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Kissinger

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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  1,112 ratings  ·  51 reviews

By the time Henry Kissinger was made secretary of state in 1973, he had become, according to the Gallup Poll, the most admired person in America and one of the most unlikely celebrities ever to capture the world's imagination. Yet Kissinger was also reviled by large segments of the American public, ranging from liberal intellectuals to conservative activists. Kissinger ex

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Paperback, 896 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group (first published 1992)
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Steven Peterson
Walter Isaacson, who has written esteemed biographies of Benjamin Franklin, The Wise Men, and Einstein, tackles the complex character of Henry Kissinger, academic, diplomat, and consultant. Kissinger is a difficult character to pin down, as Isaacson notes. He was devious, self-promoting, self-deprecating, intelligent, ambitious, and successful. The author interviewed over 150 people--including Kissinger himself--to gather information for this lengthy volume (767 pages of text).

At the outset, Is
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Ben Haymond
This book is sort of an introductory course in American foreign policy in itself. Isaacson delves into Kissinger's philosophy of international relations, its flaws and strengths. But, this book is not a dry academic text by any means. It is a riveting character study of Kissinger and also to a lesser extent of President Nixon. As Kissinger is quoted in the book as saying, personality shapes history. Nixon's and Kissinger's strange clashing and complementary relationship surely shaped history. As ...more
Ubaid Dhiyan
My impression of Henry Kissinger has long been that he was an incredibly manipulative and cold man who conducted foreign policy with a ruthless disregard for morality. Sideshow by William Shawcross that I read recently only reinforced that view. Walter Isaacson's biogarphy helps to put the man in perspective, and though Kissinger doesn't quite come out here as an an angel of peace and mercy, his accomplishments as a statesman get equal footing with his shortcomings as a decent human being and po ...more
Abdul
The ultimate sycophant whom one can argue helped lead to the downfall of a president. While it is a long book, it contains valuable gems about the life and times of Henry Kissinger.

How ironic that a man who escaped from totalitarian rule could act in the very same way when it came to his turn in power. Proving once again those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

His penchant for secrecy, covert action and celebrity has been un-paralleled in US history. In the end
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Shouvik
Walter Isaacson is a master at narrating the tangled arcs of an extraordinary person's life. He tried his best to narrate a great tale with Kissinger, and the first several chapters seem to be leading you to something. There are amazing stories in HK's early life, particularly when he returned to Germany in his early 20's, became the de-facto prince of a small county, lived in a castle, and dated the wife of a Nazi aristocrat he imprisoned. Amazing! But then Kissinger grew old, and so did his bi ...more
Erwin
Starts off very strong, but gets very dry, focusing obsessively on who Kissinger is dating at some moment... Gossip rag tales that just keep going on and on. I finished the first 60%. The beginning was very interesting, but over time the never ending analysis of Kissinger (what did this mean, what did that mean?) just feels pointless.

Fact, Kissinger Associates is a large, global consulting company with many governments as clients and many well connected politicians as consultants. He is a player
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Albert W Tu
Does this book really need to be this long?? Well kind of yes, there's alot of ground to cover.

Isaacson does a tremendous job assembling all of the different, often conflicting, versions of events in Kissinger's career (all pivotal events in American foreign affairs) into a coherent narrative. The reader gets a real sense of how duplicitous and deceiving Kissinger could be, and yet how instrumental these qualities were in his success. Nixon and Kissinger, strangely twin-like in their paranoia an
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Bill Manzi
After reading the Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs I thought this might be a good read. I was right. Isaacson gives a balanced accounting of Kissinger without delving too far into the weeds of policy. But there is enough policy to satisfy, including a fair evaluation of the Kissinger philosophy of realpolitik, and how that may have influenced him to be less than honest in explaining key foreign policy decisions to the American people. (As well as Secretary of State William Rogers.)Kissinger's br ...more
Kyle
An often unflattering look at how American's greatest statesman helped the U.S. (and the World) navigate the most dangerous period of human history. Isaacson argues that Kissinger's greatest weakness was his failure to grasp the power of American idealism domestically and abroad, though he also admits his realism based approach opened doors that the moralists missed. This book is so well researched you'll feel like you've read a dozen books on Kissinger at the end, and in places the author's int ...more
Donovanme
Wow, I'm finally done! That book took forever to finish. At times it was breezy, and fascinating. At other times it was the driest most detailed book I've ever read. Clearly a marathon of reading, as it took me over a year to finish off-and-on. One Goodreads commenter wrote that Isaaccson could have used an editor. I couldn't have agreed more, as over half of the book was too much info.

