Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  3,998 ratings  ·  212 reviews
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

"A biography that has many of the best attributes of a novel. . . . Wonderfully fluent and compelling." --The New York Times

"A triumph of the art of biography. Unflaggingly interesting, it brings John D. Rockefeller Sr. to life through sustained narrative portraiture of the large-scale, nineteenth-century kind."--The New York Time...more
ebook, 832 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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Titan is another Ron Chernow masterpiece. Titan refers to John D. Rockefeller the oil tycoon and philanthropist. He had two qualities that may have been responsible for his great business acumen. The first was that he was a deeply religious Baptist. His belief that God would always take care of him allowed him to make, what some would consider, considerable gambles. The second quality was his reverence to money. He valued money so much that he recorded each expenditure in his personal ledger. He...more
Amazing biography/history lesson. This man was born to make money, obviously was good at it, but married a discrete religious woman and raised his children to be humble. 'I am so happy little John has told me what he wants for Christmas, so that I may deny him it.' Sounds harsh in our over-indulgent days, but when you see they likes of Paris Hilton and other horrifying progeny of the wealthy in the 'news', it makes you long for the days of hard work, discretion, and modesty.
Jeremy Zilkie
No doubt my love for biographies influences my enjoyment of Titan. Chernow's detailed and comprehensive view of John D. Rodkefeller's life is quite compelling. I learned much about the man that I did not know. His dual persona of a cut-throat businessman in the tumultuous area of the late 1800s combined with his unparalleled generosity and philanthropic commitment throughout his life leaves the reader wondering "who exactly is John D. Rockefeller?"

On the business side, his formation and building...more
I really enjoyed this book. Such a fascinating person. John D. was the richest man in the world of his time and the world's first billionaire. And one only reaches such heights through dubious means; including extortion, bribes, back door deals, payroll politicians, and general cruelty to all the little fish below.
There are many reasons to demonize someone such as him, but what surprised me, was how I often found myself liking him. He was excessively frugal, never ostentatious, and extremely...more
Aaron Million
Well-researched and fair biography that is wonderfully written by Chernow. Rockefeller lived a long time (1839-1937) and Chernow does an excellent job of chronicling how society changed over his lifetime and how Rockefeller helped to influence prevailing views of large corporations and wealthy businessmen. Throughout the book, Chernow deftly flushes out Rockefeller's often conflicting business moves and motives vs his ultra-religious private life. Chernow does not attempt to dissuade anyone from...more
This is a good history/biography. Clearly written, easy to follow and well-researched.
The rub is that it focuses so much on the duality of Rockefeller that it pushes everything else to serve these ends. The contrasting of his massive philanthropy with his underhanded business tactics is constant. As is his obsession with religion with his obsession with money.
What I don't understand is why, exactly, this is treated as such an aberration. We are all studies in internal&external contradiction...more
Joe V
The name John D. Rockefeller conjures up the birth of the oil industry and money – lots and lots of money. Even by today’s standards – pun intended – and taking into account inflation, John D. amassed a staggering fortune, (much of which he “gave away”), with his creation of Standard Oil. Titan is a very detailed, and as this reader found, a very engaging, cradle to grave biography of Rockefeller – the good, the bad, the ugly – and wildly contradictory.

Rockefeller was a fervent Baptist; he neith...more
I"m reminded of the Yogi Berra quote "If you come to a fork in the road, take it." Rockefeller did just that over and over and over...
Aaron Kleinheksel
I became interested in J.D.R. through my interest in early automotive history. I was curious about Standard Oil, its rise and eventual dismantling, as well as that time period in American History overall (the Gilded Age), to include technology, economic / business, and societal. I felt I couldn't go wrong reading a book on the most famous / infamous tycoon of them all. Chernow has written what I believe to be the most recent, thorough, and mostly even-handed review of Rock Sr's life. I am not so...more
I know Chernow has such a great reputation as a biographer, so I don't want to be too critical. I'm also biased because I just read The Power Broker, which has to be the absolute best biography in the world and the most well-written non-fiction I've ever read. However, I was not too impressed with Chernow's writing style. He added details that were unnecessary. The Power Broker is over 1,000 pages long, but I really believe that every word served a purpose. Titan, on the other hand, seemed infla...more
Carole Graves
This was an absolutely superb biography. I loved Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamiilton, but this was even better. Chernow is such a good writer that the weighty book reads like fiction. He could have gotten lost in the weeds in details of the complex business operations, but he was able to bring to three dimensional life the complex and reclusive personna of John D. Rockefeller Sr.

