Stephen Escalera's Reviews > Truman

Truman by David McCullough
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Dec 21, 10

Read in July, 2009

When it comes to making history not only readable, but intriguing, nobody writes better than David McCullough. Many of his books chronicle people, places or events that don't really seem to stick out as being fascinating. But once you start reading any one of McCullough's books, you are drawn into the subject matter, compelled to read and learn about subjects that you might not otherwise ever read about. You don't simply read a McCullough book. You experience it. My introduction to McCullough's work was in his biography of John Adams, our country's second president and a key figure in the founding of the nation. After finishing this, I quickly devoured 1776, The Great Bridge, and The Johnstown Flood. I would highly recommend each of these books.

Like Adams, Harry S. Truman had the misfortune of succeeding a legendary figure. While Adams presided under the shadow of George Washington, Truman had to undergo the scrutiny of an American public who had been led through many great trials by the great Franklin D. Roosevelt. Truman proved that, while he was no FDR, he was certainly his own man and very well capable of holding his own during the many conflicts of his own presidency.

In Truman, we are brought into his story well before his birth as McCullough fills us in on the details of his family heritage. We follow Truman through his childhood, his stint as a gallant officer during World War I, his romancing of and subsequent marriage to Bess Wallace, and his rise up and into the political world. McCullough does an excellent job of covering several controversial topics such as the Marshall Plan, the Korean Conflict, the Manhattan Project, McCarthyism, and the firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur without getting bogged down in presenting his own opinions on these matters, instead letting the historical accounts speak for themselves. We are treated to the often exciting, edge-of-your-seat workings of political campaigning, including Truman's first presidential nomination as well as his momentous and astounding defeat of Thomas Dewey.

At well over 1,000 pages, Truman is a hefty read. But being already familiar with McCullough's style, I knew it would be a great read and I was not disappointed. Not being a historian nor familiar with this period of U.S. history, I can't speak to the factual accuracy of the book's events. But once again, McCullough does a masterful job of bringing the person off the written page to the point where you feel like you know the person himself. By the end of the book and upon the account of Truman's death, I felt like I had lost a friend. Truman is an excellent biography, an inspirational story and one that will have you keeping late hours just to read one more page.
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