Kissinger himself was a marvel. I can't believe how much duplicity he got away with. The Mayaguez incident was
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Asher
Some thoughts on this remarkable achievement by Isaacson (while it's still fresh in mind):

This is an honest, often sharply critical, but fair account of Henry Kissinger's life from his youth in Nazi Germany through his career in academia at Harvard, in politics in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and post politics life as consultant and pundit and social scene staple.

The reader is awed by Henry Kissinger's (HK) brilliance, versatility, sharp wit, and charm, and let down by his deviousness, se
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Gary
I read this Walter Isaacson book on Kissinger after finishing Conrad Black’s book on Nixon (Richard M. Nixon, A Life in Full). These two men careers were intertwined and they had a strange love hate relationship. Reading Isaacson’s book on Kissinger it became clear that they shared many similar characteristics, including: paranoia, the love of secrecy (even when there was no reason for it), ability to lie with impunity and genius. Despite their many similarities their start in life could not hav ...more
Thomas Simpson
The book itself might not have deserved the five star rating if not for the five star life of Henry Kissinger. The book is a little repetitive and seems to curiously leave out Kissinger controversies concerning Chile. Considering this was a revised edition from 2005 after the noteworthy Trial of Henry Kissinger, the fact that this was completely ignored was a bit problematic. However, Kissingers sparkling exploits made this a first rate read. I eagerly await the next big Kissinger biography from ...more
Siya
Another excellent edition in the Walter Isaacson trove. I really enjoyed this and must admit to only having started reading Walter's biographies after reading his take on Steve Jobs.
The sheer breadth and depth of that treatment encouraged me first to plough into the superb "Einstein" before delving into "Kissinger".
The real reason I read this though was in order to take a shot at Christopher Hitchens' work which I will do in due course.
Challenging but rewarding read
David Bales
The life of Henry Kissinger is here portrayed, from his birth and childhood in Germany, where his family fled from in 1938 from the Nazis, to his New York upbringing and his brilliant success in the U.S. Army and Harvard all the way to the White House and State Department. Kissinger was known for bureaucratic infighting at Harvard, the Council of Foreign Relations and in government and was haughty, imperious and paranoid but also interesting, with great insights and a desire to please both the l ...more
Matt Heavner
This was a good read -- I learned alot. I had a "culturally aware" level of knowledge of Kissinger, but this really gave me new insights! Isaacson set out from the start to try to be unbiased. I don't think that's actually possible with Kissinger (and it wasn't in this book). But it was a good attempt. There was some repetitiveness (but in ~800 pages that is probably hard to help). I came away more interested and with a much deeper understanding/appreciation for the complicated Kissinger and his ...more
Derek
Doctor Kissinger has been beat up pretty badly over the past few years and not many of the anti Kissinger books and documentaries could be seen as un--biased or totally truthful thanks to Christopher Hitchens one man crusade.

This book is a well thought out look at his life, accomplishments and short comings and I honestly think it gives an accurate look at his life and actions, it points out the good and also the bad, if you enjoy US history I would highly recommend this book as an honest, well
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Eamon Doody
Listened to audiobook from Audible.Co.Uk

This was a well written (and well read) biography of a complicated man who clearly had fantastic abilities in his chosen field of diplomacy. Yet the telling of the tale does not leave Kissenger as an untarnished hero - his personal character flaws are also clearly detailed and by no means is this a hagiography.

I think Issacson has hit the balance just about right with this book.
John
Well, reading this book was everything I hoped it to be and more. Isaacson is a writer who knows how to relate the facts of a persons life in an interesting and informative fashion. I wouldn't go so far as to say the book reads like a novel, but it held my interest to the end.

