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The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century
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The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  194 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Acclaimed historian Alan Brinkley gives us a sharply realized portrait of Henry Luce, arguably the most important publisher of the twentieth century.

As the founder of Time, Fortune, and Life magazines, Luce changed the way we consume news and the way we understand our world. Born the son of missionaries, Henry Luce spent his childhood in rural China, yet he glimpsed a mili
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published April 20th 2010 by Knopf (first published 2010)
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Mikey B.
Aug 28, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing
This is a full-rounded biography of the life of Luce. The author paints a complex man who (among many other things) was raised in China, traveled solo in Europe at the age of fourteen and made a publishing empire that survives to this day (even with the internet).

Possibly due to his upbringing in China, where he viewed the U.S. from afar, he always held unto an idealized view of America’s role in the twentieth century. In many ways he wanted the entire world to emulate U.S. values and concepts.
Lauren Albert
Aug 02, 2010 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
Though it is very interesting, this is not a very intimate biography. With the exception of Luce's marriages and love affairs, Brinkley doesn't much discuss his private life. At the end, when Brinkley refers to one of Luce's sister as being very close to him, I blinked for a couple of minutes since she hadn't appeared at all for most of the book.

Luce's strengths were also his greatest weaknesses (who can not say that about themselves, of course?). The idealism, the imagination, the confidence t
Blog on Books
Jul 26, 2010 Blog on Books rated it really liked it
Alan Brinkley’s historical profile of Time magazine founder, Henry Luce, is as much a history of a titan of industry as it is an overview of the global and political times of what Luce himself referred to as ‘the American Century.’ Brinkley (who has written extensively on FDR and penned a series of American history books known as ‘The Unfinished Nation’) assembles a thorough biography that runs parallel along three distinct tracks.

The first, is the story of a man and his publishing empire, origi
Bookmarks Magazine
Jun 16, 2010 Bookmarks Magazine rated it really liked it
Shelves: july-aug-2010
Invariably drawing comparisons with the political slant of his subject's magazines, reviewers praised Alan Brinkley's evenhandedness in The Publisher. They portrayed the book as an antidote not only to earlier, more negative biographies but to a generation that cannot comprehend the influence once held by Time brethren, especially in this age of digital information. Above all, critics praised Brinkley's feel for the particular prose style of Luce and his magazines, which gave birth to many an ex ...more
Dan Dundon
Apr 07, 2016 Dan Dundon rated it really liked it
When I was in journalism school one of my professors used a case study of Henry Luce to illustrate how one man can slant news to fit his preconceived attitude of the world. During the semester in which I took the course, we religiously read Time every week and had class discussions about the bias that was evident in many "news" stories essentially turning them into opinion pieces.

When I picked up The Publisher, Alan Brinkley's biography about Luce I was curious to determine if the author merely
Aug 11, 2011 alix rated it liked it
Although at times long-winded and slightly repetitive, this biography of the founder of Time, Inc., provided an interesting glimpse into the history of journalism and showed how one man, with the help of his print empire, attempted to influence and guide middle-class American thinking at mid-century.
Holly Morrow
The Publisher is the story of Henry Luce, the founder of the Time publishing empire – Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated – and a major figure in the American 1940s-1960s. It is a conventional biography – boy is born, boy does Great Things (but encounters troubles too), boy reflects on his achievements, boy dies – but is well-researched and benefits from an interesting subject.

Luce was born to missionary parents in China at the turn of the century before coming to the US for education
Jul 01, 2011 Craig rated it really liked it
As much a scholarly review of the Cold War as an historical biography of a media titan, Alan Brinkley's The Publisher is a highly entertaining look at an individual who helped transform the United States into the media center of the world in the first half of the 20th century. Students in my history classes tend to learn about William Randolph Hearst, Joseph Pulitzer and Yellow Journalism, but beginning next year they will also hear more about Henry Luce and his role on bringing a different kind ...more
Jun 07, 2010 Tim rated it really liked it
Alan Brinkley’s historical profile of Time magazine founder, Henry Luce, is as much a history of a titan of industry as it is an overview of the global and political times of what Luce himself referred to as Luce ‘the American Century.’ Brinkley (who has written extensively on FDR and penned a series of American history books known as ‘The Unfinished Nation’) assembles a thorough biography that runs parallel along three distinct tracks.

