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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  33,699 ratings  ·  1,340 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 AJ Griffin rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Steve Sckenda
May 04, 2015 Steve Sckenda rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Inspired by Ordinary People of Authenticity and of Grandeur
David McCullough celebrates the life of Harry S. Truman, the unlikely president, in this Pulitzer-Prize-winning biography. Truman (1945-52), prosecuted the Second World War to its apocalyptic conclusion and then reorganized the national security infrastructure for the Cold War. This review will not recount the famous events of Cold War history on Truman’s watch: the United Nations; Korea; NATO; the Marshall Plan; Israeli Statehood; the Berlin Airlift, NSC 68; and the Election of 1948-- but will ...more
Diane Librarian
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
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
Lisa Greer
Feb 01, 2008 Lisa Greer rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Lynne King
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"
RJ Corby
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 5 of 5 stars
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
Fred Bomer
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!!!
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
Mikey B.
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

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
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
James Murphy
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
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
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
Aubrey Dustin
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
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.
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
John Frazier
For years I've looked at this book on the shelves, wanting to know more about Harry Truman but wondering what on earth about his story could warrant a thousand pages of prose. Now I know.

As much a chronicle of the times of his life as it his lifetime, this is a fascinating look at the man who found himself as the leader of the free world when that term was most in jeopardy. From his days on the family farm to WWI to his own business as a haberdasher to the senate to the White House and beyond, t
Aaron Arnold
I actually put this book down for months about halfway through, even though it made me respect Truman a lot more than I did before. Why didn't I race through it? You see, I had been recommended this book after reading Robert Caro's superlative The Years of Lyndon Johnson series, my current gold standard for biographies. Truman was a walk-on character in Caro's books but he seemed like an interesting guy, and David McCullough, who is a fairly well-known historian (the recent John Adams miniseries ...more
"There is no indispensable man in a democracy...When a republic comes to a point where a man is indispensable, then we have a Caesar." Harry S. Truman

This was an interesting, if relatively shallow, examination of Harry Truman's entire life. If you want the highlights of Truman's life and presidency, this is for you: The atomic bomb, FDR's death, The Korean War, General MacArthur, "Dewey Defeats Truman", it's all there.

However, if you're looking to understand Truman (his motivations, his passions
Melise Gerber
I was floored by this book. Although I studied American History in college and graduate school, I never seemed to make it past the Depression, and so I really had very little concept of what Harry Truman had accomplished.

What was most incredible to me is how much Truman (at least in McCullough's retelling) was truly willing to do what he thought was best for his constituents--whether that was his local district, or the entire country--no matter how much it might impact his political future.

In a
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
Dec 24, 2010 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
David McCullough is an amazing writer of history. He has lots of documentation to support what he writes, yet he has a wonderful writing style that read quite like a novel in many respects. I only had limited knowledge of Truman, and this book filled in the blanks. Sometimes the book gave more detail than I felt was necessary, but overall an excellent look at the former President and the real Truman. Well worth reading.
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
Excellent, human biography of the self-underrated president who led the U.S. during a period of unimaginable change and danger. McCullough writes wonderfully, with a dramatist's flair but without gilding the lily whatsoever. This is a richly rewarding experience for history buffs and anyone interested in great biography.
I'm no historian, but I enjoy hearing about it. David McCullough hasn't disappointed me yet. He has a wonderful voice, and always makes the story come to life when he speaks.
I knew so little about Truman before this book. What a wonderful man he was. Typical politicians that love to lie to get what they want make me cringe. Harry Truman wasn't that kind of man. I bet I would have enjoyed meeting him, had we lived in the same time.
His surprising rise to the presidency is truly astonishing. So muc
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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).” 2 likes
“When a bill was put before the state legislature in Jefferson City that would have prohibited anyone who owned a saloon from holding elective office and reporters asked what he thought of it, Alderman Jim said probably the bill was intended as a way of improving the reputation of saloonkeepers.” 1 likes
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