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4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  45,723 Ratings  ·  1,669 Reviews
The Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Harry S. Truman, whose presidency included momentous events from the atomic bombing of Japan to the outbreak of the Cold War and the Korean War, told by America’s beloved and distinguished historian.

The life of Harry S. Truman is one of the greatest of American stories, filled with vivid characters—Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Elean
Paperback, 1120 pages
Published June 14th 1993 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1992)
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AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 AJ Griffin rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people with fantastic attention spans, lots of time, and at least a slight interest in the subject
For some reason or another, I had to read this book in 3 days. It was like a full time job, considering it's about 3284293842034820384238 pages long. I did it though, and for about two months or so I was a motherfucking Harry Truman expert. Then I forgot almost everything.

Anyway, if you want seem like a history encyclopedia for a little while, take a three-day weekend and rip this bad boy open. Maybe you'll get laid.

(one word of caution: reading this gave me the temerity to say "mcarthur was a g
I was shocked that a presidential biography could be so good. Many readers had praised the Truman book, but I thought they were exaggerating. I was happy to be proven wrong.

I think there are several reasons why "Truman" was so compelling. First and most importantly was the man himself. So epic was his odyssey that Truman seemed like a character in a novel. Harry S. Truman was born in a small town in Missouri and he grew up on a farm. He was bookish, played the piano and wore glasses, which preve
Oct 22, 2013 Chrissie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ETA: I adored this book when I read it, but now my perspectives are a bit changed....... I am currently reading American Prometheus by Kai Bird. It is essential to get another view on Truman's actions and choices concerning atomic weapons, the arms race and the Cold War. To get a fuller understanding of the time and era I strongly recommend reading American Prometheus too!


I listened to the audiobook format of this book, that means more than 54 hours, and I e
Excellent read for lining up all the threads of a great leader's life in a narrative that flows like the story from a novel. Even at 1,000 pages, so much history passed through Truman's hands that major events such as the decision to bomb Hiroshima and the Korean War have to slip by with only a few pages. What comes through as a thread in the whole tapestry is the fundamental decency of the man, a pragmatism typical of farmers who face diverse challenges day by day, and a core belief in fairness ...more
Aug 24, 2016 Manray9 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Few presidents have made as many pivotal decisions or faced the number of history-changing events as Harry Truman -- the final five months of World War II, the Potsdam conference, the birth of atomic warfare, the post-war nationwide rail strike, the Marshall Plan, the partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel, the Czechoslovak coup d'etat, the Berlin Airlift, war in Korea and the relief of Douglas MacArthur, the formation of NATO, the reorganization of the U.S. defense establishment and ...more
Jun 19, 2008 Christine rated it it was amazing
David McCullough is a master, plain and simple. Who else could make a 992 page paperback biography compulsively readable? I knew essentially nothing about Harry Truman before reading this biography, and now I think he might be my favorite president. Truly a man of the people, who never let the highest office in the country go to his head, Truman made difficult decisions that would have crippled other men within the first four months of his presidency. While not all of his policies were popular d ...more
Lisa Greer
Feb 01, 2008 Lisa Greer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs, everyone
Oh, yes, I am ambitious. This book must be 1000 pages. It's huge... and interesting so far. And it won a Pulitzer. I'm reading it because McCullough's bio of John Adams made me bawl like a baby when I got near the end. I mean-- how can one not cry upon reading about Adams and Jefferson BOTH living until and dying on July 4th, the same July 4th, out of sheer will? I wish more Americans and people in general knew these stories and of these people rather than just knowing a lot of fiction. And I do ...more
Lynne King
Apr 20, 2013 Lynne King rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
I see that Steve has recently given a marvellous, in-depth review of this splendid biography on Harry S. Truman’s life that I purchased way back on 30 October 1992 (I always date my books for reference) and so I won't even attempt to write a review such as his but then I probably wouldn't have been capable of doing that anyway. This after all is American history.

I had forgotten that I had this book but I had been browsing through another goodreads' author’s books (I always do this if they "like"
Mikey B.
Apr 17, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing
A good and complete biography of Truman. David McCullough describes well the political events surrounding the era and his climb to power – which was gradual but well earned. Truman was only two years younger than Roosevelt but in far better health. He was a vastly different person more prone to indiscretions. Even so he survived well in a turbulent era - the end of World War II, taking the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, the commencement of the Cold War, the creation of the state of I ...more
RJ Corby
Feb 22, 2008 RJ Corby rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant book about one of our finest

David McCullough's "Truman" has won many accolades and awards, chief among them the Pulitzer Prize. After reading this wonderful book from cover-to-cover in less than a week, I'm convinced that this book deserves all of the praise it has received, and more.

