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Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness
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Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  509 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Howard Hughes has always fascinated the public with his mixture of secrecy, dashing lifestyle, and reclusiveness. This is the book that breaks through the image to get at the man. Originally published under the title Empire: The Life, Legend, and Madness of Howard Hughes.
Paperback, 688 pages
Published September 17th 2004 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1979)
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Sep 03, 2008 Maureen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Maureen by: George Dean
Shelves: biography
Howard Hughes lived life large. He simply did not exist in the same universe with the rest of the world. His cousin told me about a time that Howard had his car stolen. It was a brand new convertible. Howard told his cousin that he was not upset about losing the car, but about losing the Saturday Evening Post in the back seat. It had a serial in it that he had been reading.

Bartlett and Steele are two fine investigative reporters for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and they are able to wrap their gift
Money buy wealth one doesn't earn, fame that's an illusion, loyalty without true friendship, public admiration given no empathy; money also allow one pursue self-interest with no concern of others, cultivate human nature to evil growth, disclose the absurdity of life, and make HRH a spectacular loser!
Besides HHMI being the highest honor one can get in life science research as I was raised to admire, Marty and Leo's "Aviator" (supposedly inspired by this book) lured me to dig into HRH's real life
You know the Simpsons episode where Monty Burns runs a casino and lives in his room, afeared of Freemason-spruiking germs and wearing Kleenex boxes on his feet? Like this:

Well, that's basically the story of Howard Hughes, except Hughes isn't wearing any pyjamas. Oh, and he's jacking enough codeine and Valium to kill the average person. No biggie.

The book is exceptionally well researched - coming from a journalistic background it'd be a surprise if this wasn't the case, I suppose - but to the po
Howard Hughes sort of represents the American dream (nightmare). Talented yet misguided in business affairs. Sort of a dreamer who didn't have a practical bone in his body - yet had his Dad's money to do things.

He wanted to create, yet eventually destroyed everything he put his hands on. The great thing about this book is that they go into the money deals that were made and one wants to shake his shoulders and say to Hughes 'don't do it!"

One of the great things about this book is that they repr
I became interested in Howard Hughes after seeing 'The Aviator' (edited version)! He was definitely a womanizer and manipulator but you can't deny his courage and determination in both the field of movie production and aviation. The 'Spruce Goose' is on display at an air museum in McMinnville, Oregon which was very close to where we used to live so it had a lot more meaning for me when I got to see the plane after reading about Howard Hughes.
Grindy Stone
Comprehensive, though at times overly so - a digression into Howard Hughes' alleged roles in Watergate, for instance, added nothing to the reader's understanding of Hughes. Book lays out a lot of the goofy stuff that Howard Hughes did over his lifetime, but leaves it up to you to figure out the motivation for keeping his own urine in jars on the shelf, watching "Shanghai Express" over and over, dictating procedures on how his grilled cheese sandwiches are made - this book is a goldmine of anecdo ...more
Good thing I'm reading this 2 weeks until Christmas. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a 700 pg book on aviation and germaphobic warfare. I'm not complaining though. No one can pull off ocd sexier than Howard Hughes.
I find Howard Hughes to have been an utterly fascinating person and this book is about as thoroughly researched as a bio can be. Although I did enjoy it a great deal, I thought it got bogged down in too many details about the many many business dealings that Hughes was involved with, whether directly or those being done in his name. I wanted to learn more about Hughes the man rather than quite so much about his accomplishments and failures as an entrepeneur. I found myself becoming less interest ...more
The authors are Philadelphia newspaper reporters, and the book materially and stylistically reflects this - it is fairly light on the tits and ass, and long on the business dealings. The authors are quite critical of the Mormon Mafia and are not in love with Bob Maheu either. Hughes is portrayed as almost completely incompetent in his last year or two. Written so soon after Hughes's death, certain details are missing (e.g. later developments in the estate battle, and some of the Watergate revela ...more
Tom Hunter
If you ever want to read a book that makes you pity a rich person, this is your book. Hughes had the potential for a great life and because of mental illness, he threw it all away. Fascinating.
Edelhart Kempeneers
Ik wist wel dat de man in de laatste 10-20 jaren van zijn leven een wereldvreemde zonderling was geworden, maar dat zijn hele leven een aaneenschakeling was van wanbeleid en omkopingen, dat was nieuw voor mij. Een interessant boek, maar in sommige gedetailleerde beschrijvingen van zijn gedragingen soms toch een beetje langdradig.
Mike  Kelley

A great story of a deeply gifted and deeply flawed individual. One of those individuals who in retrospect could only have been an American. Handsome playboy, aeronautical engineer, filmmaker, businessman, and billionaire.

