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Titan Audiobook

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

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Publisher's Summary

John D. Rockefeller, Sr., history’s first billionaire and the patriarch of America’s most famous dynasty, is an icon whose true nature has eluded three generations of historians. Now Ron Chernow, a National Book Award-winning biographer, gives us a detailed and insightful history of the mogul. Titan is the first full-length biography based on unrestricted access to Rockefeller’s exceptionally rich trove of papers. A landmark publication full of startling revelations, the book indelibly alters our image of this most enigmatic capitalist.

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.

©2004 Ron Chernow (P)2013 Blackstone Audio

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  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 02-22-17
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 02-22-17

    I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Fascinating Biography of History's Richest Man"

    "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 can act like an adolescent empire. Those same paradoxes are also found within American Capitalism AND some of America's greatest men. Rockefeller is one of those men, known for both good and evil, where it is very hard to write a biography without carrying into it A LOT of bias. Standard Oil, in some ways, is the perfect example of many of the virtues of capitalism (and the Protestant work ethic). It also contains within it, many of the vices.

    Chernow is able to explore the life of Rockefeller without turning the book into a hagiography (Rockefeller paid for plenty of those) or Devil's dictionary (there were plenty of those too). He examines Rockefeller as a man, faults and brilliance combined. This isn't a perfect biography, but is definitely top shelf. It isn't even Chernow's best. I'd rank this one under Alexander Hamilton, but over Washington: A Life (Since I haven't read The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance or The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family, I'll decide later where it fits among those two). The biggest weakness, in my opinion, of this biography was the end. Chernow wanted a cradle to grave biography and delivered it. I just feel he could have cut about 100 pages from the last 15 years of Rockefeller's life. The biography became a bit less compelling after the chapters on the Rockefeller Foundation. While I think his time in Florida, giving out dimes and nickels, needed a few lines -- it just wandered a bit at the end (thus my four stars, not five).

    Some of what I loved the most from this book, however, were the bits about minor satellites to Rockefeller. I loved the discussions concerning such fascinating figures as Ida Tarbell (the Jane Mayer of the early 20th Century), Frederick T. Gates (who helped Rockefeller give his money away, and invest it later in his life), JR (a whole book can be written on the relationship between Rockefeller Sr & Rockefeller Jr), the Baptists (another whole book could be written on the relationship between the Rockefellers and religion), etc. These asides alone were worth the entire price of admission.

    I kept thinking as I read this of Jane Mayer's book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. It was amazing how much power Rockefeller really had. It was also amazing at how bad both the Rockefellers and Standard Oil were at public relations and politics. It seems in some ways the Kochs have learned from the mistakes of previous billionaires, but it also seems like the more things change with oil, money, and politics - the more they stay the same.

    14 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill J 12-20-16
    Bill J 12-20-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Magnificent"

    Kept me wanting to listen more. Having been in the gas businees, it answered several questions. It's very thorough & detailed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lawrence Monroeville, PA, United States 12-20-16
    Lawrence Monroeville, PA, United States 12-20-16 Member Since 2013
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    "great listen"

    It's great when learning history is so pleasurable. If felt as if I got to know Rockefeller personally. Now I'm buying the author's other audiobooks!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 12-17-13
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 12-17-13 Member Since 2013

    I enjoy history, biographys, and nerdy/ dorky things.

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    "Very good, very detailed, very long"
    What did you love best about Titan?

    The sequential steps through out JDR life. Growing up poor, to becoming the worlds wealthiest man. The book does not sugar coat JDR, not does it portray him as history's greatest villain either. He was a CEO of his time and age.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    JDR. He was much more likable than I expected him to be.


    What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

    Well read, nothing to complain about


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No. Most biography I read don't exhibit in me a strong emotional reaction. However learning about US industry after the Civil War through WWI was very interesting


    Any additional comments?

    Growing up in a very liberal household names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Carnegie, ect were names of evil, money hunger villains. I was surprised to learn how generous with his wealth Rockefeller was.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    09-16-17
    09-16-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Good information!"

    Good first half. Second half got boring. Listen at two times speed for second half

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexandra M.Colmant 09-16-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Excellent biography "

    Wonderfully absorbing book about a significant American family. Beautifully written with a narration that serves the text.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Sarah E. Nuffer 09-16-17 Member Since 2016
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    "AMAZING BOOK!!!!"

