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George F. Kennan: An American Life | [John Lewis Gaddis]

George F. Kennan: An American Life

Drawing on extensive interviews with George Kennan and exclusive access to his archives, an eminent scholar of the Cold War delivers a revelatory biography of its troubled mastermind. This is a landmark work of history and biography that reveals the vast influence and rich inner landscape of a life that both mirrored and shaped the century it spanned.
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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2012

National Book Critics Circle Award, Biography, 2012

Drawing on extensive interviews with George Kennan and exclusive access to his archives, an eminent scholar of the Cold War delivers a revelatory biography of its troubled mastermind.

In the late 1940s, George Kennan wrote two documents, the “Long Telegram” and the “X Article”, which set forward the strategy of containment that would define US policy toward the Soviet Union for the next four decades. This achievement alone would qualify him as the most influential American diplomat of the Cold War era. But he was also an architect of the Marshall Plan, a prizewinning historian, and would become one of the most outspoken critics of American diplomacy, politics, and culture during the last half of the 20th century.

Now the full scope of Kennan’s long life and vast influence is revealed by one of today’s most important Cold War scholars. Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis began this magisterial history almost 30 years ago, interviewing Kennan frequently and gaining complete access to his voluminous diaries and other personal papers. So frank and detailed were these materials that Kennan and Gaddis agreed that the book would not appear until after Kennan’s death. It was well worth the wait: the journals give this book a breathtaking candor and intimacy that match its century-long sweep.

We see Kennan’s insecurity as a Midwesterner among elites at Princeton, his budding dissatisfaction with authority and the status quo, his struggles with depression, his gift for satire, and his sharp insights on the policies and people he encountered. Kennan turned these sharp analytical gifts upon himself, even to the point of regularly recording dreams. The result is a remarkably revealing view of how this greatest of Cold War strategists came to doubt his strategy and always doubted himself.

This is a landmark work of history and biography that reveals the vast influence and rich inner landscape of a life that both mirrored and shaped the century it spanned.

©2011 John Lewis Gaddis (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Masterfully researched…. Gaddis’ moving work gives us a figure with whom, however one might differ on details, it was a privilege to be a contemporary." (New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Amazon Customer Murfreesboro, TN, United States 06-10-12
    Amazon Customer Murfreesboro, TN, United States 06-10-12 Member Since 2006
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    "Kennan: a man who needs to be studied"

    First of all let me say I am thrilled to see this kind of book in audio, very seldom do we get a major scholarly work of this magnitude in audio. As a serious student of international relations Kennan needs to be studied. for better or worse it was his thought process that served as the guiding light for American Foreign Policy until the end of the Cold War. The thing that changed was the interpretation of Kennan's ideas.

    Being the owner of 400 audiobooks i can comfortably say that the narrator is one of the best I have herd and perfect for a book of this size.

    I will be the first to admit the audience who will truly appreciate this book among the general population is small but for student of history and/or the international system this book is a must read.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Langenkamp Washington DC 01-24-13
    D. Langenkamp Washington DC 01-24-13
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    "As long as it was, I'm sorry it ended"
    If you could sum up George F. Kennan in three words, what would they be?

    Fantastic story/ person


    Any additional comments?

    This is a great book about one of America's most interesting characters. Shows how much more complex his thought was than most realize. Really takes you back into the Cold War and how America and America's thinking during it developed. A must read for foreign policy buffs.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Philip Brookline, MA, United States 12-07-12
    Philip Brookline, MA, United States 12-07-12
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    "Good if you're serious about foreign affairs"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This is a serious scholarly book. If you're in the mood for 40 hours of intellectual rigor this is an excellent book


    Any additional comments?

    The reader is v good except when he does awful English accents and awful imitations of women

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Portland, ME, United States 12-02-12
    Andrew Portland, ME, United States 12-02-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Should have been better..."

    A little repetitive in the writing. The man was interesting, and he lay at the center of some good history. But after spending hours with this biography, I am not sure I learned a great deal. Unlike the great biographers - Robert Caro, for instance - the historical context and monumental sweep of history simply isn't conveyed particularly well.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William SAN DIEGO, CA, United States 05-31-14
    William SAN DIEGO, CA, United States 05-31-14 Member Since 2013

    My book reviews, except for fiction, will mostly be about the information value of a book.

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    "We need the benefit of George Kennan's wisdom"

    I had known nothing about George Kennan before I read this book. I feel much more informed of Mr. Kennan the person, diplomat, policy adviser and teacher. George Kennan by John Lewis Gaddis is a very well written book that all should read for knowledge, and because it is relevant to the challenges we are facing today with the Russian relationship. I hope that some folks at State and the White House are dusting off copies of the Long Telegram, the Foreign Policy article by X, and the report by Task Force A of the Solarium project.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Gariepy Tucson, AZ USA 09-17-12
    Michael Gariepy Tucson, AZ USA 09-17-12

    Tucson

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    "Eyes rolled back in my head and stayed there."
    Would you try another book from John Lewis Gaddis and/or Malcolm Hilgartner?

    I don't know.


    What could John Lewis Gaddis have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    I think it was just me. The slow, monotonous pace of the story/narrative could not be helped. This guy's life just wasn't that exciting or interesting. Yes. I bought it because I thought that period of history would be fascinating. But was it written in a way to keep my attention? No. At least not within the first two hours. I just gave up. I rarely give up on a book. Maybe I'm getting old or impatient but I just couldn't take it after two hours.


    How could the performance have been better?

    Performance/voice was fine.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from George F. Kennan?

    The book might be mind-blowingly exciting and riveting immediately after the first two hours of listening - so take what I say with a grain of salt. The other reviewers seemed to think it was a great story.


    Any additional comments?

    No.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
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