Chernow's research is broad and meticulous and he evaluates Rockefeller's astounding business success and his...more
Kristopher Chavez
This was the first Ron Chernow book I ever read and was impressed by the amount of research it must have taken for him to paint such a clear picture of the life and habits of JDR, Sr. The book satisfied my curiosity on how a man born into relatively modest circumstances used his work ethic and shrewdness to quickly rise to the be the most powerful industrialist of his time. What I found particularly interesting about Rockefeller was how his belief in habits shaped his rise to power. He was a man...more
David Kudlinski
This is one of the best and most interesting books I’ve read on any subject. Rockefeller’s rise from poverty to the richest man in the world was amazing. Yet his great accomplishments are tainted by questionable ethical conduct. He was likely the most conservative, union-busting, Bible- thumping Republican in American history - the “good” Rockefeller gave billions of dollars of his fortune to fund education and medical research, which saved thousands of lives. But in order to make those billions...more
I became more interested in this time period and the oil/railroad industry after watching there will be blood, which touches briefly on standard oil and their desire to buy out smaller competitors in the oil/refinery business...

john d. rockefeller's biography, creator of standard oil and philanthropist...

early years in new york, ohio, the forging of his personality through the twin influences of his wandering, flim flam father and prudent, strict and religious mother.

baptist religious influences...more
Carrie Ann
Titan was a very comprehensive biography of John D. Rockefeller - almost too comprehensive. There was a lot of repetition and approximately half the book is about the people around Rockefeller including a lot of time spent on his son and some of his business associates, but this allows for a very dynamic and complete picture of the era and Rockefeller's role in it.

The most intriguing part of this book is the deftness in which Chernow handles the dichotomy of Rockefeller's character: that such a...more
This book was interesting initially, but became more of an effort the further into it I got. Rockefeller was certainly an interesting man and his contributions to American business were highly significant. However, once the author established the type of man he was, what his contributions were, and the impact he had on society, the book became an exercise in perseverance for me. Serious students of the late industrial revolution and the rise of American and international business, may find it mo...more
An excellent biography of John D. Rockefeller, Senior, the head of Standard Oil and the richest man in American history. He made his money before anti-trust laws or income tax, and could have bought or sold Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.

Rockefeller was paradoxical. On one hand he was a ruthless, cunning, greedy businessman who broke laws right and left, squashed his competitors like bugs, lied to courts, and bribed legislators. On the other hand he was always polite and considerate to his employe...more
Vincent Ketchie
The author was very thorough in providing the background to Rockfeller's very black and white thinking. Chernow described Rockfeller's awkward relationship to his father and his adherence to his mother which explains much of his strong-willed thinking. I found it very interesting how Rockfeller was so responsible and so well respected at such a young age that he was trusted by the banks with so much money. Because of his positive characteristics, he is one of the only persons who would have been...more
Very well written, detailed biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. I'm rather intrigued by the seemingly contradictory Rockefeller- a devout Baptist, cut throat business man known for his very unscrupulous means and a dedicated philanthropist. Really an interesting read.
Long [885 page ebook], well written, interesting and detailed book on the life of the richest American in history.Includes info on his relationships with the other wealthy of that era, Carnegie, Vanderbilt,Ford, etc. and his descendents up to his grandchildren. Two of his grandsons became governors, one of Arkansas and the other of New York.
John D was known for being a ruthless robber baron who overran all competitors, driving them out of business or buying them out. Bribes, extortion,payoffs, s...more
Just fascinating! The man's background, his early career, his faith, his family life, his assumed internal struggles, his rise to world's wealthiest man, his stresses, his philanthropies, his retirement, the struggles of his descendants, his changing public personna ... just fascinating! I'm sure most of us have never met a person like John D. Rockefeller, and it was quite difficult to decide whether I liked him or was merely astonished by him. He lived so long, he went through many changes in h...more
This is my favorite biography that I have read to date. Extremely detailed, but I enjoyed it very much.
Bob Wallner
Listened to the unabridged audio over 34 hours!