"Truman" is the ultimate, complete package in a presidential biography. Even a novice of 20th century history (this writer included) would have a list of important events that he or she would wan
Erin Hepner
Jan 27, 2009 Erin Hepner rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History nuts and Politicos, and anyone interested in very detailed portraits of lives.
With the elections coming up, I think it is important for everyone to take a good look at what a presidency is all about. This book was particularily interesting to me, because the author is so detail-oriented, you really get a perfect sense of where this man came from, and how he came to be the leader of the free world at that time.

We have to remember that the people in the history books were once just 'real men', with flaws, dreams, and families. Sometimes it's not all policy and hogwash; Som
Aug 13, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
McCullough tackles a political biography sure to reveal much to the reader. For many, Harry Truman is “the president who dropped the bomb” and little else. Any reader who takes the time to digest all that is on offer (a great feat for those who first look at the length of the tome) will soon learn that Truman is much more complex than first presumed. McCullough chooses key moments in Truman’s life and expounds on them, one building off the other, leading to a better understanding of why Truman c ...more
Nov 15, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it

I am 65 years old. I have spent my whole life thinking that politics was stupid and not worth knowing anything about; that even in a democracy, politics and therefore government offered no solution to the troubles of mankind. Now I have to eat at least some of my words and admit that as an American it is important for me to have a glimmering of how politics works. That is what reading this endless biography about Truman did for me.

I read it, in part, as research for my memoir. Harry S Truman was
This was quite a book, written by quite an author about quite a man. I was totally over the top in my admiration for both Mr Truman as well as David McCullough. What a job he did bringing Harry S. Truman to life for generations to come. To read about Mr Truman made one feel proud and fortunate. Our country was so lucky to have had a man like Mr Truman in control of our government during this, a most unnerving time of our history.

Harry Truman's downhome goodness and ability to see matters in a c
Fred Bomer
Mar 08, 2011 Fred Bomer rated it it was amazing
Fascinated by the detail and Mr. McCullough's ability to transport me back to the time period. Additionally, I am developing a tremendous respect for Mr. Truman's civility and dedication to "correctness" and his tremendous respect for others. -

Time well spent - Excellent book in detail, narrative and storyline! I have really enjoyed this book and recommend it toanyone wanting both historical infomation and an understanding o the unchanging nature of Politics!!!
Oct 16, 2016 Steve rated it it was amazing

“Truman” is David McCullough’s 1992 biography of the 33rd president. It was the first comprehensive biography of Truman and earned the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in the Biography category. McCullough is a highly-acclaimed author and historian who is probably best known for his 2001 biography of John Adams. He is currently working on a book about the early settlers of the Northwest Territory tentatively titled “The Pioneers.”

True to its reputation, this biography
Jun 27, 2012 Larry rated it liked it
Lifted from my review at
While it's Ok for a historian to like the subject of the biography, he should not love him. David McCullough likes Harry Truman a bit too much. As a result he seldom takes a critical view of Truman's Presidency, politics or personal life. This is disappointing given that Harry Truman was the President at probably the key juncture of twentieth century - the end of War World II and the beginning of the Cold War. More time is spent describing the whistle-stop camp
Jul 13, 2015 Heidi'sbooks rated it it was amazing
I finished Truman!! It took me a month, but at 992 pages of text and over 120 pages of notes I think I did well.

This is another 5 star book from one of my favorite authors. It ranks up there with his book John Adams, and I can certainly understand why it received the Pulitzer Prize.

The book covers an astonishing array of subjects, Truman's heritage and childhood, his work as a farmer, his shaky rise as a senator and vice president, his astonishing first days as president, the atom bomb, dealings
Aubrey Dustin
Mar 24, 2013 Aubrey Dustin rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Harry S. Truman inherited the presidency upon the death of one of the most popular presidents in history, Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the climax of one of America’s greatest struggles. He made the difficult decisions that brought World War II to a close with the bang of nuclear power. He propelled George C. Marshall, the nation’s best, but least known, General, to the success that won him a Nobel Peace Prize and fired the nation’s best known general, Douglas MacArthur, for the insubordination ...more
Fast pacing, easy to read biography of a remarkable man of upmost integrity. Nobody seemed to believe in him, but in the end he proved to be a great president. He was able to contain communism and defend the world peace.
Aug 26, 2016 Corinne rated it it was amazing
The only thing I knew about Harry Truman before reading this book was a recollection of the famous picture of him holding up a newspaper that read "Dewey Defeats Truman."

