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Titan by Ron Chernow
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The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.


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Narrator Grover Gardner
Length 35 hours 3 minutes
Language English
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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 thirty 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 nineteenth and early twentieth 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.

Ron Chernow is the prizewinning author of six previous books and the recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal. His first book, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award, Washington: A Life won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and Alexander Hamilton—the inspiration for the Broadway musical—won the George Washington Book Prize. A past president of PEN America, Chernow has been the recipient of eight honorary doctorates. He resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Grover Gardner’s narration career spans 25 years and over 550 audiobook titles. AudioFile magazine has called him one of the “Best Voices of the Century” and features him in their annual “Golden Voices” update. Publishers Weekly named him Audiobook Narrator of the Year for 2005. His recordings have garnered 18 Earphones Awards from AudioFile and an Audie Award from the Audio Publishers’ Association. app with bow

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“A triumph of research, understanding, and elegant writing.”

“[No biographer] has been as skilled, or as exhaustive, as Ron Chernow.”

“It is hard to imagine a better biography of Rockefeller being written…An enthralling biography of an enthralling person.”

“With uncanny timing, Ron Chernow has written a captivating biography of one of the most famous men in American business history…Business needs more books like Titan.”

“A scrupulously balanced, frequently fascinating, and humanizing portrait of a figure of seemingly superhuman energy and ambition.”

“One of the great American biographies.”

“A biography that has many of the best attributes of a novel…Wonderfully fluent and compelling.”

“Sweeping…Chernow lays out the [Rockefeller] conundrum superbly, delineating the forces that shaped this man and the ways he responded to them.”

“Splendid…A blue-chip biography.”

“Chernow has written the definitive biographies of two other legendary financial dynasties…Now, with his Rockefeller biography, he has completed an extraordinary trilogy about the towering figures of twentieth-century commerce.”

“You can read this book as a sympathetic portrait of a complex man, a business history, a legal battle, or simply as a great yarn.”

“Stunning…Mr. Chernow has confirmed his reputation as a great business historian.”

“Ron Chernow’s portrait of Rockefeller, an eccentric on a heroic scale as well as a genius, is convincing…This is the best biography of the man so far.”

“A monumental and mesmerizing biography…A fascinating yarn, capturing a man who insisted he could serve God and Mammon.”

“Good biographies are hard to find and great ones even rarer…A thoughtful and balanced approach to one of the most significant and controversial lives of the past century…Spellbinding.”

“By the time Chernow is finished, the old guy seems utterly human…and oddly appealing…A timeless parable of our civilization.”

“A worthy biography of a truly titanic figure.”

“What a story! An outstanding business biography.”

“A masterful synthesis of research and writing…An extraordinary achievement in biography.”

“Chernow, biographer of the Warburgs and the Morgans, has his finest subject in Rockefeller, and is able to furnish anecdotes galore from his encyclopedic research in the family archives…Rather than the cunning, churchgoing hypocrite of legend who spent his Sundays piously but weekdays wrecking his rivals, Rockefeller emerges in Chernow’s elegantly told biography as an enterprising monopolist who ‘regarded God as an ally, a sort of honorary shareholder of Standard Oil.’” 

“Most people think of the founder of Standard Oil as a cold, heartless capitalist who cared for nothing but money and destroying the competition. This biography acknowledges Rockefeller’s dark side but also tries to show him as a man whose generosity still shapes our world. Narrator Grover Gardner’s deep, resonant voice is a wonderful accompaniment to the story of this Gilded Age robber baron. Gardner’s tone and inflection bring to mind the mahogany-paneled clubs that were the refuges of the nineteenth-century corporate elite, and he especially excels when reading quotes from the leaders who lived during that era. It’s an elite performance without a hint of elitism, and, as Rockefeller himself surely would say, merits the investment in time and money.”

“The archetypal American institution-builder—in industry, philanthropy, and the family dynasty bearing his name—is etched with uncommon objectivity and literary grace by National Book Award–winning business historian Chernow…Business biography on a grand scale.”

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