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3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,571 Ratings  ·  76 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

Paperback, 896 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group (first published 1992)
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Let me state very clearly that when I give this book two stars it reflects only how I personally react to the book.

It is very well researched, and it is thorough. Too thorough for me, or let’s put it this way, I didn’t know enough before picking it up. This made it difficult to follow. Yes, I am glad I read it, but it was a chore. Keep in mind that I enjoy books of non-fiction. I have given Steve Jobs, Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, all by Walter Isaacs
Steven Peterson
Nov 23, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 16, 2015 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Returning to the wonderful world of political biographies, I chose to tackle another of Walter Isaacson's collection, looking at Henry Kissinger. Isaacson traces Kissinger's humble beginnings in Germany through to his meteoric rise through the American political stratosphere, concentrated in the Nixon and Ford White Houses. Throughout the book, numerous storylines present three distinct themes in Kissinger's life: the stellar academic, the megalomaniacal fiend, and the astute statesman. Isaacson ...more
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
Mar 03, 2016 Counsel182 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is too bad this book was written in 1995....would have liked to read of Isacson's take on Kissinger's view of the aftermath of 9/11 but that of course can undoubtedly be gleaned elsewhere.

This book still represents a remarkable work attempting to take on one of the most enigmatic characters of recent years. This exhaustive and plainly well documented book leaves me a bit awed by Isacson's research capabilities. It is at times a bit redundant and perhaps 'preachy' in advocating various points
Josh Friedlander
Kissinger was meretricious, obsequious, craven and amoral, a sociopathic liar and an egomaniac. So how did he become a celebrity, an idol, even a sex symbol? Today, accustomed to anodyne and anonymous DC wonks, we can't even imagine a "superstar diplomat".

I think the reason lies in the palpable climate of fear of the Cold War-gripped 1970s. The USSR was, for all people knew, very close to conquering the world, resulting in either nuclear apocalypse or totalitarian slavery. Into that milieu stepp
Ubaid Dhiyan
Aug 10, 2013 Ubaid Dhiyan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
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
Jun 03, 2016 Barry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
When Bernie Sander's ferociously challenged Hillary Clinton willingness to take input from Henry Kissinger, I was astonished. Bernie said "I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend," Sanders said angrily, when he raised the issue in the debate. "I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger." why? I have held the opinion that Kissinger was one of the most effective Secretaries of State and Foreign policy experts America has ever produced . What was Sanders talking about???

A quick goo
Feb 09, 2015 Donovanme rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Scott Martin
Jun 21, 2016 Scott Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(Audiobook). Given that I had read a couple of his books on foreign policy (On China, World Order), it was just as well that I would finally read about arguably the most visible Secretary of State/National Security Adviser in recent memory. This bio mainly covers Kissinger's life from birth to the start of the 1990s. Kissinger's world views were solidified before adulthood, as he was able to escape the worst of the Nazi oppression of the Jews. The harsh realities of dealing with life in Nazi Ger ...more
Jul 20, 2016 Joshua rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this because I learned that historian Niall Ferguson is in the process of writing a 2-volume biography of Kissinger, and I couldn't get access to that work. I thought this would be a helpful frame of reference for when I do get access to it.
The book sort of drags on quite a bit and tends to rehash the same conclusions about HK more times than necessary (he was charming, secretive to a fault, had a mix of tactical and visionary genius, disorganized, brilliant, etc.) but I found that Isaac
Apr 15, 2014 Abdul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 10, 2014 Shouvik rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 04, 2014 Erwin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
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
Bill Manzi
Feb 16, 2014 Bill Manzi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Rosa Ramôa
May 22, 2015 Rosa Ramôa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Frases de Henry Kissinger:

"Noventa por cento dos políticos dão aos 10% restantes uma péssima reputação".

"A falta de alternativas clarifica maravilhosamente a mente".

"Ninguém jamais vencerá a guerra dos sexos: há muita confraternização entre os inimigos".

"Até os paranoicos têm inimigos reais".

"Se você não sabe para onde vai, todos os caminhos o levarão a lugar nenhum".

"O poder é o afrodisíaco mais forte".

"O sucesso resulta de cem pequenas coisas feitas de forma um pouco melhor. O insucesso,
Feb 12, 2015 Kyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 25, 2012 Asher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 28, 2013 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 01, 2016 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was the longest Isaacson's book I've read and provided insights into Kissinger's life and the politics during that era. Despite its length, I didn't hate reading the book as much as I hated reading Isaacson's biases against Kissinger's character in the first 20% of the book. The author wrote in the introduction "Although I tried to embark on this project without any biases, certain themes emerged during the reporting that I hope will become evident to the reader..." Because of these bi ...more
Thomas Simpson
Oct 18, 2014 Thomas Simpson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 28, 2014 Siya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 14, 2013 David Bales rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
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
Nov 16, 2015 Henrik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 08-stars, 09-stars
Mr. Isaacson is on my top-three list of biographers - probably only rivaled by the magnificent David McCullough. "Kissinger" is not Isaacson's best work, however, but still a fantastic book nonetheless. The reason why it falls a little short in comparison with some of his other works (e.g. "Einstein" and "Jobs") may be because this was his first book he made on his own. I really enjoyed consuming this brick of a book (896 pages) and learned details about his tenures I did not know. Kissinger was ...more
Matt Heavner
Jul 19, 2014 Matt Heavner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 29, 2014 Derek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Eamon Doody
Apr 16, 2014 Eamon Doody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 08, 2010 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 03, 2014 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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  • Years of Renewal
  • Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department
  • Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power
  • First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton
  • George F. Kennan: An American Life
  • The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging of the Alliance to Defeat Hitler
  • W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963
  • Being Nixon: A Man Divided
  • Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Journals, 1952-2000
  • J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets
  • Bismarck: A Life
  • The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon
  • All Too Human
  • The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
  • What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era
  • Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made
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.
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