I lived through the period when Kissinger was a public figure, so reading the inside story of Kissinger's role was fascinating to me. The lifestyle of people like Kissinger is completely foreign to me. The world I live in i
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Gail
This a very readable biography of Kissinger as a political thinker and as an influential advisor to President Nixon. It also attempts to explain quite a bit about his personality, not entirely to his advantage. It caused me to recall many of the events of 40 years ago (really, 40 years?), and to understand the back story far more that I had at time time.
Jeff
A very good read! And it had the added benefit of reducing worry about who would be elected this year. If the country can survive lunatics like Nixon and Kissinger running things, then surely, neither candidate will destroy the country.

I'd read this book only really knowing the name "kissinger" and got it mainly because I really enjoy this authors writing. It was immensely informative about both things I knew a fair bit about, and things I didn't know at all. I wouldn't recommend this book if hi
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Vicki
I read this book because it was written by Walter Isaacson, who wrote my favorite biography of Steve Jobs. This one was as well written, but as erudite as Kissinger was and as talented a writer as Isaacson is, I am socially and politically at odds with Kissinger often. So the book was a little uncomfortable.
Hock Tjoa
The well written account of a public life is refreshing in its glimpse into the petty foibles of a great man although the rest of his career and achievements are retold with balance. How Kissinger insisted on re-writes without having actually read the drafts by his aides makes one wonder if he had treated his graduate students the same way. How Kissinger the great political manipulator met his match in Melvin Laird is a story well worth the retelling -- who now remembers Laird? Kissinger went on ...more
Bruce
This is splendid exploration of the diplomacy of the second half of the twentieth century veiwed from the perspective of the individual who dominated that field. It is also a fascinating biography of that individual.
Ron Turner
A fair and balanced biography of the controversial diplomat. Liberals despise him, think he's a war criminal. Conservatives think he's a Communist-appeasing sellout. I'm in the middle. I think he's a self-serving bureaucrat who went wherever the wind blew him. Sometimes that was to the left (bailing on South Vietnam, recognizing China). Sometimes it was to the right (bombing Cambodia, overthrowing Allende). I think he deserves a lot of the blame for stoking Nixon's crazy paranoia for witch hunts ...more
Frank
My son gave me this book knowing that I would not like the subject, Kissinger; the name still causes me to shudder in disgust. Reluctantly I began to read Isaacson's book and quickly read through it for I greatly appreciated the author's portrayal of Kissinger as most people who lived through his political reign will remember him: a very disingenuous human being who only pursued the "realist" school of political thought, which ultimately undermined the ideals the U.S. was founded on.
Elias
Interesting man, interesting read. The book goes into many interesting details regarding the negotiations and policy discussion which occurred during the cold war. I suppose the rating ultimately reflects my interest in Kissinger himself than the actual quality of the book. Issacson is a great writer and this is the third book of his I have read. I will be reading another. Kissinger as a man strikes me as boring pompous and vain.
Craig Earnshaw
Well researched and well written. I admired Kissinger after reading his book "On China", but I lost all admiration for him after reading about his ego and personality. Isaacson accuses him of making political decisions (involving the lives of many soldiers) for personal reasons. Some of the story is quite hard to stomach.
Charles Melendez


One of the most revealing biographies I have read. Isaacson's commitment to paint an accurate picture of his subject leads you to question if the subject would approve of some portions of the book. Furthermore, the intimacy that he incorporates makes you question if he is actually psychoanalyzing his own tendencies.
Mike Moskos
Pretty detailed. Pretty long. But, even as Kissinger's influence on politics wanes, still pretty interesting.
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Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of "Time" magazine. He is the author of "Steve Jobs"; "Einstein: His Life and Universe"; "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life"; and "Kissinger: A Biography," and the coauthor of "The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made." He lives in Washington, DC.
More about Walter Isaacson...
Steve Jobs Einstein: His Life and Universe Benjamin Franklin: An American Life The Innovators: How a Group of  Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made

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