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4.12  ·  Rating details ·  83,640 ratings  ·  2,567 reviews
The Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Harry S. Truman, whose presidency included momentous events from the atomic bombing of Japan to the outbreak of the Cold War and the Korean War, told by America’s beloved and distinguished historian.

The life of Harry S. Truman is one of the greatest of American stories, filled with vivid characters—Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Elean
Paperback, 1120 pages
Published June 14th 1993 by Simon Schuster (first published June 15th 1992)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  83,640 ratings  ·  2,567 reviews

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AJ Griffin
Jul 02, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people with fantastic attention spans, lots of time, and at least a slight interest in the subject
For some reason or another, I had to read this book in 3 days. It was like a full time job, considering it's about 3284293842034820384238 pages long. I did it though, and for about two months or so I was a motherfucking Harry Truman expert. Then I forgot almost everything.

Anyway, if you want seem like a history encyclopedia for a little while, take a three-day weekend and rip this bad boy open. Maybe you'll get laid.

(one word of caution: reading this gave me the temerity to say "mcarthur was a g
Elyse  Walters
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I even laughed......
Cheers for the late bloomers in life!!! A man after my own heart!!!

Harry's cousin said Harry was 'always' a late bloomer. He did everything a little later than his contemporaries.
He didn't marry until he was 35...so, why would it be crazy to him to first arrive in Washington in his early 50's?

"Harry is a fine man, intelligent, able, and has integrity. He doesn't know much about foreign affairs, but he's learning fast..." --Franklin D Roosevelt

This book gets the
I was shocked that a presidential biography could be so good. Many readers had praised the Truman book, but I thought they were exaggerating. I was happy to be proven wrong.

I think there are several reasons why "Truman" was so compelling. First and most importantly was the man himself. So epic was his odyssey that Truman seemed like a character in a novel. Harry S. Truman was born in a small town in Missouri and he grew up on a farm. He was bookish, played the piano and wore glasses, which preve
Stefania Dzhanamova
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
David McCullough's work has almost everything one can wish for in a biography. After reading it, I feel as if I got to know Harry Truman personally. It is a rather voluminous book, covering Truman's childhood, early life, and extensive political career, but it is so gripping and readable you won't be able to put it down.

As McCullough acknowledges, the writing of his outstanding work had been significantly facilitated by Truman himself: the President poured himself out on paper "with vigor and ca
Excellent read for lining up all the threads of a great leader's life in a narrative that flows like the story from a novel. Even at 1,000 pages, so much history passed through Truman's hands that major events such as the decision to bomb Hiroshima and the Korean War have to slip by with only a few pages. What comes through as a thread in the whole tapestry is the fundamental decency of the man, a pragmatism typical of farmers who face diverse challenges day by day, and a core belief in fairness ...more
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
McCullough’s engaging portrayal of Harry Truman depicts a man of integrity, a trait rare in politicians. As president, his simple straightforward approach often led to extreme unpopularity. His inexperience and initial indecisiveness took its toll. But Harry Truman’s best quality as Clark Clifford noted, “was Harry Truman’s capacity to grow.” Thrust into a job for which he was ill prepared, Truman overcame his shortcomings working through an onslaught of difficult problems to provide genuine lea ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ETA: I adored this book when I read it, but now my perspectives are a bit changed....... I am currently reading American Prometheus by Kai Bird. It is essential to get another view on Truman's actions and choices concerning atomic weapons, the arms race and the Cold War. To get a fuller understanding of the time and era I strongly recommend reading American Prometheus too!


