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Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S Truman
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Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S Truman

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  626 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
The Washington columnist Mary McGrory once wrote, " Since Harry Truman left town almost nobody has spoken his mind. Mr. Truman took the tradition of plain speaking back to Missouri with him."

Fortunately for history, Merle Miller followed. In the early 1960s, as preparation for a ill-fated series of television series, Miller talked in complete frankness with the former pres
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
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Aug 14, 2009 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plain Speaking is an excellent book for anyone interested in Harry S. Truman. The author, Merle Miller not only interviews Truman but many of his contemporaries including a former teacher from Independence, Missouri and past Truman administration officials. The book is at its best when Truman describes how he fired former General Douglas Macarthur and why he was confident that he would beat Thomas Dewey in the 1948 election. One incident shows the peril in underestimating Truman. As President, T ...more
Brandon O'Neill
Aug 10, 2012 Brandon O'Neill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to my Uncle Steve for dropping this off to me this summer. It was based on an in-depth set of interviews Miller did with Truman for a TV show that never came to be (the networks were not interested - can you imagine that happening now?). It has been said before, and I am thinking rightly after reading this, that Truman was the last regular guy in the presidency. He said he always did what he believed to be right, regardless of the criticism, trusting that the truth will eventually come o ...more
This is a fun read because it's like you're sitting next to Truman listening to an interview. You really get a sense for his personality. It's important to note that Miller conducted these interviews near the end of Truman's life--his recollections are not always totally accurate. David McCullough also comments that Truman was a bit more acerbic during the interviews (perhaps based on his age or a desire to make a point forcefully) than his overall history would suggest. But with its flaws, this ...more
Apr 06, 2016 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It was written in the last stage of Truman's life and it is occasionally cited as a primary source in other biographies and histories. Highly recommend.
Oct 15, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
Ah, Harry Truman. I admit, when I read the introduction to this book I thought Merle Miller was off his rocker. The intro was filled with accolades and praise. It seemed over the top. However, after reading Plain Speaking I too am a happy drinker of the Truman kool-aid. I ADORE this man!
Truman was a well read, no-nonsense, honest man who lived life simply and humbly. He was a man who always said what he meant and meant what he said. He was a man who strived to do what he believed was the right
Susan O
I really enjoyed reading this book. The only thing that kept it from being a higher rating is the possibility that Truman's quotes weren't accurate. In a few reviews I read it was stated that the book did not match the tapes that are being kept at the Truman library. I have not verified this myself, so don't know how true it is. That being said it was a delightful read. It seems very true to the picture I had developed in my mind after reading Truman by David McCullough.

