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Born the son of a flamboyant, bigamous snake-oil salesman and a pious, straitlaced mother, Rockefeller rose from rustic origins to become the world’s richest man by creating America’s most powerful and feared monopoly, Standard Oil. Branded "the Octopus" by legions of muckrakers, the trust refined and marketed nearly 90 percent of the oil produced in America.
Rockefeller was likely the most controversial businessman in our nation’s history. Critics charged that his empire was built on unscrupulous tactics: grand-scale collusion with the railroads, predatory pricing, industrial espionage, and wholesale bribery of political officials. The titan spent more than 30 years dodging investigations until Teddy Roosevelt and his trustbusters embarked on a marathon crusade to bring Standard Oil to bay.
While providing abundant evidence of Rockefeller’s misdeeds, Chernow discards the stereotype of the cold-blooded monster to sketch an unforgettably human portrait of a quirky, eccentric original. A devout Baptist and temperance advocate, Rockefeller gave money more generously than anyone before him - his chosen philanthropies included the Rockefeller Foundation, the University of Chicago, and what is today Rockefeller University. Titan presents a finely nuanced portrait of a fascinating, complex man, synthesizing his public and private lives and disclosing numerous family scandals, tragedies, and misfortunes that have never before come to light.
John D. Rockefeller’s story captures a pivotal moment in American history, documenting the dramatic post–Civil War shift from small business to the rise of giant corporations that irrevocably transformed the nation. With cameos by Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, Jay Gould, William Vanderbilt, Ida Tarbell, Andrew Carnegie, Carl Jung, J. P. Morgan, William James, Henry Clay Frick, Mark Twain, and Will Rogers, Titan turns Rockefeller’s life into a vivid tapestry of American society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is Ron Chernow’s signal triumph that he writes this monumental saga with all the sweep, drama, and insight that this giant subject deserves.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Rick on 11-04-13
He makes Bill Gates look like a Pauper!
This was a long, long read but I just can’t see how you’d get the whole story about the Rockefeller Empire by reading an abridged version. It was long, but well worth your time.
From the onset, John D Rockefeller was destined to be a financial giant. Choosing not to enlist in the union Army during the civil war he began building his empire in Cleveland with a small Oil refinery. As the demand for oil grew, and following several business savvy maneuvers he slowly built Standard Oil into the world’s largest oil company and he into one of the world’s richest men. Not without a few underhanded tactics which he would ignore, Standard Oil grew to colossal proportion until it was ultimately broken up by the US courts.
This was an excellent read and I would recommend it to anyone who would like to learn about Rockefeller, Standard Oil, his philanthropic endeavors, or how one of the largest corporations in the world became the greatest monopolies. The story is long and no detail is left out and it is well worth the time to learn how this very powerful, yet very complex family empire came to be.
32 of 33 people found this review helpful
By DGE 2020 on 05-11-14
Powerful. Engaging. Inspirational.
After reading this book, here is a once sentence description of Rockefeller.
If Rockefeller was a modern day NFL football player he would be a all pro linebacker who blindsided quarterbacks and put them in the hospital then stepped off the field, went home and baked cookies for the neighborhood kids.
I recall my high school text books dedicated one or two paragraphs of one chapter to "The Robber Barons" and for some strange reason I just assumed that was sufficient to gather the gist of what they were about.
Wow, that a bad assumption.
The actual story of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. is so, so much more than a mere story of a guy who was in the right place at the right time. Chernow's detailed portrait of his life makes him come to life in a way that is vivid and stunning. I am amazed that he was able to reconstruct so much of this man's origins, motivations and feelings as his life unfolded on such a grand stage. What a well done piece of scholarship and what a well done narrative.
At no point in the this book do I feel like Chernow took a side. At some points I felt Rockefeller was a victim of the greed of others, he was taken advantage of and he had really tried to cultivate true goodness in his character. At other moments I was shocked as his aggression and just how hard he charged in his business.
The life and habits of this curious man are on full display. It made me want to take the best of him and make it myself while keeping the worst of him at bay.
The narration is masterful. No complaints there.
Hope you enjoy.
27 of 28 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By James Gorman on 07-07-14
The Unknown Man
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I would definitely recommend this book to a friend who enjoys history or business. It is an incredibly detailed account of how John D. Rockefeller rose from a humble beginning to become the richest man to ever walk the face of this earth. Ron Chernow goes into details that I had never known about Rockefeller, including his sleezy father and his strict Baptist following.
Any additional comments?
This book is incredibly long, but I was hooked to it. I would listen to it on the way to work, at the gym, and at night lying on my couch. There is so much detail in it, that you feel like you are there watching Rockefeller grow old. John D. Rockefeller is usually portrayed as an evil man by most accounts. This book did go into some of his lesser moments, but it was an absolutely fair depiction of the man and the greatness that he was able to achieve.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in business, especially in starting your own company.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By sian morgan on 06-24-18
A true great!
A very interesting read for business people and historians alike! Will take place as one of my favorite audio books to date!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Arthur Wilson on 12-10-16
Amazing story of rags to icon
A legend. A story that seems more of a fantasy than real...but it is real. Thorough story, long but riveting not only about the man and his times, but about power. It does however paint a sympathetic view of the man at times, but he did more than I knew as did his son John Jr and other members of the family. Glad I had the pleasure of this book.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
By dan on 08-21-17
Detailed and well written
A long book that gives a fair and balanced description of a man who is often written about with myopic bias.