The first, is the story of a man and his publishing empire,
Johnny Kennedy
Dec 02, 2011 Johnny Kennedy rated it it was amazing
Alan Brinkley, Columbia University Provost and son of the late newscaster David Brinkley, does a fine job detailing the life of one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century: Henry Robinson Luce, cofounder of TimeLife, publisher of Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated magazines. This is a much better bio than W.A. Swanberg’s Luce and far more detailed than David Halberstam’s Powers That Be, though Halberstam writes with more verve and better captures the intensity and contrary aspect ...more
Jonathan Shaw
Jul 20, 2012 Jonathan Shaw rated it liked it
Informative biography of a man who had a profound impact on 20th-century journalism. It was interesting to read this concurrently with the recent Steve Jobs biography, and note the parallels:
--Man who revolutionizes an industry with a successful business that he micromanages for decades
--A prescient grasp of consumer tastes leads to tremendous mass-market adoption of the product
--Starts off young and ambitious, with a co-founder -- who is only in the picture for the first few years
Mar 08, 2013 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century is a biography by historian, Alan Brinkley. It covers the life of Henry Luce, twentieth century publishing mogul. I'm not a big biography reader, so that probably had a large impact on my rating.

This particular biography was very detailed. The reader got pretty much EVERYTHING there was to know about Henry Luce (a person who I knew nothing about previously). Unfortunately, Brinkley's writing style was a little dry for me. It was kind of a painfu
Mar 10, 2014 Apple rated it liked it
Not so much a personal history but more a historical and political account of the life and times of Henry Luce, his deep-rooted views and the ways he tried to assert his ideas to the USA and the world. He lived a big life and founded a company which made him rich and famous yet he was mostly lonely and sad and alone. Despite the fruition of his dreams for success, he was deprived of a successful personal life. Yet his legacy, though now unrecognizable, lives on.
Catherine Woodman
This book is fascinating--Henry Luce, a rabidly competative man, started Time magazine with his hottest competitor at Yale--who had the bad luck to die very young and let Henry go on to create Fortune, Life, and Sports Illustrated--the book is absoultely strong when talking about the professional side of Luce's life and what motivated him. . The weakness lies in it's complete lack of analysis of his personal life--his marriage to Clare, which seems without sex fromt he beginning, and yet he ream ...more
Jul 11, 2012 Gloomyhopes rated it it was amazing
Interesting book, retracing - very accurately - the life of one of the most important man in the press history: Henry Luce. I worked extensively on Time's vision toward American foreign policies between the 1950s and today and was extremely happy to find many precious details regarding Luce's views. Even though I am torn between admiration and perplexity regarding Luce's conception of the American role in the world during the twentieth century - basically the Manifest Destiny - and career, his s ...more
Holly Foley (Procida)
Aug 11, 2010 Holly Foley (Procida) rated it really liked it
This biography is similar to those I have read about other media giants: Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner. It seems that their lives are really bigger than one person. I guess to be such a magnate you do really compromise a lot of family and personal life. I like to read biographies to help digest history from different perspectives. Henry Luce was a big supporter of US Chinese relations, which I didn't know much about before reading this book. It was also interesting to follow his marriage to Clare B ...more
Jan De la Rosa
Apr 08, 2011 Jan De la Rosa rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: bio fans, media studies people, historians
"Luce did not change the world. His most important legacy remains his role in the creation of new forms of information and communications at a moment in history when media were rapidly expanding".

