was never a fan of biographies until I read this one. The pacing is great and it's not a bit boring. I plan to read McCullough's other books, especially 1776. ...more info
  • Truman by David McCullough
    Excellent! Reading this book was like a review of my early life. Many questions I have always had about Truman and why he did what he did were answered completely. Anyone interested in modern American history should read this book....more info
  • Great Book, very engagging
    I really enjoyed this book. The book gets better as you get further into the book (that is not to say the start of the book is lacking anything). It does a great job staying focused on the man and not events of the time. WWII, The Atom bomb and other big events could have easily taken over this story and while the man of course had a big role to play in these things the book does great job staying focused on Truman and his life. ...more info
  • Fantastic read - who knew Truman was so interesting
    A typical McCullough read. He makes history exciting, interesting, and personal. Harry Truman comes to life in this book and you fell like you've lived through the era. It's a great way to learn about American history. I wish I'd had his books to read when taking American history in high school. He makes it so fascinating and memorable by giving you all those insights into the personal lives and thoughts of the historical figures. One of his best works and you get a lot for your money....more info
  • Its impossible to go wrong with McCullough
    It really is the definitive Truman bio, a man whom, ever since I read this, has been an important influence on me. A truly great president, endlessly fascinating and champion of the phrase "the buck stops here!" - well, the buck stops with this bio, too. Great....more info
  • Central Theme...Truman Himself...
    A lot of time has been spent in these user reviews over 1). How long the book is, 2). the author's so-called 'worship' of his subject, 3). the lack of inclusion of important affiliated details concerning his Presidency, i.e Marshall Plan [use a wiki] to name several.

    The book may have been further cut by say 100 pages, but you can always skip over a part you don't find interesting. In general, the sheer strength of Mr. McCullough's narration is the glue that holds your attention (1776 is another one, more so than President Adams). Many of the author's devices are written with a documentary for TV in mind, but you can sense his love of the printed word first and foremost.

    Truman was one of the few honest modern politicians ever. He certainly had his faults. But he made up for it by HARD WORK and determination. He was as big a contrast to Roosevelt as you could find, and more moral as well. Yet, he attempted to respect all around him. This surprised Washingtonians who were used to other types of remarks, belittlings, and judgements.

    The best parts of the book to me are the early years on the farm, the transfer of White House power, and the 1948 election campaign saga.

    I can recommend this book for a permanent place on your bookshelf without hesitation...more info