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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  10,257 Ratings  ·  582 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
ebook, 832 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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Camilo Ardiles Morgado I am currently reading this book (as a non-American) and I found it really interesting, plus is easy to read.I do not see the necessity of…moreI am currently reading this book (as a non-American) and I found it really interesting, plus is easy to read.I do not see the necessity of understanding US history at that time so relevant and reading sub historic events will leave you curious to know more about them while you read (Civil War for example or how the oil business started).(less)
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Without doubt this book deserves five stars. Those five stars mean quite simply that I loved every minute spent with the book. This is my favorite by Ron Chernow. In this book there is so much more to relate to personally than when you read about an American President from a bygone era.

The book covers with great depth John D. Rockefeller, Sr.'s parents, siblings, wife, children, grandchildren and all the in-laws. You follow how Sr. made his money - all those with whom he ran Standard Oil, all t
Aug 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
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 for money. He valued money so much that he recorded each expenditure in his personal ledger. H ...more
Truly magisterial.

I came away from Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America with a thirst for more on early US industrial magnates and their corrupt shenanigans, operating in an age free of regulation, tax or indeed any interference by government, really. Is it surprising to find that under such circumstances the market does not necessarily regulate itself, and what insinuates itself into every nook and cranny is a massive all-embracing monopoly, that kills competition through ta
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
"Standard Oil had taught the American public an important but paradoxical lesson: Free markets, if left completely to their own devices, can wind up terribly unfree. Competitive capitalism did not exist in a state of nature but had to be defined or restrained by law."
- Ron Chernow, Titan


One of the great truths about America is the paradoxes built into it, almost from the beginning. It was the land of the free, but built largely on the backs of slaves. It has all the bunting of freedom, but often
11811 (Eleven)
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It's only March but I suspect this will end up being my favorite book of the year. I listened to the audio - 35 hours in less than a week. That's unheard of for me, unless I'm on an obscenely long road trip but this book was exceptional. I'm not sure if I kept listening because I couldn't sleep or if I couldn't sleep because I kept listening.

Rockefeller has always been an inspiration to me in both business and personal life although we have little in common, like the fact that he was richer than
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating account of a Gilded Age titan much worse known than Carnegie.

His charming but scheming bigamist wandering con-artist father reminds me of my old observation that a lot of very successful people seem to be high but not *too* high on the psychopathy continuum and have had difficult or abusive childhoods; while we tend to think of psychopathy as all negative, aspects of it, like its heritability, are consistent with it being a lifecycle strategy under balancing selection, indicating adv
Oct 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
One of the great American Biographies. Chernow always delivers.
The Narrator Grover Gardner, has a monotone type of voice that reminds one of Jack Webb, and yet it seems like exactly the type of voice the listener needs to help them slice through these large historical tomes.
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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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...
“Success comes from keeping the ears open and the mouth closed” and “A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.” 13 likes
“Rockefeller equated silence with strength: Weak men had loose tongues and blabbed to reporters, while prudent businessmen kept their own counsel.” 8 likes
More quotes…