Excellent biography. Chernow really does a good job of trying to remain neutral regarding JDR, but I do believe he generally feels that Rockefeller is a good man. I never realized how much conflict revolved around this man. I knew he was a great philanthropist and one of the father's of modern industry, but his acts reminded me of a schizopathic...religious but but worshiped the dollar...hoarded his money, but gave enormously.

The book also did a gr...more
A fascinating insight into the man that may have been the biggest influence on the development of the U.S. corporation and the domestic oil industry among anyone. Very comprehensive, it covers Rockefeller family of origin, his personal life, his business practices, the development of the oil industry, his philanthropic life, his relationships with colleagues, employees and competitors, his retirement and his descendants. This was my first book of Chernow's and I love how he writes with thorough...more
Ken Garrett
A very enjoyable biography of the enigmatic genius who lived a life of balancing his rapacious accumulation and preservation of wealth and power with his deeply held Christian faith and compulsion to generosity. Rockefeller himself is presented candidly by the author as a complex figure, never fully known (even by his closest family members and friends), and living a sort of dual life of public affability and confidence paralleled by personal loneliness and desire for human-relational intimacy....more
Daniel Bratell
Massive biography about a man that lived for a long time. Born in the 1830s, died in the 1930s, John D. Rockefeller lived through the American industrial and commercial revolution.

Although the man is clearly fascinating, anyone trying to document it is in over his head, and that I think summarizes this book quite well. The author tries to describe a man that both changed over time and was extremely careful and selective with private information. In a way I'm sure that the author succeeds better...more
Marc Weitz
Titan follows the life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., one of the richest men ever. Having seen little value in constantly reading books about World War I and satisfied that I know how to properly invade France if asked, I decided it was time to start reading books about businessmen who made money to see if this would help me in my business of running a solo law practice. This book is a treatise on business in the 19th century, which helps me little unless I want to monopolize the practice of law i...more
Ted Hunt
I read this book to get a sense of how Rockefeller built his oil empire and I was not disappointed in the way that the details of the creation of Standard Oil were laid out. The book gives a very thorough look of the late 19th century industrial revolution in the United States, with the lack a regulations allowing the ruthless businessmen of the time to attempt to impose a certain level of predictability and manageability to a very chaotic post-Civil War business world. What I did not enjoy abou...more
Tim Greaton
Seldom does an author so thoroughly reveal the essence of a man..., Ron does an amazing job revealing even the tiniest details of a man who was legendary both in the way he changed our industrial world and in the way he reinvented charitable outreach. John D. Rockefeller was a study in contrasts, and from the dirty details of running his first oil enterprise to the even dirtier details of how he kept his grip on oil production, refining and transportation,Jon Chernow illustrates Rockefeller's me...more
Titan delves into the history and psyche of John Rockefeller, one of the most enterprising individuals in the history of business.

Chernow does an excellent job of presenting an objective view of the controversial figure, explaining his reasoning without apologizing for his actions. Rockefeller planned for philanthropy from the beginning; "I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience...more
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Ron Chernow was born in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating with honors from Yale College and Cambridge University with degrees in English Literature, he began a prolific career as a freelance journalist. Between 1973 and 1982, Chernow published over sixty articles in national publications, including numerous cover stories. In the mid-80s Chernow went to work at the Twentieth Century Fund...more
More about Ron Chernow...
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