I am amazed at Truman's hard work, integrity, and love of people. He wasn't perfect, of course, but there is much in this book to inspire. I never fully understood his contributions to the post-WWII world, such as the Marshall Plan, the Truman doctrine, containment of atomic bomb, containment of the Cold War, or his courageous
Apr 13, 2016 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll be honest, when the book opened with Truman's grandparents settling in Missouri, I almost gave up. Presidential biographies are long enough (this one clocks in at over 1100 pages) without giving extensive family history. But I'm glad I stuck it out. I'm pretty foggy on American history of this period (I barely knew Truman was the one to drop the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima), so it was a really good way to close a few loops.

The Truman years were an interesting political moment for a vari
James Murphy
Oct 19, 2012 James Murphy rated it it was amazing
Today Harry Truman, unpopular while he served, carries a reputation as one of our strongest presidents. I believe this biography must have contributed to the positive perception we have of him today. As biography I think it very good. Truman is always seen in the context of the times he lived in, so that McCullough writes him as a turn-of-the-century farmer, or a First World War soldier, or a Missouri politician. Biographies, such as this one, written to present the subject as a product and play ...more
What a ride (a 55+ hour one to be precise, for those of you who are listening to this as an audiobook, as I did). Truman's life and presidency span what I think of in my made-up historical heuristics as "the olden times" to modernity (e.g. hey, my parents were alive for that!). From his bespectacled adventures in WWI to his early decisions re. Vietnam, the biography of Harry S (stands-for-nothing) Truman was a fascinating window into the makings of modern America.

As I've been concurrently readi
Been quite an undertaking to read this huge book but who would have thought that a 992 page political biography could be so fascinating.
Before starting this, all I knew about Harry Truman was that he was the president who took over from FDR at the end of WW2 and made the decision to use the atomic bomb. But if you google rankings of US presidents, he ranks very high (top 10)so I was intrigued to find out why that was.

It is hard to think of a book that I have learnt more from - I now know how he
Sep 06, 2014 Don rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
I originally read this book in 1997. I remember the year because Clinton's intern scandal was making the headlines and a comment Truman made about him having no respect for politicians who fooled around stood out. He felt someone with such poor character was unqualified for public office. Hey, it could be a way to shrink government!

I remember that Truman got just about all of the important decisions right, even though he was not very popular at the end of his presidency. I thought it would be wo
Jan 04, 2016 Mahlon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Certainly one of the best Presidential Biographies I've read, and I've read many.

I probably started this book in 1994. I used it in research for many papers in college, and by the time I graduated really felt like I'd "read" it.

When I discovered Goodreads 7 years ago, I realized that I had only chronologically gotten Truman up to WWI. However, even the invention of Kindle failed to get it very high up my priority list. Therefore, when I discovered Audible, I knew Truman should be one of my firs
Dec 29, 2014 Max rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
McCullough’s engaging portrayal of Harry Truman depicts a man of integrity, a trait rare in politicians. As president, his simple straightforward approach often led to extreme unpopularity. His inexperience and initial indecisiveness took its toll. But Harry Truman’s best quality as Clark Clifford noted, “was Harry Truman’s capacity to grow.” Thrust into a job for which he was ill prepared, Truman overcame his shortcomings working through an onslaught of difficult problems to provide genuine lea ...more
Jeremy Perron
Nov 30, 2011 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing
David McCullough in the Pulitzer Prize winning work recreates the fiery Harry S. Truman for his readers. Once dismissed as just an accidental president, Harry Truman was considered to be just a seat warmer for the next commander-in-chief. Truman would prove to be one of the nation's best, leading the United States out of World War II and into the early days of the Cold War. McCullough's writes with the same brilliant narrative in this work that I had found in when I read his 1776.

I have to admi
I’m still trying to finish my 52 Books Around the USA Challenge for 2013. With only a handful of books left, I’m eager to get through them and move on to the 2014 challenge. And my Missouri pick, Truman, all 1117 pages of it, kept staring at me from the bookshelf. Okay. I admit I have been putting this off. It’s big. It’s intimidating. And was Harry S. Truman all that interesting of a President? The answer, I soon found out, was yes!

I challenged myself to read it next, and I wasn’t disappointed.
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David McCullough has been widely acclaimed as a “master of the art of narrative history,” “a matchless writer.” He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, twice winner of the National Book Award, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

(update: His most recent book is The Wright Brothers, published on May 5th 2015 by Simon & Schuster.)

Mr. McCullou
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“He loved politics in large part exactly because it meant time spent with men like Cactus Jack Garner(who would be remembered for observing that the vice presidency was not worth a pitcher of warm piss).” 4 likes
“Lord, grant that I may always be right, for Thou knowest I am hard to turn,” 3 likes
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