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

Version: Unabridged
Author: Ron Chernow
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Genres: Biography & Memoir, Science & Technology
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Published In: August 2013
# of Units: 30 CDs
Length: 16 hours, 39 minutes
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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.

Reviews (5)

Written by Roger L. on April 1st, 2020

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Enjoyed the book although it was a little repetitive and the narrative jumped around at times.

Written by Joseph J. on August 27th, 2019

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This is a very good book. My view of Rockefeller changed as a result of the book. His brutal business methods are well known but Chernow demonstrates it was a “survival of the fittest” era in a brand new industry. John D.’s Christian personal life was a surprise to me and his remarkable financial contributions to medical research and higher education—especially to new black colleges—have been unmatched. He gave birth to The University of Chicago from scratch! This book and Chernow’s book Washington are two of the best biographies I have read!


Written by Dave P on April 17th, 2017

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I thoroughly enjoyed this listen.

Written by Dianne Mueller on February 24th, 2017

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Chernow fan since first reading Washington. Then read Hamilton and found it not quite as exceptional but that may just be because Hamilton was not as exceptional as Washington? Titan is unparalleled. Reading it now and understanding the pain and abuse Rockefeller and his family suffered at the hands of the press PLUS seeing the underhanded money grabbing nature of the press makes me much more sympathetic to cries about #fakenews by President Trump and others. Rockefeller is presented as complex, strong minded, and very much a human being. Chernow succeeded in presenting a full throated, multi-dimensional Washington. He has done the same with Rockefeller.


Written by Kean from Sanford, NC on December 6th, 2016

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This is an extremely well-researched biography of a man who shunned reporters for most of his life. It's a great "read."

Author Details

Author Details

Chernow, Ron

Ron Chernow's first book, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award and the Ambassador Award for the year's best study of American culture. His second book, The Warburgs, won the Eccles Prize as the Best Business Book of 1993 and was also selected by the American Library Association as one of that year's best nonfiction books. In reviewing his recent collection of essays, The Death of the Banker, The New York Times called the author "as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we've seen in decades and chose the paperback original as one of the year's Notable Books.