I listened to the audiobook format of this book, that means more than 54 hours, and I e
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Few presidents have made as many pivotal decisions or faced the number of history-changing events as Harry Truman -- the final five months of World War II, the Potsdam conference, the birth of atomic warfare, the post-war nationwide rail strike, the Marshall Plan, the partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel, the Czechoslovak coup d'etat, the Berlin Airlift, war in Korea and the relief of Douglas MacArthur, the formation of NATO, the reorganization of the U.S. defense establishment and ...more
Feb 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
David McCullough is a master, plain and simple. Who else could make a 992 page paperback biography compulsively readable? I knew essentially nothing about Harry Truman before reading this biography, and now I think he might be my favorite president. Truly a man of the people, who never let the highest office in the country go to his head, Truman made difficult decisions that would have crippled other men within the first four months of his presidency. While not all of his policies were popular d ...more
Mikey B.
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A good and complete biography of Truman. David McCullough describes well the political events surrounding the era and his climb to power – which was gradual but well earned. Truman was only two years younger than Roosevelt but in far better health. He was a vastly different person more prone to indiscretions. Even so he survived well in a turbulent era - the end of World War II, taking the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, the commencement of the Cold War, the creation of the state of I ...more
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I downloaded the audio book, the 54 hour run time seemed insane to me. But, it flew by, feeling like I was listening to a fast paced action story. WWI heroism, election win, election defeat, come-from-behind election victory, Truman Committee, dramatic selection as VP, Roosevelt’s death, WWII, Atomic bomb, plummeting popularity, another come-from-behind election win, Israel, Cold War fears of nuclear annihilation, Korea, MacArthur,…. it was intense! It almost felt like an action movie at ti ...more
Lynne King
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
I see that Steve has recently given a marvellous, in-depth review of this splendid biography on Harry S. Truman’s life that I purchased way back on 30 October 1992 (I always date my books for reference) and so I won't even attempt to write a review such as his but then I probably wouldn't have been capable of doing that anyway. This after all is American history.

I had forgotten that I had this book but I had been browsing through another goodreads' author’s books (I always do this if they "like"
Lisa Greer
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs, everyone
Oh, yes, I am ambitious. This book must be 1000 pages. It's huge... and interesting so far. And it won a Pulitzer. I'm reading it because McCullough's bio of John Adams made me bawl like a baby when I got near the end. I mean-- how can one not cry upon reading about Adams and Jefferson BOTH living until and dying on July 4th, the same July 4th, out of sheer will? I wish more Americans and people in general knew these stories and of these people rather than just knowing a lot of fiction. And I do ...more
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
McCullough tackles a political biography sure to reveal much to the reader. For many, Harry Truman is “the president who dropped the bomb” and little else. Any reader who takes the time to digest all that is on offer (a great feat for those who first look at the length of the tome) will soon learn that Truman is much more complex than first presumed. McCullough chooses key moments in Truman’s life and expounds on them, one building off the other, leading to a better understanding of why Truman c ...more
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing

“Truman” is David McCullough’s 1992 biography of the 33rd president. It was the first comprehensive biography of Truman and earned the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in the Biography category. McCullough is a highly-acclaimed author and historian who is probably best known for his 2001 biography of John Adams. He is currently working on a book about the early settlers of the Northwest Territory tentatively titled “The Pioneers.”

True to its reputation, this biography
Peter Beck
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Truman" is like a balm to the soul given the endless sewage spewing from Trump and his sycophants. Honesty, modesty, loyalty, diligence, and thoughtfulness are the first first words that come to mind to describe HST after reading "Truman." How I miss those qualities in a president.

After struggling through the first chapter on Harry's family background, I found "Truman" hard to put down. David McCullough is such a great writer and has the sources to back him up. I grew up hearing my father freq
Elliot Anderson
Wow! McCullough's "Truman" is a tour de force with brilliant vibrancy that helps bring Harry Truman's character to life. ...more
RJ Corby
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant book about one of our finest

David McCullough's "Truman" has won many accolades and awards, chief among them the Pulitzer Prize. After reading this wonderful book from cover-to-cover in less than a week, I'm convinced that this book deserves all of the praise it has received, and more.

"Truman" is the ultimate, complete package in a presidential biography. Even a novice of 20th century history (this writer included) would have a list of important events that he or she would wan
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
This was quite a book, written by quite an author about quite a man. I was totally over the top in my admiration for both Mr Truman as well as David McCullough. What a job he did bringing Harry S. Truman to life for generations to come. To read about Mr Truman made one feel proud and fortunate. Our country was so lucky to have had a man like Mr Truman in control of our government during this, a most unnerving time of our history.

Harry Truman's downhome goodness and ability to see matters in a c
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club-books
I finished Truman!! It took me a month, but at 992 pages of text and over 120 pages of notes I think I did well.

This is another 5 star book from one of my favorite authors. It ranks up there with his book John Adams, and I can certainly understand why it received the Pulitzer Prize.

The book covers an astonishing array of subjects, Truman's heritage and childhood, his work as a farmer, his shaky rise as a senator and vice president, his astonishing first days as president, the atom bomb, dealings
Daniel Ligon
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
McCullough is a good writer, though not a gifted wordsmith like Laura Hillenbrand, Ron Chernow, or Edmund Morris. Where he shines is in his impeccable research, his insightful analysis, and the clarity of his narrative structure and pacing. While his biography of Truman is perhaps a trifle overlong at a thousand pages, the narrative flow is always interesting and never feels forced. McCullough does a good job of capturing and displaying Truman's personality, while also offering perceptive though ...more
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it

I am 65 years old. I have spent my whole life thinking that politics was stupid and not worth knowing anything about; that even in a democracy, politics and therefore government offered no solution to the troubles of mankind. Now I have to eat at least some of my words and admit that as an American it is important for me to have a glimmering of how politics works. That is what reading this endless biography about Truman did for me.