The book consists of tra
Mar 16, 2015 Pammy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The interview work that originally occurred to assist in the production of a television series about President Harry S. Truman. The series concept lost momentum and history nearly lost the amazing stories told by Truman and virtually all those close to him during his entire life. Merle Miller, interviewer extraordinaire, pulled this oral autobiography of Truman as if this written format was the right approach all along.
I knew very little about President Truman as I began the was a rec
May 05, 2010 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: presidents
Well, Truman certainly had his share of crises . . . succeeding FDR, Korea, Israel, dropping the bomb, firing MacArther etc. But he managed with confidence and actionable decisions which he never questioned. I thought the author Miller was a bit too stuck on himself (Miller) and that turned me off a bit. Two surprises (1) what remains puzzling to me is why Truman hated Ike so much. In the biography of Eisenhower by Ambrose and in Crusade for Europe by Eisenhower, no such animosity was mentioned. ...more
Nov 26, 2013 Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've never read such an honest, eye-opening, life-changing biography. Merle Miller asks great questions and Truman does not disappoint. I am a teacher and I use some of the personal incidents Truman discusses for teaching the humanity he showed a sergeant who went out of his head during an attack during WWII and ran off. While Truman was pushed to court marshall the man, he decided to give him a second chance, saying that you have to have faith in people...otherwise you have nothing. ...more
Feb 17, 2014 Rory rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Merle Miller's overheated, sometimes egotistical writing dogs what could have been an even more valuable resource for historians and lovers of presidential history. Truman has a lot to say, all of it interesting, but you have to go through Miller to get there, and at times, it's almost not worth the battle. Whereas Harry Truman abhorred "playacting," as he put it, Miller revels in it. Woe is him, who expected to be more famous for his writing. And woe is us for the times we have to "wade through ...more
Geri Mariano
Nov 11, 2012 Geri Mariano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this in HS thanks to a recommendation by a favorite Social Studies teacher. I had loved President Truman after watching a mini-series on TV -- Backstairs at the White House. I came to respect him even more after reading Merle Miller's wonderful oral biography. The final chapter, Miller's question and Truman's answer have always stayed with me and I have quoted him often. Plain Speaking -- that's what Truman did -- if only our current politicians could follow his example.
Sep 26, 2008 Alie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I enjoyed very much reading this book. I reckon that a leader will be better understand about his/her decision whether he/she knows about history. Additionally, there is two things I should investigate bout relation between president and general also are civilian presidents better than non civilians?...
Jane Bozman
Apr 24, 2012 Jane Bozman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Plain speaking by Merle Miller is beautifully written. It describes President Truman as a president who wanted to maintain contact with average citizens. He used to drive his Secret SErvice people crazy by insisting on taking a stroll down the sidewalk. He clearly bristled when he was annoyed and let everyone around him know when he was not pleased.
Larry Basgall
Sep 18, 2014 Larry Basgall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as a young man. Well worth the red. Harry Truman who many vilify today and yesterday, gives an account of his life and his decisions as a man and as President of the United States. He is full of common sense and has a knack for expressing it for the common ear. This is a "Goodread" for all.
Dec 06, 2007 Lydia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truman always struck me a particularly dull president, even though he was involved in what was one of the most critical decisions the US ever made. I found this book fascinating. It was a glimpse into a complex character, and it made the person, not the holder of public office, forever replace "Truman" in my mind.
P McCree Thornton
Mar 06, 2012 P McCree Thornton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All readers who enjoy US history
An outstanding profile of a great President. A man who today would be considered a right-wing President. Harry Truman's honor and integrity are exemplified in this work by Merle Miller. A must read for those who are intrested in the presidency and the politics of the 1940's and 1950's.
Jo-Ann Murphy
Aug 19, 2011 Jo-Ann Murphy rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
I loved this book. It brings back fond memories. It is one of the few books I ever gave my father and something we shared. While no longer consideed a good history book, it is very easy reading and very entertaining.
Nov 15, 2008 Cindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed to format of this book. The oral history recorded made it so readable. Sometimes I am afraid of political commentaries, as being too deep or over my head, but this one taught me a lot about the time period, the issues, the humor or this controversial President.
Sep 07, 2007 Bryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Americans
straight from his mouth, it was fascinating to hear harry truman talk about what he did during his time in the white house. given that he presided over some really important moments in our history, it's all the more amazing. a great read after reading McCullough's Truman
Matthew Berkshire
Sep 24, 2011 Matthew Berkshire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Great book, that offers a lot of insight into the private thoughts of Harry Truman. He is the greatest of ADG men, and I am proud to have read this. I was amazed by his honesty, and the candid way in which he spoke of so many things that politicians would not speak of in this day.
Sep 06, 2012 Readstoomuch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in the late 1970's and just loved it so much. Thought that I needed to add it to my Goodreads book list! I will retread it someday . . . I still have the paperback, which I read the first time around.
Jul 19, 2007 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was the best way to get the real story from Harry Truman. Just put a tape recorder in front of him and let him talk. In his folksy way, Truman told the fascinating stoy of his life and his presidency.
Dec 18, 2016 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book written with feeling about a great and underrated President. One of the few that said what he meant and meant what he said. The book was also refreshingly written in plain English. That's rare for a political science and/or history book.
Oct 19, 2010 Elisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good read. Whether you agree with his politics or not, Truman was an interesting man with an equally interesting way of expressing his thoughts. "Give 'em hell" Harry is an appropriate nickname for the man!
Jan 23, 2008 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best bios on a president that I've read. Takes the actual words from Harry Trumans's mouth and puts them on paper. Facinating accounts of his dealings with Korea, the bomb and his thoughts on Roosevelt and Ike.
Torgeir Teigum
Sep 21, 2014 Torgeir Teigum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The last human being to occupy the White House" (author's saying).

Interesting to read about his clear decision to use the atomic bomb and his cooperation with Trygve Lie and the United Nations to stop the Korean war.
Nov 17, 2007 Vivablur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like oral biographies and love Harry Truman. I can't get over how many Midwest farmers read and mused on Greek and Roman literature! The 'Give 'Em Hell' reputation of Truman is all here, but he's a much more interesting person than that.
Nov 23, 2008 Sera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir, own
Interesting and quick read about President Truman. Originally created as an oral biography.
Judith Wrinkle
Sep 26, 2010 Judith Wrinkle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judith by: My Dad, Earl Ellis
A wonderful book about a very wonderful, honest and caring Man. Truman is one of my idols.........he had to make some hard decisions, lived in a terrible time but had "true grit".
Dec 01, 2010 Glenn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. Harry S. was a colorful character and this book shows him in his own words.
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Merle Miller, born in Montour, Iowa, wrote almost a dozen books, including more than half a dozen novels. His first, ''That Winter'' (1948), was considered one of the best novels about the postwar readjustment of World War II veterans. His other novels included ''A Day in Late September,'' set in suburban Connecticut on a Sunday in September 1960, ''The Sure Thing,'' ''Reunion,'' and his masterwor ...more
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