Probably the closest this country has come to producing an ubermensch. Hughes left the impression of being a force, an individual so powerful that the challenges which keep us all interested and humble never seemed to exist for him, only those fantastic visions and inspiration
Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness is a detailed account of Hughes' business dealings, and his descent into illness and self-imposed isolation. Authoritative and well-researched, it was the first biography of Hughes that I felt explained his major breakdown in 1957, when he spent months in one room watching movies over and over, naked and urinating on the floor. The book is lengthy in places, particularly when discussing the complicated lawsuits involving TWA, but the insight into Hughes' probl ...more
I have been to Howard Hughes' grave in Houston. It is a nondescript little spot near the entrance of the cemetery. You get no indication of what the man was about from his plot. This book fills it all in for you.It stars off with Hughes on his private plane, trying to push a syringe full of Codeine into his feeble junky arm, and from there recounts his whole twisted life. Everyone thinks they know the crazy stories about Howard Hughes, it is a cliche' after all. The (heavily documented) truth is ...more
I think I'll have some blue bombers, a few 8E's, then end the day with a big E. Wow Howard Hughes was totally fucking nuts.
The writing itself is just fine. Exactly what I would expect and want from a biographer. However, despite what I thought going into the book, and from what I remember of the movie staring the awesome Leo DiCaprio, the subject matter, Mr. Hughes, was awful. The man was, for the most part, a failure. Paranoid, delusional, a generally terrible businessman, bad with people and relationships, selfish, and of course, a drug addict. It became too much of a chore to read this long, detailed book about s ...more
Tara Sokolich
I am currently reading this book, as I've always been fascinated by with Mr. Hughes. Such a "Brilliant" man who was classically conditioned by his mother with many phobias, that eventually, lead to his madness! However, I also think nature play a part with his genius and dysfunction. Bipolar disorder (manic depressive) was the first thing that came to mind with Howard's inability to complete a task and eccentric behavior. Any who... Look forward to the last couple of chapters. Very good read!! H ...more
Sarah Ringerud
The subject was fascinating, and I'm glad I read this, but for me the book bogged down in multiple places.
Apr 05, 2008 Wendy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes biographies
Recommended to Wendy by: after watching "The Aviator",wanted to know more about Howard Hu
Shelves: already-read
I don't know what I was thinking trying to read a biography or autobiography. I realized I don't like it for some reason. No plot, no suspense, just facts about Howard Hughes and what a nut case he was.

However, it was interesting to know how he was raised and why he became so obsessive compulsive. I don't even remember if I finished the book, but I'm sure I did. It just took me about a year to finish it.
The best, and first, book to offer a look at the Real Hughes.
Written shortly after Hughes' death, this book broke the news about his actual condition; both physically and mentally.
Some chapters can be dry due to the detailed accounts of various legal and business wranglings but it's still a good read.
Isa Konrad
Well written. The author did a huge amount of research and evidently studied thousands of documents. Unfortunately the reader is spared none of it, so that especially the second half of the book, when Hughes' life takes a turn - no, Olympic loops - for the bizarre, reads like madness itself.
Mohak Bhambry
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beth Hickman
A fascinating and complicated life, man and mind. It was a tough book to get through because of the incredible detail, but the story is so amazing - touching all aspects of our nations's economy, security and popular culture throughout his life.
Matthew Spencer
It was pretty fascinating. Satiated a lot of my curiosity after watching the Aviator. Almost too many details which made it a chose at times. Only briefly addresses things after his death, I wish there was more.
Annika Cleeve
What a complex, mad genius! I love a good character and this one takes the cake. His actions would never happen today, it is great to see how far mental health stigma has come.
Lots of fascinating stuff in here about the recluse Hughes however you have to wade through too much detail about his business empire.
Jordan Fuller
I was amazed at what this guy did. I feel he went crazy from all the ideas he could get from paper to the real thing. What a great book.
Rick Smeaton
It was interesting to see what ultimately happened to Huges and what really was going on behind the facade that he nurtured.
Mar 18, 2013 Piyush rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Howard Hughes cray. Mormons go hard. Can be overly specific at times.
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