I read it, in part, as research for my memoir. Harry S Truman was
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Lifted from my review at Amazon.com
While it's Ok for a historian to like the subject of the biography, he should not love him. David McCullough likes Harry Truman a bit too much. As a result he seldom takes a critical view of Truman's Presidency, politics or personal life. This is disappointing given that Harry Truman was the President at probably the key juncture of twentieth century - the end of War World II and the beginning of the Cold War. More time is spent describing the whistle-stop camp
Erin Hepner
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History nuts and Politicos, and anyone interested in very detailed portraits of lives.
With the elections coming up, I think it is important for everyone to take a good look at what a presidency is all about. This book was particularily interesting to me, because the author is so detail-oriented, you really get a perfect sense of where this man came from, and how he came to be the leader of the free world at that time.

We have to remember that the people in the history books were once just 'real men', with flaws, dreams, and families. Sometimes it's not all policy and hogwash; Som
May 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Born in Missouri a generation after it was the western frontier of the young nation, he led an emerging superpower into the atomic age at the end of the largest war in human history. Truman is all-encompassing biography of the 33rd President of the United States by one of the best biographers and historians of the past half century, David McCullough.

McCullough begins by quickly covering the lives of Truman’s grandparents and parents who relocated and lived on the frontier of Missouri beginning 4
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars....I’m better for having read. Intriguing and very well done. It only lagged in a few spots. Nothing wrong with continuing my education. More than likely sacrificed hitting my reading challenge goal but sometimes that’s ok. In this case, it’s ok. Who or what will I learn about next?
J.M. Hushour
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"It sure is hell to be President."

You might balk at reading a 1000 page biography of Harry Truman, of all people, but I assure you not only will he and his folksy, down-to-earth era seem refreshing and have you wishing things were still the same way, but you will begin to count him among the ex-Presidents you'd most want to have a beer with (Dubya & Obama for me).
Really the last "normal guy" president, Truman was born in Missouri, one generation removed from the frontier, worked on a farm, was k
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Epic in size and scope, I could do nothing less than give five stars to Truman, the man, the president, and the book. Like McCullough’s John Adams, the author has weaved together a biography like few others, utilizing mountains of papers both personal and political to re-create the life of a truly unique president. Beyond cradle-to-grave, Truman begins in frontier times when Kentucky was still the West, decades before the birth of Harry’s father. Then it stretches past his life to unfold his leg ...more
Christopher Saunders
David McCullough's Truman takes an exhaustive, commendably objective look at America's 33rd President. Despite its length (over 1,000 pages!) it's consistently compelling thanks to McCullough's engaging writing style, chronicling Truman's rise from small-town Missouri to the Presidency with verve and excitement. What impressed me most was how willing McCullough to analyze Truman's faults and failures (a marked turn from John Adams, where he seemed eager to airbrush his subject). Truman's involve ...more
Brian Eshleman
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
SECOND READING: The degree of difficulty to get five stars is considerable. I've read it before, so there's no novelty. This isn't Churchill or Kennedy with a writer's sense of exhortation to his times. The book is huge, and the hour is late, at least with any ambitions toward one's book count. Yet, by David McCullough's faithfulness, Truman's voice, Truman's very briskness comes through the whole thing. I will be visiting again.

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David McCullough is a Yale-educated, two-time recipient of both the Pulitzer Prize (Truman; John Adams) and the National Book Award (The Path Between the Seas; Mornings on Horseback). His many other highly-acclaimed works of historical non-fiction include The Greater Journey, 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge, The Wright Brothers, and The Johnstown Flood. He has been honored with the Nation ...more

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“He loved politics in large part exactly because it meant time spent with men like Cactus Jack Garner(who would be remembered for observing that the vice presidency was not worth a pitcher of warm piss).” 6 likes
“He wasn’t a hero, or an original thinker. His beliefs were their beliefs, their way of talking was his way of talking. He was on their side. He was one of them. If he stumbled over a phrase or a name, he would grin and try again, and they would smile with” 5 likes
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