Do you want to know why? This book is a very well documented text on politics, religion, moral, law and everything in between related to the founder of one big big media conglomerate.

You will learn a lot from it. I really liked it even though I thought it was some more inclined to the editorial world an
Nicole Marble
Jul 27, 2010 Nicole Marble rated it really liked it
Henry Luce started 'Time' magazine, 'Fortune' magazine, 'Life' magazine and 'Sports Illustrated' magazine. He changed the way Americans consumed 'news'.
Luce was the son of Christian missionaries to China, where he was born, and he spent his life believing he knew more and better than the rest of us. He used his magazines not so much for 'news' as to be a 'missionary' to us on his views.
He was a complicated emotional guy, sort of the Rupert Murdoch of his day and, like Murdoch, very influential.
Jun 18, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Excellent biography of one of America's most influential publishers (Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated). Luce was one of many major publishers who saw journalism as a way to influence opinion, rather than just inform it. While conservative, Luce would not easily fit that description today.

He was a cold warrior, but progressive on social issues. A man who had difficulty relating interpersonally, he used drive and intellect to succeed.

Very readable and puts the middle of the 20th century in an in
Sep 26, 2013 Aaron rated it it was ok
As more and more of his life was explored, I became more and more disgusted with the man and the author's take on his life. Born to missionaries, yet his father seemed to be mildly supportive as he went through divorcing his first wife - concerned about making sure the next marriage would last, according to the author. Ambition is not a bad trait, but this seemed to be coupled with a life built on a foundation of sand. Interesting points about how Time and Fortune got their start and influenced ...more
Apr 13, 2016 Rachel rated it liked it
"Publishing is a business, but journalism never was and is not essentially a business. Nor is it a profession." -- Henry Luce
Betsy Lewis-moreno
Aug 08, 2011 Betsy Lewis-moreno rated it it was amazing
Well written and fascinating account of Luce's early life and founding of Time magazine. Recommended for anyone interested in the history of the early 20th century and the ideas that led to the founding of many of what we'd consider staples of American culture and thought. The latter part of the book is less gripping through no fault of Brinkley's - it's just that Luce becomes more predictable and less happy despite all his achievements.
Feb 26, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it
A very important American figure I knew too little about. A modern history lesson, compelling personal tale, and journalism book all in one. My interest in the subject matter definitely gave it a boost, the author did a nice job, if not a brilliant one. More concerned about being comprehensive than telling a story. Too. Much about his family at the start; too little at the end.
Donna Herrick
Jan 20, 2016 Donna Herrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I reallyenjoyed hearing the biography of Henry Luce and his Time-Life publishing empire. I thought that Time chronicled our world, but I was not so cognizant that it was so shaped as to mold public opinion. I would have liked more about the McCarthy era.
Sep 04, 2011 Al rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-books
This book offered an unusual journey through the first half of the 20th century. Luce was fascinating and his evolution was very interesting to experience. I enjoyed the world/political stuff and his early upbringing more than his personal life as a man but still for someone who enjoys history and biography, I recommend it.
May 25, 2011 Thomas rated it really liked it
The first half, which tells the story of Luce's early ambitions and the germination of Time magazine, is the more captivating. Luce becomes less interesting, and less likable, afterward.
Oct 15, 2010 Mark rated it it was ok
I was interested in reading this but found it too much of a slog. Although I got through to the end, I think the author made what could have been a very interesting profile a bit boring.
Feb 04, 2011 Peg rated it really liked it
terrific biography. Title says it all. Luce worked his way through Yale, went on to establish the following magazines: Time, Fortune, Life, Sports' Illustrated, and People.
Jul 30, 2010 Michael rated it really liked it
TNR has published a nice Jackson Lears review essay at but you have to be a subscriber to access it...
Feb 06, 2014 Chuck rated it really liked it
Very interesting book and person. After the Steve Jobs book, an interesting set of parallels, separated by about 60 years.
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