    Can't turn this book off! What an amazing man told through an amazing story. Such intimate, riveting details. This is the full insight into the man and the business. Can't say I love it enough.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Padraic Mangan 08-30-17 Member Since 2016
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    "a book for those that love detail"

    As good and interesting as all the information was, I struggled to finish it for the sheer amount of details. it was long and worth the read but there were times I upped the speed of the voice just to trek through!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jrvito Saratoga Springs, NY 08-29-17
    Jrvito Saratoga Springs, NY 08-29-17 Member Since 2016

    Innovative leader driving digital business transformation ... outdoorsman and love for the Adirondack Mountains

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    "Mandatory reading for the events of today"
    Where does Titan rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This book does a wonderful job of providing a balanced perspective of the good/bad of great wealth ... and the good/bad of corporate efficiency. In the events of today we all to often forget history and paint these topics as black and white ... which is worth noting the same occurred in Rockfeller's time


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    nathan 08-18-17
    nathan 08-18-17 Member Since 2017
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    "delightful"

    I suspect I will be hard pressed to enjoy any other biographies in the future due to the supreme quality hereby experienced.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • James Gorman
    7/7/14
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    "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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Samuel Opiyo
    9/10/17
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    "Excellent biography"

    This is a great biography and well worth listening to. It displays the key attributes of John D. Rockefeller as a person and the key attributes of the overall running of the key organisations started by John D. Rockefeller. If you read this you will likely learn a lot about success in business and life in general. The reader is also clear and speaks the story very well. This audiobook is well worth listening to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • MAGGS
    Port Talbot
    8/29/17
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    "John D Rockefeller - interest life"

    John D Rockefeller - interest life
    Obviously the man led an interesting life , humility with his
    charities & corruption in business
    Good narration

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. Acapella
    Cornwall, UK
    8/22/17
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    "Top biography"

    Chernow's writing combined with Grover Gardner's reading gives you the best of both worlds. Incisive, eloquent writing read at the right pace and with the right balance of emphasis, enthusiasm and restraint. Can only hope the publishers will arrange for readings of Ron Chernow's biographies of Washington and Hamilton, especially the latter. Maybe if we keep searching the author's name then Audible will realise the demand is there.

    Rockefeller's life was quite remarkable, the ultimate rags to riches story. He was a complicated, driven, repressed man who eschewed luxury and believed he was on an almost religious quest. You certainly don't need to be interested in the history of the US oil industry to enjoy this book. There is plenty of human interest and incidental history to hold your attention throughout.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    7/29/17
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    "a must listen"

    I was initially a bit ambivalent about listening to this but after finishing it am seriously glad I took the time to listen. its a great bio.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Paschal
    Cork, Ireland
    1/15/17
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    "Gambler"

    This 35 hour audio book is 7 hours longer than the extremely long Andrew Carnagie book that I also listened to.

    I preferred this book and I got to like John D more than Andrew.

    One would almost need to be retired to get time to listen to these books.

    I suppose it is important to be thorough for historical reasons as they are all real people.

    It is balanced and shows both sides of this great man.

    He was very much a gambler but did not like to take any risks.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Chris
    11/25/16
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    "Awesome Book!"

    This book was brilliant. I learned so much from it. I recommend it to anyone interested in business.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Adam Evans
    Birmingham, UK
    6/23/16
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    "Wow..a "Titanic" book. What a story"

    This book is long and sometimes a little heavy going. But don't let this put you off. See it through to the end.

    It is very interesting as it spans several generations of Rockerfellers and is as much a history of his family and the social and economic environment spanning the century of Rockerfellers life.

    It resolves itself like a good novel and is well worth persevering to the end. A truly inspiring book that really digs deep to find what made this complicated man tick.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mukesh
    Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    3/29/16
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    "Great Book"

    This has been one of the best audible books that I have listened to. It was so well read and the writer is brilliant. I really recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ian
    2/17/16
    Overall
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    "A rocking fellow"
    Where does Titan rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top tier


    What did you like best about this story?

    This was a great synthesis, filled with lots of gripping narrative about his life and times, but not too much moralizing or cause/effect personality studying.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    Any time it touched on his human side: his delight in naps, etc. Also, delving into all the other folks in his life added some spice (he's pretty stoic)


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    The sense of awe and mystery surrounding him lessens as the story goes on (this is a good thing)


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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