Winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Biography
Synopses & 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, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Wallace Truman, George Marshall, Joe McCarthy, and Dean Acheson -- and dramatic events. In this riveting biography, acclaimed historian David McCullough not only captures the man -- a more complex, informed, and determined man than ever before imagined -- but also the turbulent times in which he rose, boldly, to meet unprecedented challenges. The last president to serve as a living link between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, Truman's story spans the raw world of the Missouri frontier, World War I, the powerful Pendergast machine of Kansas City, the legendary Whistle-Stop Campaign of 1948, and the decisions to drop the atomic bomb, confront Stalin at Potsdam, send troops to Korea, and fire General MacArthur. Drawing on newly discovered archival material and extensive interviews with Truman's own family, friends, and Washington colleagues, McCullough tells the deeply moving story of the seemingly ordinary "man from Missouri" who was perhaps the most courageous president in our history.
"A gargantuan but surprisingly agile and spellbinding biography of the plain-speaking, plain-dealing Man from Missouri....Rich in detail, enthralling, and moving: a classic Presidential biography." Kirkus Reviews
"The principal achievement of this biography the most thorough account of Truman's life yet to appear is its honest and revealing portrait of the 'ordinary' man who became an extraordinary historical figure." Alan Brinkley, The New York Times Book Review
"The book's re-creation of the 1948 presidential campaign, during which Newsweek's poll of 50 political writers predicted that the incumbent would lose the election to Thomas Dewey, is the most complete account of that surprise victory to date. The book is an impressive tribute to a man whose brisk cheerfulness and self-confidence were combined with a God-fearing humility; a great and good man who, in McCullough's opinion, was a great president." Publishers Weekly
"In this compelling saga of America's greatest common-man President, McCullough adds luster to an old-fashioned historical approach that is regaining respect: the sweeping narrative, filled with telling details and an appreciation of the role individuals play in shaping the world." Walter Isaacson, Time
"McCullough's life of Harry Truman is a Sandburg's Lincoln for the 1990s....No biography approaches the richness, depth, or grace of this one." Library Journal
"McCullogh is a master story teller whose considerable narrative skills have been put to exquisite use in re-creating the life and times of America's 33rd president." Robert Dallek, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Remarkable....[Y]ou may open it at any point and instantly become fascinated, so easy, lucid, and energetic is the narrative and so absorbing the sequence of events." The Economist
"Today [Truman] is firmly enshrined in the pantheon of American heroes, beyond reproach, and, judging from David McCullough's 1,000-page valentine, suitable only for veneration and framing....[McCullough] is less interested in peeling away character than in telling a tale. He devotes a full 100 pages to the election of 1948 and even twelve pages to the redecoration of the White House. The decision to create NATO, by contrast, gets two pages....Somewhere deep beneath the surface of Truman the icon lies another, more interesting Truman the man: angry, insecure, obstinate, ambitious, resentful, short-tempered, gutsy, determined, honest, shrewd, vain, and wily. But the key to that Truman will have to be found elsewhere than in the...pages of this genteel entertainment." Ronald Steel, The New Republic
About the Author
David McCullough has been called a "master of the art of narrative history." His books have been praised for their exceptional narrative sweep, their scholarship and insight into American life, and for their literary distinction.
In the words of the citation accompanying his honorary degree from Yale, "As an historian, he paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breath, and above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement, and moral character."
Author of 1776, John Adams, Truman, The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, and Brave Companions, he has received the Pulitzer Prize twice (in 1993, for Truman, and, in 2001, for John Adams), the Francis Parkman Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and has twice won the National Book Award.
For his work overall he has been honored by the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the National Humanities Medal, the St. Louis Literary Award, the Carl Sandburg Award, and the New York Public Library's Literary Lion Award. None of his books has ever been out of print.
In a crowded, productive career, Mr. McCullough has been an editor, essayist, teacher, lecturer, and familiar presence on public television as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience, and narrator of numerous documentaries including The Civil War and Napoleon. He is a past president of the Society of American Historians. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received 31 honorary degrees.
A gifted speaker, Mr. McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House, as part of the White House presidential lecture series. He is also one of the few private citizens to be asked to speak before a joint session of Congress.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, Mr. McCullough was educated there and at Yale, where he was graduated with honors in English literature. An avid reader, traveler, and landscape painter, he lives in West Tisbury, Massachusetts, with his wife Rosalee Barnes McCullough. They have five children and 15 grandchildren.
Table of Contents
Part One -- SON OF THE MIDDLE BORDER
1. Blue River Country
2. Model Boy
3. The Way of the Farmer
Part Two -- POLITICIAN
5. Try, Try Again
6. The Senator from Pendergast
8. Numbered Days
Part Three -- TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY
9. The Moon, the Stars, and All the Planets
10. Summer of Decision
Part Four -- MR. PRESIDENT
11. The Buck Stops Here
12. Turning Point
13. The Heat in the Kitchen
14. Fighting Chance
Part Five -- WEIGHT OF THE WORLD
15. Iron Man
16. Commander in Chief
17. Final Days
Part Six -- BACK HOME
18. Citizen Truman